Traditional Witches Tools
The bell has magical associations and it has been believed for centuries to possess a magical and spiritual power. They are associated with the divine: their sound is symbolic of creative power, their shape a symbol of the female force and celestial vault. The bell is an uncommon tool. Yet, once you use it in a ritual, you might just feel the need to keep using it. There is no one way to use the bell. It can used to open and close the sacred circle or to Invoke the Goddess. It may be ruing to ward off negative energies, as well as invite positive energies, or used to signal different sections of a ritual or Sabbat.
The Athame and the Bolline are the ritual blades of the craft. As with all ritual tools, they are very personal magickal items. Many witches make their own blades or "personalize" purchased ones with runes, carvings and other symbols; all of which serve to blend the magickal energy of the tool with the energy of the owner. Some witches have family heirlooms, such as letter openers which serve the purpose and some never use a blade at all. The Bolline, which traditionally has a white handle, is used to cut wands and herbs, to mark and carve candles with symbols and to cut cords for use in magick. The Bolline can also be used to cast the magick circle, call the "quarters" or elements, and is part of many opening rituals, handfastings, initiation rites and any other ritual function requiring the use of a knife, such as cutting flowers for the altar. Traditionally, the Bolline was used to harvest herbs and had a blade in the form of a small sickle, but today it is normally a mundane knife used for carving or cutting. The Athame, which has a black handle, is used only for magickal purposes.
THE BROOM OR BESOM
The broom or besom is a ritual tool of the witch, sacred to both Goddess and the God. The God; through its symbolic phallic shape and the Goddess; through its three-piece make up, the stick, brush and binding cord being symbolic of the threefold aspect of the Goddess. Traditionally the broom was made from three different woods. Ash for the handle, Birch twigs for the brush and Willow for the binding cord. Ash is protective and has command over the four elements. Birch is purifying and draws spirits to one’s service. Willow is sacred to the Goddess. The broom is used for a variety of purposes but most generally to purify and protect. It is used to ritually cleanse an area before magick is performed by symbolically sweeping away negative energies and astral build up. Of old it was used to guard the home and persons within against psychic attack or evil curses, this by placing it across the threshold, windowsills or doorways. It was also placed under the bed or a pillow to protect the sleeper. Traditionally and perhaps the use which most people identify it with, are the old wedding ceremonies where a couple leapt over the broom to ensure fertility, domestic harmony and longevity. Today pagan hand-fasting rituals often include a broom jump.
One of the most common symbols of witchcraft, the cauldron, was once found sitting by the fireplace in almost all homes. The cauldron, traditionally with three leg, represents bounty and blessings. In some Celtic Traditions, it is associated with otherworldly figures such as "Bran the Blessed" and the "Goddess Cerridwen". Based on these myths, the cauldron has also come to represent the concept of reincarnation and the cycles of birth, death and rebirth. Cauldrons can be used to represent water and used for "scrying". It is sometimes used in association with elemental fire as well and small "bonfires" can be lit in them to burn spells or incense. Jumping over the cauldron has replaced the "bonfire" leap in modern times and urban spaces. Cauldrons range in size from the small altar models to the antique "floor" type. Many Witches have cauldrons in various sizes for different workings and purposes. Cats like to store their toys in them, too!
THE CENSER OR THURIBLE
A container used to contain a hot coal for burning incense. This is best made from a fire resistant or fire proof material. The most common are the "mini-cauldrons' of iron and the various brass types which come in wonderful shapes and sizes. Some even hang on a chain. The incense itself represents the element of Air while the fire (charcoal) represents Fire. The combination of these two elements is used to purify ritual areas, tools or the circle itself.
The chalice or cup is used on the altar to represent the Female principle of Water. Chalices may be made of any material. Many use silver or pewter, but ceramic ones are now quite popular. Some practitioners will avoid "lead" crystal because of the Saturn energy influence. Libations of wine or water are often then poured to honor the Old Ones and the chalice is sometimes passed around the circle so each participant may take a sip from the cup. This is a bonding experience and often the words "May you never thirst!" are spoken as the chalice is passed.
Within traditional witchcraft, when one is taking part in a ritual or observing a festival, there is some form of bodily covering. Traditional witches do not worship while “skyclad”. Outside of ritual, witches may have personal lifestyles that include being nude, however, while taking part in ritual they decorate or cover their bodies in some manner. Some rites might even call for the body to be marked with sigils, or covered with pigments, in certain prescribed manners. Even though the body may not be clothed it is still adorned. The clothing-robes, capes, jewelry and other items-used in ritual work are usually dedicated to only these uses. Having "special" garments lends an "otherworldly" feel and sets ritual work apart from mundane life and many traditions or paths have a "standard" wardrobe which reflects the ethnic background of that path. Scots may wear kilts and Druids may wear hooded robes. Many embroider magickal symbols on their ritual clothing or "hide" small magickal items in the seams and hems to act as talismans for protection.
