The most important tool of any Pagan practice is oneself, all other tools are just that a tool to focus and direct one's own personal energy, intention and desire.
Having said that tools can be a very important part of Paganism especially for the practitioner new to practicing as they aid in setting the scene, and act as a reminder to the novice, as to what intent the working they are doing, is aiming to achieve.
Altar: An Altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices and votive offerings are made for religious purposes, or where ceremonies take place. Altars are often found at shrines, located in temples, or any other place of worship and communion with Deity or Spirits (such as the Ancestors).
The Altar itself may serve as a Shrine and although many Pagans may have separate Altars set up to various Deities, Spirits or Ancestors, the Altar itself generally refers to the main working table which is the center of worship. The Altar may also be used as a table for supplies during rituals, holding candles, Book of Shadows, and whatever else may be needed.Some Pagans claim that the altar must be round to represent the circle and others will claim that there is no particular shape that an altar must be. This is entirely up to you, It can be anything from an overturned log to an elaborately carved table. No one has the right to tell you that your altar is the wrong kind or shape. Anything that you use is fine, if you can place your ritual items, do your workings and you are happy with it, can be considered an altar. In fact, in many a Pagan home, every horizontal space is an altar!
Athame: (see also Knives, Sword) Traditionally a tool associated with Wicca, it is a black handled cremonial dagger, with a 6-9 inch double-edged blunted blade. The handle is inscribed with the particular symbols dictated by the paticular tradition followed. The athame is never used to cut anything on the pysical plane, it is instead used to absorb, command, manipulate and direct energy. It is the instrument used by Wiccans to 'cut' a sacred circle, draw magickal diagrams or command spirits. It is not used to call upon Deity as it is considered a 'commanding' tool and is therefore not used in relation to the Gods. It is a 'masculine' tool associated with the element of fire and the powers of change, intellect and calculation. (see Making a Ritual Knife)
Bell: The bell is used in many Pagan traditions. In some, it is used only only seldomly while in others, it may be used extensively. Bells may be used to enhance Rituals or Spells by employing the vibrations of sound. They are often used by Pagans to signal the beginning and/or close of a Ritual or Spell, to summon a particular spirit, or to call back meditating Coveners. Bells may also rung during Pagan Funerary Rites to bless the soul of the departed who is crossing over to the realm of the dead.
When choosing a Bell, first and foremost, the bell should have a clear tone and good pitch. It may be of any size or shape, and made of almost any materials. Practitioners use bells made from crystal, to ceramics, to brass. The size, material, and shape is left solely up to the practitioner.
Besom: (Bossume, Broom) Traditionally a broom constructed of a bundle of twigs tied to a thicker pole. As a result of its construction around a central pole, the brush of the besom is rounded instead of flat. The handle is of hazel wood and the head is of birch twigs. A traditional Wiccan Besom is constructed of an ash stave handle with bristles made from birch twigs. These twigs are attached using thin pieces of willow wood. It is used to cleanse the ritual area before circle casting. The Besom is a unisex tool as the stave (handle) is masculine in nature while the the bristles (bush) are thought to be feminine in nature. The broom is a purifier that is linked the the Element of Water. It is used in all types of water spells including those of love and psychic workings.
Modern construction of a Besom uses bindings of wire and string, instead of the traditional split withy and the head is secured by a steel nail instead of a wooden dowel. The bristles may be made of many materials including, but not limited to straw, herbs, or twigs (see Making a Besom)
Blot Tine: Upon the Asatru Harrow will be found a a twig, used to asperge the Harrow and celebrants during the blot. Typically an evergreen twig is used, but a branch from a deciduous tree may also be used.
Book of Shadows: The Book of Shadows (BoS) also knows as the workbook or spellbook, given its name because it was usually kept hidden from non-believers, and is a sort of a Pagan diary or journal. The BoS contains spells, rituals, chants, songs and other information that the practitioner uses during their life in the Craft. Some Pagans have several volumes of books dated back several years.
Traditionally bound and covered in either leather or other animal skin, even a standard book of high quality drawing paper will suffice. It is recommended to use any 'natural bound' book with unlined parchment (virgin parchment is optimum). Some believe the more important works should be translated in magickal language for either secrecy (coming from the theory of necessity in hiding the book's content), empowerment (as in the more you put into something, the more your receive in return), or simply desire. A magickal translation table for various alphabets can be found in many sites on the net.
The BoS however does not necessarily have to be an actual book. Cyber Pagans place their BoS in their computers where they can use photos to enhance the book and make it easier to read and edit. Other Pagans will swear up and down that it must be handwritten by the wytche in order to truly be a BoS. This is up to you. There is no "right" way of creating your BoS, only different ways.
However, personally I think there is much to say about the handwritten BoS. For one, by handwriting the book, you are putting much more thought and energy into the book and it does enhance the experience of the Craft as a whole. Also, if you have any artistic talent, you may wish to create the book from scratch and decorate it as you please. This ensures that no one else will have anything like it and it will truly be an original.
Some groups get together every now and then to swap books and copy from one another. This really is a lot of fun, and a great learning experience. Each Pagan will have their personal BoS and Most covens or groups, have a separate one for the group with the specific rites and rituals practiced by that particular Tradition.
Note, For some Pagans, after a lifetimes of practice a division of their books have created several versions of the Book of Shadows...their collection of spells, rites,rituals and other such information may be written in their Grimoire, they journal their path in their Book of Shadows and they keep their rough notes in their Book of Shards. (this is a common practice in our Coven and in my own personal workings). Many Pagans alsokeep Solar (masculine) or Lunar (feminine) Diaries as part of their wom/men's mysteries.
Bowls: Bowls can be made of virtually any type of material and may contain anything that the practitioner wishes. However water, salt and earth, are some of the most common things Pagans keep in bowls on their altars.
