tools

Review: WitchEmoji by Pam Grossman

May, 2017

Hunt for Witches No More: WitchEmojis by Pam Grossman

Emoji2

Witches now have their own charmed emoji to use with iMessenger, thanks to Pam Grossman, a Brooklyn-based writer and curator who focuses on witches, magic and esoteric art.

I created WitchEmoji because I couldn’t find any great witchy, magical emoji to use in my texts,” she states on the witchemoji.com website, adding, “Necessity (or obsessive desire in this case) is the mother of invention.”

Working with an emoji designer who created the icons based on her designs and direction, she then built the app herself. Costing $1.99, it launched early April 2017. The iMessage sticker pack is compatible with iPhones and iPads with iOS 10.1 or newer.

It became the number one sticker pack in the App Store in its first week, beating the likes of Star Wars and Kim Kardashian,” Grossman said. “It’s currently still in the top 20 and getting stellar reviews, which has been very heartening. Just goes to show how much the archetype of the witch is currently resonating with people of all ages.”

WitchEmoji’s 80 images include a besom, cauldron, Book of Shadows, pentacles in all colors, a chalice, a candle, an owl and a love potion along with witches of all hair and skin tones in a variety of situations from flying on a broom to honoring the full moon.

There are so many more emoji I’d like to add to the pack,” she said of her towering list. “It will just depend on what I can afford to develop, so hopefully the pack will keep selling well so I can invest in making more.”

Explicit directions on how to download and load the emoji can be found at https://www.witchemoji.com/.

Emoji1

I’ve been a witch since I was very little – before I even knew to call myself one,” Grossman said. “Like lots of kids, I gravitated toward stories and artwork that deal with magical themes, and engaged in my own intuitive rituals and wild imaginings. Once I was a teenager, I began to read a lot and explore the path a bit more formally. But it was really discovering the surrealist artists and the writings of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell that opened things up for me, and made me realize that creativity is the surest path we have to the divine. My practice is very personal and syncretic, and draws as much on the art world as it does on spiritual systems.”

Last May her 36-page book “What Is A Witch,” was released. Illustrated by Canada’s occult sweethearts Tin Can Forest, and published by Tin Can Forest Press, it is described as “an illuminated incantation, a crystalline invocation, a lovingly-crafted celebration of the world’s most magical icon” and a “manifesto on witchcraft.”

Grossman’s blog, Phantasmaphile, can be found at Pamgrossman.com.

She is the associate editor of Abraxas International Journal of Esoteric Studies, co-organizer of the Occult Humanities Conference at New York University, and co-founder of the former Brooklyn arts and lecture space, Observatory, where her programming explored mysticism.

Grossman’s writing has appeared in “Sabat Sciences Occults,” “Huffington Post,” and MSN. Lectures include such topics as the occult in modern art and female magic in Western , and she also teaches classes on spellcraft, ritual and herbalism.

Tools of the Craft

August, 2014

Last week I was interviewed by a student in cultural anthropology who is doing her bachelor’s thesis on Wicca. Her focus is on the mind- and consciousness-altering aspect of ritual and the use of tools. She came well-prepared and informed, it was a wonderful conversation and I look forward to reading her thesis. She asked me about my use of tools and how they help (or not).

Tools can most certainly have a purpose to a witch (or other pagan). They have no power in themselves, though they do have powerful symbolic significances. They can be an extension of yourself and are literally ‘tools’. An athame can help direct energy. With a broom or besom you can ritually cleanse the circle by sweeping. Every tool has its own use.
In old times, when people couldn’t be open about their practices, they hid their special tools. That is, if they had any! In these days it was also common to use everyday stuff like a kitchen knife.
Ritual tools are as individual as the witch who uses them. They can belong to a whole coven, a working partnership or an individual witch. The only tool that is hardly ever shared is the athame. Never touch another witches’ tools without her or his permission!

