Ritual Tools and Techniques
Elements of Magic Spells
Tools, like spells, are creations of people. What may be indispensable to you depends upon your personal traditions and needs. For the practitioner of Wicca, an athame is necessary; in the old Saami tradition it was the drum. If ceremonial “High” magic appeals to you, you may need a lot of “stuff.” For others, what’s necessary may be as little as what fits into a medicine bag—or even less.
Because so many published works focus on the more ceremonial aspects of magic, there is often an emphasis on tools. These may or may not be necessary to you: poor people’s magic, the magic of slaves or nomads who travel light, is no less powerful but may require less stuff—or at least different stuff.
There is a tremendous variety of magical tools, demonstrating human ingenuity and creativity at its finest. Some creations serve no other purpose but magic, while others masquerade as common household tools. Get to know your needs, your taste and your own power, and then gravitate towards tools that call to you, that resonate for you.
Amulets and Talismans
“Amulet” and “talisman” are used somewhat interchangeably, but basically talismans are the archetypal lucky charms, drawing some specific good fortune towards you, while amulets tend to have protective, preventative or curative powers. Confusion derives from the tendency in the English language to skate over these topics very quickly. Other languages have specific names for every specific type of talisman or amulet, all very precise. Our word “amulet” is believed to derive from the Latin amuletum, meaning “a method of defense” (reminiscent of ammunition).
There are typically two forms of talismans and amulets:
Those that are written
Magic spells are frequently required in order to create talismans and amulets.
Bells are a multi-purpose magical tool of ancient provenance and international use. They are incorporated into a variety of spells:
Fertility spells (a bell won’t “work” without the clapper inside it)
Church bells derive from magical use, not the other way around.
Bells are crafted from many materials: silver and iron are considered most auspicious, especially for protection, fertility and healing. In addition, bells intended to do double-service as amulets may be crafted for symbolic use: thus bells are found in the shape of pinecones, cats, and frogs.
In some Asian traditions, having been well-used, bells are then melted down and the resulting metal used to create other magic tools, such as ritual cups and plates. The grease from large bells, such as church bells, may also be scraped out and used as a component of banishing and hexing spells. It is a frequent component of Goofer Dust.
There was a drastic increase in persecution and prosecutions for witchcraft, sorcery and paganism in late antiquity. Among the charges, besides astrology, divination, the making of love potions and the presentation of petitions at pagan shrines, was possession of magic books.
Books serve many purposes in magic beyond serving as a source for spells. The book may itself be a form of a spell, serving as an amulet. Certain books don’t have to be read; their very presence in the home provides protection from a host of ills. Besides the Bible and Koran, other books of this ilk include The Book of Raziel, Book of Pow-Wows: The Long Lost Friend and the Russian Dreams of a Virgin.
Books serve as magical tools. Specific books are often used as sources of divination. These especially include the Bible, the Koran, Homeric verses and the works of Virgil.
The Book of Psalms possesses an alter ego as a magical book. Psalms are used to cast a host of spells for a variety of reasons. Many assume that this originated with Hoodoo, where recitation of psalms is a common practice, but this is based on the false assumption that the Hoodoo doctors were uneducated and thus must have “made stuff up.” If fact, it is quite the contrary—incorporation of psalms into magic stems back centuries. The practice was popular enough to stimulate publication of a medieval compilation of the uses to which psalms and their individual verses might be put. The Magical Use of the Psalms, a popular work of its time, was frequently reprinted in pocket-sized editions and was translated from Latin into several European languages. It was eventually placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum of the Roman Catholic Church.
Similarly, spells from the Islamic world may incorporate recitation of appropriate verses from the Koran.
The Koran, the Bible and other books are perceived as having inherent magical power because they are sacred texts. Sacred texts are not restricted to monotheistic faiths. The works of Homer and Virgil, the Indian Vedas, and the Chinese I-Ching or Book of Changes are all considered sacred texts. The crucial question, in terms of successful spell-casting, is “are any of those texts sacred for you?” Sacred texts, by definition, are so inherently charged with baraka and heka that, like a saint from beyond the grave, anyone may access that power. However, magic is both in the transmitter and the receiver; it is a reciprocal process. The most powerful sacred texts for you are those that you perceive as sacred. If your sacred texts are Broadway show tunes or doo-wop songs, then incorporate them into your spells in the same manner that you would any other sacred text.
Methods for the magical use of psalms and sacred texts include:
Whispering texts over a cup of water, which is then given to someone to drink (although the spell-caster may also desire to drink it, depending on the purpose of the spell)
Writing texts down on paper, then dissolved in liquid and drunk (by the spell-caster or the target of the spell: this derives from ancient Egyptian methods)
Wearing them as amulets, for empowerment and to transmit constant, consistent magic energy
Tracing them on an apple with a pin; depending on the nature of the spell the apple is then eaten by the spell-caster or fed to the spell’s target
Books of Shadows
Many practitioners like to keep a record of spells cast and created. Blank books are filled with magic spells. Eventually, especially if you incorporate magical inks and designs into your Book of Shadows, the book itself will be highly charged with magic power.
Books themselves sometimes need protection, and mugwort, wormwood and Saint John’s Wort are believed to physically preserve books. They provide spiritual protection and keep page-nibbling vermin away.
Place leaves of these protecting botanicals between pages
Maintain living plants in and around libraries
Kabikaj is the name of the djinn with dominion over insects. Allegedly writing his name in books and on manuscripts magically prevents their being eaten by worms and other vermin
Many spells contain a written component. Something often needs to be written down, if only to be burned. And so, paper is required.
Classical grimoires often suggest that one uses parchment or vellum, especially when creating a talisman. The advantage of these is durability, although they may be difficult to acquire nowadays. Hoodoo often suggests the use of brown paper. Use cut up paper bags or butcher’s paper. The advantage of this is the low cost, easy availability and color—brown is the color of justice. This paper thus enhances any spell that demands that justice be done.
It is also very easy to create your own paper with minimal skill and artistic talent. Children’s craft kits contain basic paper-making supplies. A spell rarely requires more than a sheet of paper. The advantage of making your own paper is that one can imbue it with desired botanicals and fragrance.
Paper Can Be The Spell
Certain scripts are perceived as inherently powerful, for instance, Arabic, Chinese and Hebrew. If there was a pagan Greek belief that the world was created and activated via the sound of the vowels, in traditional Judaic teaching life is activated through the Hebrew letters. Ancient Egyptians utilized different scripts for different purposes, mystical and mundane. Northern European runes and Celtic Ogham script are specifically for magical and spiritual use. Many contemporary Wiccans and ceremonial magicians use various magical scripts.
Paper can create lasting amulets. The most readily accessible example is the Jewish mezuzah, attached to doorposts. The use of mezuzahs has been adopted by some Hoodoo practitioners. Similar written amulets exist in Chinese, Japanese, Ethiopian, Muslim and Tibetan traditions.
Paper as we know it was invented in China in 105 CE, and China remains the primary home of paper magic. Paper charms are traditionally written in red cinnabar ink on yellow or red paper with a peach wood pen, in special magical script known as “thunder writing or “celestial calligraphy.” Charms are used in various ways: pasted over the door or on the walls, worn in the hair, or carried in a medicine bag.
Some paper spells are created in ordered to be destroyed, via fire or water. Destroying the paper spell releases its energy into the atmosphere so that the spell can work as intended. Sometimes water and fire are combined: some Chinese charms are burned first, and then the ashes are mixed with tea or water and drunk. Rice paper is particularly effective for this as it dissolves easily in water.
