The Most Important Ingredient
There is only one ingredient in your magical work that brooks no substitutions and that is you, your energy, your presence. You are the most vital component of any enchantment. What you bring to magic are your own desires and focus and no price can be placed upon them. Your energy and power are unique. No one else can substitute for you. The more you give of yourself, the greater your success will be.
Following is a list of the basics that you are most likely to use in your magical practice.
Don't let the lack of any one article or item create a hurdle for you. You can almost always make substitutions. Improvise. Your own goals determine what you really need versus what would be kind of fun to have. For instance, those wishing to work extensively with plant allies may need some gardening tools. If that path isn't for you, then neither are the tools.
The most crucial magical tools of all are your hands. They transmit your personal energy and receive it from others. They can't do this if you keep them at a distance from your materials. Wherever it's possible and safe, touch your materials, handle them, let your hands do the mixing and sorting, rather than resorting to other tools.
For many, magic is candle work. Candles range from tiny tea lights to large 7-Days (their name reflects how long it's anticipated they'll stay lit). They come in a variety of colors and a variety of shapes. Occult supply stores sell candles for specific intents: reversible candles to return an evil spell, candles shaped like men, women, couples or cats for assorted enchantments. The ubiquitous skull candles you see aren't meant for any evil purpose: they're intended to “get inside someone's head” when you need to implant an idea or you need them to hear your side of a story.
Some prefer to take their magic from the ground floor up and make their own candles, for a list of good reasons:
· Candles are reasonably simple and inexpensive to make.
· You can control the contents of your candle.
Figure candles may be used if their image resonates for you. Use female candles to represent women, male candles for men. You'll also find joined couple candles for love spells and when your magical goal involves two of you as a unit. Candles in the shape of witches and cats are also very popular. Traditionally, witches enhance any magic while cats bring good luck, but use them in whatever way your inspiration guides. Any shape candle can serve a magical purpose.
· You can imbue the candle with your intent right from the start.
· You are not limited to the shapes that are commercially available.
· Candle-making is fun, creative and relaxing.
If you enjoy crafts, you can indulge your passions with candle-making. Many cookie cutters and old-fashioned chocolate molds can be used to personalize the shapes. Another option is beeswax. Beeswax candles are easy and quick to make. You can get sheets of pure beeswax in various colors from craft stores as well as from candle-making supply houses. The sheets should not lack fragrance but be redolent of bees and honey. You can leave the fragrance as is (the scent of beeswax is considered propitious), or before you shape the candle, place some fragrance oil onto your palms and smooth it onto the wax. Line up a cotton wick and then just roll sheets into the desired shape: tapers are easiest, but you can also make pyramids and squares fairly simply. To make them thicker, just add more sheets of wax. You can also use cookie cutters to cut shapes from one sheet to attach to a larger rolled candle.
There is one exceptionally good reason for not making your own candles and that, of course, is that making candles is time-consuming and few people consistently have that kind of time. No need to content yourself with a generic candle, however. A store-bought candle can easily be doctored to imbue it with your own energy and intent. In magical parlance, this is knows as “dressing a candle.”
· Carve initials, birthdays, prayers, astrological symbols and incantations into the soft wax.
· Add fragrance by rubbing scented oil onto the candle.
· Decorate and personalize your candles. Enhance the power by adding small shells, glitter, herbs, pinecones or any sort of small treasure, just always keep fire safety in mind!
· It was once customary for 7-Day candles to slide out of their glass sleeves for easy dressing. It's getting harder to find these, but don't despair. If you can't remove the candle, drill holes into the top of the wax and insert your fragrance. After the candle has burned out, reserve the glass sleeve to create future candles.
Choosing Your Candle: Before you choose a candle, determine what you wish to do with it.
· If you want to carve an entire incantation, you will need a candle of appropriate size.
· If you need to watch the whole candle burn without extinguishing it, use a tea light or small votive.
· Tapers are notoriously hard to carve, they tend to split in half, although they are easily rubbed with fragrance. Rub tapers with a romance-drawing oil for a seductive candlelit dinner. (Check in the Spells section for some examples.)