If you ask me whether I need tools, the answer is a definite NO. My body and mind are all the tools I need and otherwise I can find anything I might want to use around me. Sometimes, when I’m walking in the dunes for example, I spontaneously want to do a ritual. All I need is there. I can just sit down, meditate and do a complete ritual in my mind. No tools needed at all.
If I want an altar, I look for a nice spot and stuff to put on it. A feather for air, dew drops on a leaf for water, some red berries for fire and a nice stone for earth for example. I can cast a circle with my finger or with a twig. If I want to do some divination, I just look around for signs or watch the clouds to see patterns or shapes to interpret. It’s called aeromancy (from Greek aero: ‘air’, and manteia: ‘divination’).

Still, I do have tools. Why? Because I like them, and sometimes they can have added value. For years I didn’t even have a permanent altar. I made one when I did a ritual and put my stuff away when I was done. Nowadays I use my altar as a focus point in my room. I like to sit in front of it to meditate, or light candles for whoever needs my support. I now have statues, but at first I simply used images or tarot cards to represent God and Goddess.
Over the years I have collected quite some stuff, including tools. Some bought, some gifts, some self-made. Some people say that you have to make your tools yourself. That way they have your energy in them. That’s true of course, but you can also add your own energy to a bought or given item. You can add something personal and/or work on it (inscription, carving, wood burning, etc.). You get a bond with something by using it. Whenever I have a new tool, whether it’s bought, made or given, I wear it with me, meditate with it and before ritual use I consecrate it in circle. That way the tool becomes mine and the bond gets deeper with every time I use it.
I don’t think you have to make your own tools, but it can be fun to do so. I made my own set of runes, a shaman drum, a lead pentacle, brooms (besoms), staves, wands, cords and more.

Let’s take an example, the ritual knives. I have several. The athame has to be blunt (it isn’t used for cutting) and have a double-edged blade and black handle.
When I was in an Alexandrian coven I had to have proper knives. The ones I had/used were rejected because they had no wooden handles. Especially for the coven I bought two matching knives, cheap ones with wooden handles, black and white. That coven and I didn’t turn out to be a success together (to put it mildly) so I doubt I’ll ever use those knives again as they feel ‘tainted’ with bad vibes.
Years ago I bought a dime a dozen knife on a fair. I made it my own by wrapping the handle and protection cover in black leather, attaching it by lacing it with the same leather. I have been looking for a boline to accompany it for quite some time. I wanted a sickle, but couldn’t find the right one. The ones in pagan shops didn’t appeal to me though; they are all the same. Three years ago I met a blacksmith, that understood exactly what I was looking for. He forged a sickle from a 400 year old iron nail. I made a handle by wrapping white leather around it and lacing it to match my athame. I love this set and use these the most by far.
Another athame that I’m very fond of is the one, that my husband carved for me from wood he found when we were on a vacation in Belgium. He also gave me a pretty little Scandinavian knife that I used for years as a boline. This athame and boline may not meet the ‘official’ requirements, but they work fine for me. I especially like to use them when I perform a ritual and/or magic for my husband or for the two of us together.

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You can see some of my tools in my Facebook album “Pagan stuff” – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.492586602271.269890.677652271&type=1&l=e1f1c544ee

 

Thriftcrafting: Witching on a Budget

June, 2014

Rethinking Tools
Witches are typically pictured with a cauldron or a besom – or both. That’s because a cast iron cooking pot and a broom were ordinary household objects, safe to be seen with when it wasn’t safe to be a witch. The same goes pretty much for all tools used in witchcraft – which shows that you can use objects you have on hand in magical ways.

The cauldron is a symbol of transformation, wisdom and the womb. To my knowledge, a cauldron is always cast iron – the witch’s metal, having strong protective powers – but there is no requirement that it have three legs and rounded sides to successfully hold magic. It can have straight sides, a lid, handles and a flat bottom – or not. While cauldrons can be found in witch shops, they can also be found at camping stores, antique shops, tag sales and flea markets. When you are ready to own one, you can be sure it will appear. Who knows, you might have a friend who, like me, is a tag sale junkie and can never pass up a good deal, and ends up gifting them.

Besoms

A besom is simply a broom used in a magical way – to cleanse or purify a space. It can be any broom, from the corn brooms with wooden handles found at hardware stores to the lobby brooms with a steel pole and angled nylon bristles found at Ikea to handmade ones of scotch broom with carved handles and crystals.

