There are many tools that can be used in magical workings. Bells, drums, incense holders, robes, etc. all have their place in the circle, but there are 4 that are used in traditional ceremonies more often than the others.
These 4 are the Wand, Athame, Cup/Chalice and Pentacle.
Each of these 4 tools comes with its own set of correspondences, but I’m going to be brief here.
We’ll begin in the North, where our Mother Earth lives and births us out into the world. There you’ll find the Pentacle; the 5 pointed star surrounded by a circle. This symbol has been called the Microcosm of Man. Within this symbol are each of the 4 Elements, where our physical selves reside (Earth, Air, Fire, Earth at the bottom 4 points) and the 5th Element of Spirit (at the top point), where our soul lives. It has many purposes for being on the altar. Protection, Meditation, and as a symbol of ourselves. Imagine the top point as your head and the bottom 4 points as your arms and legs. With the point up, this symbol takes a spiritual path. In this arrangement, we see our physicality rising from the bottom to meet our spiritual needs. The point facing down can represent the mind of man being controlled by his more elemental or animal needs. The Pentacle itself can be made out of anything. It can be as simple as a drawing on a sheet of paper or as elaborate as a hand carved circle of wood.
From the North, we move clockwise into the East. There you’ll find the Wand. Wands are often used in place of an athame (see below) for the purpose of casting a circle or directing energy. While many people use both tools and designate different functions to each, the wand can easily fill both functions. As most wands are made from wood, glass, stone or horn, they are perfect for invoking circles, gods, elements and other spirits. I think this one is my favorite of the tools… this week anyway, lol. I love that it can be made out of wood or stone or whatever else calls to you. The photo here shows my wand as a foot long piece of selenite that I’ve had for something like 20 yrs. now. Many a ceremony has it open. But I’ve also used sticks that I’ve found on hiking trails or blown out of trees during wind storms. I like those naturally found tools, as if the Gods themselves have gifted them to me.
And now we continue into the South to the place of the Athame. This is a double edged knife that is used to conduct and direct energy during a ritual. The athame represents the masculine principle of nature and is used in the symbolical Great Rite as a phallic symbol. Most athames are made from metal and this is especially appropriate if the tool is to be used for banishing. However, many practitioners choose to use athames made from wood, stone or horn when invoking because these materials do not drive energy away as metal does. Some witches only use their metal athames for banishing and designate their wands for invoking. Unlike its counterpart (the boline), the athame is only used for spiritual and etheric means. It’s never used to cut anything on a physical level. The athame is used for circle casting and other ritual actions. The dual blade represents the duality in nature. Athames are fun to shop for, but can be very expensive. It money is an issue, a butter knife will do just as well as that ornamental dagger your bestie dropped $100 on.
Finally we end in the West with the Chalice. This is a ceremonial cup that represents the womb of the Goddess. It is used to hold holy water, wine or other ritual libations.It can be used as a substitute for a cauldron and can be made out of just about anything. My current chalice is sterling silver, but I’ve in the past I’ve owned chalices made out of glass and ceramic. In the beginning I even used my daughter’s father’s silver baby cup. While it’s awesome to have those options, a glass from your cupboard will work just as well.
These are the first tools traditionalists learn to use. Over the years you may use the same tools over and over again, or you may change and swap them out from time to time. Just remember that these are wonderful focal points we use in ritual, but aren’t actually necessary for the great work.