Friday, January 31, 2014

Imbolc starts (Feb 2)

By February, most of us are tired of the cold, snowy season. Imbolc reminds us that spring is coming soon, and that we only have a few more weeks of winter to go. The sun gets a little brighter, the earth gets a little warmer, and we know that life is quickening within the soil. There are a number of different ways to celebrate this Sabbat, but first, you may want to read up on:

Rituals and Ceremonies
Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Imbolc. Some people focus on the Celtic goddess Brighid, in her many aspects as a deity of fire and fertility. Others aim their rituals more towards the cycles of the season, and agricultural markers. Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying -- and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead.

Imbolc Magic
Imbolc is a time of magical energy related to the feminine aspect of the goddess, of new beginnings, and of fire. It's also a good time to focus on divination and increasing your own magical gifts and abilities. Take advantage of these concepts, and plan your workings accordingly. Because of its proximity to Valentine's Day, Imbolc also tends to be a time when people start exploring love magic -- if you do, be sure to read up on it first!

-The Crafty Witch

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Roman Celebration of Februalia Starts (Tomorrow)

Februalia, January 30 - February 2:

The ancient Romans had a festival for nearly everything, and if you were a god, you almost always got your own holiday. Februus, for whom the month of February is named, was a god associated with both death and purification. In some writings, Februus is considered the same god as Faun, because their holidays were celebrated so closely together.

The festival known as Februalia was held near the end of the Roman calendar year -- and to understand how the holiday changed over time, it helps a bit to know the calendar's history. Originally, the Roman year had only ten months -- they counted out ten months between March and December, and basically disregarded the "dead months" of January and February. Later, the Etruscans came along and added these two months back into the equation. In fact, they planned to make January the first month, but the expulsion of the Etruscan dynasty prevented this from happening, and so March 1st was considered the first day of the year. February was dedicated to Februus, a god not unlike Dis or Pluto, because it was the month in which Rome was purified by making offerings and sacrifices to the gods of the dead. Our Guide to Ancient History, N.S. Gill, has some great information on the terminology found in the Roman calendar.

At any rate, because of the association with fire as a method of purification, at some point the celebration of Februalia became associated with Vesta, a hearth goddess much like the Celtic Brighid. Not only that, February 2 is also considered the day of Juno Februa, the mother of war god Mars. There is a reference to this purification holiday in Ovid's Fasti, in which he says, "In short, anything used to cleanse our bodies went by that name [of februa] in the time of our unshorn forefathers. The month is called after these things, because the Luperci purify the whole ground with strips of hide, which are their instruments of cleansing..."

Februalia was a month-long period of sacrifice and atonement, invovling offerings to the gods, prayer, and sacrifices. If you were a wealthy Roman who didn't have to go out and work, you could literally spend the entire month of February in prayer and meditation, atoning for your misdeeds during the other eleven months of the year.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Miscellaneous Ritual Tools

The Cords

Cords are used in some traditions as an indication of the rank or degree the
individual has attained. Different ranks are distinguished by color. Most are 9
feet long. Valiente uses a red cord for initiates and a black one for full
members. In her system the officers are as follows; Lady-silver, yellow or
orange for East, gold or bright yellow for South, black or dark brown for West,
black or white or both for North. She mentions that there is a difference of
opinion on the number of knots to be tied, 13 or 9, she prefers 9. The Farrars
suggest that everyone should have a set of at least three cords, they suggest
red, blue and white, 9 feet long with knots at each end only. Buckland
recommends a 9 foot, red cord made from three lengths of cord braided together,
knotted at each end. The 9 foot measurement is after braiding. The cord is used
for cord magic, not worn. The color red represents life. This last version is
the one that my former coven used, and to get 9 feet after braiding you really
need three pieces of rat tail cord about 29 feet long. Solitary practitioners
rarely use cords as an emblem of rank, some use them for cord magic.

The Scourge

The Scourge is only mentioned by the Farrars. According to them it is purely
symbolic and used to help induce self hypnosis for gaining the sight. It is used
in initiations occasionally. It has eight tails with five knots in each tail.
The tails on theirs are embroidery floss set on a nut wood handle. No markings
are on the scourge. See image below for an example of a commercially available
leather version.

