Friday, 24 August 2012

Meet Witches' Tools

I was thinking about witchcraft a lot and what makes it attractive for me... Witches' tools! Almost anyone can name few of them like brooms, cauldrons, wands... and then you will start guessing and may be will name crystals. But do we really know witchcraft tools and do we know all of them? I decided to explore the topic of witches' tools and found many interesting facts.
As soon as the power of nature plays the most important role in the witchcraft practice, the tools also, in my opinion, have direct connection to the nature, the very first phenomena a human faced,  and that's why  the tools are made of natural materials like wood, stone, metal (as soon as nature gives it).
I was lucky to find a very good book "The Witches' craft: The Roots of Witchcraft and Magical Transformation" by Raven Grimassi ( I bet it's a pseudonym). The author explains that each of such basic tools as pentacle, wand, dagger, and chalice is "an extension  of our (Wiccans'/witches'?) own personal power, a symbolic inner connection to the divine spark within us that allows for external creation".
 According to the author the mentioned tools have a "history of great antiquity.. each tool connects to an ancient belief system". That is what I was looking for and it means that witchcraft has inherited its system in the beginning of time. So what I knew about some of the tools and what discovered now.

Me: The wand in my opinion has to be considered as one of the most ancient witchcraft tools. The wand is the best known witchcraft tool and very well reflected in popular culture (Harry Potter is in my mind). I know that wand is used for casting spells.
Discovery: In immemorial times people used to worship trees and observe their qualities. Many cultures had (and have) a concept of a Sacred tree - roots extend into Underworld, dark side, while upper branches of tree - to Heaven World, a light side, and both the world are connected to each other.

The book says that there was a custom for leader to carry the branch of a tree, the most powerful of all plants. The custom made the person possessing the wand a medium between Gods and humans, what later led to the association with shamans, prophets and wizards. Others also started using small branches of a tree for religious and magical purposes, and this is how the witches' wand appeared.
The wood was also a material easily available and easily worked up by our ancestors. There are many types of wood hence many types of wands which inherit the quality of each tree. The main wood used for wand making is oak, willow, birch, elm, rowan and walnut.Wand represents the extension of the arm and associated with the element of air. It is used to evoke and invoke the spirits and Gods of Nature (as it has connection to the Heaven World) (b).
Me: Well, the tool which is very well known to me. Seems like I knew about it since my childhood. In Russian folklore and Russian literature all the witches always used to ride a broom. So no doubt it is a mean of transport.
Discovery: As appeared the broom is not that plain tool. It is evolved into a composite of both male and female fertility. As a ritual tool of Witchcraft the broom is used to sweep the ritual setting for purification. The broom is comprised of three different materials: the handle is mad of ash, the sweep of birch twigs and the binding lash is made of willow strips. The triad the materials announces all the spirits that the witch operates from the name of Hecate. The broomstick allows the witch to have power over spirits of night, shadow and darkness (b).
Not a single word about flying on the broomstick! Is it then a modern interpretation of this tool?
Me: I had a little knowledge about this tool and used to call it a "knife". TV shows mostly present it in the scenes where a witch uses it to for killing ritual animals.
Dicsovery: I never knew it is called athame. This tool appeared later in history when people actually learned how to make tools out of metal. Athame is "a tool of elemental fire because the metal itself was forged in fire and retains the memory of this transformative power". The athame does such functions as tracing out a ritual circle and evoking the guardians of the four quarters (b).
 Not as bad tool as I thought and quite a peaceful tool.
 Me: I know that witches prepare their potions and ointments in the cauldron.
Discovery: The cauldron has more significance for witchcraft than we think. The cauldron is usually made of iron and associated with fertility, abundance and revival of the dead  It is also a symbol of womb of the Great Goddess. In Celtic myths the cauldron is hidden in the Underworld or some magical castle or labyrinth. What means that cauldron can't be reached easily and the person has to make a long journey to obtain it (b).
Once again the stereotype thinking about the cauldron makes it simple and ordinary tool.

 Me: I must have seen this tool in many movies picturing the witchcraft in the scenes where a witch holds it above her saying some spells and then drinks out of it, or offers to somebody else.
Discovery: Chalice is a tool connected to the Goddess through a womb symbolism (just like the cauldron). In ancient times chalice was a gourd, a large shell or a wooden bowl used to contain the sacred liquids. Nowadays the chalice is made of silver, a metal sacred to the moon goddess. In the Witchcraft chalice is used to hold ritual wine, which used to represent goddess blood and later with the raise of patriarchal power and the creation of agrarian society, the blood of the Goddess symbolized by the red wine became the blood of slain god of the harvest. The cult of Dionysus is the best known example of such symbolism. Chalice is a vessel of offering and receptivity (b).
The chalice  didn't go far from my understanding of it as you can get to know easily what it is used for from its shape. Yet the deep symbolical meaning of it is not known to us.
These were several the most important tools of the witchcraft. However there are still many of them of which I didn't have any idea like the witches' ring, pentacles, a ritual scourge and others. I will try to give time to post about them too. Here now some stereotype image of a witch in modern art. Can you some of the tools beside her? ;)
P.S. All the material taken form the book has linkage (b) in order to follow copyright. Some citations are not full and modified a bit.

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