Tips for Buying and Creating Frugal Pagan Tools and Other Items
When learning about paganism and magic you are likely to read a lot about books and tools and their symbolism, reasons and functions within paganism. In some cases these items can be very expensive or hard to source, especially if you don’t live in a large city or pagan friendly area. You may also find that it isn't possible or practical to buy or own everything you may like too due to space requirements or the cost involved.
Your spirituality and how effective any work you do is will not be affected by how expensive or shiny your tools are, where you bought them or even that you have them at all. The natural energy of magic and spirituality comes from within you and from the earth. You can perform magic or honour the god and goddess anywhere and without the need for specially items. All that is important is your belief and intent at the time of performing a ritual, spell, meditation etc.
That said, tools can be very useful. They can carry a lot of symbolism and can help in focusing on what we are hoping to achieve. The use of tools, views of them and what tools are considered necessary varies from tradition to tradition and even person to person. Some people are most happy incorporating their magic and spiritual work into everyday life using no specific items, whereas others prefer a more structured and focused approach. This approach is often more formal and may involve casting circles, wearing specific clothes only used for rituals and even having a set room at home dedicated to magic, meditation and other spiritual or religious practices. Nether approach is right or better than the other. What is important is that you allow yourself to be guided by your own intuition and do what feels best for you and your individual path.
If you do wish or need to use tools, many of these can be bought cheaply or even made at home. Another beneficial aspect of making your own tools is that it enables you to create something unique and customised to your exact tastes and need. Items you create yourself will also become highly charged with your personal energy and intent for during the creation process. Many people believe that this makes tools more effective when they are later used.
Making your own tools may take more time than buying but there is no need to try and make everything at once. As you progress in your learning and practice you may also feel that you don't need or want an item after all. Start out with the items that you really feel you would like to work with and go from there. If you add to your collection as you need each item you can avoid any unnecessary work or expense. If you do decide to buy your tools these do not have to be items that have been specifically designed as magical tools. For example: a knife that you feel an attraction to will be more effective specifically named athame that you feel no connection with. Another option is to buy basic items and customise them. This could be a plain journal that you decorate the cover and pages of or for a kitchen witch; plain wooden cooking tools could be decorated using pyrography or have charms or ribbons added to the handles. It is important to be sure that any customisation or decoration will not affect the safely of using the item, especially if it is to be used in cooking or preparing food.
A Note about Buying Pagan Items
Many items such as candles, incense and essential oils may be cheaper to buy in places other than pagan specific stores. When it comes to oils you need to make sure that you are buying essential oils and not just fragrance oils. Fragrance oils do not have the medicinal or magical properties associated with essential oils. Some people also find that these are more likely to irritate allergies as well.
Another important thing to consider is that many pagan related items that you see in shops or at festivals are hand crafted by pagan artists. Although at first they may seem very expensive, it is important to consider the work, care and skill that has gone into creating them. Though materials may not cost much, crafting the actual item can take a lot of time and skill. Some people craft as a hobby but for others it can be an only source of income. In either case it is reasonable that they charge for the time and care they put into producing each of their products. Many people prefer hand crafted items for their uniqueness and in buying from an individual crafts person you are supporting a small business rather than large corporations. When you buy direct from an artist you can also ask where your items have come from and how they have been produced, reducing any worries that they may have been made unethically.
Altars can vary enormously based on personal preference. An altar does not have to be large and elaborate to be effective and can be indoors or outdoors and can even be made portable.
Some ideas for space saving, low cost altars are:
- Use an empty shelf in an existing bookcase
- An unused mantle place
- An empty drawer
Perhaps that draw you keep full of bits and bobs 'you might use one day' but never do could be transformed? The draw itself can be removed and placed on top of the cabinet or on the floor for use and then it and your altar pieces can be safely stored away once you are finished. This method also has the advantage of being hidden so for people who are unable to be open about their beliefs it could be ideal. If you have a fireplace in your house, most have a shelf or top that could be a perfect altar. As many people display items on top of a fireplace, this method may also not arouse any suspicions in people around you. Of course this will depend on the exact items you choose. The surface of any already in use piece of furniture such as a chest of drawers, desk or cupboard can also be used.