Water is needed by virtually every living thing and is therefore considered sacred to us. Salt (usually Sea Salt) is also considered sacred because we need it as humans for survival. Salt is also known as a purifier and thus when mixed in the bowl of water, we have created our version of "Holy Water". Salt and Water are also two items which are sometimes used to Erect Temples or Circles. Earth may be kept on the Altar to ground it (see Altar)
The bowl can be used to hold any other items the Pagan wishes, such as...flowers, corn, stones, oil, etc. it is not generally related to any one Element due to its diversity but is considered feminine due to the womb-like feature of the bowl.In Asatru the wooden bowl upon the harrow is used to contain the offerings from the blot, that they may be available for use in blessings, and to hold them for later gifting to the Earth. These may be decorated or plain, and ideally hand made.
Bolline: Often considered a minor tool, traditionally the Bolline is a white hilted knife, used for cutting herbs and any other physical object. Used in conjunction with the Athame. Many paths differ on the need for the Bolline. It is a tool either abandoned or accepted by the various paths dependant upon the traditions uses for knives (see knives). (see Making a Ritual Knife)
Burin: (from the French burin meaning "cold chisel") has two specialised meanings for types of tools in English, one meaning a steel cutting tool which is the essential tool of engraving, and the other, in archaeology, meaning a special type of lithic flake with a chisel-like edge which was probably also used for engraving, or for carving wood or bone. Commonly usedin Pagan practices to carve sigils or other signs into working tools, charms, etc.
Candles: Candles are a very attractive way of brightening any room, but in Paganism they have an even more important purpose. Candles are one the most universal tools, most pagans at some point or another uses candles.
Candles, come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and each are used for various purposes from representing the Deity on an Altar, storing and releasing energy, focal points during meditations and healing, to name a fewThey may be used in spells and rituals as symbols of certain objects or even symbols of the Gods. Different colored candles have different properties in magic. For instance, green candles are sometimes used in money magic since money is green. Candles are also used for practical reasons, such as lighting.
Cauldron:(see also Chalice) A cauldron or caldron (from earlier cauderon, from Anglo-French, from Latin caldārium hot bath, from calidus warm) is a large metal pot (kettle) for cooking and/or boiling over an open fire, with a large mouth and frequently with an arc-shaped hanger.
The cauldron was once found sitting by the fireplace in almost all homes. The cauldron (traditionally with three legs) represents bounty and blessings. Cauldrons range in size from the small altar models to the antique "floor" type. However, Cauldrons have largely fallen out of use in the industrialized world as cooking vessels. While still used, a more common association in Western culture is the cauldron's use in witchcraft—a cliché often negatively popularized by various fictions, such as Shakespeare's play Macbeth. In fantastic fiction, witches often prepare their potions in a cauldron.
The Celts have a long history of making beautiful vessels such as the "Ardagh Chalice" and of cauldron lore. They have a legend of a cauldron that never runs out of food at great feasts. The best know cauldron lore isThe Cauldron of Cerridwen that provides the mead of wisdom.
In those forms of Witchcraft which incorporate aspects of Celtic mythology, the cauldron is associated with the goddess Cerridwen. Celtic legend also tells of a cauldron that was useful to warring armies: dead warriors could be put into the cauldron and would be returned to life, save that they lacked the power of speech. It was suspected that they lacked souls. These warriors could go back into battle until they were killed again.
In Welsh legend, Cerridwen represents the crone, which is the darker aspect of the goddess. She has powers of prophecy, and is the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge and inspiration in the Underworld. As typical of Celtic goddesses, she has two children: daughter Crearwy is fair and light, but son Afagddu (also called Morfran) is dark, ugly and malevolent. Cerridwen's magical cauldron held a potion that granted knowledge and inspiration -- however, it had to be brewed for a year and a day to reach its potency. Because of her wisdom, Cerridwen is often granted the status of Crone, which in turn equates her with the darker aspect of the Triple Goddess.
The holy grail of Arthurian legend is sometimes referred to as a "cauldron", although traditionally the grail is thought of as a hand-held cup rather than the large pot that the word "cauldron" usually is used to mean. This may have resulted from the combination of the grail legend with earlier Celtic myths of magical cauldrons or It has been suggested that the Christian's "holy grail"may be the fragmentary records of the secret rituals of a Goddess religion.This tool has a multitude of correspondences. The Cauldron has uses in each of the quarters, in the South it hold soils as a representation of the the Earth Mother, in the East it can hold burning incense as the symbol of energy, of thought and intention, in the North it can hold the sacred fires and in the West it holds water, a symbol of the The Sacred Waters of Birth and Rebirth.
Censer: (see Thurible) Censers are any type of vessels used for burning incense. These vessels vary greatly in size, form, and material of construction. They may consist of simple earthenware bowls or fire pots to intricately carved silver or gold vessels, small table top objects a few centimetres tall to as many as several metres high. In many cultures, burning incense has spiritual and religious connotations, and this influences the specific design and decoration of the censer. Censers may be used in conjunction with a feathertoform a smudge kit.
Chalice: (see also Cauldron) The chalice or cupmay be used on the altar to represent the Female principle, a second chalice or cauldron may placed in the West as well, representing of one of the four sacred elements, water. The Chalice represents the subconscious, the psychic and hidden part of life, and the emotions. In the Tarot it is representative of all emotions both good and bad. With out these vessels there would be NO "Great Rite".
The chalice is symbolic of the womb of the Goddess, and is associated with fertility. It is used for drinking and for the offering of libations to the gods. It is believed that to drink from the cup is to drink of life; similar to the mythical Holy Grail of King Arthur. The traditional uses of the Cup and the Chalice are to hold such things as the blessed water, wine and most other fluids. They can also be used in divination. The chalice is sometimes passed around the circle so each participant may take a sip from the cup. This is a bonding experience and often thewords "May you never thirst!" are passed throughout the circle with the chalice. Libations of wine or water are often then poured outside to honor the Ancient Ones.