Candle Holders

You will need at least 6 candle holders for a basic altar set up of two altar
candles and four quarter candles but most people will use additional ones for
candle magic, God and Goddess candles, and other activities. These can be made
of any material, glass, brass and other metals are all good choices and easy to
find. If you are interested in doing candle magic you may want to purchase a
dozen or so inexpensive simple taper holders at a dollar store or Goodwill.
These should be small in circumference since in some rituals the candles must
touch each other. Glass is a good option. You may want to round up additional
candle holders of other types such as votive holders depending upon your

Candle Snuffer

Many authorities advise against blowing out the candles used in ritual saying it
insults the elemental spirits or disperses the power of the spell, others say
you must blow out the candles to add your life force to the spell, if you aren't
going to blow out your candles you still need to put them out. You can just
pinch the base of the flame to put it out or you can use a snuffer. Some of us
are not quick at pinching out the candles and to save our fingers use a candle
snuffer. This is optional and may be of any material you like. They are readily
available at thrift and discount stores for very reasonable prices.

God and Goddess Figures/Images

Not everyone chooses to use figures of the Goddess and God on their altars, and
of those who do, not everyone uses a literal representation. Some prefer to use
an object to remind them of the deities such as a holey stone for the Goddess
and a pine cone for the God. If you choose to use statuary or graphics of the
deities they should be to your taste and of the God and Goddess you worship.
They are not necessary, this is a matter for personal choice.

Offering Bowl

This is used to symbolically give back to the Goddess and God what they have
given us. A bit of the cakes and ale or some of the wine used in the ritual is
placed in the bowl during the ritual. Afterwards the contents of the bowl are
generally taken out doors and poured on the earth to complete the offering. Also
known as the libation bowl by some, this can be any sort of bowl you like made
out of any natural material (i.e. no plastic).

-The Crafty Witch

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Book Of Shadows

The book of shadows or grimoire is used to record your magical workings and strictly speaking may not be considered a tool by all. Traditionalists tend to use the term grimoire and Wiccans book of shadows or BOS for short.

Despite popular movies and television shows, there is no one single book of shadows. A book of shadows, or BOS, is a Wiccan's or Pagan's notebook of information. It usually contains spells, rituals, correspondence charts, information about the rules of magic, invocations, myths and legends of various pantheons, etc.

 Sometimes information in a BOS is passed along from one Wiccan to another (and in a coven setting, there may be a coven BOS as well as individual members' books), but you can create your own with a little bit of effort. A BOS is a very personal thing, and should contain the information you find most important.

-The Crafty Witch

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Robe and The Boline

The Robe

This is perhaps one of the most controversial items in this section. For those
of you who believe that the only way to work is skyclad (naked), by all means,
proceed. I'll not argue with you, work as you like. There are those of us, into
middle age and living in cooler climates, who like robes. Robes also appeal to
the more theatrical among us who enjoy costumes and for whom the robe sets a
mood. This area is best left to personal opinion. Robes can be quite ornate,
with hoods, rope belts, long and flowing fabrics; or very simple.

The matter of color is a personal one as well. Many prefer black, being the
color of the night sky, mystery, and the unknown. Some feel black has negative
connotations and wear white, it is up to each witch to decide for themselves. In
Ceremonial Magic and some traditions robes are worn in planetary colors,
elemental colors, and the colors of the office held by the individual. You may
decide to utilize color correspondences appropriate to the particular magical
working you will be doing when choosing the color of your robes. Do what suits
you. In some covens tabard in the elemental colors are worn by those who call
the quarters over the top of their normal robe.

Do consider practicalities when choosing a robe, if you will be attending
outdoor rituals be sure to consider the weather and select appropriate fabric to
keep warm if necessary. A heavy wool cloak can be added to help with this, as
well as long johns. Be aware of the sleeves and flowing fabric since you will
likely be around candles and perhaps even a fire. The fabric should be flame
resistant and the sleeves containable. Whatever sort of robe you use it should
never be worn for anything other than ritual, it is a magical garment and must
not be used for any mundane purpose. When you are done with ritual change into
your regular clothes.

The Boline

Pronounced as bow-leen, the Boline or white handled knife is the usable,
practical knife used to cut herbs, cords, whatever one must cut. It should be
kept sharp enough to actually be useful.A simple kitchen or hunting type knife
that has a painted white handle or sometimes a white horn or antler handle may
be used for a boline. There are bolines available that are shaped like a
crescent and are reminiscent of a Druids knife. These are lovely, and perfectly
acceptable, but by no means necessary. They can be difficult to cut with.

