A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.
Wiccan Tools Overview
Wicca is a religion that is rich with ritual and ceremony. Because of this we have a number of tools we use for spiritual symbolism or magical workings. The Book of Shadows, athame, pentacle, wand and cup -- are the most commonly found tools on any Wiccan altar and are generally considered the primary tools of Wicca (more on these found here).
There are still more tools, though, associated with our religion. These tools are still fairly common in Wicca, though they may or may not be on every person’s altar. They are either tools with uses that fell by the wayside for the most part, or tools that were not originally used in Wicca but began to gain popularity.
As always, none of these tools are absolutely necessary; much depends on their tradition and personal needs.
Secondary Tools Covered Here:
A Curved Blade Bolline
An athame is the ritual knife in Wicca generally associated with energy work, and is one of the primary tools of Wicca. A bolline (or sometimes boline) is seen more as a utilitarian tool adopted by people who do not like to use the athame for physical cutting.
The athame usually has a black handle and the bolline usually has a white handle; this is done so they won’t be confused, however there is no rule about the colors of the handles. Many bollines are sold with curved blades, but this is not necessary either. This knife is designated to do any crafts, chores or tasks that are relevant to your religious purposes, such as chopping herbs for incense, carving symbols onto candles or cutting cords.
As all knives, the bolline is seen as masculine (phallic symbol). The elemental correspondences can really vary. Some align all blades with Air, due to the intelligence and skill required to make and wield them. Some align the bolline with Earth since it’s a utilitarian and practical tool made for cutting matter. Some align all blades with fire, since they are forged in fire and used to create.
Poll for Wiccans!
Our Family Besom
A besom is a broom, usually made of natural materials. Somewhere down the line, Wiccans began adopting broomsticks, but it requires a train of thought to see how we got here:
- There are some claims (I honestly am not certain how valid they are, or from which culture this practice might have originated) that Pagans used to jump around on brooms, hobby-horse style, to bless the newly planted fields and promote fertility
- Brooms in one form or another were associated with various folk customs that included blessings or warding evil; such various customs could be found throughout Africa, Europe and Asia
- In old medieval folklore about Witches (the kind of Witch that never actually existed), they rode sticks or pitchforks through the air
- Somewhere along the way, the Witch became associated with riding the broom instead of the stick. Pop fiction perpetuated this image.
- 20th century Wiccans and Witches began adapting the broom as a tool based on this pop culture association with Witchcraft and folk magic
- In Wicca, besoms are associated with ritual cleansing, purification, and —sometimes— warding evil or malevolent entities. It’s one of those items that made its way in later so uses and beliefs surrounding the broom can vary.
Correspondences for the besom are probably among the most confusing. I’ve seen it aligned with the male gender because it is a phallic symbol, and the female gender because it is a domestic tool (one might point out that knives are domestic tools, too, yet they are always seen as masculine so I can’t help but think the latter correspondence is heavily biased based on gender role stereotypes).
I’ve seen it be aligned with the element of Fire because it is a symbol of purification, with Earth because it is made from trees, and with Spirit because it is used for spiritual cleansing and warding.
Is there anything more stereotypical Witchy?
The cauldron is more commonly seen as the cast iron kettle with three legs, though it can actually be any kind of heat-proof container or pot. Cast iron, being so durable, is simply the material of choice. Like the besom, the cauldron came to Wicca later on by way of Witch folklore.
Much like the cup, it’s associated with the womb of the Goddess, and the element of Water.
I have to admit, aside from my Book of Shadows, I love my cauldrons most. I use them constantly—almost daily. They are my main choice for cooking stews, soups and any food, with added blessings and prayers to my hearth Goddess for those who may partake of the meal. I use smaller ones for edible brews and potions. I have some I use exclusively for poisonous herbs and concoctions, spiritual crafts or burning petitions. Sometimes I scry in them, too. I even have plastic ones for decorations during the sabbats.
I always keep one on or along-side the altar for ritual, usually for when I need to burn things in it. I find the tiny ones excellent for censers. For some Sabbats I fill them with water and float candles or flowers in them, then bless the water and use it for some other purpose. Sometimes I place a candle to burn in a cauldron to symbolize the Sun God being born of the womb of the Goddess.
If you don’t have a fire pit, you can use a large cauldron to contain a ritual fire outdoors.
Maybe I’m just a Kitchen Witch at heart—a Domestic Diva that happens to be Wiccan—but there just seems to be no end to their uses for me.
A censer is a container for burning incense. Generally in ritual people use incense coals a ‘ground’ or ‘raw’ incense, which is a powdered mixture of resins, woods, roots, leaves and/or flowers. The censer must be heat-proof because the burning coals can get very hot. They’re usually made of metal, but can be made of clay. I would not use a plastic or glass container—an ashtray is not sufficient for charcoals.
I do not want to under-emphasize just how hot these things can get. Unless yours is made specifically with a heat-proof handle or chain to carry it by, don’t even think about picking it up until long after the coal has gone out. I recommend even putting it on a trivet to protect your altar.
Some people prefer to use simple cone or stick incense, and will purchase a censer appropriate for the job. The censer is associated with the element of air.
How to Properly Burn Frankincense
Solitary Wiccans don’t generally have cords (also know as cingulum). They’re used in British Traditional Wicca covens and are earned upon achieving initiation or various degrees within the tradition. In some trads, the different colors of cords have special meanings.
They’re sometimes worn about the waist, and sometimes simply kept for their significance. They’re also used to measure and make a perfectly round circle of the correct size.
Wiccans may sometimes use cords for other purposes, such as hand fastings (Wiccan wedding ceremonies) or for spellwork, but they’re not the same thing as the cingulum.
Poll for Wiccans!
A scourge is a type of whip traditionally associated with punishment and self-flagellation.Traditional Wiccan covens have always used it symbolically, brushing it briskly but gently across a person. It was used mainly during initiations in contrast to the fivefold kiss—basically the scourge represented the sacrifices and suffering a person would endure in order to learn; the kiss is the blessings received from the efforts. It was also seen as an instrument of purification and to help induce visions.
Usually only traditionalist covens continue to use the scourge. It’s extremely rare to find a non-lineaged Wiccan using it, let alone a Solitary Wiccan.
The staff is pretty straight-forward: it’s a supersized wand. It has the same associations and uses, except it’s big. It can be great for large spaces, outdoor rituals and covens. It’s not very practical, however, for Solitaries and indoor uses.
I have a large walking stick I like to take on hikes. I bring it to large outdoor gatherings and camping trips to help me navigate the terrain and to lean on for support. Occasionally, spontaneously, I’ve used it for an impromptu outdoor ritual. The only other ritual staff I’ve used in Wiccan circles is the one belonging to my coven. It’s not something I would normally go for at home.
It’s a super-sized athame. The sword has the same associations and purposes of an athame, but on a grand scale. Let’s face it, wielding a sword is just dramatic. This can be great for large outdoor group rituals, but is not very practical indoors or in small spaces. Most Solitaries would not use one.
Considering it would not be legal to go many places with a sword in hand I would recommend you exercise judgment if you do get a sword.
Still Other Tools
While these can be considered secondary tools in Wicca, they do not even cover everything. Yes, let me repeat—we are a very ritualistic religion, but keep in mind that every Wiccan does not use every tool known to Wicca. It's about choosing those that resonate with you and enhance your own rituals.
There are also a host of other minor tools and items you might want to keep on hand for your rituals and spiritual uses, which you can read about here.
© 2013 Mackenzie Sage Wright