Chalices may be of any material. Many use silver or pewter (should this be the case with the chalice you choose you must be careful if the metal is untreated, when serving wines), ceramic and glass chalices ones are now quite popular and readily obtainable. Some Wytches may have many different chalices for different types of rituals.
The Celts have a long history of making beautiful vessels such as the "Ardagh Chalice" and of cauldron lore. They have a legend of a cauldron that never runs out of food at great feasts. The best know cauldron lore isThe Cauldron of Cerridwen that provides the mead of wisdom. It has been suggested that the Christian's "holy grail"are believed to be the fragmentary records of the secret rituals of a Goddess religion.
Cingulum:The pagan's personal cord is also know as the girdle, cingulum, or cable tow. The latter name derives from its use in various initiation rituals. The cord will often be knotted with the owner's 'measure' that is various measurements taken at the time of initiation. The cord is basically used to measure the radius of our circles, for binding things - and even on occasion, for binding one's self!
Within some Coven's the initiates cingulum is kept by the High Priestess, however this practice is most common amongst Wiccan heirarchial traditions and is lessening in commonality with the rise of Solitary practitioners and the development of more varied traditions.
Crane Bag: In most shamanic practices, including Primordial Wytchecraft, a version of the Crane bag is used to carry all tjhe working tools. It should be made of a natural material, such as chamois skin, leather or heavy cotton cloth. A purse or bag with a shoulder strap is perfect for this. You may also want separate smaller bags that you will place in the Crane bag to hold healing herbs, rune stones, ogam sticks, stones and crystals. Oils, incense, and other magical objects.
Crystal Ball: A round polished ball usually made from clear quartz crystal. (Due to the expense of real crystal balls, many practitioners use lead crystal balls, however personally I don't find these as effective). The quartz is believed to aid the practitioner in utilising their psychic abilities, various forms of crystal aid in the workings of differentabilities. Each practitioner will be drawn to the crystal and ball with which they personally resonate (for myself it is an obsidian ball)
Crystals: Crystals are an immense subject in their own right. Many books have been written about them and their uses. One of the most accessible and easy to use is Judy Hall's "Crystal Bible".
Pagans may use Crystals in many way including but not exclusively, in divination (balls and crystal pendulums). In healing and Chakra balancing. In space clearing and maintenance. In Spiritual parasite removal. In journeying - sounding crystal bowls. For protection and communication; and just to enjoy their beauty and resonance.
Cloak: Cloak of most often used for two main purposes, to keep out the cold during rituals and to wrap oneself in during meditations and/or vision quests when you wish to block the outside world from your senses. You may choose to wear an ordinary cape made of any material. The traditionally preferred colors for the cloak are black, green, brown and white. If you wish, you may decorate your cloak with feathers or beads. In some legends the Shamans wore a complete cloak of feathers. (Of which I am in the process of collecting the materials to make for myself a raven cloak. Made completely of raven feathers sewn to a woolen felt handmade cloak)
Cords:(see cingulum) apart from the most common use of a cord as cingulum, they may also used to hold the robes together, in spells (knotted and unknotted to hold and release energy) or in binding rituals (such as a Handfasting).
Dirk: (see also Athame, Knives, Beosum) A heavy single edged dagger also called a Ballock Dirk. Traditionally this is the main tool used for personal defense and as a backup weapon to the Baskethilt broadsword. There are several styles of dirk. Used with Scottish Pagan practices, it represents the masculine energies. (see Making a Ritual Knife)
Drinking Horn: The drinking horn is a central part of the Asatru faith. Usually made from a cow's horn, and often beautifully decorated, the horn is used to make offerings to the deities and raise a toast during a sumble.
Drum: Drums are an essential part of Shamanic practices, they may be used to lead one on a vision quest or into states of trance, to drum out sickness, as music for ceremonies, as a beat for ceremonial dances and as a counterpoint to the voice during chants.
Drums can be very expensive to buy, furthermore it requires a partner to beat on it while you go off into a trance. For solitaries it is sometimes recommend that you use a drumming tape, when you require drumming for trance work.
If you feel that a drum is necessary you may wish to attend a drum making workshop or if they are not held in your area you can then a tambourine (try to buy one with a leather skin if possible), take out the discs and replace them with feathers and ribbons.
Elemental Rings: Specific to the Tradition of Promordial Wytchecraft. These rings are worn in recognition of achievement of Mastery over a particular Element. To earn a ring, practitioners must provide evidence of study, conduct a specific form of Ritual and retrieve a symbolic ring from the Element in which it is suspended.
Flying Ointment: also known as witches' flying ointment, green ointment, magic salve and lycanthropic ointment, is a mildly hallucinogeniccompound used by various Pagan traditions to achieve an altered state of consciousness. The ointment contains a fatty base and various herbal extracts, usually including solanaceous herbs that contain the alkaloids; atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine. The herbs' essential oils are extracted when heated in the base. These oils are poisonous when ingested; when applied to the skin, the alkaloids are absorbed more slowly into the body. Typical ingredients in alleged recipes include hemlock (Conium spp.), deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), wolfsbane (Aconitum spp.), and henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), usually in a base of animal fat, most commonly pork fat as it's composition is cloest the that of the human body.
Hammer: To the Asatru the Hammer is central to the preparation of the sacred space in which the ceremonies are celebrated. Symbolizing Mjollnir, the hammer of Asa-Thorr, it is used to define and sanctify the Ve and Harrow. Most hammers used for this purpose are symmetrical on both faces (like a drilling or sledge hammer - no pein, two faces). Other uses of the hammer are to consecrate an object, or to bless a bride with fertility magic.