-The Crafty Witch

Monday, January 20, 2014

Celtic Tree Month Of Rowan Bigins Tomorrow

The Rowan Moon is associated with Brighid, the Celtic goddess of hearth and home. Honored on February 1, at Imbolc, Brighid is a fire goddess who offers protection to mothers and families, as well as watching over the hearthfires.

This is a good time of year to perform initiations (or, if you're not part of a group, do a self-dedication). Known by the Celts as Luis (pronounced loush), the Rowan is associated with astral travel, personal power, and success.

A charm carved into a bit of a Rowan twig will protect the wearer from harm. The Norsemen were known to have used Rowan branches as rune staves of protection. In some countries, Rowan is planted in graveyards to prevent the dead from lingering around too long.

-The Crafty Witch

Friday, January 17, 2014

Birthday of Dorothy Clutterbuck (on Jan 19th)

Although she never publicly claimed to practice witchcraft -- or even left any evidence of it after her death -- Dorothy Clutterbuck is credited with initiating Gerald Gardner into the New Forest coven of witches. Dorothy was born in India in 1880 to a British Army captain, who brought his family back to England after his retirement from service. She was briefly married in her mid-fifties to a local justice of the peace who was killed in a car accident in 1939. By all appearances, Dorothy Clutterbuck seemed to be a perfectly respectable English country widow who attended church regularly and was an ardent supporter of the local conservative party.

Following her death in 1951, Gardner indicated that Dorothy had in fact been a member of the New Forest coven of witches that he had joined in 1939. There was some question about whether Dorothy initiated Gardner, but it appears that Gardner may have actually been initiated by Edith Woodford-Grimes.

The real controversy surrounding Dorothy Clutterbuck has been brought up by historians who question Gardner's statements. Jeffrey Russell, who has written a number of historical works on English and European witchcraft, suggests that Dorothy may have been "invented" by Gardner to support his claims of an ancient tradition of witchcraft in Britain. Ronald Hutton, author of Triumph of the Moon, suggests that the use of Dorothy's name as a potential witch might have been a joke on Gardner's part, done in order to conceal the true identity of his high priestess. Hutton also indicates that the date of Gardner's initiation would coincide with Dorothy's mourning period after the loss of her husband -- a time when she cancelled nearly all other social engagements -- and so it's unlikely that she was involved in his initiation ceremony.

Dorothy left a number of diaries, and there are different interpretations as to how the contents should be viewed. The diaries are a collection of poems, essays and other writings, which may or may not be associated to witchcraft or Paganism, depending on how one sees them. The diaries contain some references to fairies, nature and herb lore, but also include a number of references to Christian themes.

-The Crafty Witch

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tonights Full Moon - The Cold Moon

In January, the nights are long and dark, and many of us are trying to stay warm under a blanket of snow as the Cold Moon approaches (in some cultures, the Cold Moon is the name given to December's moon, instead). The native tribes of North America called this time the Wolf Moon, because this was when the wolves were howling, hungry, outside lodges where people stayed warm within. This time of year, we're all feeling a bit slow and "off" as our bodies adjust to chillier temperatures.
  • Colors: Black and white, silver
  • Gemstones: Hematite
  • Trees: Birch, Hazel
  • Gods: Inanna, Freyja
  • Herbs: Thistle, nuts and seeds, marjoram
  • Element: Air
This is a good time to work on magic related to protection, both physical and spiritual. Use this time to develop your inner self, and advance spiritually, becoming closer to the higher aspects of your deities.
Also Known As: Wolf Moon, Chaste Moon

-The Crafty Witch

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Sword & The Staff

The Sword

It represents fire and is used for many of the same purposes as the knife. Its
main use is for casting the circle. All authors agree that the sword is
optional, and that a replica is appropriate. Most suggest that some part, either
the handle or an inscription be added to make a purchased sword more personal.
All agree that if it is possible the sword should be made by the owner or a
coven member, but unless you are a blacksmith you are unlikely to be able to
manage the blade. The handle could be made or at least decorated however. There
are a number of suppliers of fine replica swords that cater to the SCA and Renn
Faire groups, keep your eyes open and you may find just the one for you. They
are also readily available at occult supply stores, often of lesser quality, but
also lesser price.

