The athame is one of the more recognizable tools associated with pagans. the athame is a ritual knife, traditionally with a black handle and double sided blade. Most of these knives that you can buy commercially have a stained wood or plastic handle and a stainless steel blade. My own athame is actually made of carved and painted wood with a leather wrapped handle. More important than appearance is what the knife represents and how it is used. The athame is used for directing energies, never for actually cutting a physical object of any kind. Except maybe the cake at a hand-fasting. So your athame really doesn't need a sharp blade. The athame is associated with male energies and the element of fire.
The altar paten is usually a disc with a sigil carved or inscribed on it; typically a pentacle, though other symbols are used. This tool is representative of the earth element and is used primarily as a consecration tool that will energize anything that is placed upon it.
Different colours have different meanings and associations, so I try to use the appropriate colour candle for whatever purpose I need. In addition to choosing a colour, candles are often carved with signs and symbols specific to the purpose needed. The chart below shows some of the associations I mentioned.
All purpose, unity, purity, cleansing, peace, balance, spirituality, healing, innocence, rain, innocence, truth, consecration, balancing the aura
Feminine divinity, stability, psychic awareness, intuition, dreams, communication, moon magick
Spirituality, tranquility, peace, protection
Passion, vitality, strength, survival, fertility, courage, sexual potency, mercy, action, fire element, conflict, independence, assertiveness, competition
Deep levels of the unconscious, deep meditation, protection, banishing evil or negativity, repelling, binding, loss, discord
Prosperity, abundance, money, physical & emotional healing, growth, luck, marriage, tree/plant magick, acceptance, weather
Wisdom, influence, spirituality, psychic ability, dignity, divination, connection to higher self, insight, clarity, contact with spirits
Creativity, self-expression, intellectual matters, overcoming addiction, legal matters/justice, joy, business success, ambition, vitality, fun, action, opportunity, celebration, investments
Balance, neutrality, erasing, cancelling, neutralizing, confusion
Communication, will power, focus, forgiveness, good fortune, truth, fidelity, patience, domestic harmony, organization, removing bad vibrations, sincerity, astral projection, water element
Love, compassion, nurturing, femininity, friendship, romance, partnership, spiritual & emotional healing, protection of children, domestic harmony, self-improvement, maturity
Business success, passion, money, fertility, career growth
Masculine divinity, great fortune, abundance, prosperity, male energy, understanding, divination, solar/sun energy, positive attitude, justice, health, attraction
Pleasure, success, happiness, learning, memory, concentration, persuasion, inspiration, imagination, solar magick, charm, confidence, air element, travel, flexibility
Incense is used in many different ways and is associated with the element of air. It comes in many different forms; stick, cone, coil, powder, oil and resin. Most familiar are probably the stick and cone forms. There are many different scents available, and many have magickal uses and associations. This is a very short list of some of the more common scents.
Purification, uplifting spirits, protection, exorcism, spirituality, attract love
Induce rest and sleep, attract love, cleansing, healing, happiness, relaxation
Protection against all forms of evil, purify sacred spaces and ritual tools, promote wisdom, clarity, attract money, healing the body, mind, and soul
Dispel negativity, exorcism, courage, purification, attract love, protection when spell casting and invoking
Purification, consecration, healing, exorcism, banishing evil, meditation
Exorcise demons and evil ghosts, conjure beneficial spirits, promote spiritual awareness, protection, astral projection, healing, wish-magick
Purify magickal spaces, consecration, protection, meditation, astral strength, induce psychic visions, courage, attract good luck
Attract money, love, growth, mastery, sensuality, fertility
Conjure beneficial spirits prior to spell casting
Pagans don’t use wands quite like “Harry Potter”, but it’s really not too far off either. The wand is used to focus and direct the energy of the holder. Though you’d be hard pressed to find one with a core of phoenix feather or dragon heartstring, wands are made with woods of all kinds. Don’t discount a metal wand either, metal can conduct the energies just as well in many cases. Wands are linked with masculine energy and the element of fire. They are often decorated with cords, beads and feathers, tailored to the wants and needs of the user. Some buy their wands, others make their own.
