Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Athame in Wiccan Practice

The athame has been used in ritual and ceremony for many thousands of years, and for many different purposes. In Wicca, it isn't generally used for physical cutting. Instead, its primary purpose is to direct the energies raised during rituals and spells.

The athame is not usually used for invocation, since it is an instrument of command and power, and it is far more prudent to ask that the divine be present, rather than command it.

The Physical Appearance of the Athame

The blade of the athame is usually dulled, and double-edged. Some say that the handle of the athame must be black, and though there may be some small advantage to this; if a Wiccan practitioner doesn't like a blade with a black handle, it's believed that that slight advantage is lost.

Since black does absorb power, some of the energy directed with the blade is absorbed into the handle. However, this amount is so small as to be lost unless there is a strong connection to the athame being used. So, instead of choosing an athame because of the color of the handle, the choice should be based made based upon personal preference. Some traditions do require a blade of a particular color and style, and this should be taken into account when choosing an athame.

The blade itself, as well as the handle, can really be made of any material desired. Recently, pewter athames have become quite popular, but the traditional steel blade with a wooden handle is still the most common.

Some Wiccans like to engrave their athames with magickal symbols, sigils, or runes, but his is hardly necessary. Like all magickal tools, it gains power through usage. Personal engraving kits to add symbols to an athame can be purchased, if so desired, but are not necessary, unless the tradition practiced requires it.

The Symbolism of the Athame

The athame is connected to the element of air for most Wiccans, and so to the east. The blade is often seen as representing intelligence and learning, though some connect it to the warrior of the south instead. Just as with the wand, use the correspondence that works for you. Either way, it is connected to the God, due to its phallic nature.

A sword is sometimes used in Wicca, and it has all the properties of an athame. However, the size of a sword makes using it indoors impractical, and transporting is an issue as well. For this reason, most Wiccans prefer an athame. Covens will usually invest in a sword, but individuals usually opt for an athame.

Commonly used throughout the Wiccan world, the athame is a tool of command and authority. As such, it is often used for many ceremonial purposes. A highly personal item, the athame is an integral part of many Wiccan ritual practices.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Cauldron in Wicca

The cauldron is a common tool, though not all modern Wiccans have one. The cauldron has a great deal of history and tradition associated with it, and for Wiccans, it is the vessel where magickal transformations occur, such as brewing and cooking, along with much more mystical purposes. It is also sometimes used to light a fire at certain ceremonies.

Historical and Mythological Cauldrons

There are many cauldrons throughout world history, and they often take different shapes. Historically, the Gundestrup cauldron, found in Denmark, is a silver cauldron, dating back to approximately the first century, BCE. It may have had an initiatory or sacrificial role around that time.

A more modern example would be the cauldron in which the Olympic flame burns during the Olympic Games. This ancient practice was revived at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Mythological examples of cauldrons include the Holy Grail. Though technically a chalice, and not a cauldron, it still is a vessel for magickal transformation, and so can be placed in this category. Other mythical cauldrons are the Cauldron of Dagda, from which no company ever went from it unsatisfied, and the Cauldron of Dyrnwch the Giant, which was said to be able to tell brave men from cowards.

Wiccan Symbolism of the Cauldron

Wiccans see the cauldron as a powerful symbol of the Goddess. It is the manifestation of fertility and femininity. It is associated with the element of water and the west, and has connections with reincarnation and rebirth. In modern Wicca, it is the tales of Cerridwen's cauldron that have the greatest impact on how the cauldron is viewed.

Tips on Selecting a Cauldron

Depending on the ritual, the cauldron may be used for different purposes. It spring or summer, it can be filled with water and flowers. In the winter, it might have a fire lit within it. For this reason, cauldrons should be made of cast iron, to resist heat. In addition, they should rest on three legs, and have a mouth smaller than the widest part of the cauldron, if one can be found.

An iron lid is recommended. If it fits snugly, the lid can be used to douse the flames from a fire. These can be hard to find, but are definitely worth the search. The sizes are varied, so it is advised to choose one to suit the needs of the user. For example, a single practitioner probably doesn’t require a cauldron with a diameter of two feet, while an entire coven may wish to invest in one this large.

Cauldrons can be used for scrying if filled with water, since they are already dark enough to stop the reflection of light. The cauldron can also be used for brewing many different Wiccan potions, usually herbal in nature, but most use a pot on a stove today, simply for the convenience.