A written spell doesn’t necessarily require paper: an ancient custom was to inscribe a clay bowl or plate with spells and incantation. It is then shattered to release the energy into the atmosphere. (If you make your own pottery, the traditions can be combined: insert tiny pieces of paper directly into the pottery, inscribe further, so the magic is contained inside and out, then shatter.)
Not all paper spells require words. Spells can be cast with images. Chromolithographs incorporate the power and blessing of a Spirit. They may also substitute for a statue. If you can’t afford them or locate them, create your own. If you have no artistic ability, a collage of sacred and power images creates an amulet
A traditional alternative is to write the name of the desired divinity in gold ink on red paper and post it on the wall
Many spells suggest using “magical ink” formulas. Although this is never required, it can empower a spell. Recipes for creating magic inks can be found within the Formulary, page 1037.
Pen and ink are only one form of magic writing. There are many traditions of drawing designs on the ground, particularly to invite, invoke and honor spirits. Materials used include flowers, flour, cornmeal, and special rangoli powder.
Angelic sigils are written on paper or engraved onto metal. Each angel has a specific sigil that can be used to summon them. The vèvè designs of Haitian Vodou have similar purposes. Each lwa or spirit has a vèvè that expresses its essence and is thus worthy of meditation, but the vèvè may also be used to summon and honor the spirit. Vèvès may be drawn on paper but are most frequently drawn on the ground. Candomble and Romany spirits also possess sigils, as do others
Rangoli, the women’s spiritual art of India, utilizes rice flour with brightly colored flowers and spices to create patterns. As Earth’s tiny creatures eat the rice flour, they carry imbedded prayers and petitions to the Earth’s womb
In Brazil, pemba, a kind of chalk which may contain pulverized herbs, is used to create invocational markings on Earth. Originally an African practice, the finest pemba is still thought to come from Africa and may be imported and purchased at great cost to a less-than-wealthy practitioner
The fantasy image of the witch riding around on her broomstick is actually based on fact. Broomsticks were common ritual instruments in Western European fertility rites. People rode around fields, women on brooms, men on pitchforks, jumping high in revelry to encourage crops to flourish. The pitchfork, the male tool, would eventually be identified as among the devil’s attributes.
Why a broom? It symbolizes the perfect union of male and female energies, with the stick representing the male force plunged into and attached to the female straw. Vestiges of the broom’s role in fertility magic survive in the handfasting custom of jumping the broomstick.
In ancient Greece, the broomstick was considered an attribute of Hecate, Matron of Witches and Midwives. It became, for a time, the professional emblem of midwifery, similar to a barbershop pole or pawnbroker’s balls.
The use of broomsticks is not restricted to European magic: The symbol arose independently in Mexico as well. The conquistadores, familiar with these images from home, were shocked by images of Tlazolteotl, fierce Aztec spirit of love and witchcraft, riding on a broomstick, naked but for jewelry and a conical bark hat, accompanied by raven and owl familiars.
The broom is used for a variety of purposes:
It has evolved into the emblem of witchcraft as surely as it once represented midwives. They may be displayed as a source of pride and as a device to memorialize the Burning Times
Brooms serve as an amulet against malefic magic
Brooms are used in a vast variety of magic spells, especially those for cleansing, banishing and fertility
The broomstick was the traditional tool used for topical application of witches’ flying ointments
Various types of brooms may be used:
Single use ritual brooms, usually loosely put together from botanical material and taken apart and dispersed immediately following use
Special ritual magical brooms, only to be used in ritual, as beautifully carved and crafted as any magic wand or sword. These are particularly popular amongst modern pagans and Wiccans
A plain household broom, the same one used to sweep the floor, the staple of Hoodoo banishing spells. Spiritual and mundane household cleansings may be accomplished simultaneously, through the use of ritual floorwashes
To Sweep or Not to Sweep?
In some traditions, modern paganism or Wicca for instance, a ritual broom may never touch the floor, let alone dust anything. Brooms, whether single use ones or exquisite hand-crafted tools, are reserved for ritual use. Hoodoo, on the other hand, is practical magic: there’s no need for two brooms where one will suffice. A household broom will serve both mundane and magical purposes, often simultaneously, as with the use of ritual floorwashes. Floorwashes accomplish two purposes at the same time: a magic spell is cast and the floor is cleaned. Cleaning the floor effectively casts the spell.
This does not really indicate a split between European and African-derived magical systems. Hoodoo’s extensive use of the broomstick may in fact derive from its European roots. However, possessing an extensive collection of expensive tools reserved solely for ritual use has certain economic implications. One needs space to keep these items as well as privacy to practice ritual in safety. Instead, mundane activities can camouflage magical ones. Magic spells may be discreetly yet consistently cast, during such everyday activities as sweeping or scrubbing one’s front steps.
Whether the fifteenth-century European woman, for instance, who typically resided in a small, crowded house lacking privacy and personal storage space, and who lived in mortal fear of accusations of witchcraft, would have considered it safe and practical to maintain a broomstick reserved for ritual use in addition to a household tool is something we may never know.
The most basic witch’s broomstick is constructed from an ash stick, which provides consistent magical protection, bound with birch twigs, meant to entangle low-level malicious spirits
An alternative choice would be willow twigs, because they are the tree belonging to Hecate, Dark Moon Goddess and supreme teacher of magic (Circe and Medea rank among her finer students)
Small handcrafted brooms are crafted to be placed and maintained on altars. Embellish the brooms to coincide with their purpose. For instance, decorate a small broom dedicated to sea spirits with sea glass and shells
The use of candles as a common ingredient of magic is relatively recent: until recently real candles were very expensive, hence the early popularity of lamp magic. Beeswax was dangerous to obtain; natural plant waxes are very labor intensive. The earliest use of what we would call a candle apparently dates to approximately 3000 BCE.
The first true candles combined a wick with wax, oil or fat that solidified at room temperature, unlike the more ancient and common oil lamps. Beeswax was a luxury item, as rare in its way as sandalwood and frankincense. The most common candle until the development of paraffin was tallow, animal fat, a household item. The downside to tallow is its strong aroma. Still popular in some Latin American magical traditions, you can often find small tallow candles at spiritual supply stores.
Today candle magic has become one of the most popular forms of spell-casting, because of the prevalence of inexpensive candles. Modern candles are most commonly formed from paraffin, a petroleum wax. There are also beautiful natural waxes: beeswax, bayberry and candelilla. The material is inherently more powerful and benevolent than paraffin, however they are much more expensive. Those who burn candles extensively may find their cost prohibitive. Also those who prefer figure candles may have a very difficult time finding them formed from the finer waxes.
Basic Candle Magic Instructions
There are four necessary steps before a candle is burned.
Choose the appropriate candle. Candles come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Choose what is appropriate for your spell (see Table of Color Associations, page 1063). When in doubt, a white candle will substitute for any other. If a candle must be burned in one sitting, it may be advisable to burn a smaller candle. Likewise, if a candle is to be burned incrementally over seven days, a birthday candle may not be the wisest choice.
Charge the candle. Follow the basic charging instructions (see page 75). Hold the candle in your hands and focus on the desired goal of the spell.