· Match the color of your candle to your magical goal. Check back a few pages to the Color section if your memory needs refreshing. Remember, a white candle suits any goal.
Tips for Successful Candle Magic:
· Make the goal of each candle as specific as possible.
· Remain focused on your desired intent while dressing your candle.
· Hold the candle in your hands to transmit your energy. Make your wish with the candle in your hands before lighting it.
· Use common sense around candles. Because you're doing spiritual work doesn't mean that the laws of nature don't apply. Never leave candles unattended. In most cases, it's perfectly fine to extinguish a candle before it's finished, before you fall asleep, for instance, or if you have to leave your home.
· Repeat your wish and intensify your concentration every time you relight the candle.
· If a spell requires that a candle burn out entirely by itself, wait until you have sufficient time for initiating that spell.
· Candles, children and animals are a volatile mix. When faced with any combination, use extra caution.
If you do candle work, you will need something with a sharp point to cut into the wax. Every rule has an exception and here's mine. This is the one area where it is beneficial to keep separate tools. Candle work often expresses your most secret, private wishes. Your tool can be as luxurious or inexpensive as you choose. Some witches use intricate knives but others use metal skewers. You could use a craft knife, a sharp pointed pen or even a pointy twig. Rose thorns are traditional carving tools. The edge of a key works well, too.
You'll need these if you'll be burning herbs or incense. Unless you're doing really big rituals outside, you won't need the large bags of charcoal that are used for barbecuing. The charcoal of choice is small and round and has an indented surface where you can sprinkle the incense. These are usually sold in packs of ten in occult supply stores and in botanicas.
One pair of wooden chopsticks is versatile, finds many magical uses, and lasts quite a long time. They are excellent mixing tools, particularly for salts, herbs and oils where metal tools should be avoided. Chopsticks can also be used to retrieve fallen matches from the bottom of 7-Day candles and unclog your drains should you neglect to strain the herbs from your bath infusion.
Boxes are easily transformed into magical containers. The very shape of the box embodies the concept of reproduction and what is magic, after all, but creating something new from existing energy? Use whatever sort of box resonates most for you. Magic boxes may be made from wood, stone or metal. They can be of any size, from a walnut or matchbox to a steamer trunk. Store your prized amulets and tools in a special box for protection and place herbs and crystals inside to enhance their power. For extra enhancement: use henna or decoupage to adorn the outside or glue shells and feathers to surfaces.
What you need depends upon what you wish to store. Most likely you'll need glass containers or containers of some other nonreactive material. Salt and essential oils interact poorly with plastic. Darker glass protects oils and herbs and extends their shelf life. Seashells and coconut shells add their own power to whatever they hold. They're especially good for things that don't need to be enclosed.
You can also use boxes more actively by creating a spell box. Spell boxes are enclosed altars, miniature wishing tableaux. Fill your box with the power items that will assist you to achieve your goal: money, a new job, romance, good health. Keep the box shut except when actively performing rituals or visualizations to ensure the success of that specific goal. (Make as many boxes as you need but use only one for each purpose.)
A mortar and pestle is ideal. It is an ancient instrument and is readily available in a multitude of materials: stone, clay, metal or glass. Because this incorporates a physical process, you are actually grinding your intent and desire into the materials, this is a particularly beneficial tool. In addition, the mortar and pestle is designed to echo male and female energies and the procreative act, hearkening back to the most ancient magical ritual of all. A molcajete, the Mexican stone mortar, works great, too.
If you don't have a mortar and pestle, a small food processor can provide what you need, although because just pushing a button doesn't allow you to contribute as much of your personal energy as the older instrument, you should compensate with extra strong visualizations. Spice and coffee grinders can also be used but be aware that the flavor of whatever you are grinding may infiltrate your coffee grinder forever.