There is no need to buy an expensive specific altar cloth to cover your altar. Any piece of fabric that you like or feel drawn to is suitable. This could be bought from a fabric shop or be another item such as a square scarf or table cloth. If you can sew or chose a non-fraying material such as fleece you could re-purpose a piece of clothing or other item - maybe use something that has some personal significance to you. Choosing a washable fabric is always a good idea in case of spills. You can have one cloth or several and change it as you wish. Many people also change their altar cloths and decorations based on the seasons or for certain celebrations.
A wand is used to conduct energy and be made from a huge variety of materials. A wand can be a simple as a stick you've collected in the woods or can be decorated with paint, carvings, wire, gemstones or feathers. You could also chose a wood for its magical or healing properties.
Take a walk through woodland or a park and see if you can find a stick or branch that attracts you. If the wood is fresh and moist it will need to be left to dry before it can be used. Drier branches that have been on the ground for some time can be used straight away. You can leave the stick as you find it or strip off the bark. Generally this can be done with a knife but some can be peeled by hand. If you leave the bark on you can carve symbols into it and have the lighter colour of the wood show through. You can shape the wand by carving, add wire to decorate or attach gemstones, beads, fabric, cords or crystals. One common design is to add a gemstone point (often quartz) to the pointing end of the wand. Decorate your wand however feels right for you, there is no right or wrong way. If you chose not to use a wand at all and prefer to simply point your finger to direct energy, then do not feel pressured to use a wand. This has the added advantage that your 'wand' is always with you.
Incense is generally fairly easy and cheap to buy. Sticks are easier to use than cones, which can be difficult to light and put out. Sticks can also be extinguished part way through burning and relit at a later time. This can help to prevent waste and is useful if you need to go out or just wanted to burn incense during a set time, for example a meditation. Incense should never be left unattended.
Another option is to buy dried herbs, resins and other ingredients and make your own loose incense. Some ingredients can be hard to find or expensive but this is a nice option as you can create blends that suit your needs and personal tastes. It also enables you to avoid ingredients you may be allergic or sensitive too. You can build your collection of ingredients as you go along, buying only what you need for each blend as you make it or by purchasing a few items a week or month. Some items such as nettles, elderberries and flowers, hawthorn and rowan are often found growing wild and can be collected and dried at home to use. Loose incense needs to be burnt on lit charcoal disks in a heatproof container or on an incense stove.
Any wine glass can be used as a chalice and some shaped or decorated ones can be bought fairly cheaply. You could buy a plain glass and decorate it yourself with glass paints or pens, mosaic tiles or engrave it using a glass engraving tool. Air drying clay can also be bought fairly cheaply, try the children’s section in craft shops or similar. Create your chalice and then leave to dry as specified on the pack before painting, sealing and decorating.
Real cast iron cauldrons tend to be expensive as well as heavy. You can buy cauldrons made from other materials but any container that can be used to burn items in and hold water is perfectly fine to use.
A bolline is a knife (often white handled) that is used for cutting herbs and cords, carving symbols into candles and for any other cutting or carving that may be required. A plain kitchen knife is a good substitute and if the handle is wooden, this can be carved with symbols or a pattern. Pyrography can also be used and it is possible to create beautiful and intricate designs with this technique. The handle could also be decorated with coloured cord, cloth, and leather or painted.
An athame is the second type of knife used by many pagans. It is used in the same way as a wand, to point with and direct energy. Traditionally it is double edged and blunt which can make it hard to substitute. If you prefer not to work with knives or cannot find one you like, a wand or your finger can be used for the same purpose.
© 2012 Claire