The Staff

The staff or stang is commonly included among the tools of Traditional witches
as well as Wiccans. It represents air and is, in effect, a long wand. It should
be made out of hardwood, equal in length to the height of the owner, and
decorated with feathers, leather, crystals, carving or engraving according to
Buckland. The staff has little practical use being largely ornamental. Farrar
and Cunningham do not mention it. A staff or walking stick can be a very
personal accessory since there are so many options for decoration. One can affix
any number of items to leather cords to dangle from the top, and it can be
carved with symbols, runes, the owners magical name - any meaningful words you
like. I recommend putting a rubber cane tip over the bottom to provide traction
and avoid marring floors.

Valiente tells of her traditions use of the Stang, a type of staff. It serves as
an emblem of faith and walking aid to and from meetings, a sign one is of the
craft, and a personal altar. The stang is forked at the top. It is of ash, cut
during the full moon with your knife. A small coin must be left with the tree as
payment for taking the branch. The stang must be shod with iron by driving a
nail into the bottom of it, the purpose being to hold the magical charge within
the stang once it is consecrated. Garlands and arrows are hung on the coven
stang for the four major rites. In some traditions the stang rather than being
forked at the top has a forked antler or even a whole skull with antlers of a
deer or similar animal. It may be decorated with fur, feathers, crystals or
other objects as well.

*author unknown

-The Crafty Witch

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Censer & The Bell

The Censer

Pronounced sen-ser this is also referred to as an incense burner or thurible
(thur-a-bel). Censers come in a wide variety of styles, material and colors.
There are fewer conventions surrounding the censer than any other ritual tool.
Some are metal suspended from chains, some are bowls filled with sand or salt,
and every possibility in-between. The censer represents air and may be made of
wood, ceramic, soapstone, earthenware, glass, stone, brass, copper, iron;
literally any material. The censer is often placed before the image of the
Deity(s) in the middle of the altar. All authors who mention the censer agree
that the design and material are unimportant, each practitioner should go with
what they like. The incense represents air like the censer.

If you will primarily be using stick or cone incense you may use any sort of
incense burner you like. At some point you may decide to branch out into loose
incense, compounding your own incense, or chosing herbs for magical
correspondences. then you will need a censer capable of smoldering incense on a
burning charcoal. Perhaps the easiest thing to do is to obtain a bowl you like,
fill it with sand, and voila, you have a censer. The sand is necessary to
dissipate the heat from the burning charcoal and incense. It will prevent the
surface under the censer from being damaged by high temperatures and will
protect the bowl itself so that it won't crack or explode. Despite the sand
however, do not use a combustible container for such a censer. Glass, metal,
ceramic or stone are all good choices.

The Bell or Gong

A feminine symbol used to invoke the Goddess, ward off evil spirits, evoke
positive energies; to mark the beginning, end, or sections of the ritual. It is
used for the vibrations the sound produces so it is important to find a bell
with a pleasant sound, clear and sweet. The bell may be engraved or decorated if
desired. Not all traditions use the bell, only Buckland and Cunningham mention
it. It is often used to punctuate various high points in the rituals of
Ceremonial Magic as well. The bell represents either spirit or air if it can be
considered to represent any of the elements. It is a fairly commonly used tool
by Traditional witches as well as Wiccans.

The gong may be substituted for a bell if you like, it is often used in
Ceremonial Magic. The sound of the gong or bell is used in Buddhist, Hindu and
Shamanic rituals to attract the attention fo the Gods and as the physical
representation of the spiritual force. Bells are easier to find and less
expensive, but a coven or group may want to go to the extra effort to find a
gong as a communal tool. I was able to find a triangle and it makes the most
wonderful sound. You may also choose to use windchimes in ritual which may be
struck with a mallet or brushed with the hand. Some choose to incorporate
Buddhist singing bowls into their practice.

*author unknown

-The Crafty Witch

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Cauldron & The Besom

The Cauldron

The cauldron is considered a coven tool in many traditions rather than an
individual one. It represents water, the Goddess, reincarnation, immortality and
inspiration. As Cunningham states, it is "the container in which magical
transformations occur, the sacred grail, the holy spring, the sea of primeval
creation". He calls the cauldron "the witches tool par excellence". It is often
used as the focal point of group rituals and can contain flowers, a ritual fire,
charged water, or incense. It may also be placed empty on the altar as a symbol
of the Goddess or used to prepare brews or for divination by filling it with
water and using it as a focusing point.

