Hello! Today I’d like to explore the witches tools and altar, which are important topics for beginners.
First of all, we have to distinguish the different categories: the tools, and the materials. Both are quite important, but don’t confuse them! The witches workplace is probably the most delicate and intimate place for them. Remember to respect them by not touching anything without permission and do the same with yours.
How can I set up my altar? Where?
The first rule is “let your imagination run free“. Keep in mind that it is YOUR space, where you’ll work and make the magic happen. You can use any place that makes you feel comfortable. It may even have glittered flying unicorns or dark skulls everywhere, or both. It is all your choice. The place itself follows the same rule, you can opt for a corner in your room, outside, etc. Whatever works better for you. Once you’ve decided, it’s time to pick your tools.This step is probably one of the most touching moments of this path (frustrating too to be fair since there are so many things that we’d like to buy!)I suggest avoiding quick decisions, take a deep breath and try to feel which one you feel more connected with.
Element: Earth Tarot: Diamonds seed. Crystals: Tiger Eye, Green Aventurine, Green Jade or Onix.
Also called “pentagram“, the Pentacle is definitely one of the essential tools for witches. It’s a five-pointed star rounded by a circle, which origins date back to the ancient Mesopotamia. The Pentacle is a symbol of protection, used for centuries as an amulet in many different cultures and religions.
The star represents the human body (remember of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man? That’s it!). Its five vertexes represent the five natural elements: starting from the higher one and going clockwise, Spirit, Water, Fire, Earth and Air. The circle that wraps the star represents “the God’s hug” and the “perpetual motion of energies“, that has no beginning nor end. On altars, it protects who’s casting the spells. It should be placed in the middle of the altar, and it can be a picture, a statue, a jewel…Sizes, materials and esthetic are not relevant at all, my first pentacle was made of sticks and twine! The general verse is with its single vertex upward.
Take into account that there’s no real “right or wrong” verse for it, everything depends on what you’re doing. The downward pentacle is NOT just a satanic symbol, it just means that you’re working with the “substance” that is dominating the Spirit, nothing more. Make sure you have consecrated and charged it before you start using it. I usually leave it under the full moonlight for a night for this purpose.Its applications are not limited to the altar. You might as well consider to wear it, hang it to the car keys, on doors and windows, or carve it on candles and on the collars of your pets!
Element: Water Tarot: Cups Crystals: silver, moonstone, pearls, aquamarine, sapphire, corals.
The Chalice (or cup) is a ritual tool used since the birth of witchcraft. It is usually employed during the celebrations to honour the Gods, and in magic it is employed to collect, keep and release energies. You shouldn’t use it outside of your spell work…and yes, no red wine for you to drink there. It would be nice, for sure, but nope.
According to the tradition, it is related to the element Water, that represents the feminine fertility. it’s unsurprising that the shape of the cup is connected to the Goddess’ womb. The base of the chalice represents the world as we know it and the stem the human relationship with the Spirit. On the altar, it should be placed to West.
The material is usually silver, the Moon’s metal, that is strongly connected with Water too. Obviously, as I mentioned, the choice is yours. Some witches love to decorate it with gems and crystals (such as pearls, aquamarines, corals, sapphire and corals), little paints or cuts.
Element: Fire/Air Tarot: Wand Crystals: amethyst, quartz
Forget about the Wand we’re used seeing on television, where it’s enough to brandish it to make wishes come true. It isn’t like that, at all. Unfortunately, I’d say! However, it’s still a precious tool for witches: its task is, in fact, to charge and bless ritual tools, to guide and/or attract energies and to cast protective circles or sigils. The size is not much important, we can say that the average size is between 15cm and 20cm. What about materials? Today exist a lot of different versions. Tradition wants that the wood is chosen by the witch and picked up from a tree that is sacred or has a significant meaning to her/him. About this, keep in mind that it’s essential to feel a sort of agreement from the tree. Once it’s done, thank it for the gift.
At this point, the branch should be carved and decorated according to personal preferences: you can add gems, crystals, stones, ribbons, oils…everything that helps you to bond with your wand and, most important, that stimulates your concentration. If you please, you may also buy one already done. It can be charged in the same way as the Pentacle. Its correspondences are a bit confusing: because of its phallic shape, according to some traditions, the wand is related to the male energy, so with Fire and consequently to the Wands seed in Tarot. According to others, instead, it would be related to Hermes, the messenger of Gods and to the Element Air. If you decide to follow this second view, it should be consecrated on Wednesday, the day ruled by Mercury (Hermes).