Paper is a common canvas upon which to create enchantments. The magical uses of paper are virtually unlimited. Paper can be enhanced and preserved: it can be folded, pasted upon or somehow made to resemble another object. Paper can be drawn upon or written upon. Charms and amulets are commonly made from paper.
Some spells require that paper be destroyed for the magic to be released; typically a wish or secret desire is written upon the paper. Following a ritual or just some plain intense concentration, the paper is then burned or dissolved in water. For maximum efficacy, when burning paper for spells, make sure every tiny bit, every last letter, is reduced to smoke and ashes.
Sometimes magic is on the paper but at other times, magic is in the paper.
The quality and quantity of your paper is up to you. If the paper will be preserved whole, the content of the paper itself may not be too important.
China is the ancestral home of burnt-paper magic. The theory behind this practice is that by burning special paper, messages are reliably sent to the spirit realm. Thousands of varieties of mystical paper (known as joss, fu, paper horse or spirit money paper, among other names) exist. Spirit money, which resembles cash bills, is relatively easy to find in stores that cater to traditional Asian clientele (or to tourists in Chinatown); finding other varieties is like searching for treasure. You never quite know what gems will turn up. This practice also extends to other areas. Special magic wishing paper, often beautifully handcrafted, comes from Nepal. Write a wish and burn.
However, if you're burning paper, you need to be aware that you are releasing the paper's chemical components into the air side-by-side with your expressed desires. Releasing toxic chemicals may distract the powers-that-be from paying attention to your spell—or it may attract the wrong kind of powers! One way around this is to make your own paper. You can control the color and reinforce its power with flowers and fragrance. If you're unfamiliar with the process, craft stores and toy stores sell simple kits. Otherwise, try to buy unbleached paper, as chemical-free as possible. Typically, for a spell, only a small square is needed.
POTS AND PANS
Finally, here's your cauldron! The fairy tale image of the witch stirring her magic cauldron isn't far from the truth. In the language of symbols, pots represent the womb of creation, women's primal power. None of this symbolism means that the pot as a tool is restricted to women's use. In West Africa, an iron pot is among the accoutrements of Ogun, the very male spirit of metal, tools, agriculture and war, who remains today's active patron of soldiers, surgeons and taxi drivers. An iron pot is one of his symbols; inside that pot you would find carefully cultivated red rust as recognition that even when representing this most male of entities, the pot still echoes the creative female womb.
You can use any pot or pan that you already own, however, be aware that the concept of completely nonreactive cookware is an illusion. Every item contributes, at the very least, its energy and probably a lot more than that. A cast-iron pot or pan is ideal. Iron has traditional associations with magic. Cast iron is durable, improves with age and puts you in touch with the healing powers of metal. A plain 10″ or smaller cast-iron pan has a vast variety of uses, from cooking to roasting spices to burning incense. The more you use it, the stronger its power becomes.
The tools listed here are standard equipment for most, but don't feel limited to them. Many cultures have evolved specific magic tools. If you follow a tradition faithfully, some may become necessities. The Celtic practitioner may be unable to envision magic without her specially consecrated athamé, her ritual knife. The Saami shaman may not need a knife; her magic is incomplete without her sacred drum. Among other items commonly used in magic are bells, masks, musical instruments, wands and, yes, brooms. There is no single right way to use these tools. Access the childlike, magical part of you and play!
Communication and interaction with nonhumans is difficult for many of us. The farther away from human language we get, the more difficult it becomes. In other words, communicating with a dog may be plausible for many but a plant, a rock, a pan? Cast iron is a good teacher with which to begin this process. For most people, the visual sense is strongest and cast iron communicates very visually. When it's happy and feeling its power, a cast-iron pot is sleek, black and shiny, although it may take years to build up to this level of experience. An inexperienced pan has a grayish tinge; its color is metallic rather than shiny. An ill-used pan or a tired one will develop rust and needs to be reseasoned and fed some fat, the equivalent of sending cast iron to the health spa. You won't have to work very hard to build up an alliance with a cast-iron pan. It's a willing ally if well-treated and will speak up promptly when mistakes are made in its treatment.