Cunningham suggests that the cauldron should be iron, the Farrars agree but also
mention that brass or copper may be easier to find. Valiente considers the
cauldron a coven tool and mentions all the same uses described above and
discusses the symbolism but she also emphasizes that the coven must arrive at
it's own communal understanding of what the cauldron means to them.

If you would like to purchase a cast iron traditional cauldron online I suggest
that you search for a "potjie" rather than a "cauldron". The potjie is an
African cooking pot illustrated to the right above and is perfect for use as a
cauldron. By searching for it by the name of the cooking utensil you will save
allot of money over the witchy stores that sell the same thing but call it a
cauldron. They are available in very large sizes up to 75 gallons if you like.
Copper and brass versions are readily available at thrift stores and
occasionally you may even find a cast-iron cauldron in a smaller size. I collect
them and find most of mine at the Goodwill.

The Besom

Also called the broom, besom is pronounced beh-som. Traditionally made with an
ash handle, broom or birch twigs and a willow wrapping, the broom or besom is
one of the more well known of the tools uses by witches. Every Halloween witch
has a broom, and pretends to ride it, but not every real witch owns one. It is
often considered optional, particularly by solitaires. Round is preferred over
flat. The twigs can also be hazel or yew. The example illustrated above is made
with broom corn bristles which is a perfectly acceptable substitute and is
available from The Traditional Broom Company To care for your besom you will
want to clean the bristles if you actually use it to sweep once every month or
so by washing them in warm soapy water, then rinsing them and shaking out the
excess. Hang the broom to dry with the bristles down. If you don't actually
sweep with the besom you should rehydrate the bristles about twice a year by
putting the bristle end in a bucket of warm, clean water and letting it stand
for 10-15 minutes. Then rinse and shake out the excess water. Be sure to hang
the besom with the bristles down so they won't bend as they dry. The wooden
handle of the broom may be rubbed down with some linseed oil to keep the wood in
good condition unless it's painted or has bark on it.

According to Doreen Valiente the symbolism is as follows: the handle represents
the male aspect, the twigs the female, birch twigs represent birth and rebirth
through the combination of male and female; hazel stands for fire, fertility,
divination and knowledge; yew is the tree of death and resurrection. The message
of the besom is that only though birth will there be life, from that life will
come poetry, art and knowledge. Yet because of birth there must be death and
with death rebirth and resurrection. Cunningham states that the broom is
associated with water due to its purpose of purification. He states that the
broom is protective and purifactory, used to ritually cleanse and area or guard
a home and should be reserved for ritual use. Valiente and Farrar agree as to
the uses mentioned, in addition Valiente mentions using the besom as a gateway
to the circle by laying it at the north in the gateway of the circle as it is
cast. Buckland does not mention the besom, it is not used in his tradition.

It is nice to make your own besom and not really difficult. You need a branch
about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and 3-4 feet long for the staff, a bundle of
small twigs about 18-20 inches long for the broom part and something to tie the
twigs to the handle with. Willow is traditional, but twine works well and is
easy to obtain. Just insert the handle about 6-8 inches into the center of the
bundle of twigs and wrap the twine tightly around them to tie them to the
handle. Be sure you wrap and tie them tight, so your twigs don't fall out. Hand
made besoms produced in this way are best used for more symbolic than actual

*author unknown

-The Crafty Witch

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Wand & The Chalice

 The Wand

One of the four elemental tools, the wand is traditionally made of wood cut from one of a number of trees, depending upon the use to which it will be put. Willow, elder, oak, apple, hawthorn, peach, hazel, ash, blackthorn, cherry or nut bearing trees are all possibilities. A wand is made from a branch the length of the distance from the elbow to the extended middle finger. It is cut from wood of the current year, preferable with one stoke. It may be carved, painted or written on in any of a number of ways depending upon the tradition. The bark may be removed and the surface smoothed and polished or the wand may be left in it's natural state. The wand represents air in most traditions, however in those who assign the athame to air the wand is consequently assigned to fire. Hazel or ash is good for an all around wand with perhaps a venusian wood for magic regarding love, fertility, prosperity and such. Apple, cherry, peach or any of the fruit bearing trees is good for this second wand. You could theoretically have a wand of an appropriate wood, with appropriate crystals and markings for each planet. Suit your own needs, but one wand is enough for most.