Carve the candle. Carving and dressing the candle personalizes it. Using a carving tool, engrave your name, mother’s name, birthday, astrological sigil and other information into the wax. That’s the typical identifying information, however a spell may specify exactly what to carve. Visualize that the candle will ultimately disappear into thin air, carrying your magical message to the Spirit World. Whatever you wish transmitted should be carved into the wax. A carving tool is anything with a sharp point. Because it will likely transmit your most secret fears and desires and may retain this as a kind of “inner memory” it’s advisable to keep carving tools reserved for personal magical use. A very traditional carving tool is a rose thorn, which may be disposed of with the spell remnants.
Dress the candle. No need for little clothes. Dressing the candle indicates that it must be anointed with oil, commonly called a “dressing oil.” The spell will specify which type of oil to use. The oiled candle may be dressed more elaborately by rolling it in powdered herbs or color-coordinated glitter.
Common Figure Candles
The following are among the most popular, accessible figure candles and some typical uses for them. These candles are easily purchased in a witch store or spiritual supply store. Candle specialty stores will have a greater variety, although they may not stock candles that are strongly associated with the occult.
Black: return hexes, negativity and evil intent
Green: good luck, money
Red: sex and romance
Cross or Crucifix
Although they exist in many colors, white is most commonly used
Green: fast cash and to have debts repaid
Red: sex spells
Black: domination spells
Use male and female figure candles to represent either yourself or the targets of your spells. They come in a variety of colors that can be coordinated with either the purpose of your spell or the people they are meant to represent.
The typical figure candle is a single naked male or female. There are also special situation figure candles:
A Couple Candle is a single candle depicting a conjoined man and woman, standing side by side, dressed in wedding clothes. Use for marital, binding and other love spells
A Loving Couple Candle is a single candle depicting a naked man and woman, entwined in passionate embrace. Use for romantic and binding spells
A Divorce Candle is a single candle depicting a conjoined male and female, standing back to back. Use for divorce and other separation spells
White: persuasion, communication, uncrossing
Black: domination, hexing, spell-reversals
For luck, love and reversing spells
To have the witch’s blessing on your endeavors
Black: to prevent and eliminate conflicts of personality, banishing spells
Red: romance, emotional issues
Green: employment, luck, finances
Usually one knob is burned per twenty-four hour period, so that it takes seven days to burn the candle entirely.
Types of Candle
Double Action Candles have two colors, usually red and black or green and black, one column of color atop the other. They are usually burned to increase beneficial forces and dispel harmful influence. Triple Action Candles have three layers of color.
Reverse Action Candles are red candles coated with a layer of black wax. Similar to Double Action Candles, although some feel Reverse Actions have a more powerful effect. Use these to reverse negative spells and send them back where they came from.
Seven Day Candles are designed to burn over 1. approximately a seven-day period. They come in many colors and may be used for virtually any purpose. Typically Seven Day Candles are encased in 2. a glass sleeve. Once upon a time, the candles slid out of the sleeves for easy dressing. This is rarely the case any longer.
You can still dress a glass-encased Seven Day Candle: drill holes into the top of the candle to insert your oil. Sprinkle with herbs and glitter dust.
The basic Seven Day Candle is one solid color and comes in a clear glass sleeve. Manufacturers also market Seven Day Candles with special sleeves. These will have special designs on the glass. The design may depict a saint or spirit, such as Saint Anthony, Saint Expedite or the Seven African Powers. The actual candle’s color will be chosen to coordinate with the spirit.
The candle may also be intended to coordinate with the goal of a spell: gambling luck candles, for example, will be green and the sleeve may be decorated with images of dice, cards, horseshoes and other lucky charms. Or, the candle may be manufactured to coordinate with a specific formula oil: an Uncrossing Candle to use with Uncrossing Oil, for instance, or an Essence of Bend Over candle to be used with that oil.
These decorated sleeve candles essentially become a spell unto themselves. Those dedicated to saints and spirits may have suggested prayers or petitions printed on the back of the sleeve. Use these candles to enhance any spell dedicated to a spirit. Many are available, especially those of the Hindu, Roman Catholic, Santeria, Vodou and Unofficial Saint persuasions. If you can’t find one dedicated to the spirit of your choice, or if there is a particular image dear to you, decorate your own sleeve:
Obtain a Seven Day Candle in the color of your choice inside a clear sleeve. (Candle supply stores may sell empty sleeves.)
Attach your image or a photocopy of the image to the candle. A craft store will sell special glues that adhere to glass.
Decorate with glitter glue or with objects appropriate to the purpose of the candle. Attach shiny imitation coins to a candle dedicated to Lakshmi, for instance.
Using this method you can personalize a candle for any purpose: put your ex-lover’s image on a Summoning Seven Day Candle to draw him back into your life, for instance.
When a candle has burned down, reserve the glass sleeve. Refill Seven Day Candles are available. Just carve, dress and slip into the sleeve.
Keep an eye on the flames for more than fire safety: they provide an oracular response to your spell. Observe whether the candle burns strong with a bright steady flame or whether it’s a moody flame, alternately burning high and low. Sometimes a candle burns very fast while other times it’s very slow. If you habitually burn standardized figure candles this becomes very apparent: in theory, candles should burn at a similar rate. If your Seven Day Candle burns out in six, you know you have a speedy candle. Flames may even spontaneously extinguish and then be impossible to relight.
There are many ways to interpret these patterns. However, a bright steady healthy flame is invariably considered auspicious. The way the candle burns may advise regarding likelihood of a spell’s success: a candle that burns bright and quick indicates that magic forces are with you. A low, struggling flame doesn’t necessarily mean that your spell will fail—it merely indicates that it is working against tremendous opposition.
In most circumstances, unless a spell specifies otherwise. it is considered metaphysical bad manners to blow out ritual candles. Either pinch them out with your fingers, or deprive them of air instead. Beautifully crafted, long-stemmed, mystically themed snuffers exist and may he consecrated to the archangel Michael, the angel in charge of candle magic and fire safety. Alternately, a fire-proof dish may be placed over the flame until it goes out.
The patterns made by melting wax may also be interpreted. Any remains, ashes, or bits of wax, may be significant.
Some common candle wisdom:
If flames shoot high, the spirit you’ve invoked is now in your presence
A very low, dim flame, on the other hand, may indicate the presence of ghosts
Many older spells assume that you will have ready access to a source of open fire: a hearth, fireplace, wood-stove or even a bonfire, because before the modern stove this was a necessity of life. In the twenty-first century, however, access to open fire may be limited, especially for urban dwellers.
An iron cauldron of appropriate size can often substitute for a hearth or fireplace. A traditional witch’s tool, a good cauldron has many uses, from brewing potions, to burning incense, to cooking a meal.
A magic spell inside a bag. There are a wide variety of names for this most popular spell style, and I’ve used them somewhat interchangeably in this book. In addition to charm bag, there’s conjure bag, medicine bag, medicine hand, mojo bag, mojo hand, just plain old mojo, gris-gris bag, ouanga bag, dilly bag, amulet bag, magic bag, and, for the scholarly, phylacteries. And those are just the English names! These are single-handedly the most popular method of carrying magically charged items around the world.
The charm bag is a bag filled with one or more power items. Some can be seen as a miniature spell or an altar in a bag. Others are work-in-progress: an ever-evolving collection of power objects.
Medicine bags can be extremely simple. A Moroccan spell recommends that an amulet bag be filled with Earth taken from a three-way crossroads and worn around the neck, to ward off the Evil Eye and/or find and maintain true love.