The use of the cauldron has a long and varied history, from the magickal and ceremonial to the mundane. In Wiccan practice, it is a respected and well-used tool, embodying the very essence of femininity.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Wand in Wiccan Practice

The wand is perhaps the most common of modern Wiccan magickal tools. It has been used for thousands of years in both magickal and religious rites. It is used primarily to invoke and to direct energies, though it can have other purposes as well.

The Goddess and the God, or the Four Quarters, are often called with the uplifting of a wand or staff. It can also be used to draw the magick circle, both literally and figuratively, or it can be used to stir the magick cauldron, and has numerous other uses as well.

The Symbolism of the Wand

To most Wiccans, the wand represents the south, and the element of fire. There are some who equate it with air, but this is becoming less common in neo-Wiccan practice. Both are correct, depending on the chosen point of view. Most connect it with the south because it is seen as symbolizing the spear, and this is usually connected to the Warrior of the South, but others see this as connected with learning, and so connected to the east.

The correspondence that makes the most sense to the practitioner is generally the correct one to use, though if you practice a particular tradition, you should adhere to whatever your tradition specifies. Its phallic nature connects it to the God, and so it is a masculine symbol.

Where to Find a Wand

There are traditional woods used for making wands, including willow, hazel, apple, oak, and cherry, and just as many traditional ways to cut a wand. Some Wiccans still use the traditional length of the crook of the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, but this isn't really necessary as far as most traditions are concerned. Most Wiccans simply use whatever is most comfortable. Any fairly straight piece of wood can be used as a wand, or even a dowel purchased from the local hardware store.

Wands can also be purchased. As long as it’s attractive to the practitioner, it is a fine wand. Beautiful wands made of almost any material can be found in most New Age shops, though wooden wands are preferred. It has a longer history, and because of that, is more likely to connect us more firmly to the powers that are utilized. Again, if you practice a Wiccan tradition, such as Gardnerian, you should use whatever your tradition states.

The search for a wand is not about finding the perfect wand. The ideal wand is more about instinct and intuition than it is about the type of material and exact length. What feels right, is right, at least generally speaking.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Tools of the Craft

Most religions have certain objects which are used for ritual purposes, and Wicca is no exception to this. The purpose of these tools varies greatly, depending on the religion. They could be used to invoke the divine, banish negativity, or to direct energies. In Wicca, all of these reasons exist, and a few others.

Wiccan Tools in Popular Mythology

Many of the tools of Wicca have entrenched themselves into the myths surrounding “Witches.” For example, the broom and cauldron are almost always associated with practitioners of the Craft. Almost everyone has seen some movie, television show, or Halloween poster that depicts a Witch flying across the moon on a broom, or using a cauldron to brew a potion, or even using a magick wand to change the form of someone who maybe was just a little irritating.

While most of these images are certainly an exaggeration, most people do not realize is the powerful magick behind these tools and their symbolism. The broom, for example, is an important symbol in Wiccan practice, used for cleansing the purifying sacred spaces, to sweep out negative energy. It was never used for actual flying, but it has an important purpose, nonetheless.

Finding Your Wiccan Tools

Obtaining these tools can be fairly simple, or an incredibly complex process. Some practitioners find their tools in nature, such as a tree branch which would serve well as a wand, or a sea shell that looks as if it would make a good chalice. Others choose to make them, using whatever materials are available at the time. Still others decide that purchasing their necessary tools is the best route.

In truth, there is no right or wrong answer here. Found, made, or bought, as long as the tool serves its purpose, and the practitioner is comfortable with it and its use, then it is the right tool.

Wiccan Tools – Necessary or Not?

Tools may not be necessary to the practice of Wicca, but they certainly serve to enrich its practice with their symbolism of the complex energies that may be worked with. While the tools themselves have no power but that which is given to them, their benefit to practitioners can be extraordinary. They can serve to focus thoughts, and often act as a “switch” telling the brain that now is the time to work magick or express spirituality.

Some practitioners would say that tools should not be used at all. Others say they should only be used as long as the practitioner is comfortable. It might be more accurate to say they should be used as long as a particular practitioner may wish, as long as he or she might feel comfortable.

Types of Wiccan Tools

The list of tools that might be used is extensive, and impossible to cover in the scope of a single article. However, some popular tools might include:
  • Wand
  • Cauldron
  • Athame
  • Chalice
  • Pentacle
  • Broom
These are only some of the most common of Wiccan tools. Tools should be cleansed and consecrated before use, but it is not the intent of this article to cover such things, nor is it possible to explain each tool individually here. It is enough to say that each tool has its own use and purpose, and that each should be studied independently of each other.