This page is a glossary of different tools used by Pagans and Wiccans. Some of them are everyday items that have special names, meanings or significance for Wiccans, while others you may never have heard of before. I’ve tried to give a simple definition for each object, as well as including links to more information where possible.
Altar: An altar is an area set aside, normally a table, where sacred items are placed. There are many altar layouts that can be used, though most have something to represent the God and Goddess, as well as earth, air, fire and water. Altars are used during ritual or spell crafting as the focal point. They can be placed in one of the four corners (north, south, east, west) or in the middle of the circle and are used as a ‘workbench’ by the witch.
Ankh: An Egyptian symbol for life and reincarnation. It can be worn for protection, similar to a pentacle.
Athame: The athame is a ritual knife, traditionally with a black handle (black absorbs energy). It is used to absorb, focus and direct energy during spell work, or to cut things in the astral plain. It is not used for physical work. It can be pronounced in several ways, and there is some debate over the ‘correct’ way. I don’t think it matters how you pronounce it so long as you know what you’re talking about. This is a very personal tool and the owner may choose to engrave symbols on the handle / blade, making the tool more personal and more powerful. The athame is associated with air, and with the God and masculinity due to it’s phallic shape.
Balefire: A fire lit for magical purposes, usually outdoors.
Besom: The besom is a witch’s broom, though I don’t know anyone who’s flown on one. This broom is used for the comparatively more mundane activity of sweeping out negativity and so creating sacred space in which to do ritual or spell work.
Bell: A bell is a feminine object, associated with the Goddess due to its shape – like a womb. The vibrations given off from a ringing bell can have a powerful effect, depending on tone and volume. The bell is rung to ward off evil and malignant spirits and to evoke good spirits.
Bolline: This is also a knife, however the bolline has a white handle and is used for physical tasks. Mundane activities such as cutting and chopping herbs may be done with the bolline. Again, symbols may be carved into the knife by its owner adding to the power of the instrument.
Book Of Shadows: This can also be called a grimoire, or BOS. Some witches today even have a DOS – a Disk Of Shadows! It was originally named such because it was kept secret, guarded from those who would wish the owner harm. A book of shadows is a part reference, part workbook, part journal for the witch who owns it. It is a very personal item, and many Pagans will choose to not let anyone else read their BOS. If a witch is part of a coven then the members of that group may have one BOS which is personal and another which is the collective work of the whole coven.
Candles: Candles have an important use in witchcraft, though they are very simple to use. A candle will be used to represent something, for example the God or Goddess. Different colored candles have different properties. In order to attract the properties a candle embodies a witch will burn it, maybe after anointing or blessing it.
Cauldron: As opposed to what Shakespeare would have us believe the cauldron is not used for boiling ‘wool of bat and tongue of dog’, though it is widely used by witches today. Cauldrons have the practical use of holding burning things, for example incense or herbs. They are also symbolic of the Goddess and femininity as their shape is reminiscent of the womb. This association is strengthened by the fact that they are used in the creation of spells.
Censer: Censers are made of a fireproof material such as metal or clay as they are used to hold burning incense. They can be used to cleanse an area and create sacred space, to create an atmosphere conducive to spell work or ritual, or to burn an incense that has certain magical properties.
Chalice: A chalice is a cup, usually placed upon the altar, which contains wine, water or juice. The chalice is representative of the Goddess and of the womb. It is used to represent the Goddess during the symbolic Great Rite, wherein the Athame (with its phallic connotations) is placed into the cup.
Dowsing Rods: Two rods, held loosely in the hands so that they can turn freely. The movement of the rods can be used to find water, or other objects, or used in divination.
Labrys: A double-headed axe, symbolic of the Goddess, although not commonly used in Wicca.
Pendulum: A coin, point, or other weight, suspended from a chain or cord, which is used in divination by interpreting the movement of the weight.
Pentacle: A disk made of clay or metal in the shape of a pentacle can be used as a focal point for an altar, to place items on during consecration, or to absorb excessive energies from a spell. Aside from these practical uses the pentacle has many other uses and meanings.
Runes: A set of symbols used in magical workings, such as in divination.
Sickle: This tool is used by witch’s when casting the circle of Hecate. As the athame and wand have such masculine connotations the sickle is considered more appropriate for casting this circle. The sickle is a symbol of the crone, of harvesting and death. The crescent shape also reminds of the crescent of the moon.
Sword: A tool used in a similar fashion to an athame. In certain traditions, only practitioners of a certain degree level are permitted to use one.
Talisman: An object which has been ritually charged with power to attract a specific force or energy to it’s bearer. Compare to amulet.
Tarot Cards: A deck of 78 cards, used in divination and magical workings.
Wand: The wand is used in much the same way as the athame. It absorbs, focuses and directs the witch’s energy. Wands can be made from a simple twig, chosen or found by a witch while outside, can be ornately decorated with precious stones inset, and symbols carved into them, or can be bought from many Pagan shops. The wand, like the athame is associated with the God and masculinity due to its phallic nature, it is also associated with fire (or air).