I attracted several besoms of various shapes and sizes over the years. There is a hearth broom from a friend’s family, a broom found in the garage of a very special woman after she died, one purchased at a pagan festival and two decorated as coven crafts. The small ones with the beaded handles are from a fair trade craft sale, the cinnamon broom was a gift and others were found along the way. While I have a favorite, others have called to be used at different times.

For little or no cost, you can also make one using twigs, willow branches and other natural materials secured to a pole or stick with cording. I think there would be something quite powerful in a besom crafted from herbs I grew myself, and it’s something I hope to do one day.

An athame is essentially a knife. What makes it magical is the witch using it. It can be handcrafted or purchased, gifted or found. I have seen them made of bone, stone, crystals, metal and wood. While typically it is double edged and not sharp, that need not be the case. A butter knife works perfectly well, as does a letter opener and that knife used to cut your wedding cake. Someone I know uses a long antique crystal stopper from a decanter for her athame; another used her husband’s switchblade.

Wands

Wands are another tool that need not be purchased. A stick or an antler found in the woods, a bone, or a piece of felspar or selenite would all work wonderfully. These may be embellished or not, as you choose.

I know a witch who uses her mother’s wooden spoon for her wand. Another uses a skeleton key hung on a thong around his neck as a traveling wand.

While I have used a glitter-filled tube, primarily I reach for one of two plain wands I’ve always meant to decorate, but then when I take one out to start planning what objects to use, I always end up stroking the wood fondly and returning the wand to its place on the altar.

Chalice

Another tool is the chalice. It could be just about any wine glass or goblet – or any vessel that you find pleasing.

Many years ago, I began with a blue pottery goblet I found at a tag sale. Soon a heavy blue glass wine glass found its way into my life. A dear crone who’s become a mentor gifted me her beautiful pottery chalice with women dancing beneath a moon on the sides. I also have a silver-plated goblet that belonged to my mother. Recently, I found a set of large black wine glasses at a thrift store in a local senior center for less than $2 each I hope to be able to use for Samhain.

The pentacle is the last of the witch’s primary tools. Long ago, they were made of wax so that they could be thrown into the fire and melt before raising suspicion. There are many for sale in all price ranges, but you can also make your own simply by drawing on a piece of paper, paint it on a rock or using a sand dollar. Just let your crafty self play around. The results will be meaningful.
I suggest that when you have a need or a desire for a particular tool, make the request to the God and Goddess and then be ready to receive it with reverence because it will find its way to you.

ThriftCrafting: Witching on a Budget

March, 2014

Introduction

 

Merry Meet.

In this first column about witching on a budget, I wanted to explain my belief that you don’t need any thing to practice the Craft except yourself.

You don’t need ritual garb. In fact, you don’t need garb at all; it’s not uncommon to practice rites skyclad (“clad only with the sky” or nude). Some old texts insist this is the only way to do ritual, based on the belief that only in this way are you truly free. While this is my preferred method in solitary practice, it has never been appropriate for the public or group rituals I have attended, and it’s not something my coven chooses to do. In fact, I find that few people are comfortable skyclad, and I believe it’s important to be comfortable.

Some witches turn to robes, long skirts, Renaissance dresses, kilts and other costumes not worn any time other than ritual as a way to differentiate the mundane world from the magical realm. But magic is not less powerful because you are wearing the jeans and shirt you wore all day. In the next column, we’ll talk more about ritual garb, but for now, know that it is not necessary.

There are so many tools of the Craft, but the only one that matters is you. You are the most magical tool of all. It’s your intentions and the energy you put into them that determines the results. Some witches never use a tool other than their own bodies, thoughts and will.

You don’t need an athame or a wand to cast a circle. You can do it with your finger.

You don’t need a bell, broom, cauldron, chalice, staff or sword. Magic does not require you to burn incense, light candles or place offerings before a statue.