Harp: Most often associated with Bardic Druidry. A bard was a poet whose writings chronicled the history of a family, a clan or tribe, a kingdom or other group whose lore was necessary to the preservation of its unique character. A bard usually played an instrument, in ancient times almost always the harp. There were, in fact, stringent laws in Ireland and Wales about who could keep a harp since the instrument was considered to be magical.
Harrow: (see also Horgr, Stalli) The Harrow is the Asatru altar - typically made of stones, and found outside. Many Harrows are made of dry laid stones, some even simply a pile of such stones. In rare cases the stones may be mortared together for permanence. It is raised and consecrated before use, and blessed every time a blot is celebrated.
Headdress: Depending upon your Tradition you may see practitioners wearing various forms of headdress. Many High Priestesses in the Wiccan Traditions wear a cresent moon circlet to represent the Goddess, while the the High Priest may wear a helemt with horns or antlers to represent the God. For practitioner of Egyptian based Paganism the wearing of a headdress appears to be common, the elaborate pieces are often handcrafted and beautiful items. Shamans may wear headwear created of animal skins or feathers, these items are usually representative of their totem or power animals.
Henge: (see also Standing Stones) Whilst not specifically a tool, Henges have been associated with Pagan practices since time began. A Henge is a roughly circular or oval-shaped flat area enclosed and delimited by a boundary earthwork, usually a ditch with an external bank. Most henge's have either a single ditch or a pair of concentric ditches surrounding the central area, which marks the traditional ceremonial place. Modern recreations should be outside with at least one monolithic stone or several wooden posts in the proper astronomical alignment.Herbs: Herbs have long been used for their healing and magical energies, and a selection of herbs and incenses is almost always found in the magickal cabinet of Pagan practitioners. They can be ground into powders, placed in gris-gris bags, rubbed into candles for Magick and used in ointments and other medicinal potions. Herbsmay also be used to purify the air in sacred space and dispel negative feelings.
Horgr: (see also: Harrow, Stalli) A basic altar, used for sacrifice in Norse paganism. The Hörgr was constructed of piled stones, possibly in a wood (harrow), and would be used in sacrifices and perhaps other ceremonies as well.
A possible use of the hörgr during a sacrifice would be to place upon it a bowl of the blood of an animal sacrificed to a Norse deity (e.g. a goat for Thor, a sow for Freyja, a boar for Freyr), then dipping a bundle of fir twigs into it and sprinkling the participants with the blood. This would consecrate the attendees to the ceremony, such as a wedding.
Horns: The drinking horn is a central part of the Asatru faith. Usually made from a cow's horn, and often beautifully decorated, the horn is used to make offerings to our deities and raise a toast during sumble.
The Hunting or Signal Horn is a horn with a trumpet or trombone mouthpiece used to signal the beginning of blot (Ritual Sacrifice) and sumble (festival). It is symbolic of the Gjallarhorn of the God Heimdall that will signal the end of time.
Idols: Statues and Idols have long been used in religion to depict Spirit, Gods and Goddesses. There are literally thousands of figures to choose from when picking a representation of Deity. Depending upon the practitioner's Tradition and personal beliefs pretty much anything can be used to represent deity. Some items that are traditionally used to represnt the Pagan Deities include; Horns or Antlers as a representation of the God, copies of statues from ancient civillisations such as Roman and Greek. Mother of pearl shaped into a cresent moon can be used as a Goddess symbol, as can several other natural objects.
However if the practitioner is handy with clay or other such crafting items (such as oven baked clay, which is available from our store's craft section) they may wish to create a personalised version of their Patron Deity (the Deities often show themselves to us in a form which is not portrayed in popular sculptures) which will become a much prized possession.
Images: Unlike Idols, which tend to follow a common theme of how a Deity may appear, images tend to become more personal, as there are many Pagan artists who produce stunning visual displays. Many of these artists are able to be commissioned to create a personalised representation of the practitioners Deity according to the impresssion they hold within their own mind of how the Deity appears to them. Pagans may also use stock images of other representations on their Altar or in their Temples such as photographs of nature scenes, the elements or planets to represent various aspects of their practices.
Incense: According to Webster's, incense is a word derived from the French encens, or encensen from the Latin incensus to cause (a passion or emotion) to become aroused. The English definition of incense is defined as: The perfume or odors exhaled from spices and gums when burned in celebrating religious rites or as an offering to some deity.The use of incense dates back thousands of years. It can be traced to ancient Egypt where materials were burned in religious ceremonies, and to drive away demons and gratify the presence of gods. It is mentioned on an inscribed tablet that was placed on the Sphinx at Giza, Egypt, in about 1530 BC.
Keek Stane: (see also Scrying Mirror, Crystal Ball) The " Keek-Stane" is basically the equivalent of a crystal ball. This utilises a form of divination in which one gazes into the luminous reflective surface.
Knives: (see also - Athame, Boline, Seax, Yag-dirk) In all Pagan Traditions the use of knives in either physical work (cutting of herbs) or ceremonial work ('cutting' a circle) is a common practice and although most Pagans refer to their Ceremonial Knife as an Athame and their Physical Knife as a Boline this is often incorrect. These terms belong to the various traditions associated with Wicca and Ceremonial Magic (from which they were adapted into Wicca) and the term refers specifically to the traditionally stipulated guidelines on what exactly an Athame is and how it should be used.
The knives used within various other Pagan religions and traditions differ, according the the beliefs from which they were derived and the names they are given. Within Primordial Wytchecraft for example we believe that the choice and use of your Knife (and any other working tools) should in fact be a reflection of the practitioner rather than the tradition. Your ritual knives are an extension of your energies and as such should reflect your inner self, in both what knives you use and how you choose to use them..(if at all)
We consider the Knife, to be a tool associated with self and of both evocation and banishing. The knife, is the tool that wields one’s will, thoughts, emotions and intuition over each of the Elements and over all. We use it to command the spirits that we evoke, invoke and banish. Primordial Wytches use their knives to cut physical objects as we believe the more one uses our tools the more attuned we become with them, we often carry our knife with us everywhere (although in some places legislation makes this illegal, so please check your own laws!) as we never know when we will be called to use our knife to cut herbs or focus our energies.
