Picture this scenario. You have just discovered Wicca, a spiritual path that has the potential to transform your life. You cannot wait to learn more about it. As you wade into the avalanche of books and online lore available on the subject, you learn about the festivals and rituals.
You begin to get a sense of the accessories involved in practicing Wicca. Not only will you need a personal home altar, but you may find yourself gathering objects to place upon it to symbolize God and Goddess and the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and spirit.
There are ritual tools to acquire such as an athame (ceremonial dagger) or wand with which to cast protective circles. You will need a chalice or cup to hold sacred libations of wine or juice. You may want an incense burner and incense. Your rituals may call for candles and matches and seasonal decorations with which to herald the sabbats – and, of course, you will need a box in which to keep all your supplies organized and safe from prying eyes.
All this equipment is just for basic worship and celebration of the sabbats. If you decide that you are interested in practicing witchcraft, there are even more things to acquire. Spellwork can require different combinations of herbs, oils, and candles of various colors. You might need crystals, salt, and poppets (tiny doll-like figures to be symbolic targets on which to focus energy).
Last, but certainly not least, there is the ritual jewelry, for which I have to admit I have a total weakness. Who could resist the gorgeous amulets and pendants available online for purchase? Every new Wiccan wants to acquire the perfect pentacle or God/Goddess image or lunar symbol to wear discretely under one’s shirt as a symbol of his or her faith.
Sometimes I look at my own hoard of ritual equipment and wonder, “Isn’t Wicca supposed to be an earth-based religion? And wouldn’t it be more environmentally friendly to reduce my purchase and storage of stuff?” I sense that too much physical stuff on the altar can be distracting during a ritual that should be focusing on the spiritual. Too much clutter can also impede the flow of energy in spellwork in the same way it clogs the chi (energy) in one’s house, according to the principles of feng shui.
How did the Wiccan religion acquire so many accessories to begin with? I think the emphasis on ritual props can be traced back to Wiccan founder Gerald Gardner, who incorporated elements of Ceremonial Magic into his creation of Gardnerian Wicca. Ceremonial Magic is known for its extensive list of ritual tools that must be acquired and consecrated. You can consult the writings of ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley to verify that.
So, one reason that Wiccans have so many ritual accessories is tradition going back to Gerald Gardner. Another reason is that having objects to handle and view can help to focus one’s intent – especially during the raising of energy – which is much easier than trying to hold an image in the back of one’s mind while juggling all the elements of spellwork or ritual.
A third reason that Wiccans may be drawn to collecting many accessories is for the visual appeal. It just looks cool. We may have been raised in a Protestant tradition where the church looked like a lecture hall, or in an atheist home where there was no spirituality. Having loads of ritual accessories satisfies our craving for a mysterious and magical environment, and that is totally fine for those Wiccans who truly want this.
But what about us Wiccans who dislike clutter and are minimalist? We might be better suited with only a few ritual tools that are ephemeral and easily returned to nature. Perhaps a flat stone in the garden for an altar and a shell or concave rock to hold water. A twig dropped (and not cut) from a nearby tree can serve as a wand, which eliminates the need for an athame. Figures of the God and Goddess could be woven from leaves and twigs. What better way to remind us of the essential truth that material objects never last, but the intangible – the spirit – endures?
My advice to new Wiccans is to hold back on buying too many accessories at first. If possible, keep your props to a minimum during your year-and-a-day of initiation and put your money toward books so that you may learn everything about your new spiritual path. Gradually, you will find out what ritual tools, if any, truly call to you.
If you are good at crafts, you can fashion these things yourself to fit your unique preferences. Or you can save up and buy some beautiful objects that you have been coveting for a while. This will save you from ending up with a closet full of impulse purchases that have the feel of generic clutter.