Wands, athames, and swords, Oh my! Maybe you’ve seen a couple of pictures or TV shows with Wiccans surrounded by the ritual tools and wearing flowing robes. Or maybe you’ve read a book that listed more tools then you need to build a house. Where do you begin? What do you really need to be a “good” Wiccan? The answer may surprise you. All you need is you! But if you are still interested in acquiring a few items, keep reading.
Each tradition, or coven within a tradition, has their own set of tools. In some traditions the wand may be important, and in others it may be the athame. There are many tools that are common to most Wiccans, however. But this does not mean you need them all. Collect (either buy or make) those tools you think you would like to use. Add them to your practise as you find the right pieces, and use temporary pieces if necessary. Please think about what you use though. I don’t think that commemorative shot glass you got last summer is really the right choice for your chalice.
Book of Shadows
In my opinion, this is your most important tool beyond yourself, and the only other one you real require. This is a personal book containing your notes, ideas, rituals, spells, etc. You could keep one book specifically for your notes about your tradition – rules, rituals, myths, etc – and one to record notes about your experiences, dreams, etc. If you copy a ritual or any other information from a book or a website, please record where you are taking it from. One day you might want to quote it, and to avoid plagiarism you need to reference correctly.
The form you use to keep your book is up to you. I would suggest it be handwritten, mostly because I find that people absorb more information when they take the time to write it down by hand. Using a three-ring binder is a good idea, so you can move around notes and remove those you no longer need. Creating an electronic copy is also useful. And once you have some pieces that you are sure you want to keep permanently, you might consider some sort of fancier Book of Shadows. There are several good books available about creating handmade books.
Images of the Lord and Lady
You may wish to find pictures or statues of your patron and matron deities to place on your altar. Or you could decide to use a candle for each, sitting in special candle holders. This is an excellent option if you have yet to put a face to Them. You may also want to consider drawing your own picture or creating your own statue. Use art or mythology books for inspiration.
This is traditionally a black-handled knife, although wood or metal handles are very popular too. Some traditions say the blade should be one-sided, others say two. Some say it should be dull, others say it should be sharp enough to cut. The athame is generally used to direct energy, create the circle, and other similar actions, but never to cut (even if it is sharp). It is also used to represent the God, especially when enacting the symbolic Great Rite. In some traditions it represents Air, in others it represents Fire.
The sword is usually used in the same fashion as the athame. Generally there is one sword per coven, while each person usually has their own athame.
The wand is made of a wood or metal. The material usually reflects the purpose of the wand, for example a moon wand may be made of silver. It is usually used to direct energy and to cast the circle. It can represent either Air or Fire, depending on the tradition.
Censer or Incense
This item is generally used to represent Air on the altar. Certain scents can also be used to create a mood.
Cup or Chalice
The Cup or Chalice is generally used to hold wine, water or another liquid used during a ritual. It represents Water and the Goddess.
Water is used for purification, and to represent Water.
This is usually sea salt, and is sometimes used for circle casting when mixed with water. It’s main purpose is purification and consecration. A small dish of salt sitting on the altar may be used to represent Earth.
This is a flat disk, often made of clay, incised with a five pointed star within a circle. It can represent the five elements, or just Earth.
This is a white-handled knife that is used for cutting within and without the circle. It is most often used to cut herbs. Sometimes it is referred to as the “working knife.”
The Cauldron is often used to hold items approprate for the season. At Yule it may hold the makings of your Yule fire, and at Mabon it may hold harvest items. It is a symbol of the Goddess and of Earth.