The moment a practitioner forges a relationship with a knife is the beginning of it's connection to the practitioner, entwining the tool’s purpose with the practitioner's mind and will into the very core of the blade. Before use cleansing and clearing removes all previous energies from the blade. Completion of Binding occurs through three drops of the practitioners own blood on the blade and makes the blade truly one’s own and an extension of the self. Charging then fills the blade the energy from within the practitioner, which is then during ritual, projected through the blade and outward in the direction of intent. (see Making a Ritual Knife)
Magickal Cabinet: The Storage space where Pagans keep all the tools of their trade. This may be a simple pantry or cupboard, or it may be part of a specifically designed Altar which has drawers for herbs, spaces for the working tools and other paraphernalia of the Craft.
Magickal Cords: (see also Cords, Cingulum) Similar to personal cords, magickal cords are often those held within a Coven or Circle for use by the whole Coven during Rituals and Spell Workings. These are used for a variety of purposes, such as; binding an initiate during Initiation Ceremonies (though this is most commonly the initiates own cingulum), knotting spells, binding items together for spells. The colour of magickal cords often relates to the use and intention of each of the particular cords. Cords may be anything from ribbons to rope, single strand to multistrand braids or twists.
Masks: A mask is worn over part or all of the face, frequently to disguise the wearer, allowing them to assume the personality and traits associated with the mask. Masks may worn within Pagan Practices to disguise the wearer during Halloween or other festivals, or as part of an artistic performance (often during large festivals where mythologies may be played out by participants). Masks may also be worn whn assuming the role of another being, such as one of the four speakers representing the Elements during Coven Meetings.
Medicine Bag: A medicine bag is traditionally associated with the North American Indian Cultures. However the medicine bag is also known in all shamanic cultures and through out all of history, by various names.
It is a container for various items of supernatural power, and may contain objects such as leaves, feathers, stones, herbs such as sweetgrass, sage, cedar, lavender or pinion, and other objects which have been added by the wearer and are considered spiritually significant. Medicine bags can be as small as 1 inch by 1 inch or as large as 30 inches in length. They are typically made of leather or a whole animal skin.
While anyone may have one, usually it would be the medicine man, or shaman, of a tribe who would carry one. The Shaman may carry a medicine bag that has items in it for the healing of oneself and others.
The medicine bag is a sacred item and should never be opened by anyone other than the owner. It contains personal holy items, those that help heal, those that bring protection, those items that connect the practitioner with their totems, guides or angels. As something that holds supernatural items, the medicine bag is considered to hold a power of its own.
Oath Rings: Oath rings are sacred in many Pagan Cultures but especially so for the Asatru, who keep upon the Harrow a ring on which they take and administer oaths. Traditionally this ring was an essential feature of any Heathen Altar, and it was the responsibility of the Godhi to wear it at all formal functions. Both open and closed rings may be used for an oath ring - but many Heathens prefer a closed ring for the symbolism of continuity.
Pantacle: (see also Paton) An amulet used in magical evocation, generally made of parchment, paper or metal (although it can be of other materials), on which the symbol of a spirit or energy being evoked is drawn. Within Paganism generally placed upon the Altar as a base for Magickal Workings.
Protective symbols are inscribed upon it, generally a five-point form of the Seal of Solomon, called a pentacle of Solomon or pentangle of Solomon. Many varieties of pentacle can be found in the grimoires of Solomonic magic; they are also used in some neopagan magical traditions, such as Wicca, alongside other magical tools. (see Making a Paton)
Pendulum: A pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely. The pendulum motion often appears in religious services and ceremonies, The swinging incense burner called a censer, also known as a thurible, is an example of a pendulum. Pendulums are also seen at many gatherings in eastern Mexico where they mark the turning of the tides on the day which the tides are at their highest point. In Paganism pendulums (often a crystal suspended on a string) are also for divination and dowsing.
Pentacle: (see also Pentagram) The words pentacle and pentagram (a five-point unicursal star) are essentially synonymous, according to the Online Oxford English Dictionary (2007 revision), which traces the etymology through both French and Italian back to Latin, but notes that in Middle French the word "pentacle" was used to refer to any talisman not just one inscribed with a Pentagram.
Whatever the original usage of the term, within Paganism the Pentacle is generally considered to be a physical object, a Talisman, generally worn by Pagan practioners as a symbol of their faith and as a protective device.
The term is also sometimes used to refer to the Altar disc and is often used interchangably with Pantacle.
Pentagram: (see also Pentacle) Within Pagan practices the Pentagram is generally considerd to be the star (and sometimes the circle as well) used during magickal workings such as banishing rites where it is 'drawn' within the air. Each point of the Pentagram traditionally represents one of the five metaphysical elements of the ancients. The top point represents Spirit, The upper left point represents Air, the upper right point represents Water, the lower left point represents Earth, and the lower right point represents Fire. In this fashion, the pentagram represents Spirit ruling over the four elements.
Paton: (see also Pantacle) (also known as a Paten) A flat disk or plate used in place of a Pantacle usually inscribed with symbols of protection or magick (other than the Pentacle of Solomon). (see Making a Paton)
Quaich: A shallow two-handled drinking cup or bowl. The quaich originated from the Gaelic word cuach meaning "shallow cup." The English counterpart of the Scottish quaich is the porringer.
This ancient vessel was used to celebrate a bond between two clans, each partaking of an offered drink. Presented using both hands, the recipient must receive it with both hands. In early days, this method assured each warrior that the other was not concealing a weapon with a hidden hand.The Quaich was held upside down over each person's head to show that all was consumed. Filled with the "Water of Life" it is used at every ceremony.