Medicine bags can also be complex. The Brazilian charm bag, the patua, is made from leather or cloth might contain a danda root shaped into a figa, the fig hand, and placed between leaves of rue and mucura. Garlic and cloves may be added, then prayers written out, with special ink and sewn into the bag.
Some traditions carry a multitude of items in one bag. In Native North American tradition, a medicine bag is initiated via an activating agent, for instance a pinch of tobacco, pollen, corn kernels, sweetgrass, white sage, or a little bit of Earth, tied into a piece of red flannel. Other traditions insist on one item per bag; magic is forbidden in orthodox Muslim tradition, the exception being the use of Koranic verses as amulets. A separate pouch is needed for each amulet. African nomads may be covered in leather and metal talisman cases.
The variety of this type of magic is endless. The container itself becomes part of the spell. Materials are carefully chosen. Fine Arabic and Tibetan amulet bags are finely crafted from metal and sometimes bejeweled. Other “bags” may be as simple as a knotted handkerchief. The drawstring bag is most familiar. Hoodoo recommends red flannel, while Romany tradition suggests red silk.
Although the words are now used somewhat synonymously, technically a “hand” is a closed bag, rather than an open one. There’s a fine line between a sachet and a hand, largely drawn by the fabric it’s crafted from (sachets are muslin, hands flannel) and the items they contain (a sachet contains only botanical material, a hand may contain a variety of materials, including botanicals).
Although modern Hoodoo and Conjure magic almost invariably used red flannel drawstring bags, early African-American mojo hands, immediately post-slavery and continuing onwards, were sewn red squares. With the material sewn inside, they resemble an isolated single quilt square. The traditional British mojo hand is very similar: two pieces of red flannel, cut into a heart shape, stuffed, sewn together, and the outside decorated.
Bags possess the advantage of accessibility, however there are other methods of carrying charms. The bag may be sewn into clothes, or individual items sewn into clothing, Romany style, for privacy and for added contact with body. Igor Stravinsky wore his sacred medals pinned to his underwear.
In some traditions the mojo hand is charged before use. The following is a typical ritual, common to Hoodoo and Wicca.
Charging the Mojo
Once the bag is complete:
Light a match and plunge it into the bag, extinguishing it. (Do not set your bag or its contents on fire. Be very careful if the bag contains dried botanicals or volatile essential oils.)
Spit in the bag and pull the string tight.
An alternative version of the mojo bag is the charm vial, popular in Central and South America. Instead of fabric, metal or leather, miniature glass bottles are filled with charms and power objects, essentially a mojo hand-crafted from glass. The items are visible, creating a talismanic, protective effect.
Tiny bottles are recycled for magical use: charms are often made from medical ampoules with yarn or cord attached so that they can be worn or hung. They typically include layers of charms, suspended in oil such as seeds, botanicals, minerals, tiny carvings or votive image cards.
Charm bags are carried in the pocket, worn around the neck or waist. They may also be hung up on the wall like an amulet or kept discreetly inside a drawer or cabinet—a small altar in a bag.
Crystal balls are used for divination (scrying), and Spirit summoning.
The art of scrying transcends the stereotype of the fraudulent crystal ball reader. It is an ancient and well-respected technique. In fact, crystal balls are perhaps the most recent evolution in the ancient art of scrying. Scrying is the art of divination through the use of reflective surfaces. It is among the more difficult divination techniques, although perhaps the most ancient. The modern clear round crystal ball is particularly effective because it evokes the image of the moon.
However, the crystal ball is only one of many scrying tools. Presumably the first scryer gazed into a still lake. Roman images of the primal goddess Kybele depict her holding a flat pan of water for divination. A scrying tool may be as simple as that pan of water or as lavish as a star sapphire or star ruby, both famed divination devices. (Should you be privileged enough to have access to either of these precious gems and wish to try your hand at scrying, gaze at their crossed lines and let your mind wander.) Less expensive gemstones are also used: aquamarine and clear quartz stones, as well as polished balls. Smoky quartz is considered particularly beneficial as a device for communicating with spirits or ghosts.
In India, the water in the pan may be replaced by a pool of ink. Egyptian techniques involved gazing into ink held in the left palm. Technically the only tool required is already in your hands: buff your left thumbnail to a high polish and gaze inside.
Unlike pans but like mirrors and gemstones, crystal balls store visions and memories. Cleanse as needed. A new crystal ball must be cleansed and charged prior to its first use.
Charge crystal balls by exposing them periodically to the light of the fall moon
In some traditions, a crystal ball must be fully activated through exposure to the light of thirteen full moons before it’s ready to use
If you use your crystal ball for spiritual communication, you may wish to keep it covered with a dark cloth between uses
These are also known as poppets. “Doll” derives from similar sources as the word “idol” while “poppet” is related to “puppet.” The stereotypical witch’s doll is made from wax and stuffed with pins to inflict pain and suffering. However, magic spell dolls may be crafted from a variety of materials and serve a variety of spell purposes. Wax dolls have been recovered from ancient Egypt, so they have certainly existed for a long time, but dolls are also formed from fabric, botanicals, wood, clay and bone.
Dolls may be used in positive magic to:
Unite the estranged
Promote and enhance fertility
On the other hand, dolls have also been used to cause injury, impotence, fatalities, pain, insanity, and a wide assortment of other human miseries.
To some extent, modern candle magic, especially the use of figure candles, is an outgrowth of doll magic.
In many cases, spells must be encased in fabric. The fabric itself becomes incorporated into the spell. Many traditions possess “sacred” fabrics. In many cases, the technique needed to create these fabrics derives from magical or spiritual traditions, such as batik or ikat. The most common fabrics used in spell-work are red silk and red flannel.
Spells are cast by embellishing fabric: many traditional needle-work arts are intrinsically connected to spiritual traditions. The exquisite traditional embroidery motifs of Baltic, Hungarian, Romany and Slav women confer blessings, power, protection and fertility.
Among the most vital descendants of magic fabrics are flags.
Flags and Banners
Flags are used:
To honor and summon spirits
As protective devices
The use of flags and banners in religion and heraldry is rooted in this magical use. The sacred quality attributed to many flags, including those representing nations, derives from this history; the agitation experienced by those who feel that their flag has been “desecrated” also derives from this origin.
Symbols incorporated onto flags are perceived as providing protection—or a threat. Pirate flags weren’t limited to the Jolly Roger. The more notorious pirates made sure that a specific flag trumpeted their presence and perhaps provided protection for the pirate himself.
Among the most powerful examples of flags used as a spiritual or magical tool are Haitian sequined flags, so-called Vodoun flags. Sigils, symbols and images of the lwa or their affiliated saints are reproduced onto fabric using sequins.
This category of magic tool includes anything that circles the waist or hips, and is crafted with magical intent, from the cingulam to waist beads. The category could also have been called “girdles,” a word that has fallen out of fashion but was once considered seductive and magical: Aphrodite and Ishtar both wear romantic, love-inducing belts or girdles, which they have been known to lend to others in need. The belt is typically a women’s magical article, although not always. Even as a woman’s article, however, the belt isn’t exclusively about love, seduction and babies. Aphrodite and Ishtar both have martial aspects. Belts are also associated with the powerful female warrior orisha, Oya. Belts also indicate that one’s loins are girded: they are used in fierce, protective women’s power spells.