A Grimoire is a witch's personal book of rituals and lore, which is usually handwritten and kept by the individual witch. The name “Grimoire”, (deriving from the Old French word for letters; “grammaire”), is a general term, as the true name for the book is kept secret by most traditions and even when the name for this book is discussed, it will often vary between the traditions. The Witch's Grimoire contains rituals, invocations, traditions, symbols, poems, chants, legends, stories and anything else thought to be important by the individual witch. The contents are most often based upon the lore of a particular tradition, but it will also contain many personal flourishes as well. It is sometimes written in “runes” or pictures so that it cannot be read by the uninitiated. A Grimoire is usually begun by being hand copied from a teacher’s main book and then later added to by the apprentice as they progress in the craft.
THE MORTAR AND PESTAL
In every witch’s kitchen there is a mortar and pestle. The pestle is a heavy stick whose end is used for pounding and grinding, and the mortar is a bowl. A mortar and pestle are tools used to grind together herbs for spells, rituals and healing. In ancient times, herbalism was a mixture of medicine and magic and herbs have been used in magical rituals for centuries. They are one of the main tools of the Witch and Witchcraft has maintained a long tradition of honoring and keeping the ancient ways of the use of herbs.
Altars feature a pentacle in the form of a flat disc and are widely used as a tool in rituals and are featured on many tools such as cauldrons, chalices or the handles of daggers. When the pentacle is drawn or written, it is called a pentagram and was originally made from clay or dough, but today pentacles are more often found crafted in metals such a copper, brass and silver or gold. Many witches wear the pentacle as a sign or their religion and when made out of silver it is said to represent the moon energy. The five points of the pentacle symbolize the four directions with the fifth as the sanctity of the spirit, with the circle symbolizing unity and wholeness. The pentacle is used and is one of the most powerful symbols, by those involved in ceremonial magic and Wicca, in magic the shape of the pentacle is draw in the air with a sacred blade. The five angles of the pentacle are representations of the five metaphysical elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit.
THE QUILT PATCH
Swatches of material make up sections of a quilt. Each patch consists of the witch's initials and their religious name. Various symbols are also included which are indicative of the paths they follow within The Craft. These quilts are kept within a family and are passed down from generation to generation.
The word "rune" comes from the Old English word “rown”, which means "mystery" or "secret". The first runes were carved and not written and “to rune” something means to inscribe upon an item with a secret language and thus give magickal effect to what is inscribed. Throughout history, many magickal alphabets have been formed out of pre-existing alphabets. By changing the old alphabets slightly and adding personal flourishes, one is able to make a runic alphabet. After a runic alphabet has been designed, it is usually dedicated for the purpose as such. Runes can be used for writing things which one does not want others to be able to read; a form of encryption. They can also be written or inscribed for magickal workings. (The use of magickal alphabets was forbidden by early Christian priests because of their use within Heathenism and magick and as late as the 17th century people were killed in Iceland for the use of runic alphabets.) To read the runes aloud will release something that is bound and to inscribe the rune on an object takes on magickal meanings and the runing of the object and is said to imbue magick and power onto it.
THE STAFF OR STANG
The staff is a very important tool in some traditions. It is used to mark quarter points or as a "stang" to hold banners representing elements or other unique symbolic flags. The staff may be used in much the same manner as the wand.
With the coming of the modern "Celtic Revival", the sword has become a very popular and quite show- magickal tool. It can used in place of, or in addition to, the bolline. Most groups who hold rituals indoors usually limit the use of the sword to just one for the Priest and Priestess. At festivals and outdoor rituals, witches often bring their own swords to mark the boundaries of the circle.
Wands are used to channel energy, although a wand is not mandatory to channel energy. Wands may be used to cast a circle, to invite and control entities and may be used for manifestation. The wand is considered to be a phallic tool and therefore of masculine element and male energy. Some traditions correspond wands with the element air and some traditions correspond wands with the element fire. In some traditions, the element is determined by the materials and decorations, including runes and other magick writing. In many European based witchcraft traditions, the magick wand is a simple unadorned stick of natural wood, often with the bark still intact. In earlier times witches broke off dead wood, never sawing or cutting live wood. When picking up sticks for use as a wand, the witch will pick a natural stick that looks right and feels good when held. A witch will recognize the right wand in the hand because it “feels” right in the heart. Various kinds of wood are associated with specific kinds of magick and the witch will find a wand from the right kind of tree for the magick to be performed. Witches who do not use bollines often use a wand instead.
While one may be a follower of "The Old Ways", the true Witch is not born to "The Craft", nor can they just decide to walk the "Path". They must first be chosen by and then accept a spirit entity or deity as a spiritual guide and mentor. Usually, this mentor will send forth an animal spirit to guide the initiate to them, or in many cases, they themselves may take the form of an animal spirit, only later revealing their true nature.
One example, in the case of witches who come from the background of the European Celtic traditions, the Goddess Morrigan will often appear to the initiate in the form of a raven or crow as their “familiar” and She will reveal her true self only after the initiate has journeyed to the point of actualizing as an “ordained” being.
Almost all materials written state that magickal tools should not be used for any other purpose than ritual work. Some Witches will not let their tools be touched by anyone other than themselves though some covens or working groups share common tools.
Borrowed from: http://spiritwalkministry.com/traditional_witchcraft/the_tools_of_a_witch