There is a smudge fan I fell in love with on Etsy last year – an artist’s personal one that was not for sale. My guess is that if it had been, it would cost at least $70. I still sigh when I see the picture of it that I saved, with its variety of feathers, white deer skin and gemstones. There was another one incorporating feathers and an antler I saw at a pow wow that cost double that. If money were no object, I probably would own them both. They’re nice, but by no means necessary. I use the turkey feathers bound with leather and horse hair a fire witch friend gave me and I am blessed with her energy each time I hold them, but even they are not necessary to move smoke; using a hand or simply moving the smoking sage or incense also works in most situations.

Another tool often seen is an altar pentacle, typically as a focal point of concentration or to consecrate other tools. Back to the theme we need only ourselves, our body forms a pentagram when legs are apart and arms are outstretched, so that when you connect those four points plus your head, you have a pentacle. Staying centered keeps you focused.

When it comes to the elements used in witchcraft, our breath is all we need for air; passion serves as fire; tears, spit or other bodily fluids are water, and our body itself is the earth. If you think of your body as a vessel, it can be equated to a a chalice, which is the tool connected to the element of water.

So, now that I’ve explained that nothing is needed to practice the Craft, let me say I am by no means adverse to working with tools. There are so many beautiful and meaningful objects that are a pleasure to own and use. Over the years, I have amassed my fair share of them.

In the coming months, we’ll talk about about tools, garb, supplies, altars, decorations, holidays, methods of divination, and anything else you’d like to suggest – all with a budget in mind.

You’ll come to see you, too, can have these things without spending a lot of money.

Merry part.

And merry meet again.

Crafting in Sandi’s Enchanted Garden

June, 2013

 

Making a Pendulum from a Crystal

 

                Hello crafty witches! My name is Sandi and I will be showing you how to create fun and magickal things right here in my enchanted garden. I want to thank everyone at Pagan Pages for inviting me to create with you! Today we are going to make a crystal pendulum and a question board.

                Pendulums are used for many different things from finding lost items, to figuring out answers to problems, and even locating spirits. The pendulum is basically a chain with a pointy end. Copper and crystals are the best things to use for your pointer on your pendulum. If using a crystal you can choose one whose properties match the intentions of the question you are trying to answer.

                A question board can be something as simple as a piece of paper with yes and no written on it or as fancy as you could imagine making one. A question board isn’t necessary but can be a great help with focusing and for learning. If you are looking for a lost item a floor plan of the place you want to search is necessary. Hold your pendulum over the plan while seeing your lost item in your mind. The pendulum will move towards the spot your object is hiding! If you are searching for spirits focus on the desire to communicate with the other side and ask questions. The spirit may move your pendulum in the direction that indicates a yes or no answer to you. Sometimes a pendulum has been known to point to spirits in a room.

Before using you pendulum you must first calibrate it. To do this begin by establishing the direction you want it to seeing for a yes answer and which way for a no answer. Next, begin by asking questions you know the answers are true. After a few of these ask questions you know to be false and see how it answers. Once satisfied with the way the pendulum is answering you can begin using it for divination and searches!

                You will need:

A crystal with a definite point

A 6 ½” chain or rope

2 – 10” wires to wrap your crystal

3” wrap wire

A bead of your choosing

Flat nose pliers

Round Nose Pliers

Wire Cutters

 

The first thing we want to do is to wrap our crystal so it can be hung from a chain. 

Take your 2 wires and bed them into an L shape in the center. Hold them so that they face each other and make a small square in the center.

Place the bottom of the crystal through the square and twist the ends        

                                          with your pliers 6 times.

Then fold the twisted wire flat against the stone towards the top and

start twisting the new sides together.     

Bring the sides to the top of the crystal, hold together, and bend the wire back with the round nose pliers into a bail.  

 

Take your wrap wire and wrap it around the bail.    

 

Cut off the excess wires and flatten.

 

Cut a 2” – 3” length of wire and run through the bead. Use your flat nose pliers to hold the wire and the bead. While using the round nose pliers make a small loop and wrap the excess around the loop to hold it in place. Do the same with the other end but slip it through the chain before closing it off. This bead at the end will help you to hold onto the pendulum when using it. 

Use a jump ring (or make one with wire) to hold the pendulum to the chain, and you are done!

