Choosing and Consecrating Magical Tools

This was a column I wrote for The Pagan Household on May 20th, 2013:

 

The tools that we work with in ritual are important elements of our workings. They are objects that focus us in directing our will and our energy to complete whatever work it is that we are doing. These sorts of tools become more effective the longer we have been using them, and the longer we have been working to invest our energy in that particular tool.

These tools know us and vibrate in harmony with our use of them when they have a relationship with us. While our tools are not sentient, I wouldn’t call them passive either. These are tools that channel magic, and the longer we use them, the more magic we imbue in them.

Some of us are lucky and these sorts of tools are handed down to us with a great deal of magical energy already present. My best friend’s Athame is the straight razor her grandmother used in her sewing projects. This is an Athame with a great deal of family history and ties. These sorts of tools recquire little more than a sort of getting to know you period where you and the tool aclimate to each other and establish a working relationship based on the ties already present.

Most us, unfortunately, aren’t that lucky. While there are many more second and even third generation Craft practitioners these days than there were even ten years ago, most of us are starting out on our own and have to pick up our tools the old fashioned way. And some of us don’t want that combined history and simply want to start fresh with something that is completely and only ours.

I’ve recently acquired two new tools that have a large significance in my rituals: an Athame and a wand. The athame was a tool I helped to choose, and was presented to me at my initiation; the wand was a gift from my partner.

So how do you start creating this sort of working relationship?

Never buy a tool that doesn’t call to you. All of my Craft tools, in whatever form, have pulled me to them specifically. There has been an immediate zing of energy exchanged that was impossible to ignore. In the case of the wand, it called my partner to it. It will be a tool that our coven uses together.

I look for tools that are traditional; not everyone does, but I prefer bone and wood that have been handcrafted over cheap, machine made items. Tools like this handle energy much more naturally.

It’s not always possible to know the maker of your Craft tools, not all of us are lucky enough to live near someone who makes these sorts of items, but I would also recommend not buying these types of tools online. You need to be able to handle a tool and speak to the person who was responsible for its creation. If you can make them yourself, even better. This is true of most magical items. There are very few online vendors that I trust, the ones that I do have been recommended to me by other reliable practitioners of my acquaintance and when I have bought items from them, they have been exactly as advertised.

Most Craft store owners should be able to tell you the provenance of an item and the exact materials used to make that item. They also usually know whether the maker has a good reputation or not.

You don’t have to find a tool immediately. Take your time, go to festivals, go to fairs, talk to people and see where they have found their tools. It may take a few months, don’t be discouraged. Remember, these are items that we will use for years to come. Rushing something like this ensures that you will not find the correct tool.

Once you’ve found the perfect item, don’t haggle for it. Pay exactly what the seller is asking if it’s a fair price. When you haggle a price down, it diminishes the power of the tool and takes away from the effort the creator took in making it. If you can barter for the tool and give something in trade, this is perfectly acceptable. You’re still paying a fair price, you’re offering something of equal value, even if that is simply the gift of your own energy.

Once you’ve acquired your tool, take the time to consecrate it and then invest your energy into it everyday. When I’m at home, I carry my Athame around with me, even when I’m not in ritual. I push my energy through it constantly. If I’m not carrying it or I’ve had a busy day, I take a second to pick it up and just think at it for a minute or two. I also won’t let other people touch my tools until I’ve firmly established my own bond with that tool. I’ve only had my Athame for four months now. It will not be touched by anyone other than my partner for a long time yet and the only reason that he is allowed to touch it is because he and I are magical partners as well as significant others and when I do most magical workings, he plays a significant role. He is not a casual lover and I would not recommend sharing your tools with anyone who is.

To consecrate a tool:

Set an altar with representations of the four elements. It is traditional to set Air in the East (usually incense), Fire in the South (candle), Water in the West (bowl of water) and Earth in the North (bowl of salt), but this is up to you and how you usually work.

Choose your representations with what feels right to you. I start in the East; many like to start in the North, again, this is up to you and if an element calls you specifically, start with it.

Take your tool and kiss it, focus your energy on it and take a few minutes to think about what you’ll be using this tool to do.

Wave the tool through the first element and say: I ask ____ to bless and consecrate this tool in doing (state whatever you will be doing with the tool). I ask that ____ bless this tool with (whatever nature the element represents). Bless and consecrate this tool in my service to the Craft. (You can also name any patron deities you’re using). So mote it be!