Magic belts were once far more popular than they are at present. In Cro-Magnon graves, women were buried wearing cowrie shell belts. They lie across the abdominal area, to indicate fertility. Amulets including mojo bags hang from the belts. Ishtar’s magic belt finds its descendants among belly dancer’s spangled belts. The most powerful belt of all may be shed snakeskins for enhanced fertility and easier childbirth. (Shed is the key word; it’s crucial that the skin not be taken by force. Cooperation of the snake powers is needed: fertility as the gift of the snake.)
There is an erotic component to many magic belts. In traditional Africa, waist beads were perceived as very erotic and seductive and thus private. To some extent, beads move to the neck to offset this aspect.
Belts may also serve more public rituals.
The term “cingulam” indicates a cord. The traditional Wiccan belt is a silk cord, nine feet long. Traditionally used in symbolic binding rituals, it might be a single red braided cord or three cords braided together: red, black and white.
The cord is used to measure the circumference of a coven circle:
Hold one end in the center of the circle.
Mark the center with a stone or crystal, salt or chalk or other such marker.
Rotate the other end around the circle, like a compass.
Boxes are used for a variety of purposes.
Cache boxes are needed to secure ritual tools and/or small magical items. The size of the box depends upon its purpose: obviously, if you wish to store swords or wands, a full sized chest may be required.
Among the most powerful boxes are the following, in descending order of power:
Iron boxes radiate protective power and serve as a battery, continually re-charging the box’s contents
Spice boxes, crafted from cinnamon and cloves, as originally made in Indonesia
Wooden or leather boxes embellished with magic designs drawn with alkanet, indigo, wood or henna. (Although a temporary stain on skin and hair, henna is a permanent dye on objects.)
Spells are cast by constructing a spell box, which are enclosed altars or tableaux. In general, a spell box is filled with power items necessary to achieve a goal, although you should follow directions given for specific spells. It may be a cumulative spell done in increments: items are gathered one by one and added to enhance the power of the box. Sometimes a special box lends itself to a magical or spiritual goal. The box itself can become an intrinsic part of the spell:
Attach and incorporate the power items to the box itself, such as charms, shells, beads, and feathers
Decoupage images on the outside or inside of the box to correspond to the spell’s goals
Embellish with sigils or other fortuitous symbols using magic ink, henna or another natural dye
Shadow Box Altars
An enclosed altar maintains the advantage of discretion and privacy. Certain spirits, such as dark moon goddesses or some protective spirits may prefer an enclosed altar. Open altars disperse their power through an area; an enclosed altar’s power is concentrated within. Each has its advantages; choose which suits you.
What is now called a “shadow box altar” has its roots in medieval Roman Catholic religious cabinets. Shadow boxes range in size from full-size cabinets to miniature altars contained in match-boxes.
Amongst the most popular and beloved of magical tools, the magic mirror is common to many traditions, being especially beloved in ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Western ceremonial, Aztec and Italian folk magic. It is most commonly used for:
Lunar magic (see Drawing Down the Moon, page 50)
The ancient Egyptian word for mirror is a pun for life. This is made explicit by the shape of the handle-hand mirror, which echoes the shape of the ankh, the symbol of life held by all the Egyptian deities with the sole exception of Osiris, Lord of the Dead. The visual aspect of the pun remains today, in the akua’ba, the fertility producing and thus life-affirming doll from Ghana, whose shape also recalls the ankh.
Although the mirror is a reflective tool, magically it’s also believed to possess powers of absorption. Like a crystal, mirrors absorb and store information. Anything once reflected in a mirror, particularly over an extended period of time, is “stored” and may be accessed for future use. Thus the mirror is a primary tool for drawing down lunar and solar energy. It also bears a reputation as a soul catcher. Whether this use is positive or malefic depends upon the intent of the spell-caster.
The earliest mirrors were not made from glass but from natural materials that could be polished until they showed a reflection.
Ancient Egyptian Mirrors
Although mirrors might be created from other precious metals (gold, silver, electrum), the most typical ancient Egyptian mirror was made from polished copper. Copper is under the dominion of Hathor, among the most primordial of the Egyptian deities. Hathor presides over beauty, cosmetics, love, sex, fertility, and magic. She and copper share the same essence—to hold a copper mirror is to hold Hathor in your hands. Depictions of Hathor are typically crafted into the mirror’s handle makes this explicit. To gaze into a Hathorian mirror is to absorb her powers of beauty, grace, and love as surely as gazing into a lunar-charged mirror evokes the moon’s gifts.
From Egypt, this type of polished hand mirror was exported through the Mediterranean into Europe, where it would meet its finest expression in medieval Italian hand mirrors.
The most precious Aztec magic mirrors were crafted from obsidian, a rare natural volcanic glass. It was difficult to obtain sufficient quantities of appropriate quality to craft a mirror, and so such mirrors were used for spiritual uses only. More common Aztec mirrors are made from iron pyrite.
The Aztec obsidian mirror is explicitly linked to the deity Tezcatlipoca, the Smoking Mirror. Omniscient, all-powerful, all-knowing, a sometimes malevolent figure of temptation (reminiscent of Sauron, the Lord of the Rings’ ever-present all-seeing Eye), Tezcatlipoca observes everything in his obsidian mirror. A preserved idol, recently displayed at the British Museum, depicts a Tezcatlipoca made entirely from polished obsidian, carrying a mirror of polished gold.
Because of the destruction of Aztec culture, we may never entirely know how these mirrors were used. What we do know is that they were used for divination (scrying) and for interactive spiritual communication. This use of magic mirrors is still popular amidst traditional occultists in Mexico and Central America. Following the conquest of Mexico, obsidian mirrors arrived in Europe. The most famous belonged to Dr. John Dee and is now in the British Museum’s collection.
Chinese Magic Mirrors
Chinese occult traditions utilize mirrors more consistently and inventively than any other.
Allegedly one man became Emperor of China through the use of a magic mirror. The favored Chinese magic mirror is a small or moderately sized circular mirror attached to a handle, crafted preferably from gold, although other precious metals may be used. Like the Italian mirror, its power is enhanced by decorating the mirror’s back with auspicious power symbols.
Mirrors are traditionally used to capture and focus energy. Although the use of mirrors originally derived from lunar magic, the mirror may also be used to channel the power of the sun.
Drawing Down the Sun: Creating a Solar Charged Mirror
This is among the easiest spells in this book. It is also potentially among the most dangerous. If done incorrectly, it can have tragic consequences. It must not be attempted by children. Adults: remember the cautionary tale of Icarus, who underestimated the power of the sun.
On a bright, sunny day, hold a small mirror in the palm of your hand, tilted to catch direct sunlight.
Maintain this position for no more than a few seconds. Nine seconds is the maximum.
That’s it: the mirror is charged. The sun is so powerful that nine seconds is all it takes, and half of that is probably more than sufficient.
This mirror must be reserved for magical purposes. If it is accidentally used for another purpose, it must be cleansed, reconsecrated and the ritual repeated.
There are many ways to make and use magic mirrors. Any mirror may be converted into a magic mirror; in a sense every mirror is a magic mirror.
Reproductions of ancient Egyptian mirrors may be used, as can traditional Italian or Chinese mirrors. It is also not hard to make your own. Consider what you will do with your mirror. The most popular uses are:
IMPORTANT! SAFETY MEASURES WHILE PERFORMING THIS SPELL
Do not look into the mirror until the ritual is complete and the mirror is withdrawn from the sun: you must not watch the reflection within the mirror
Keep your eyes averted
Do not perform this ritual in the vicinity of dried paper, dried leaves or botanicals or anything else that could potentially catch fire
Make sure no one is nearby who could be inadvertently blinded or burned
Romantic or protective amulets
If you are using the mirror for casting spells, spiritual communication or as an amulet, you may not wish anyone else to have the opportunity to look into your mirror. Therefore you will need a small, discreet mirror. If used for divination, whether professional or for personal use, a larger mirror may be used and perhaps left out in the open.
