The one thing I absolutely love about traditional witchcraft is the way we ‘do stuff’. We don’t use lots of tools, chanting, waving of arms or long rituals. In fact the tools we have are just everyday items to do every day magic. So I thought I would list a few of the well known tools of the trade from Wicca and show you how we use them (if at all) in traditional witchcraft, and if we do use them, what we can use as substitutes from every day items. Also before you read on please understand that EVERY WITCH (or wiccan for that matter) is on his/her own path and variations, exceptions and swaps happen for all of the things below and this is great. We all have the right to use what we want, when we want and why we want. So use this post as a guide and not as a rule. Be YOU!
Athame (Wiccan) – An athame (pronounced a-tha-may) is a ritual knife used by Wiccans for casting circles and also often used in the ‘Great Rite’ to symbolise fertility. Traditional witches do not have ‘athames’ as such, however it does make sense to have a sharp cutting knife that is only used for cutting herbs, this is purely because we don’t want to get normal kitchen knives mixed up with knives that chop hemlock or deadly nightshade for example! We do not however use them in any ritual sense and to be honest, most traditional witches I know just use whatever knife is at hand to chop anything!
Boline (Wiccan) – A boline is a white handled knife (the handle is usually made of bone or white painted wood) used for chopping herbs, usually used by Wiccans. Traditional witches do not use a boline, instead we tend to use just one knife as stated above if we use one.
Cauldron (Traditional witches & wiccans) – I do love a cauldron, especially our family one as it is a huge cast iron thing that I have had for years and is incredibly heavy, but these days it just holds candles. But we don’t really use cauldrons for brewing as we use brew pots instead (much easier to clean!), see below. And if we need a large bowl to cook/brew/roast/heat anything we usually use a large cooking pot such as a casserole or stew pot.
Brew Pot, or in these new fangled modern times… A Simmer Pot (Traditional & a few Wiccans) – I only know of a handful of Wiccans that use a brew pot but I know most of us ‘trads’ do. A brew pot is basically a fondue set! A ceramic bowl on top of a stand that has a little holder for a tea light underneath. Absolutely perfect for making brews and teas and they keep warm too once they have boiled! These days they are called Simmer Pots, honestly it’s just a bowl you warm up (brew) herbal or fruity blends in….
Chalice (Mostly wiccan & a few traditional witches) – Chalices are often seen along with offering bowls (I’ll get to that in a minute!) on a Wiccan alter. They are there to symbolise water and the direction of West. The contents (usually wine or ale) are used as one half of the offering to those who have helped in their ritual, such as deities and ancestors. Most traditional witches do not use a chalice or goblet but we do offer offerings or ‘thank you’s’ to our ancestors. Now, I do have a chalice, it was bought for me by my husband and I love it, however I don’t actually use it. If I do any kind of offering (and I don’t all the time), I normally just use whatever I have handy at the time, quite often a mug of tea!
Offering Bowl (Wiccan) – Offering bowls for Wiccans hold the offering of food, normally biscuits or cakes. Most traditional witches do not have an offering bowl, if any offering is made it is thrown back to nature.
Altar Cloth (Wiccan) – Both wiccans and traditional witches use cloths on occasion but probably for a very different reasons. Wiccans use altar cloths to help set the scene, to get focused and to help make the altar cleansed and sacred. As most traditional witches do not use an altar, we don’t use altar cloths in the same way. We use generally just use cloths to keep things clean or safe.
Altars (Wiccan) – Now this is the biggy. Most wiccans either have a permanent altar set up or have an area that can make into an altar when they need one. Traditional witches do not have altars as we do not worship a deity or need a sacred space because we deem all of the earth to be sacred, however we do have working areas where all our bits and pieces are. More about this below!
Working Spaces (Traditional witches) – Traditional witches use a working space rather than an altar. At first look these can look very similar if not identical to a kind of an altar but working spaces are not for devotion or veneration. Working spaces are for just that… working. We may have figurines on there to use as a focus, but we will also have on there any of the following (or all of the following!): working candles, photos of ancestors, incense, herbs, spells, petitions, personal effects for spell targets, burnt patches where candles have burnt the surface, stains where herbs have been chopped, knives, spoons, the occasional cup of tea and probably a half eaten chocolate chip cookie 😉
Book Of Shadows (Wiccan) – A book of shadows is a personal book that holds all of your spells, your private thoughts and your recipes. It also contains your personal writings about your witchy journey. We have a similar book in traditional witchcraft however we call it a grimoire and there are 2 main differences, see below.
Grimoire (Traditional witches) – We have the same book as above which contains all the same kind of information except it is less of a journal and more of a ‘how to’ book. The other difference to the wiccan book of shadows is that there is a family grimoire that is handed down from generation to generation and also each member of the family has the own personal grimoire too.
Spell Candles (Traditional witches & wiccans) – Spell candles are used in both paths, however, wiccans generally use more coloured candles where as trad witches use whatever colour candle they have handy. If it’s a green candle for money, great! If they only have a white tealight from the supermarket, then also great!
Robes (Wiccan) – Robes and fancy ritual clothing is used to separate the magical state and mundate state of a wiccan. Traditional witches do not robe up, or wear any special clothing for spell work.
Wand (Wiccan) – Wands, like an athame, are used by wiccans to focus energy or to create a sacred circle. Traditional witches do not use wands at all.
Compass (Wiccan) – Many wiccans own a compass to show North, South, East and West as these line up with the 4 main elements. As tradititional witches do not call the quarters or the elements, we do not use a compass for magical use. Although if stuck in a forest somewhere we might whip one out just to find our way!
Bell (Wiccan) – Bells are common in wiccan practises for a number of uses such as cleansing a space or tools, calling dieties, it is also attributed to the element of air (some wiccan paths also associate it with water). Traditional witches do not use bells in rituals. We might cleanse an area with incense but generally we don’t cleanse an area at all. Honestly… we don’t, we just get on with it 😉 Life’s too short eh? 😉
As I said earlier, the paths of traditional witchcraft and wicca will always entwine at times. Use what you wish but remember that the traditional path is all about simplicity, inner strength and our own morals. We don’t need all the fancy tools.