There are a number of styles of wands, with crystals at one or both ends, with painted or carved designs, or with written or engraved symbols or runes. A wide variation in materials and decoration or lack of it exists. In ceremonial magic there are designs painted in the planetary colors and tipped with silver or lead caps at each end. These may be made from dowels or from straight tree branches
about the thickness of your index finger. For certain Sabbats a more male wand is used, a nut wood wand tipped with a pinecone or acorn and wrapped with black and white ribbons interwoven like the snakes on a caduceus. A traditionally designed Ceremonial magicians oak wand which has been painted black and tipped at both ends with silver caps was the inspiration for the stage magicians magic wand that we are familiar with today.

It has become popular to use silver, copper or pewter wands with crystal tips. Some have natural quartz points or other semiprecious stones, others have cut glass crystals. They are attractive, but somewhat expensive. Many of these come with velvet or silk wand cases, drawstring bags which may be decorated with pentagrams or other symbols and which protect the wand from scratches. Silver
and pewter are both subject to scratching, and copper and silver tarnish so some care in handling is appropriate. Some are lacquered to prevent tarnishing so read the information that comes with the wand before you go at it with silver polish or you will remove the laquer in patches and have a real mess. The lacquered ones may be cleaned with a soft, damp cloth. Store your wand in it's
pouch for protection from dust and marring.

The Chalice

Pronounced as chal-ess and also known as the cup. The last of the four elemental tools, the cup or chalice is used to hold water, wine or juice during the ritual. It represents water and is the primary feminine symbol on the altar. It is symbolic of the Goddess in several rituals of the calendar. The chalice may be made of silver, brass, copper, glass, alabaster, soap stone, wood, porcelain,
earthenware; any material you like. It is unmarked in most traditions where it is used. The cup is used to hold water, either plain or salted, when consecrating tools, amulets, etc.

This is one of the easiest tools to find at thrift stores, and antique shops. Many of them started out as wedding goblets. If you plan to put wine in the chalice be sure that the material is safe to drink out of. Wine is acidic and will leach contaminates from the container easily. Not all earthenware has food
safe glazes and unlined metal chalices should be re-tinned by a silversmith to make them safe. If you will only be using it for water and salt to cast the circle this will not be a concern.

In Ceremonial Magic the cup is used as well, in which case it is engraved with the Archangelic and Godname of the element water and is made of silver or copper, with glass as an acceptable substitute. The cup may be jeweled or decorated using correspondences to it's symbolic water and feminine
connotations. It is symbolic of rebirth, reincarnation, wisdom and immortality. Venus is the appropriate planetary correspondence. Valiente states that the cup is symbolic of the Cauldron of Cerridwen, and she places the emphasis on it as opposed to the cauldron. Cunningham reverses this and places much more emphasis on the cauldron referring to the chalice as a small cauldron on a stem. Valiente includes the cup in her list of coven tools rather than an individual tool.
Buckland does not mention the chalice at all.

Traditionalists whether Norse or British may use a drinking horn or two handled cup instead of the wine glass style chalice of Wicca. On the left is an Anglo Saxon style drinking horn with stand, on the right a reproduction of a Viking style drinking horn.

*author unknown

-The Crafty Witch

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Athame & The Pentacle

The Athame

Pronounced ah-tha-may. Many people begin with a letter opener or other such implement pressed into service as an athame so if this is what you use don't feel you're unusual. Once you know you're on your true path you may want to invest in a real athame, if you're at that point these comments may be useful. Traditionally double edged, made of steel, with a black handle which may be painted or engraved with markings which vary from one tradition to another the Athame is one of the four elemental tools. The edges are not normally sharpened as the athame is a symbolic tool rather than a practical knife. The athame represents fire in most traditions, the only exceptions being those who follow the attribution of the knife to air as given in some early Golden Dawn documents. There is a theory that this was a deliberate obfuscation on their part, intended to confuse outsiders. Athames are available from occult suppliers for a wide range of prices, it has been my experience that in many cases you will be able to get a better quality knife for less money by going to a sporting goods store or army/navy surplus store to purchase your athame. It is possible to find very elegant athames if you are willing and able to pay the price and it is also possible to have one custom made to your specifications.