Traditionally they are made of wood, an artform known as "treen". Some uaich's bottoms are made of glass, allegedly so that the drinker could keep watch on his companions. A more modern and romantic quaich has a double glass bottom in which was kept a lock of lover's hair so that the owner could drink to his lady love.
Rattles: Rattles are used extensively in contemporary Shamanism, Wicca and Paganism. Rattles are filled with power and at the same time act as a power antennae. In many parts of the world they are used together with drums, and in Siberia they are often built into the drum or drumstick. This is because a Rattle is easily held in the hand, and can be used easily whilst dancing, chanting and invoking power while moving about, as well as whilst sitting down.
Shamans use sound to enter trance states for healing and accessing the Otherworlds, and for causing shifts and changes in their own and other peoples energy fields. Sound has powerful effects on the body, the brain and the mind, Rattles are also used for cleansing the energy fields of places, and are therefore used for this at the beginnings of ceremonies and rituals to ensure that there is no negativity in the place where this is happening. The sounds made by Rattles are said by native peoples around the world to attract the attention of helpful Spirits.
The sound from a Rattle is perfect for all these needs, and has the benefit of not travelling too far- it won’t disturb your neighbours at home, or bring unwanted attention outdoors.
Rattles have another quality. Which is that their form lends itself well to decoration- carving or beadwork on the handle, artwork on the ‘head’ of the Rattle. Which means that they can be adorned with Totem signs and symbols, and this will all help to keep these connections at the forefront of the practitioner's consciousness when they are using the Rattle. They also tend to be much less expensive than drums, and many shops selling goods from “third world” countries have beautiful, powerful, inexpensive rattles for sale.
Robes: Many covens, especially Wiccan - work naked, referred to, in the Craft as skyclad - "clad only by the sky". This is certainly a traditionally preferred and recommended practice. However there are times when, perhaps due to temperature, public Rituals or simply by your choice or tradition, where you may choose to be robed.
Robes can be as simple or as elaborate as you like, again as we have previously stated tools (including Robes) are simply and extension of the practitioner and therefore should reflect the practitioner. When choosing or mak9ing a robe, any type of material will do (although most Pagans prefer natural matrials such as wool, hemp and cotton), but the choice is up to you - polyester (only if you must!), silk, cotton, wool. Consider, though, its weight: will it he too heavy and hot, or too light and cool? Also consider how easily it creases and wrinkles. Will it stretch too much? Do you wish to have both winter and summer robes, or will you make just one set and wear a heavy cloak in winter?
Runes: The runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialized purposes(such as divination) thereafter.
Runes are today most commonly associated with a method of divination similar to the Tarot or the I Ching. The difference is that Runes are a set of 25 stones or a set of sticks inscribed with the letters of the Runic Alphabet, instead ofthe tarot 78 cards, which depict pictures and symbols. The lack of extensive knowledge on historical usage of the runes has not stopped modern authors from extrapolating entire systems of divination from what few specifics exist, usually loosely based on the runes' reconstructed names and additional outside influence.
As with the Tarot, most of the Runes may be right side up, or up side down, the meaning differing with the case. In addition, some Runes can not appear up side down. In modern practice, the Runes may be made of any material: ceramic, stones, sticks, or drawn on cards. However traditionally they would have been carved from wood or bone.
Sacred Space: Any space used specifically for the interaction of practitioners and the Divine.
This may include but is not limited to large sites for Coven Celebrations, an individual's Personal Altar or Shrine, and any other physical, mental and spiritual sites in which a practitioner performs rites, rituals and magickal workings.
The sacred space may be indoors such as a temple or spare room or outdoors such as a sacred grove, or a backyard circle, and as complex as a permanant site, such as a Grove or Temple or a simple temporarily cast circle.
Scourge: The scourge, or flail, is one of the symbols of power and domination depicted in the hands of Osiris in Egyptian monuments (the other is the Crook).
The priests of Cybele scourged themselves and others, and such stripes on the flesh were considered sacred.
In Wiccan and some Pagan practices the sourge represents the eight fold path and the sacrifices made to follow the path. It may also represent the High Priestess and the 'discipline' she holds over the Coven as the representation of the Goddess.
Scrying Mirror: (see also Crystal Ball, "Keek-Stane") (also known as a Black Mirror or Dark Mirror) It is often handmade of a clock glass, concave on one side and convex on the other. The convex side is painted black. It is usually set within a box. It is used in the same manner as a Crystal Ball.
Sickle: (see also Bolline) A sickle is a hand-held agricultural tool with a curved blade typically used for harvesting grain crop or cutting grass for hay. In Pagan practices the sickle is used in a similar manner to the Boline, mainly to cut ritual herbs, thanks to it's shape. It is considered a direct heir of the small gold sickle druids used to cut ritual herbs, mainly mistletoe. The only difference is that due to it's curved shape, similar to the waxing moon, it symbolises the feminine principle, and can be used in some lunar rituals.
Sgian Dubh: (see also Athame, Knife, Dirk, Bolline) Means literally 'dagger black. Traditionally black handled in much the same manner as the Athame, but may have also have stag horn handles. The reference to black not only denoted the colour of the handle but also it's secret use, a dark, dangerous secret! The dagger would be hidden away in the clothing and used unexpectedly when locked to an enemy in hand to hand combat.
It is now used in some Scottish Pagan practices to mark ritual candles.
Sitstrum: (see also Rattle) Traditionally used in Egyptian Paganism, a percussion instrument made up of a frame, often in the Ankh shape with wires or rods threaded through the frame, on the wires or rods are bells or clatters of some type, When shaken it produces a tinkling to rattling sound. Often used to replace the Rattle.The sistrum was a sacred instrument in ancient Egypt. Perhaps originating in the worship of Bastet, it was used in dances and religious ceremonies, particularly in the worship of the goddess Hathor, with the U-shape of the sistrum's handle and frame seen as resembling the face and horns of the cow goddess. It was also shaken to avert the flooding of the Nile and to frighten away Set. Isis in her role as mother and creator was depicted holding a pail symbolizing the flooding of the Nile, in one hand and a sistrum in the other. The goddess Bast too is often depicted holding a sistrum, symbolizing her role as a goddess of dance, joy, and festivity.