 

Moon Owl Observations

March, 2013

The Besom

            The besom is a traditionally constructed broom. They are an item some people choose to keep around for various reasons. Of course, the meaning has changed significantly over time.  Unlike a regular broom, a besom should have a rounded brush instead of flat. This is because the straw should be wrapped around the pole. You can buy them in a store, but they are relatively simple to make on your own.

 

They are best made with an ash staff, birch twigs for the brush and bound with willow. This option give you the best protection, healing and love. Straw is another common item for the brush. The three items are symbolic of the triple aspect of the Goddess. Ash represents one’s ability to work with the four elements. Birch draws spirit to one’s service, and the willow is connected to the dark Goddess’ energy. In some lore the besom would contain 6 different woods- willow, broom, hawthorn, birch, hazel and rowan.

 

I was once believed that if the witches went to sabbat and left their besoms behind, the besoms would fly to the sabbat on their own to be with the witches. Broom ends were thought to have their own life force and were capable of warding bad weather away from crops. Because of their uses, medieval witches were sometimes referred to as “broom amazons”

 

Midwives of ancient Rome used special brooms to sweep the threshold of the house after childbirth. This was to cut the ties between the world of the living and the realm of the dead. It was believed that the child had entered from the world of the dead and the pathway should not be made easy for a quick return. Since around 1336 B.C, Egyptian priests swept the ritual area then sprinkled it with blessed water. This ancient tradition is in a way still used since in modern practice, a large besom is used for cleaning the area before a circle is cast. Sometimes a besom is lain across the edge of the circle to serve as temporary closure.

 

Crossing brooms at quarters, and then symbolically uncrossing them, had been used to allow quarter energies into the cast circle area, while nailing crossed brooms to your front door or wall is said to guard the house and disperse negative energy.

Brooms are used to banish unwanted energies, send the dead back to slumber land and work weather magic. Besoms were used for Pagan weddings as couples would “jump the besom” to symbolize their union. This is literally jumped during a hand fasting to signify the leap from one “life” to the next.

Besoms might not have as much meaning now as they used to, but I think that they are still important in casting a circle as it is always better to have a cleansed area then not.

Paranormal Path

February, 2013

Common Banishing Tools
 
     Some people are not very welcome to the idea of a spirit in their home, especially if the spirit has shown ill or malicious intent.  If you wanted to try a banishing on your own, there are a few common tools that are used throughout many cultures and religions.  Here are a few ideas.
     The simplest technique is to ask the spirit to leave.  Many human entities do to realize their physical bodies have passed.  They do not realize what they are doing or their mere presence is frightening.  Telling the spirit to move on, giving them permission to leave and telling them they no longer belong here can work.  However, some spirits, especially if you are dealing with a non human entity, can be more stubborn and therefore more difficult to convince to evacuate your space.
     Water, the element that helps sustain life and makes up a huge part of our bodies and our planet, is a readily available tool that can also be used.  The key is to have the water blessed by a religious official.  This does not mean you have to go to a Christian or Catholic, there are officials in every religion that can bless the water and the result will be the same.  The water can act as a barrier or a transitory plane.  Wet your fingers with the water and mark all entry ways into your home.
     Another common practice is the use of sage.  Sage has been used by many cultures and is widely believed to help protect as well as cast out negative energy.  Sage sticks are lit, the flame blown out, allowing the bundle to smolder.  Allow the smoke to trail as you walk around the haunted area, it is believed the smoke will capture the negative energy and carry it away as the smoke is fanned out through open windows and doorways.
     Salt, preferably sea salt, is crucial to have in any banishing ritual.  Salt acts as a barrier that the entity cannot pass.  I like to use salt towards the end of a cleansing / banishing ritual as a way of sealing off the area, assuring unwanted spirits cannot return.
     We all know the power of the written word.  Try writing the problems you have been facing with this spirit on a piece of paper, be as specific as possible, names, dates etc.  Follow with writing your intentions, that the spirit is not welcome and you wish to reclaim your space, then proceed to burn the sheet of paper with a candle of your choice.. White candles can be used for protection and black candles can be used for banishing.  You may want to place the paper in a clean white bowl for a controlled burn.  The smoke will carry the negative energy away.
     Finally there is a method that seems to work mainly for non human entities.  These entities can be malicious and very difficult to remove.  One theory is that these spirits do not like to be challenged.  Taking a small bag of tiny grains, such as sand or rice, place it in the doorways with the contents spilling out.  There is a belief that the entity must stop and count every last grain.  This task is nearly impossible and the entity should grow frustrated at being unable to complete this challenge and will leave your space and move on.