It is considered desirable to forge or construct the athame yourself if possible or at least make the handle. Practically speaking, unless you are a blacksmith, or know one, most of us must purchase the blade for our athames. One good possibility is to purchase what is referred to as a boot knife and then create the handle for it. These are available at surplus stores or sporting goods stores for very reasonable prices, often under $10.00. What you want if you want to add your own handle is one that does not already have one, this will appear in a catalog as "solid 420 stainless construction". If you can manage to produce a wooden handle and paint it black it will add to your connection to the tool but there are other options for the unhandy. I found that Fimo clay, available at the craft store, made a wonderful handle for my first one. You knead it till its pliable enough then form it in the shape you want on the knife blade. By baking it in a regular oven it hardens permanently. And talk about connection, it even has your
fingerprints in it!

If you don't care to create the handle, you can purchase fabulous knives that will make a wonderful athame very inexpensively from a sporting goods or surplus store. Boot knives are available with a variety of ready made handles and generally are a convenient size being about 8-9 inches long. You want a fixed rather than a folding blade and with two edges not one, that is why I recommend looking for a boot knife as most fit these specifications. The blade should be unsharpened as it is much safer and it will never be used for cutting in any case. Most come with a sheath that will have a boot clip which can be hooked over your belt.

Generally you would want a knife that was to be used to have a carbon steel blade which is perfect for honing to a fine edge, but this is not the case with the athame. If the knife you are most drawn to has a carbon steel blade that's fine, but it is not necessarily desireable. Carbon steel blades darken with age and use, there is no way to prevent this, it is a natural effect. Such darkening may be removed with wet/dry emery paper in a very fine grit. You will need to take precautions with a carbon steel blade to protect it from rust, occasionally oiling the blade will help prevent corrosion. Always keep the blade dry and clean, remove fingerprints and wipe the blade after use and once a month wipe it down with a clean cotton cloth dampened with warm water and a bit of soap. Dry
the blade completely and apply a thin coat of metal polish. When the polish is dry remove it using a dry cotton cloth to buff it off. Apply a thin coat of mineral oil to the blade with a clean cloth.

The easiest thing is to get a knife with a stainless steel blade which I resistant to rust, but not rustproof. You should still keep the knife clean and wipe it down with a soft cloth after use. Twice a year you should clean it more thoroughly, wiping it down with a clean cotton cloth moistened with warm water and then polishing it dry with a clean cotton cloth. If you will be storing a knife for a long period take it out of the sheath as it will encourage rust. If the knife has a wood handle it should be polished periodically with paste wax with a high carnuba content or linseed oil, those with leather handles may be periodically cleaned with saddle soap and then polished with untinted boot
polish. This same treatment may be used on the leather sheath.

In some traditions the handle of the knife is marked with symbols of some sort. The Farrars suggest markings based on Gardeners writings as follows. They stand for the Horned God, the ankh, the Salute and the Scourge, The Goddess and Scorpio the sign of death and the beyond on side one. Side two is The Perfect Couple, power springing forth, and the eight ritual occasions. Buckland recommends marking your magical name on either the hilt or blade. Cuningham states that no markings are necessary. You may want to write, engrave, or paint your magical name on the handle in runes or any other alphabet if you like to increase your connection to the tool. If you like you may also draw a pentagram or other symbol or affix a stone or crystal to the athame.

The Pentacle

Also known as the altar paten, the pentacle is pronounced pen-ti-cal. One of the four elemental tools, the Pentacle may be made of wood, copper, brass, silver, clay, gold, tile; nearly any material; and either plain or ornamented with crystals and/or symbols. The Pentacle represents earth. The primary and often only marking is the pentagram. It is usually five or six inches in diameter. It may be used as the centerpiece of the altar. Sometimes it is displayed on an easel, other times it is laid flat on the altar. In some cases the bowl of salt is placed on top of it.

Pentacles are one of the simplest tools to make for yourself since there are so many options available on what materials they should be made from. One of the easiest methods is to create a circular plaque out of clay and incise the pentagram in it. This may be fired if you have access to a kiln or it may be
left to dry. If left to dry you may want to paint it with some polyurethane to protect it from moisture. Instead of natural clay you may use Fimo or Sculpey which can be baked in your home oven to harden them.