Mirrors are sometimes used as negative spiritual entity detectors, something like a metaphysical cross between a smoke detector and a mouse-trap. In theory, any large, powerful mirror is capable of detecting spirits. You may wish to use an antique wall mirror for this purpose, although Chinese tradition recommends that a mirror for such purposes should not be used for any other use, but kept covered when its services are not required.
The Basic Western Ceremonial Magic Mirror
This is a good all-purpose magic mirror. It is expected, however, that you will begin the process from scratch. A round, concave piece of glass is required.
Coat the back, the convex side, with matte black paint. Apply it thickly but smoothly and evenly.
Allow the paint to dry.
Mount the mirror on cardboard or similar.
Place in a picture frame and embellish as you will.
Another Western Magic Mirror
This mirror is most appropriate for spell-casting. It has the advantage of starting with a commercially manufactured mirror.
Purchase a mirror.
Inscribe angelic formulas on the back (you may have to carefully pry off the back of the mirror). Formulas may be obtained from many classical grimoires, such as The Key of Solomon or The Black Pullet. It is recommended that you use your own blood for ink; dragon’s blood ink would be a good substitute.
Bury the mirror at a crossroads under the full moon, marking the spot so that you can retrieve it later.
Dig it up after three days.
Pow-Wow Instructions for Making a Magic Mirror
Pow-Wow magic mirrors are most frequently used for scrying.
Obtain clear glass in whatever size suits you.
Construct a special three-sided frame, so that the mirror, once inserted, may be easily slid in and out.
Cleanse and consecrate the glass.
Make a strong infusion by pouring boiling water over chamomile, dragon’s blood and eyebright.
Let the infusion cool; then use it to “paint” one side of the glass. (Use a paint or pastry brush.) Allow this sufficient time to dry.
Paint over the same side, once again, this time with black paint, so that now you have one black side and one unpainted side.
When the paint is dry, slide it into the frame with the unpainted side facing up.
If at all possible, when scrying, hold this mirror so that it points towards the physical direction of whomever or whatever you wish to see.
In some traditions no one but you should ever look into your magic mirror. In others, someone else should always have the first peck inside the mirror, preferably your animal familiar.
Consecrating a Mirror
Add three spoonfuls of sea salt to a dish of spring water.
Stir gently until dissolved.
Using a new cloth or a natural sponge, use this solution to cleanse your mirror.
Gently wipe it dry with another new cloth.
A milagro is a magical object most commonly crafted in the form of an isolated human anatomical part, a heart for instance, or an arm. These objects are today most commonly associated with Latin American magic, however their roots are prehistoric. These objects, known in Latin as exvotos, have been found in what are today Greece, Italy and Switzerland. The most ancient are believed to derive from Iberia.
Milagros are a very fluid form of magic: most frequently found in miniature form, life-size milagros are sometimes crafted in Brazil. Typically crafted from inexpensive silver colored metals, they may also be carved from precious metals and gemstones, as well as created from wax. Milagros are easily obtainable from spiritual goods stores and from many exporters of Latin American arts and handicrafts. They can also be easily cut from a sheet of tin or copper. Milagros are most frequently used in healing spells, spirit-summoning spells, protective spells and romantic spells.
Mortar and Pestle
At some point it is extremely likely that you will have to grind something or blend some botanicals together. Mortars and pestles are ancient, primal tools. They come in many sizes and materials: glass, brass, marble, volcanic stone. Mortars and pestles are the finest grinding tools for two reasons. First, the tool clearly mimics the sexual act, the act of creation. And what is magic after all but an act of creation, an act of generation? This is made explicit in one of the more obscure Greek myths. Although the more famous story of the discovery of fire involves its theft by Prometheus, in another version, Hermes, the Opener of Ways, first creates fire by vigorously grinding the pestle in the mortar.
Secondly, the very physical act of manual grinding allows you to grind your intentions into the botanicals in a way that pressing the button on a food processor cannot.
If you do not have a mortar and pestle, it is preferable to substitute manual methods rather than a food processor. You can fold a piece of wax paper and place the material that needs to be ground in between the fold. Alternatively, you can smash the material with a hammer, which puts the power of metal in your hand, or roll a rolling pin over it, focusing on your desired results while you work.
The mortar and pestle is also a witch’s vehicle: perhaps a hint as to the botanical origins of flying ointments. Baba Yaga, wild Russian forest witch and master herbalist, rides a mortar and pestle through the air, sweeping away her traces with a broom.
Did magic adopt the use of specific musical instruments or was the creation of these instruments stimulated by magical need? The earliest magical rituals involved music and dance. Although a spellbook cannot accurately record these rituals, these traditions continue in healing and trance ceremonies throughout the world. Exorcisms and spiritual communication are accomplished through music.
Drums and Other Percussion Instruments
It is probably impossible to separate drums from magic. Drums express the human heartbeat; they are used for a wide variety of magical purposes, including healing, banishing, protective rites and spirit summoning. One type of drum or another is enjoyed by virtually every culture on Earth. The earliest visual depictions of spiritual rituals include drums. The Egyptian protective spirit Bes is almost never seen without his frame drum. Similarly Kybele, perhaps the most ancient deity still familiar to us today, carries a frame drum. The use of percussion instruments are central to both Bes’s and Kybele’s mythology. Interestingly as opposed to the modern perception of percussion as masculine, drums, particularly frame drums and tambourines were once identified strongly as women’s instruments and were a sacred tool in many women’s spiritual traditions.
Drumming remains central to African-derived rituals, as each orisha and lwa possesses their own rhythms and songs, which are used to summon and communicate with the spirits. Drums are also traditional shamanic tools, and tools of divination.
Percussion is easily incorporated into ritual. Many inexpensive instruments are available; they are also easily handcrafted.
These are also ancient instruments; flutes appear as a component of many myths and fairy tales. Greek Pan and Athena played different forms of the instrument. Fairy tales abound with stories of magic flutes that may be used to summon spirits, allies, animals or loved ones. The Pied Piper is only the most famous example.
Native American cedar flutes are used for romance and seduction
Chinese bamboo spirit flutes are used to invoke a specific spirit, whose name may be carved into the bamboo
European custom suggests that an elder-wood flute played at midnight in a remote, isolated location will summon spirits to you
Any other instrument may also be incorporated into spell-work. Instruments may be played “live;” recordings may also be incorporated into ritual and spells.
This seemingly mundane kitchen tool has a long history of magical use. An old fashioned term for a sieve is a riddle, as in riddled with holes.
The term does not refer only to the modern metal strainer, but to any type of sifter, including grain winnows. An example of ancient multitasking—frame drums may have tiny perforations, so that they may be used to finely sift henna and herbs, in addition to their musical uses.
Sieves have fallen out of fashion, exiled to the kitchen cabinets, but they were once considered common magical fare. The sieve is sacred to Isis; she collected Osiris’ limbs in a sieve. The sieve is also featured on many Gnostic engraved gems. The Roman Catholic Church would later ascribe the symbol to Satan.