The athame is a ceremonial double-bladed knife, typically with a black handle, thanks to its property of absorbing bad energies. The double blade represents the two opposite aspects of magic: life and death, positive and negative.You don’t have to do anything bloody with it, don’t worry. At the contrary, you mustn’t use it outside of the altar context and most importantly, if you accidentally cut yourself with it, you should change it. There’s another blade to cut things, the Boline!
Just like the wand, the Athame is usually used to cast the circle. However, its tasks are extended to the evocation and the banishment of bad energies and to control entities and imperceptible presences. The Athame is essential during spells to keep away bad vibes and attract better ones.The material is usually steel. There’s a technical reason behind this: its consecration ritual requires to heat the blade at high temperatures, and just the steel can withstand them. Once you’re done with this part, you have to bury it for 72h during the Waning Moon, then dig it up and conserve it in its envelope, ready to be used.
Element: Water Place: Center Crystals: connected to Water
This is one of the representative symbols of witchcraft since ages. The typical cauldron is made of iron or pottery ( since it’ll be employed in contact with Fire and flames quite often, it’s vital to choose a non-flammable material!). It has a circular shape, similar to a pot, and it’s supported by three legs. In case you can’t find a proper cauldron, you can still opt for an iron pot or a wire copper!
Hence its shape, the cauldron is related to the Goddess’ womb, like the Chalice. Representing the element Water, it’s also strongly connected with creativity and feminine, so it turns out to be very useful during spells to manifest intentions and for fertility spells. This tool is usually used during rituals to cook herbs, make infusions and potions, burn some objects and to do water divination practice.
Some practitioners use to put crystals, herbs and other tools inside the cauldron. It’s curious to notice how, thanks to this tool, we can make the elements meet and cooperate: Fire, the flame that heats the cauldron, earth, for the herbs and plants we put inside, water, and finally Air, when water evaporates. The whole, to become Spirit. Like the other tools, it is necessary to consecrate it before the practice. From one spell to another, it is always helpful to purify it from the past energies. During the period of inactivity, I suggest to leave it in contact with a Rosemary twig. During Springtime, I used to fill it with water and fresh flowers to celebrate Nature’s awakening.
Like the cauldron, the broom is considered one of the symbolic tools of traditional witchcraft. Its use is really different from the typical flying brooms – how disappointing, isn’t it?. The broom, in fact, is essentially used before casting spells to clean up the sacred space from the energies. Usually, the witch weeps counterclockwise to clean the area: some witches use to do it for real, some others just as a symbolic gesture – not touching the floor. The broom is typically in broomcorn, but you can also use ash, birch, willow, lavender or the
gorse. I’ve seen some outstanding handmade brooms, so just let your fantasy run free!This is a tool linked to fertility, purification and cleaning, where the staff is associated with the male phallus and the brush to the female genitals. For this reason, the broom is associated with the element of water. According to Modern Witchcraft, placing a broom at the front door helps to protect the house from magical attacks. If it’s with the brush upward, it will chase unwanted guests away.If you have a chimney, place your broom nearby: it will protect you from bad energies and attacks that may come through the fireplace. Did you know that the broomstick is also used during Pagan wedding rituals? The couple used to jump over the broom to make their bond official.
It can be a tiny bell with delicate chime, or a bigger bell, used during spells to cleanse the vibrations and to call upon the Fairie Folk.
This is the knife I mentioned above. If you have to cut something, use this knife. You can use it to carve candles, cut herbs and thread, or any other such use. Traditionally it’s a double-edged blade with a white handle.
Candles and candleholder:
Use your fantasy with candles!! Candles should be at least one for Goddess and one for God during rituals. These are the most used tools. There are many more, like bowls, incenses, deity representations, salt, plates for offers… you can choose whatever you wish for your altar.
Here you have a little representation of how you should place the tools on your altar:
I must say a thing, though. When I started I was a witch on a budget, so I couldn’t buy all these stuff all at once. My advice for baby witches is don’t struggle to buy everything. Remember that the most important and powerful tool is, and it will always be, your intention.
In case you’d like to have a look at some tools, I recommend Etsy.