The one thing you must remember when using any of these methods, is you must believe that what are you doing will work and put confidence behind everything you do and say. If you don’t stand beside your ritual or allow fear or skepticism to take over, you will not succeed.

Across the Great Divide

October, 2012

 “Innovations in Paranormal Tech”

 

 

Put away your proton packs and your PKE Valiance devices. While the theories behind Egon’s famous PKE meter are based on actual parapsychological research, the toys of Hollywood’s Ghostbusters are just that. Out in the real world, however, their influence has been ingeniously innovative, often practical, and sometimes just silly.

Investigative technologies in the field of paranormal research have been adapted, tweaked, modified, and reimagined over the past 100 years to further the quest for that paradigm-shifting piece of evidence that will duct tape the mouths of the skeptics shut.

These tools of the trade have evolved from the days of bulky cassette recorders and 35 mm cameras- which were used primarily to merely document data and present it to the world as valid evidence at face value- to include the latest in Bluetooth and other digital instrumentation.

The various tools of today have rightfully expanded their roles to three core purposes- documentation, communication, and authentication.

Advances in digital photography, for example, have reached a point where it has far surpassed the 35mm film of days gone by. The data encoding that is involved serves as a digital blueprint for authentication because it tracks date, time, geo location, and changes or manipulation of the raw images.

Improvements in camera technology are also well noted in the Looxcie LX2 camcorder, an ear-worn camcorder that utilizes Bluetooth technology to pair with a smartphone or tablet.

As a Point of View (POV) camera, it is simply genius in its design, with wireless capabilities that can be viewed from 15-20ft away. In addition to freeing up the hands for the use of other equipment, the “always on, always ready” feature of wearing it- rather than carrying it- removes the problem of having a personal experience and not being quick enough to get your camera ready to capture the activity.

The newest season of SyFy’s Ghosthunters introduced the GoPro2, a camera converted to film in the IR range. Also, the ability of the new “full spectrum” cameras that capture visible light, ultraviolet, and infrared spectrums are just now reaching a level that will blow the lid off of the amount of potential evidence to be found.

The TAPS team also used an app for Android-based devices- a multimeter based on the “Mel Meter” hardware. The interface features an EMF field sensor, ambient temperature sensor; audio recording capability, an LED torch flashlight, and a camera function all at the fingertips. When the EMF field is interrupted, or the ambient temperature rises or falls, an alarm sounds. Pretty neat; and the all-in-one design cuts down on the number of items you have to carry and switch between.

The app uses an Android’s built in magnetic field reader to accurately measure surroundings. Not all Android phones or devices may have a built-in Ambient Temperature Sensor, but it is great for monitoring the overall room temperature while searching for cold/hot spots.

These are all great in theory, but somehow I doubt that the EMF and ATS capabilities will be anywhere near as accurate as those on a dedicated device; unless you’re able to connect an external microphone, most smartphones are impractical for quality audio recording, let alone valid data; and I’ll admit that I use my phone quite often to take breathtaking photos while out and about, but anyone who has ever used a camera phone knows that the picture quality in low-light conditions common to ghost hunting make its use impractical and hit-and-miss- a problem you can’t afford to have while on an investigation.

I commend the thought behind it, but the TAPS team dropped the ball by promoting this one. It’s just another free geek app that has potential but lacks the hardware behind it to make it scientifically valid. The developer put it best himself, “As with all of my Ghost Hunting apps, please be aware that RESULTS MAY VARY. Neither myself nor anyone else can guarantee contact with ghosts, demons, aliens, or your deceased grandmother.”
Here’s some of the latest tech that has also found its way into ghost hunting investigations:

Everyone is familiar with the ‘flashlight test’. This was an interesting concept that has now reached laughable status thanks to the folks behind the various shows on television which never seemed to get any results; then lo and behold the boys at TAPS had it happen and now they and every other show out there have at least one incident per week. While this does have the potential to produce motivating results, there are so many variables that can leave even the most zealous investigator sarcastically raising an eyebrow.