Sieves are used in many spells, especially for fertility, influencing the weather and divination.
Magic swords have historically played a role in Chinese, Japanese, Jewish and Persian magic, as well as in modern Wicca. Actual functional swords may be used or ceremonial replications. Use of the sword invokes primal metal magic, although just as there are metal wands, there are also wooden swords, particularly in classical East Asian magic.
Once upon a time, each sword was made to order, measured to suit the bearer as surely as a magic wand. Crafting was a secret operation. Master swordsmiths hoarded their formulas: rumors circulated periodically that human blood was needed to forge a magic sword. Vestiges of these legends are still found in Japanese mythology.
A fine sword was considered as much an individual as a person; each had a name, proclivities and was believed to exert a personality. A legendary sword of this type may be observed in the movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
In Chinese tradition, the most valued magic sword would be one inherited from a famous and consistently successful warrior, even if one only intends to use it for magical purposes. The next best bet is either a peach wood or iron blade consecrated in the name of the famed sword it’s supposed to represent. Willow and mulberry wood are also favored. Similarly in Western magic, swords of famous warriors held magical associations. Weapons once belonging to the Knights Templar, for instance, that elite knightly order disbanded and doomed because of alleged occult practices, are priceless magical tools.
The sword’s power may be enhanced through embellishment. The grimoire, The Key of Solomon, recommends engraving Kabalistic inscriptions on hilts and blades. Other powerful embellishments include runes, sacred verses, hieroglyphs and Chinese calligraphy.
Swords are used in various ceremonial rites. They are used for casting circles. They are a protective device and may be used in exorcisms and to repel malevolent spirits. When not in use, swords are kept wrapped in fabric, especially red silk.
Not all magic swords are actual swords. Small Chinese amulet swords are constructed from coins and red silk cord and embellished with a complex series of knots and tassels. Typically inexpensive, they are readily available through Chinatown markets and feng shui sources. These coins swords serve as a protective device as well as talismans to balance and improve finances.
In addition to full-sized swords, knives and daggers also have magical uses.
The most famous ritual knife is the athame, the Wiccan ceremonial knife. It is reserved exclusively for ritual use: in particular, it cannot be used to draw blood. In case of accident or emergency, it must be purified and re-consecrated. You may craft one yourself or find an interesting knife or dagger and consecrate it to the purpose. Among its uses are inscribing the circle for magic, mixing potions and charged waters.
Like swords and wands, the power of knives and daggers may be enhanced through embellishment.
Because magic wands are such an important component in portrayals of fantasy magic, it’s crucial to point out that it is not the wand that works; it is the practitioner. The wand is merely a tool with which to direct the user’s will or intention. Obviously some wands are superior to others; certain wands suit certain purposes, practitioners or traditions better than others.
Historically, magic wands are common to magic traditions all over Earth. Today, they are especially significant in Druid, Wiccan and High Ritual traditions. Wands are used for spiritual and religious ritual purposes as well as a magical tool. Some traditions require use of a wand—it is a mandatory magical tool. Let it be noted, however, that not every practitioner, spell-caster or witch uses a wand. It is not a requirement for magic.
We enter the realm of very personal magic with wands: some practitioners collect wands, preferring different woods for different magical purposes. Others desire only one wand, with which they can forge an intensive relationship, the wand virtually becoming an extension of the body. There are those for whom an exquisitely, meticulously crafted wand is an absolute necessity. Others prefer to work with an unornamented, uncarved branch, a fallen stick or a piece of driftwood.
In some cases, particularly where privacy is an issue, substitutions may be made. A folded-up umbrella serves nicely for discreet, outdoor rituals. In that case, treat the umbrella like the ritual tool that it has become, giving it the same care and consideration as a more traditional magic wand.
Although wands are famously wooden, metal wands can be extremely effective too. Master Magus Aleister Crowley, for instance, typically alternated between two wands: a heavy cast-iron wand and a lighter wooden wand, usually almond wood.
Finding Your Wand
Wands may be inherited from another practitioner, a mentor or coven member
You may receive a new one as a gift
You can purchase a pre-crafted one: a skilled artisan can often create an aesthetically more beautiful wand than a layperson, if this is important to you. There are professional wand-crafters who will craft a wand to suit your specific desires and needs
You can craft your own
If you inherit or purchase a ready-made wand it is crucial that it be cleansed of previous influences and charged with your own personal energy and vibration. Of course there is always the rare exception: if you have inherited a wand from a particular powerful and revered practitioner—if you’ve discovered Merlin’s very own wand, for instance—you may not wish to erase previous vibrations but to maintain and build upon them.
Hold a quartz crystal between your hands and charge it with your energy and power.
When the wand is not in use, wrap the crystal around it with a piece of red silk.
Roll the wand, with the attached crystal, into black velvet and let them remain together.
Periodically, cleanse and re-charge the crystal.
Crafting a Wand
The traditional length of a magic wand is eighteen inches long, or from your elbow to the tip of your forefinger.
To Cut or Not to Cut?
As usual, much depends upon tradition. In the Romany tradition, branches are not cut. Instead, one looks for the right branch to appear. Magic wands are gifts of the trees and, in fact, wands are used very specifically in tree magic—magic to call upon the power of the trees and their presiding spirits. If you desire a specific kind of wood or crave a wand from a specific tree, one may request that the tree drop a branch, and return periodically to see if the wish has been granted. If it is, even though no cutting is done, a libation is still offered at the spot where one picks up the branch.
Before you cut a branch, remember to ask permission from the tree. The branch will always contain the essence of the tree and will work more harmoniously and dependably if it is received in a spirit of cooperation.
Look for a healthy tree that can afford to give you a branch. Having chosen your tree, should you discover an appropriate branch waiting for you, fallen on the ground, or hanging from the tree, this is an extremely auspicious sign, a true gift of the tree. The wand created from this branch offers you great power.
Talk to the tree. Really talk—speak out loud. This enhances the reality of the situation for you. Leave some silence in order to receive answers, as well. Explain why you want a branch and ask permission to take one.
Get a response. To receive your answer:
Use divination: consecrated wooden runes are ideal communication tools, as is the simpler flipping a coin
Sit quietly by the tree and wait for the answer to become clear to you
Request a sign: if you see a red bird within the next five minutes, for instance, your request is granted
Request that the tree or its presiding spirit answer you in your dreams
Cut as swiftly and painlessly as possible.
Offer a libation: water is a requirement. You may also offer an exchange of gifts: honey, tobacco, wine or spirits, crystals and gemstones are traditional.
Take the wood and carve the wand.
Embellish, if you like, by carving runes or other magical symbols into the wand. Add a crystal to the tip or enhance with feathers, fabric and stones. Let your personal magical vision guide you.
Choosing Your Wood
Although specific types of wood are favored in various traditions and for various purposes, realistically these may not exist as an option. Most of us have access to only limited types of wood. Neither should we search out endangered or rare specimens.
No wood will work as well for you as the wood from a tree with which you have forged an alliance:
Develop a relationship with the tree: visit it, talk to it, bring it gifts, listen to it.
When you’re ready, either request a branch or wait until one is given to you.
Having obtained your wand, if you continue your relationship with the parent tree, you will continue to enhance the power of your tool. Re-energize your wand by resting it against the roots of its mother tree.
Good all-purpose wands include ash, hawthorn,* hazel and rowan. Lightning-struck wood is considered packed with power. Driftwood makes an excellent wand; it does not have to be cut and combines the powers of Earth and sea.