Silver Bough: Mentioned in many Celtic legends, the Silver bough was cut from a mystic apple tree, the silver branch gave forth magical music which none might resist. The apples it bore, dangling like bells, served the sojourner for food while in the Realm of the Gods.
One can be made by cutting a branch from an apple tree (remember to ask permission and to leave an offering to the Tree spirit), or purchasing a dowel from a hardware store. The branch should be 12 - 16 inches long, or smaller. Cut three grooves into the surface of the branch or dowel (it may then be painted silver if you choose) Attach three bells to each groove, tying the strings into the groove to stop the bells from slipping or falling off. The bells should have a pleasing sound that is clear in tone, when tied to the branch. The three bells are symbolic of the triple Goddess aspect.
Smudge Kit: (see also smudge stick) 'Smudging' is the common name given to the "Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing," a powerful cleansing technique from the Native American tradition. It is a ritual way to cleanse a person, place or an object of negative energies or influences. The theory behind smudging is that the smoke attaches itself to negative energy and as it clears it takes the negative energy with it, releasing it into another space to be regenerated. The four elements should all be balanced in the smudging ceremony.For smudging, you will need something to burn the herbs in, such as a clay bowl or a shell. It was traditional to use an abalone shell, a gift from the oceans. To assist in calling in the element of Water, from where life began. An abalone grows its shells in a spiral, and thus connects us to the first spiral that started all life. You will also need matches (which are closer to nature than a lighter) and a feather or fan of feathers. The feather is to acknowledge the winged ones who dwell in the sky and to call in the element of Air. Sage is the traditional herb which is burnt during smudging ceremonies. The Burning Herbs represent both earth (unlit) and fire (when burning).
Smudge Stick: (see also smudge kit) A smudge stick is a bundle of dried herbs, most commonly white sage. Often other herbs or plants are added, and the leaves are usually bound with string in a small bundle and dried. Additional herbs and spices that are often used in contemporary practices include cilantro, cedar, lavender, and mugwort, all have a strong, pleasant aroma when burnt.The term "smudge stick" entered the English language through indigenous American Indian traditions that include shamanism. The binding of smudge sticks for many traditions was a sacred intentional process in and of itself. Using scent and scented smoke in rites of purification, whether through smudging (the process of using a smudge stick) or burning incense, is common in many traditional cultures around the world including Paganism.
Staff: The staff has a long tradition of association with Druidry, it is a tool of protection and guidance. The staff may , in some traditions, be used in place of the wand.
Within Primordial Paganism practitioners often carry a staff into rituals, each of these staffs may be placed around the borders of the circle, based pushed into the ground, creating a circle of staffs, adding an extra element of energy to the circle. (I have several Staffs including a shorter Ritual Staff, with a raven's wing attached, representative of my position as a High Priestess of the Morrigan)
It is a highly personal tool and one should consider the wood that is used to make the staff, different woods carry different vibrational energy, this energy shopuld be matched to both the user and the intent for which the staff will be used. It is usually matched "to your measure"(which means it reaches from the ground to your shoulder) making it easy and comfortable for you to handle.
The staff may also be used to mark the quarters or to hold banners or flags of the clan or coven.
Stalli: (see also Harrow, Horgr) An indoor Asatru altar usually made of wood. The Stalli, of course, is the focal point of the Blot, and holds the necessary implements used during the service.
Standing Stones: (see also Henge) Whilst not specifically a tool, Standing Stones have been associated with Pagan practices since time began. The ancient standing stones and cup and ring stones found all over the British Isles have long been know to have great powe, however these are but a few of the ceremonial places associated with stone circles. There are places all over the world where Tribal peoples have erected circles of stone and wood, while Stone Henge may be the most wel known stone ring, it is far from being the only such construction even within the British Isles.
These Stone Circles and the various Standing Stones have witnesses the passage of time, the rise and fall of human cultures, the construction of Stonehenge , humanity's passage into space, and still they stand in tribute. The collective memory of our race resides in these stones.
Modern pagan practices often include the creation of a ring of stones, though they may not be as impressive as the standing stones of the ancient stone circles, they still create a feeling of timelessness and sacredness to those who work within them.
Stang: (see also Staff) In it's simplest form a stang is a pole, shaft, stake or wooden bar. Within paganism however the term is used more specifically to refer to a long single branch that ends by dividing into a “Y” shape. Used by some Pagan traditions to symbolize the Goddess. Also represents duality and the vagina as a fertility symbol. Some traditions place it with the forked end up at one of the four quarters during rituals “to symbolize an alignment to the Goddess." It is, within some other Pagan traditons, used as a form of portable Altar of which may hang various, charms, talismans and amulets, ribbons or braided cord or animal hair.
There are even references to the Pagan's use of a Stang in the Bible ... "You shall not plant a sacred pole or any kind of wood beside the altar of the Lord, your God, which you will build. . . . Nor shall you erect a sacred pillar, such as the Lord, your God detests" (Lev. 16:21, 22).
Sweat Lodge: (also known as a ceremonial sauna) The sweat lodge is a sacred ceremony most commonly associated with the Shamanic Native American traditions, Traditionally, a typical leader has 4 to 8 years of apprenticeship before being allowed to care for people in a lodge, and have been officially named as ceremonial leaders before the community.