One note if you wish to make your own wand from wood; use found wood that has dropped naturally if you can. If you feel you must cut a living branch for your wand, ask permission first. (Sounds corny, but think of it this way, how would you feel if someone just came up to you and cut a lock of your hair?) Wait and really listen. If you believe permission has been given, cut the branch, give your thanks and leave a small offering of some kind. If you sense that permission has not been given, respect it and look elsewhere. To share one of my own experiences, I needed to cut a small branch for something, asked permission and waited for a moment. Though there was no wind, and no animals that I could see, a branch of just the right size fell at my feet in that moment. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe a show of mutual respect.
Most people are familiar with the iconic figure of the witch on her broomstick. That image actually does have some basis in reality. In times past, people would take their besom to the field when planting, ride them around and jumping to show the crops how high they should grow. Also mentioned is the famous “flying ointment” presumed to be made with a variety of hallucinogenic drugs. According to some stories, the ointment was applied to the broomstick, which was then straddled by the witch (usually female, though the term applies to both sexes). The drug was absorbed through the skin, allowing the “rider” to travel on the astral plane.
Modern practices have a variety of uses for the besom. It can be used to direct energy, like the wand. Often it is used to “sweep” negative energy away from the ritual space during preparation. Kept upright by the door or fireplace, it is thought to protect the home and occupants by preventing anything evil from entering the space.
The symbolism of taking two parts, handle and bristles (male and female), and uniting them is one of the reasons the besom is also traditionally used in hand-fasting ceremonies. The couple joins hands and jumps the broom together, signifying their unity and hoping for blessings of fertility on the union.
The besom is one of the few tools seen as having both male and female energies. The masculine is represented by the phallic shape of the handle. The bristles that are attached to the handle give it a feminine energy, further emphasized by the 3 part construction of handle, twig and cord, representing the triple goddess. Because the besom is made from wood and associated with trees, some say it is representative of the element air. Others say that its association with cleansing and purifying space makes it a symbol of the water element.
*A besom and a broom are very similar; the difference lies in the materials that make up the brush. A besom is made with twigs, giving it a rounder shape than the brush of a broom which is made with straw.
The boline is another ritual knife; this one is used in a more physical manner. Instead of just directing energies like the athame, the boline is used for cutting cords, herbs, wands, carving candles, etc. The boline is traditionally a white handled knife, sometimes with a straight blade, but the crescent shaped blade reminiscent of a sickle is becoming more common.
“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. “ Shakespeare’s Macbeth
A cauldron is just a large cooking pot, a very common item at one point. I’m not sure just how or when it happened (there are many theories), but today it is one of the most common things associated with witches. Though it is still used by some to cook or brew potions, many modern pagans have a miniaturized version used to hold a candle, burn incense, or as a container to burn paper with petitions, prayers or spells on them. It’s also a popular choice to use as a scrying tool. The cauldron is associated with female energy and the element of water.
The bell is a feminine symbol linked with the element of air. Bells are used to invoke and invite the goddess and other deities/spirits in ritual. The clear tones are vibrations that are believed to repel negative energies. The bell is often used at the end of rituals as well, to clear and disperse gathered energies.
A Book of Shadows is a pagans diary of spiritual and magickal experiences. It contains personal notes, dreams, affirmations, aspirations, rituals, recipes and spells. It is also know as a Book of Magick or a Grimoire. The term Book of Shadows was certainly popularized by the television show “Charmed”, but it is a controversial concept. Some say it’s ancient, others say it was invented by Gerald Gardner in the 1940s. Personally, I think it’s a little of both. Though the term “Book of Shadows” may be relatively new, grimoires have been mentioned many times throughout history. Whatever it’s called, I believe it’s important to keep a history for yourself. Whether you buy a fancy grimoire, a spiral notebook, or type it on the computer, a BOS allows you to mark your own progress on your own path.