The sacred tools of the Witch have been around for thousands of years and the principle tools are outlined here. There are many books that go into further detail and always remember that Witchcraft is a craft and requires concentration and practice to perfect. This post is made as an aid to research for the stories I write, and for anybody else seeking the information. I don’t profess to write it first hand, but simply collate a summary for reference.
Some of these tools are a considered essential to certain individuals/or traditions and others may consider these same tools a hindrance or unnecessary; there is no mandatory set, or ultimate list.
The following items represent a brief introduction to the most basic tools of Witchcraft. Other traditions may use the same tools to represent the elements differently from what is outlined here. Some excellent rituals can also be performed without the use of any tools whatsoever.
Witchcraft is a natural, or pagan, tradition. It focuses on the elements of nature and the combination of them. There are 5 elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water and Spirit.
From Wikipedia: Witchcraft (also called witchery or spellcraft) broadly means the practice of, and belief in, magical skills and abilities that are able to be exercised individually, by designated social groups, or by persons with the necessary esoteric secret knowledge. Witchcraft is a complex concept that varies culturally and societally, therefore it is difficult to define with precision and cross-cultural assumptions about the meaning or significance of the term should be applied with caution. Witchcraft often occupies a religious, divinatory, or medicinal role, and is often present within societies and groups whose cultural framework includes a magical world view. Although witchcraft can often share common ground with related concepts such as sorcery, the paranormal, magic, superstition, necromancy, possession, shamanism, healing, spiritualism, nature worship, and the occult, it is usually seen as distinct from these when examined by sociologists and anthropologists.
This is not to be confused with Wicca, though there are similarities.
From Wikipedia: Wicca is a modern pagan, witchcraft religion. It was developed in England during the first half of the 20th century and was introduced to the public in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant. Wicca draws upon a diverse set of ancient pagan and 20th-century hermetic motifs for its theological structure and ritual practice. The word witch derives from Middle English wicche, Old English Wicce (feminine) “witch” and Wicca (masculine) “wizard”. Wicca is typically duotheistic, worshipping a Goddess and a God. These are traditionally viewed as the Moon Goddess and the Horned God, respectively.
The Elemental Tools
EARTH // PEYTON (Pentacle): The peyton is a circular disk with a pentacle or sacred symbol inscribed on the face of it. The peyton can be made out of many different materials. In the olden days it was made of beeswax so that in the event that someone came around that may be a threat, it could be broken and tossed into the fire and melted down quickly. It is placed as the centrepiece of the altar. The peyton is the symbolic representation of earth and is of the female aspect. A second peyton may be used as another tool for invoking and releasing the quarters.
AIR // WAND: The wand has been known as a tool that is gentle in nature and has a male aspect. It is the symbolic representation of air. It is another tool that can be used for casting the circle, invoking and releasing the quarters, and casting of spells. Some have used this in place of the athame or sword in the performance of the symbolic ritual of the Great Rite.
FIRE // ATHAME: The athame is a black handled, double edge knife and is strictly a ritual tool. It is the symbolic representation of the element of fire. It can be used as a tool for laying down a circle and also as a symbol representing the male aspect. Athames can be used to invoke the quarters, release the quarters, and are customarily used to assist with blessing the waters of life inside of the chalice, this blessing being symbolic in the Great Rite.
The athame should not be used to cut anything except in certain situations such as cutting a door way in the circle to allow others to pass through, cutting a cord in the event of a release or a passing over ritual, also the blessing of the bread during ritual of the great rite, and of course a handfasting cake.
WATER // CHALICE (Cup): The chalice or cup is representative of the female aspect. The cup is the symbolic representation of water. It is used to hold the waters of life, and is used again in the symbolic ritual of the Great Rite. Once the waters of life have been blessed during ritual, the chalice is often passed around the circle so that all may share in it by symbolically ingesting the Goddess and the bringing of the Goddess within.
THURIBLE (Censer): (incense burner) A heat resistant, or preferably fire proof container used to contain a hot coal for burning incense. The incense is symbolic of air, while the coal is symbolic of fire. It is used to cleanse and purify the air within the sacred space, or used in cleansing a home.
CAULDRON: The cauldron represents the gift of birth, death and rebirth, also knowledge and inspiration. The cauldron is a female aspect and is a symbolic representation of water, though it may also be used as a representation of fire. It is often referred to in connection with Ceridwen.
BESOM (Broom): The Witches broom is used for sweeping any harmful energies from the area such as a house, room, circle, sacred space etc. Of course on the practical side you can use it to sweep your floors!
BOLEEN: A white handled knife, used in rituals for carving and cutting things such as the magical symbols we may want to engrave on a wand, staff, candles, etc., so as not to harm the energy within the athame.
CINGULUM (Cord): Traditionally they are nine feet in length (nine being three times three, the magical number), and are used to measure the circumference of the magic circle so that it can be set up correctly.
In the various forms of British Traditional Wicca, cords, known as cingulum, or singulum (which literally translates as “girdle” or “belt”), are worn about the waist by adherents. These are often given to a Wiccan upon their initiation, and worn at each subsequent ritual. In many traditions of Wicca, the colour of a person’s cingulum indicates what rank of initiation they are; in several Australian covens for instance, green denotes a novice, white denotes an initiate of the first degree, blue for the second, and a plaited red, white and blue for the third, with the High Priest wearing a gold cingulum (symbolising the sun), and the High Priestess wearing silver (symbolising the moon).
STAFF: Usually a wooden pole often of shoulder height, used in the same manner as the wand. Like the wand the staff may be decorated with crystals, symbols, feathers, or just about anything that makes it your own.
SWORD: The sword is another ritual tool that can be used as a tool for sovereignty and authority. It is – like the athame – a symbolic representation of the element of fire. It is considered a representation of the male aspect and can be used in the same manner as the athame.
BELL: The bell has had mystical associations since ancient times and it is believed to possess a magical and spiritual power. They are associated with the divine: their sound is symbolic of creative power, their shape a symbol of the female force and celestial vault. The bell is an uncommon tool and there is no one way to use the bell. It can used to open and close the sacred circle or to invoke the Goddess, or it may be rung to ward off negative energies, as well as invite positive energies, or used to signal different sections of a ritual or Sabbat.
Of course, all tools are not complete without the individual’s own charge and energy to make it whole. All tools are an extension of oneself to direct and focus one’s energies and power on the purpose of spell or magic intended. Most people purchase their tools as they progress and find tools that are comfortable for themselves, however, if you are talented and skilled enough to make your own this is even better.