If you are a newcomer to Wicca, you probably have many questions about the ritual tools. Once you know more about them, you can make informed decisions about whether each tool fits into your spiritual practice. This article examines the list of tools specified by Wicca founder Gerald Gardner, which are still used by Gardnerian covens today. Gardner borrowed the ritual tool tradition from ceremonial magic. He thought Wiccans should likewise create and consecrate their own elaborate implements for magical use. According to Gerald Gardner, the primary Wiccan tools are as follows:
- The pentacle, which represents the element of earth and sits in the north quarter of your altar. It is often inscribed upon a fire-proof dish or tile for your altar. You might set things upon it to be consecrated with salt water or incense smoke.
- The athame, which represents the element of air and sits in the east quarter of your altar. It is a black-handled, double-edged knife that is only used to direct energy and to cut through air. Many athames are blunt to ensure that they do not accidentally shed blood, which would contaminate their essence and require them to be destroyed. The athame is a phallic symbol that represents the God.
- The wand, which represents the element of fire and sits in the south quarter of your altar. It is usually made of the wood of your choosing and can be decorated any way you wish. Many are carved with runes or symbols and topped with a wire-wrapped crystal. The athame is a phallic symbol that represents the God.
- The chalice, which represents the element of water and sits in the west quarter of your altar. Because it represents the womb, it also symbolizes the Goddess.
Tarot aficionados might be pleased to know that these four primary tools can be seen in most versions of the Major Arcana card, the Magician. In the Rider-Waite tarot deck, he is holding up the wand while the other three tools sit on his altar. The four primary ritual tools are also reflected in the four tarot suits of Coins (Pentacles), Swords, Wands, and Cups. Most Wiccans nowadays, especially the solitary ones, limit their spiritual practice to these four tools. However, Gerald Gardner's great love of pomp and ceremony led him to list several secondary tools:
- The besom, or witch's broom.
- The boline, a white-handled utility knife, often sickle-shaped, used to cut herbs.
- The cauldron, which is also a symbol of the womb and the Goddess.
- The censer, used to burn incense.
- The cingulum, or nine-foot cord used to measure the proper diameter of a magic circle
- The scourge, or multi-thong whip, used to lash yourself upon the back to signify the suffering you are willing to endure for spiritual enlightenment, and
- The stang, which is a tall pole with two prongs on its tip to represent the Horned God. Often the prongs are made from antlers.
As you can see, Gerald Gardner definitely was not the kitchen-witch type who might mince chives with a paring knife, wash it off, and then use it to cast a circle. But you might be. You might not like ceremonial magic as much as he did. Or you might just be a minimalist who has your own idea about which ritual tools are needed to practice Wicca. Think about the classic Wiccan tools and decide for yourself which ones appeal to you.
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