For example, I started my consecration of my wand with the East and Air. I waved my wand through my burning incense and said: I ask Air to bless and consecrate this tool in it’s use for casting enchantment for me and for my coven. I ask air to bless this wand with its intellect and its quickness. Please bless and consecrate this tool in my service to the (name of my patrons). So mote it be!

Move to the next element and repeat. Do this for all four of the elements. After you have done this, either offer the tool your own blood (which I did in the case of my Athame so that it never works against me) or offer it your energy (which I did with my wand) by placing it against your heart and feeling the energy move between you and the tool.

At the end of the ceremony, place the tool on your altar, continue with whatever work you normally do, and let it acclimate itself to your altar and energy. Leave it for a night and then start carrying it around with you and using it as you would with any tool you already work with.

Bottle Trees and the Magic of Glass

Then coming around up the path from the deep cut of the Natchez Trace below was a line of bare crape-myrtle trees with every branch of them ending in a colored bottle, green or blue.

There was no word that fell from Solomon’s lips to say what they were for, but Livvie knew that there could be a spell put in trees, and she was familiar from the time she was born with the way bottle trees kept evil spirits from coming into the house – by luring them inside the colored bottles, where they cannot get out again.

Solomon had made the bottle trees with his own hands over the nine years, in labor amounting to about a tree a year, and without a sign that he had any uneasiness in his heart, for he took as much pride in his precautions against spirits coming in the house as he took in the house, and sometimes in the sun the bottle trees looked prettier than the house did…”

-Eudora Welty’s Livvie

Over the holidays, two of my good friends moved into a new apartment. Down here, most people live in what we call “Shotgun” apartments. Essentially the apartment is four or five rooms straight in a line, with doors at each end of the house. If you stood at the front door and fired a shotgun, the bullet would go straight through the house. In New Orleans, one of the reasons that shotguns became so popular is that houses were taxed by their frontage feet. If your house was short in the front, but ran long in the back, you didn’t have to pay as many taxes. They were also economical housing for the immigrants who came to work in New Orleans. Many of whom were from Haiti, where they say the style originated. Over half of these shotguns are duplexes, which we call “Double Shotguns”. My friends moved into one half of a double shotgun.

Double shotgun in the Garden district. Photo by Kenny Klein.

Double shotgun in the Garden district. Photo by Kenny Klein.

While I love our picturesque shotgun houses, what caught my eye about my friend’s, is that their neighbors have a bottle tree.

My friend's neighbor's Bottle Tree.

My friend’s neighbor’s Bottle Tree. Photo by Someone Else’s Diary.

Bottle trees are one of my favorite pieces of folk magic. Bottle trees supposedly catch the spirits that come out at night and hold them until the morning light can burn them up. Bottle trees like this come from the African traditions brought over by the slaves in the South and remain a fixture of Southern folk magic and culture. So many people love them that these days, they are also considered to be folk art, and many companies will simply manufacture them for you. I prefer my bottle trees like the rest of my magic, created and done by myself.

Of the bottle trees found in popular culture, Mama Odie from The Princess & The Frog has my favorite. (And whoever drew that movie knew more than a few things about magic and magical symbolism…take a look at the tarot cards used).

In Northern Europe, this same idea is expressed through witch balls.

Witch Balls

Witch Balls

Unlike the Bottle Tree, Witch Balls are usually hung inside, over windows. The strands of glass inside the Witch Ball are what captures the spirits and unlike the Bottle Tree, where the spirit is burned up by the light of day, a Witch Ball simply captures a spirit and never allows it to escape.

Both Bottle Trees and Witch Balls are made up of glass, which often seems to get overlooked as a magical tool. While glass is most often man-made (don’t forget about fulgurites and obsidian!), I see glass as being the combination of all of the elements, in the same manner as an athame is. It can also exist in more than one physical state, and is excellent for carrying a multitude of different musical vibrations. It is also one of oldest manufactured materials used by mankind. What better material for catching spirits?

The vibrations of the glass itself probably has more of an effect on the energy around it than their supposed spirit catching abilities. So whether or not you believe that Bottle Trees or Witch Balls are actually catching spirits or “haints”…the glass itself is probably affecting it’s immediate surroundings through its vibrations, keeping the energy of your yard or home just a little more charged than usual and that in and of itself is a pretty interesting phenomenon.