Well, someone answered the call and created the Paranormal Touch (PT1) to put a dent in those questionable results.

Place the PT1 on any flat surface, turn it on, and a flashing red light is your phone call to the other side. It uses not one, but two vibration detectors to trigger the unit; and has integrated a Negative Static Detector into the unit to provide additional confirmation of paranormal activity.

Then there’s the “paranormal puck,” a device that plugs into a computer’s USB port and uses “ECM,” or “Environmental Communication Mode,” technology to “read” energy levels and translate it into text.

Great, now even ghosts are texting. I guess Verizon really does have the world’s largest network.

Famed researcher Loyd Auerbach is cynical of a dependence solely on technology. He thinks someone with psychic abilities is far likelier to communicate with the other side than someone with a lot of gadgets around their belt.

Auerbach does, however, feel that technology can provide some clues.

Think about how you might track an invisible boat on a big lake.

“We’re really using technology to detect the wake of the boat,” he says. “From that, we can infer that some things are going on in the environment, provided we know there’s a boat there to begin with.”

If there’s a common ground that both skeptics and believers can share, it’s that ghost hunting is often just as complicated as finding an invisible boat. So we set our sights on the horizon and like the seafaring explorers of old, set off to see what’s out there amid the turbulent waters of scientific discovery.

© 2012 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

Proving Grounds

February, 2012

Finding, Preparing, and Using Magical Tools and Supplies

This is Lesson Three of a year-and-a-day instruction program in becoming a witch.

Finding magical tools and supplies is much less onerous than it once was. The internet is lousy with sites that will eagerly supply herbs, stones, athames, chalices, jewelry and amulets of every description, powders, and potions to the neophyte. How to choose, how to choose?

One way to choose is swiftly. Buy an “altar kit,” which will usually include an athame, a ready-made wand, possibly a chalice, often an altar cloth, some herbs, and usually a candle and holder or two. Drop fifty bucks, often what a chalice or athame can cost to begin with, and off you go.

Another way is slowly. Wait until a particular athame or chalice speaks to you. It need not be labeled that, of course, and will often be cheaper if it is not. Determination and a willingness to haunt pawn and thrift stores can often provide these tools very cheaply. (My chalice happens to be a $2.99 20-oz. iced-tea glass I found at Tuesday Morning. I’ve simply never seen any other cup that reminds me so strongly of what Water is than that chunk of blue and green glass.)

Do be aware that not every “athame” described as such is, in fact, an athame. Technically, an athame has a double-edged blade. Like many (but not, alas, all) traditions, this one has a practical underpinning: a double-edged blade allows energy to flow more easily through it.

Many of us have two athames, or more properly an athame and a boline, usually one black- and one white-hilted. Which of these is kept sharp to use, and which kept only to cut energy, varies by tradition.

Chalices are ideally of silver, a metal associated with the Moon, traditionally the most watery of the planets. This is not to say that a cup of other material which calls you back to pick it up three or four times should not be your chalice, but you will sacrifice that easy association with the element, and the power which comes with it. If your chalice is silver, on the other hand, you will make an ongoing sacrifice of the time and effort needed to keep it polished. If you have sufficient skill to throw or build a ceramic chalice, or create one of wood, while it will lack the association with Water, it will gain a great deal of power through your creation of it, provided you are mindful of its function while you do so.

Most of us cannot craft our own athames or chalices. We can and should, however, craft a wand.

The default wood for witching is willow. However, if you are given wood by having it fall in front of you, by all means accept the gift of the tree. (Be sure to leave a gift in return: a coin, a hair. Also, thank the tree.)

Wand material is as big around as the tip of your little finger, the length of your forearm from funny bone to tip of longest finger, and straight throughout that length. Sycamore wood, for instance, is rarely straight enough to use for a wand.