Those of you old enough to remember sand candles may want to try using the sand cast method to create a pentacle out of plaster of paris. You just need a shallow pan full of moist packed sand, some vermiculite, and a box of plaster. Scoop out a depression in the sand the size and shape you want your pentacle to be. Cut a pentagram and any other symbols you'd like into the bottom of the sand. You may place crystals or other items in the sand as well if you like. Mix up the plaster with water according to the package directions and add about half as much vermiculite as plaster. Stir till completely combined. Pour into the depression in the sand up to the level of the surface of the sand. Don't make the pentacle thinner than about a half inch or thicker than about an inch. Allow time for the pentacle to set up completely before digging it out of the sand. Brush off any loose sand, but there will be a thin layer embedded in the plaster. Use a spray finish to protect the surface from moisture.

Another good option is to obtain a round wood plaque of the sort intended for decoupage from a crafts store. This may be painted, stained or otherwise decorated and the pentagram painted, carved or burned into the wood. This is quite an inexpensive type of pentacle to create as such plaques are generally under $5.00. If desired you can add cabochon stones to the pentacle that are symbolic to you or represent the earth element. I made my first pentacle of a wood plaque which I painted black and topped with a circle of copper on which I painted the pentagram and affixed a sodalite cabochon. It was a very effective tool and cost very little to make.

There is no need to make your own pentacle, it is however nice to construct your tools when it is possible to do so. Pentacles in a variety of materials and designs are available ready made for those who don't choose to make their own. The one illustrated above right is a widely distributed design by artist Paul Borda called the "Moon Crescent Pentacle Plaque". This product line has several different pentacle designs available in two different finishes cast in resin. There are beautiful brass, copper and silver pentacles available if you prefer. Not every Wiccan tradition uses the pentacle, Buckland does not mention the pentacle, nor does Valiente, neither of their traditions utilize it. Some simply
use a bowl of salt to represent earth, or a crystal. The pentacle was in fact borrowed from Ceremonial Magic as is stated by Cunningham and Farrar. In that tradition it is used as a defensive weapon. Ceremonial magic sources indicate that it should be a disk of stone, tin or wood four inches in diameter with a 1/2 inch border in which should be engraved the Archangelic and Godname of
Earth. In their description the pentacle is engraved with a pentagram on one side and a hexagram on the other.

The Farrars illustrate the pentacle with additional symbols on the face along with the pentagram and describe a circle of stones to represent the astrological signs, along with the symbols of those signs. Their pentacle includes the following symbolism: inverted triangle is the first degree, inverted pentagram second degree, upright triangle third degree, waxing and waning moons the Goddess, Taurus the God, the two S's represent Mercy and Severity as the Salute and the Scourge. The stones they used are Aries-bloodstone, Taurus-carnelian, Gemini-alexandrite, Cancer-moonstone, Leo-tigers eye, Virgo-sapphire, Libra-opal, Scorpio-lapis lazuli, Sagittarius-topaz, Capricorn-jet, Aquarius-amethyst, and Pisces-pearl. Their design is by far the most elaborate that I have heard of and by no means represents what you should have. The symbolism is meaningful to them, they designed it, the example is given to indicate what you could design to suit

*Arthur Unknown

- The Crafty Witch

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014 Everyone!! / Birthday of folklorist Sir James Frazier

Sir James George Frazer is perhaps best known for his collection of folklore and mythology, The Golden Bough, published in 1890. The work details legends and myths from many different cultures throughout history. Frazer theorized that human belief systems had begun as primitive magic, which was then replaced by religious dogma, which has now been replaced by scientific knowledge.

Frazer was perhaps one of the first anthropologists to analyze the link between myth and ritual ceremony. The Golden Bough is a study of legend and myth and how they are interpreted into ritual and celebration. Frazer's interpretation of the cycle of life, death and rebirth has carried on to this day, and in his work he explained that ultimately, this cycle is at the core of myths from every part of the globe.

For many modern Pagans, this book of folklore is a worthy thing to own, simply because it details religion and ritual from its early day, and follows the evolution of man's belief. If you plan on picking up a copy of The Golden Bough, get an unabridged edition, because it contains archeological support for Frazer's theories which was left out of the abridged version. It can be found at many used bookstores, and there are illustrated editions available.

- The Crafty Witch