Some woods are favored for specific purposes and thus some practitioners prefer multiple wands for use with different purposes.
Divination: ash, rowan, willow
Exorcism: date palm, tamarisk
Healing magic: hazel
Love magic: apple, ash tree (a.k.a. Venus of the Woods)
Prosperity magic: ash
Protective wands to ward off malicious spirits and malevolent magic: blackthorn, olive, rowan
Spirit work: elder
Favored Woods for Magical Wands According to Tradition
Ainu: bamboo, with leaves remaining. Top carved into spiral designs
Celtic: hawthorn, hazel
China: peach, willow
Druid (British): hawthorn, rowan, yew
Druid (Gaul): oak
Russian, Slavic: birch
Wands are not limited to wood. Metal wands are excellent power conductors. Embellish with crystals, seashells and charms. Copper is a particularly excellent conductor of energy. An iron wand provides power and protection.
A wand for love and seduction: copper topped with rose quartz
Lunar wand: place a moonstone atop a silver wand, for moon, love and fertility magic
A mermaid’s wand: driftwood topped with coral, pearls or shells for lunar, love, fertility and money magic as well as rituals by the sea
A highly protective ritual wand: wrap copper wire around an iron wand, embellish with hematite and black tourmalines
A quartz crystal tip empowers any all-purpose wand
A rose quartz attached to the wand, enhances romantic spells
Amethysts empower spiritual quests and cleansings
Black tourmalines, Herkimer diamonds and smoky quartz used to embellish a wand provide added protection during ritual use
Wrap your wand in leather, red silk or other magical fabric when not in use. Store it in a box for safety, if you like, however wrap it in cloth first.
For optimum power, keep your wand beside you as much as possible to absorb your energy and desires and harmonize your vibrational energies. Many sleep with their wands, either beside them in bed or beneath them.
The distinction between wands and staffs often has to do with size: a staff is thicker and substitutes as a walking stick. In theory, a staff should be long and solid enough to lean on. Historically associated with ancient Egyptian and Semitic magic, staffs are associated with the Biblical Moses and his Egyptian opponents.
The modern staff is most associated with Obeah, the African-derived traditions native to the British West Indies. The Obeah Stick, also called an Obi Stick, is a carved wooden staff, usually featuring a serpent motif. The simpler ones are carved so that a snake-like groove encircles the staff. The more elaborate Staff of Moses usually features a snake carved from bottom to top. Staffs may be hollowed out and filled with botanicals.
Hazel twigs and forks cut on Midsummer’s Eve are recommended for divining purposes.
A folding fan, held closed, may substitute for a magic wand. Fans may also substitute for broomsticks. An enchantress in the Arabian Nights reveals herself by riding a fan.
Fans are also used in a variety of magical traditions, not as substitutes but in their own right. Chinese magic favors the sandalwood fan, especially for protective purposes. The fan creates a personal psychic and spiritual shield. Sandalwood possesses sacred, benevolent, protective qualities. These may be enhanced through ornamentation: fans are frequently embellished with magical images and/or words. Strengthen and maintain the fan’s power by periodically passing it through sandalwood incense smoke.
As with wands or staffs, fans are not tools to be shared. When not in use, the fan should rest discreetly hidden, wrapped in fabric and placed in a magic box.
The powerful Yoruba orisha, Oshun, counts peacocks among her sacred birds. Devotees keep peacock feather fans in her honor. They are used in rituals to honor her and when not they are not in use are kept on her altar. Peacock feather fans are also appropriate for use with other spirits, such as the Hindu Lakshmi and the Roman Juno.
Fans crafted from various types of feather or an intact bird’s wing complete with feathers are used in Native American and Native American-influenced traditions as a device for wafting incense, especially for cleansing purposes.
Key Magical Techniques
Although this may seem like the magical equivalent of instructions for boiling water, many spells are accomplished through baths. Various magical techniques increase the odds of a spell’s success.
In general, it is beneficial to submerge completely in the water at least once, although some spells may specify the number of submersions
When you want to rid yourself of something—a problem, bad debts, your annoying boyfriend—bathe down and out: start at the top, work your way down your body and out the arms and legs
When you want to draw something towards you—love, cash, or a job—start at the feet and move in towards your heart. Start at the ends of your hands and move inwards
Allow yourself to air dry. Drying yourself with a towel wipes much of the residue, the aura of the bath, off your skin. Nothing will happen if you use a towel but you will receive consistently stronger better results if you take the time to air dry
What may be the most ancient magical techniques of all may be unfamiliar to the modern practitioner—foot track spells and knot magic.
Foot Track Magic
“Leave nothing behind but your footprints”—or so go the instructions for today’s eco-tourists. Even footprints, however, have their magical uses. Foot track magic, as its modern name goes, is most closely associated today with hoodoo traditions. But it is actually a particularly primal, international magical technique. There are oblique references to it in the Talmud. Instructions attributed to Pythagoras forbade people to pierce footprints with nail or knife, although similar spells are contained in this book.
This ancient practice derives from dry lands, where a footprint lingers. To some extent, men lend themselves more to foot track magic because of their generally heavier, deeper imprints.
There are two varieties of foot track magic: in one, usually used for banishing or hexing, something is done to the actual footprint in the ground. The other method is to scoop up the dirt from the footprint in its entirety. This will usually be later combined with other ingredients for magical purposes, both positive and malevolent.
When gathering up footprints, it is vital to the success of the spell that the entire footprint is gathered. It is also crucial (and not always simple to determine) that one obtains the footprint of the correct person!
Knots are so intrinsically and anciently connected with magic that tying knots was once synonymous with magic in general. The art goes back to the Babylonians and who knows how much further back in unrecorded history The Hebrew word for amulet, kame’a, has a root meaning “to bind.” Knotting is the original binding spell.
Any intension or force can be tied or controlled by the knot. What separates the magical knot from tying a shoelace is the focus and intention of the one making the knot. However, the act of tying a shoelace can be transformed into a magical act: tie a child’s sneaker: focus on blessing and protecting as you pull the knot tight.
In a knot charm, it goes without saying that you are focusing and concentrating your energy with every knot. Materials used in knot charms include threads, cord, plant stems, metal wire, animal or human hair.
Knots can be used for positive or malevolent intent. Common uses of knot magic include love, healing, wealth and weather spells (i.e., controlling the wind and rain).
Knots are used to bind intent, and also to remove spells. They are common Celtic, Chinese, Egyptian and Scythian motifs. The concept of the “lover’s knot” lies in ancient love knot magic. Some believe that the inspiration for the ring arose from knot magic.
The animal patron of knot magic is the spider.
Basic Knot Spell
Focus on your goal and desire, while holding a red cord in your hands.
Tie a knot
Wrap it in fabric, place it in a magic box and keep it in a safe, secure location.
A Traditional Knot Incantation
This incantation accompanies the tying of nine knots.
By knot of one, the spell’s begun!
By knot of two, my spell comes true
By knot of three, so mote it be
By knot of four, power I store
By knot of five, my magic is alive
By knot of six, this spell I fix
By knot of seven, this spell I leaven
By knot of eight, it is fate
By knot of nine, what’s wished is mine!
* According to Celtic tradition, hawthorn is one wood that may not be cut without dire consequences. The species belongs to the fairies, who feel very protectively towards it. Unless you are an experienced practitioner of fairy music, find a fallen branch or choose a different wood.