There are many magical tools used by the practising Pagan, but what are they
and what do they represent? In this article, we cover the most commonly
used tools used on the Altar and for magical workings and ritual
The Besom (Broomstick)
The besom was used by our ancestors as a household item for sweeping the dirt
floors of dwellings. It was crafted from twigs and wood gathered locally,
and in Europe, it was traditionally crafted with a hazel handle, birch bristles
and bound with strips of willow bark. Each of the woods was readily
available and a broomstick standing in the corner of a room attracted little
interest from visitors, making it possible to create a magical tool and 'hiding
it in plain sight'. The woods used to craft the besom, had magical properties in their own right. The birch has associations with birth,
renewal and new beginnings, Hazel is associated with wisdom and psychic ability,
and Willow is sacred to the Goddess and associated with healing. The
broomstick was used to create a protective circle in the dust floor, inside
which magical which magical workings could be performed, and the then the circle
swept away to remove all trace of it's existence.
The modern witch doesn't need to sweep the floor, but the besom is still used to
cleanse and purify the working circle, is hung over a doorway to protect the
home and because of the association with travel, often hung in cars for safe
travel. The association with birth and fertility also gave rise to the
tradition of 'jumping the broomstick' in handfasting rituals and Beltane
celebrations to encourage pregnancy.
The wand it used to command, channel and direct energy. It is often used as
an extension of the practitioner to cast the circle, either by focusing energy
from the body, or by physically marking the floor. The wand is a tool of invocation, often used to draw invoking pentagrams in the air, or to summon and
welcome the presence of the God and Goddess to the circle. Within the
Wicca path, the wand represents the element Air.
The wand is usually made from natural materials - either woods, crystal or a
combination of both. Sacred woods and crystals carry their own energies peculiar to them, so a practitioner may have several wands dedicated to
The Chalice represents the Element Water on the Altar and symbolises the Goddess
and fertility. It is used to hold a ritual beverage often served after a
ritual to help replenish some of the energy used during the ritual. Often
used in handfastings to bless a union and the dipping of the Athame (Phallic
Male symbol) into the chalice (Womb, Female symbol) is often used for fertility
Chalices are made of many materials these day, depending on personal preference.
It can be hand carved or turned in natural wood, made from pottery, ornately
cast in resin, or cast in base metal silver plated for food safety.
Whatever the material, the chalice should sit comfortably in the hand and has
it's place on the Altar.
The most ancient of cooking vessels, the cauldron is often the focal point
of the Altar. It is a container in which magical transformations take
place. To wiccans, the cauldron is a symbol of the Goddess and fertility
and growth and represents the element Earth. It is often filled with
seasonal flowers on the Altar, used as a container to burn pine and other Yule
offerings to welcome back the light at Yule, used as a container to burn
parchments, symbols or even to hold charcoal discs and grain incense. At
Samhain, the cauldron is often used for scrying - filling the cauldron with
water and studying the surface whilst meditating and allowing the eye focus to
soften. Patterns which reveal themselves on the surface of the water are
often interpreted by scryers.
Traditionally, the Cauldron is crafted from cast iron, has a handle and three
tripod legs, although wood, ceramics or even soapstone may be crafted to create
a cauldron in today's modern world.
The Athame (Magical Knife)
The Athame represents the element Fire and is all about power and energy.
Traditionally, the ritual Athame is black handled, with a double edged blade for
balance. It is used for storing and releasing energy during ritual.
The ritual Athame is not a working knife, it's not used for cutting herbs,
crafting wands or any other action that will disrupt the residual energy stored
in the handle. It is often wrapped in black cloth when not in use, black
is a very protective colour and keeps the Athame safe from outside negative
energies and influences. The Athame is used within ritual to channel
and direct power. For indoor rituals, the Athame is often used to cast the
circle, creating a boundary between sacred space and the outer world.
Modern knife laws make the using of Athames during outside rituals a little
difficult, as they can be classed as a 'dangerous weapon', so the wand is often
used for group outdoor celebrations in it's place
The boline is a working magical knife. Traditionally white handled, it can
be anything from a penknife size, up to a Druids sickle. It is used for
harvesting herbs, carving wands, fashioning staffs, engraving sacred symbols, or
for any other magical activity that requires the use of a blade.
The censer is a container used for burning resins and incense on hot charcoal to
release the natural energies of the plants, woods and flora and resins. It
can be elaborate, crafted from brass and fitted with a chain handle
allowing the censer to be swung and the incense smoke spread, or it can be
something as simple as a ceramic dish. If ceramics, or natural wood
vessels are used as censers, then it's a good idea to line the base with a good
layer of sand which will absorb the heat from the burning charcoal, and
preventing cracking and breaking. The sand also gives a good flat surface
to support small incense cones or sticks.
Some representation of the Pentagram is usually placed on the Altar. It
can range from an elaborate, ornate brass paton, to a simple flat clay disc with
the Pentagram inscribed on the surface. The Pentagram is a five pointed
star and in wicca, the Pentagram represents the element Earth on the Altar.
Items that need to be ritually charged - talisman, sigils, amulets, charms etc
are often consecrated during ritual by placing them on the Pentagram.
Not restricted to the altar, the Pentagram is a protective symbol and is often
found over doorways, windows and fire places within the Pagan home. The
Pentagram enclosed within a circle is know as a Pentacle and for magical uses,
is pretty much interchangeable with the Pentagram.