However, there are many similar practices throughout the world in South America and Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia, Japan and Australia. In all these cultures, the central action is the same: heated rocks are placed in an enclosed space. Water is then poured on the rocks to produce intense waves of heat. Sometimes herbs are burned or crushed in the lodge or added to the water to produce a soothing fragrance. Some ceremonies include specific healing procedures and rituals.Regardless of the origins of the sweat lodge practices you follow, some common practices and key elements associated with sweat lodges may include:
There are dangers associated with the use of a sweat lodge and one that anyone considering attending one should be aware of,
Sword: This particular tool is in some Traditions only used in groups and not by solitary witches, however as with all Pagan practices this is up for debate. Much like the Athame it can be used to direct power and cast the Circle, but it is highly important that it isn't considered as a kind of scaled up Athame. The sword possesses its own meanings that places it as a unique tool in its own right.
Swords have long been items that denote status, as they were generally only carried by nobility (the wealthy) and as such, it was considered a sign of power and position. Due to this in most traditions, the only person who wields a ritual Sword is a High Priest or High Priestess.
Whereas all otherPagan tools are used to focus the individual power of the practitioner, the sword is generally considered to be a focal point for the entire Coven's power,. The sword represents the goals being undertaken and the collective will of those creating and directing the energy to achievethose goals, and the sword is held held by the person who is directing this collective energy and directing it to it's goal, in most cases the High Priestess (or High Priest).
Targe: A round leather covered shield used by Highland warriors. The Scottish Targe (pron. tar-gie) was more specifically, a concave shield fitted with enarmes on the inside, one adjustable by a buckle, to be attached to the forearm, and the other fixed as a grip for the left hand. This name as applied to a shield goes back to the 12th century and was used, especially by the Scots.
The typical Scottish Targe was about twenty inches in diameter. The inside of the targe was formed from two very thin layers of flat wooden boards, with the grain of each layer at right angles to the other. They were fixed together with small wooden pegs. The front was covered with a tough hide (generally cow), which was often decorated with embossed celtic patterns. This was fixed to the wood with many brass, or in some cases, silver, nails, and occasionally brass plates were also fixed to the face for strength and decoration. Some targes had center bosses of brass, and a few of these could accept a long steel spike, which screwed into a small "puddle" of lead that was fixed to the wood, under the boss. When not in use, the spike could be unscrewed and placed in a sheath on the back of the targe. A Highlander armed with a broadsword in one hand, dagger in the other and a spiked targe on his arm would have been a formidable enemy in close combat.
Within Paganism today the targe is often placed on the Altar (God side) as a symbol of protection. For other Traditions, who follow a historical reconstructionist Tradition it may also be used during reinactments
Teaching Plants: (see also Flying Ointment) Throughout the history of humanity, Shamans, Medicine wo/men and Healers have been using Teaching Plants to obtain an altered state of consciousness, to travel on vision quests and to bring the Clan or tribe into unity.These Teaching plants may be smoked, drunk as a decoction, make into a slave and rubbed on the skin, or chewed.
These plants may include but are not limited to; Peyote, Salvia (Diviner's sage), Marijuana, Sacred (Magick) Mushrooms, Ayahuasca, Wormwood (Absinth, Green Faery), Damiana, Passionflower, Bearberry, Kava Kava, Bay Bean, Cacao and Morning Glory.
Sadly today these traditions have been demonised by cultures who seek to ban the practices due to abuse of many of these substances by the general populous. Whilst we agree heartily that in the hands of a lay person these plants can be harmful, even DEADLY, used within the correct surroundings and under the supervision of a properly trained pracitioner to aid in healing, gain a deeper awareness of the spirtual self, to gain a closeness to our Mother Earth and to awaken latent psychic abilities, they should have their place within the studies of modern medicinals.
Disclaimer - whilst understanding and appreciating the nature of Teaching Plants we do not endorse their use by any untrained professional, nor do we advocate the use of illegal substances. This information has been provided for educational purposes only!
Thurible: (see also Censer) A thurible is a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned during religious services. It is commonly used in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Lutheran, Old Catholic, and Roman Catholic churches, as well as in various Gnostic Churches, in Co-Freemasonry and in the practice of Paganism and Ceremonial Magick
Triquetra: Latin for "three-cornered". The Triquetra represents the threefold nature of life as represented in the nine Cardinal Three's. It symbolizes life, death, and rebirth and the three forces of nature: Sky, Earth, and Water. Many cultures and religions consider the number three to be holy or divine.
Veils: an article of clothing, worn almost exclusively by women, that is intended to cover some part of the head or face. One view is that as a religious item, it is intended to show honor to an object or space. The actual sociocultural, psychological, and sociosexual functions of veils have not been studied extensively but most likely include the maintenance of social distance and the communication of social status and cultural identity. In some Pagan Traditions they are used to hide the face of the High Priestess during the drawing down of the Moon (so as not to look on the face of the Goddess), they maybe used during circle dances or during the Handfasting ceremony.
Wand: The wand is one of the most well known of the Pagan tools and one of the most versatile. The length of the wand varies from tradition to tradition, most common it is measured from the base of the palm to the top of the middle finger. However many Pagans choose to make wands of varying sizes whatever length and wood you choose, it is safe to say that generally the wand should be fairly straight, comfortable in your hand and is not so long as to be unwieldy.
Traditionally, the wand is made from wood of many different kinds of trees including willow, elder, oak, hazel, and fruit trees, each wood is chosen for the specific energy that it will impart to the wand. When searching for wood for your wand, (even wood from a building supply store will work, but most Pagans prefer to find the wood as they feel it has then chosen them). If you taking your wood from a living tree, remember to ask the tree first, then thank it for its sacrifice, even so far as to leave an offering of yourself for the tree (such as a lock of hair) in return. Wands can also be made of crystals and metal. You may choose to purchase a pre-made wand however if you do so then make the wand your own by carving or painting symbols on it, adorning it with ribbons, whatever will add your own energy to it's creation.