Working Tools

Working Tools

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The "working tools" of Witchcraft are implements used in rituals. They are sacred items, and, as such, must be consecrated before first being used.

The number of working tools differs from tradition to tradition. In Gardnerian, for example, there are eight: sword, athamé, white-handled knife, pentacle, scourge, cords, censer, and wand (see individual items). In Saxon Witchcraft, for example, there are only four: sword, seax (athamé), censer, and spear. The covens of virtually all traditions also have dishes of water and salt on their altars, together with candle(s), goblet(s), and deity figures, plus the Book of Shadows. However, these are not generally classed as "working tools" per se.

Some of the working tools of Wicca, as used by many traditions, had their origins in ceremonial magic. The wand, for example, an instrument of invocation and/or conjuration, was almost certainly not used by early Pagans and Witches whose primary attunement to deity was in the simple form of prayers and later thanks for good harvests and hunting. It was only with the later structuring of the Craft as a religion, with its pertinent rites and the gathering of groups, that such then-necessary items came into use.

Stewart Farrar says, "a ritual tool is a psychological aid to concentration and synchronizes the psychic effort of a group working together; its symbolism is archetypal in nature and therefore activates the Unconscious in partnership with the purposeful Ego; and through consecration and constant use, it acquires a helpful, psychic charge of its own."

Some tools are coven and others are personal tools. Every Witch has his or her own athamé, for example, yet if a sword is used (for casting the Circle), there is only one such owned by the coven. In some traditions, every Witch has his or her own cord(s) while in others, there is only one set for the whole coven's use. The individual Witch's tools are made by that Witch. The tools of the coven are made by the coven members, either working as individuals or together as a coven project. All are consecrated before use.

In the case of a Hedge Witch, the working tools would be at the whim of the individual. Most would certainly have a knife, which might be an athamé-like blade or a boleen, used for cutting herbs. Eleanor and Philip Harris point out that the High Priest of the ancient Jewish San Hedron carried a crook to display his religious authority. The Celts carried a staff called a stang, which was forked at the top. Jesus advised his disciples to take only staffs when they went off to spread his word. These were all working tools.

Many working tools are inscribed with specific sigils. Again, these are dependent upon the tradition. Examples are the owner's name done in one of the magical alphabets, astrological signs and symbols, pentagrams, hexagrams, and/or other signs and symbols special to the tradition. The purpose is to inject the tool with the maker's mana, or personal power. Rhodes has suggested that it was Pythagoras who first conceived the practice of creating sigils from planetary squares and the use of geometrical figures in magic.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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