Fashioning a wand from raw wood will require several months of drying, followed by hours of sanding with increasingly fine grits, as well as much effort put forth to remove knobs, burls, and branch ends. This work is best done by hand as the meditative state entered into will give your wand life. Also, the electricity used for running power tools is enough to overwhelm the personal energy that would otherwise accumulate within the wand.

Once it’s finished, you will have felt it come alive in your hand. Really. It’s an unmistakable experience, and you will know that you are in the presence of the Other. Wand-selves are not human-selves.

At that point you will also become aware whether it is appropriate to carve it with symbols or add decoration: crystals, feathers, windings of silk thread, silver charms. This is not solely your own decision to make, and you should reach agreement on what is to be done with the wand itself, unless you are bound by a tradition. (Wand-wood which consents to come into the possession of a tradition-follower also consents, in my experience, to the constraints of that tradition.)

There is no rule that says a wand has to be wood. My primary wand is a seven-inch quartz crystal which refused to let me leave the shop until I had parted with most of my then-week’s income for her (she has also insisted throughout our decade of working together on remaining skyclad: staying completely undecorated). My first wand is of wood, and I am experimenting with creating a copper wand for use in energy workings, that is, spells which will not have a direct physical manifestation. Although knowing me, I’ll get curious and try him for other things, too, if he consents.

A staff is a very large wand, usually the height of the bearer. Often a staff-bearer will use a branch of the staff as a wand, which is much handier in small spaces and far less likely to take out a fellow-worshiper’s front teeth when gestured with!

My wands are all completely different, energetically. The wood wand is shy, but still unalterably Other; the crystal is of course a her own being, with very strong opinions and a will to match. The copper is reticent, somewhat unwilling as yet to work with me, but I have just begun to craft him (his male-ness is the one fact I know of him). If that does not change, I shall make a Working to send him on to be with the person he needs.

Altar cloths are another tool of which many witches have multiples. They can vary by color, adding that hue’s power to a spell when chosen wisely. Those of Celtic persuasion may use green for all their work; white and black are also often chosen if a single cloth must suffice. My finding has been that either solid color or tie-dye works best. (Tie-dye, being essentially a random manifestation, seems to have some associations with the deep mind. Possibly that’s only true for those of us who lived the sixties, or wish we had.) There is nothing to say against using an ancestor-created cloth, either: great-grandma’s embroidered tablecloth, for instance.

Candleholders, cauldrons, and incense burners are elemental tools: Fire, Water, and Air respectively. A sword, the super-sized athame, is like it a Fire or Air tool, generally owned by a coven rather than the individual witch. (Some traditions view the wand as Fire and the blade as Air, some the reverse.) Many witches have a besom (broom) which they use to sweep energy clean, and a platen engraved with a pentacle for the Earth tool. Safety note: resin candleholders are flammable, and therefore a Bad Idea if your spell requires allowing a candle to burn down and out.

Anything can be made into a magical tool: mezzaluna, stand mixer, computer, pen, Tarot deck, meditation cushion, trowel, lock, set of scales. In general, you will find it more difficult to charge a plastic object than one which is made of wood, glass, plant fiber, stone, or metal. Plastic also does not hold a charge, although as this material becomes an increasingly familiar part of our lives, that may change. My money’s on the stuff becoming an artifact of Earth, eventually.

Ritual clothing is also a tool. Resist the urge you will inevitably feel toward long, flowing sleeves, as they have a magnetic attraction to candle flames and staining liquids. If they pursue you in your dreams, make gathers in the material, or alternatively sew ribbons to the sleeve to tie it close to the wrist. A robe can be consecrated just as other tools are. (And, erm, I’ve gone so far as to have magical underwear and socks.)

Magical tools are of necessity a possession of the Goddess (arguable exception: ritual wear), so they should be cleansed of prior associations, even those of manufacture unless you made the tool yourself, and dedicated to Her. The easiest way to do this is with incense, and salted water or motherwort tea.

A word of caution on the acquisition of used blades: a blade used to shed blood will prove extremely difficult to clean energetically. Think hard about using it at all, because blood, even very old blood, attracts many low-level entities who may not harm you (or at least I’ve never heard of that happening), but crowd around the space and time in which you are working, and may dissipate or use for their own ends the energy you generate.

Incenses bear the energy of three Elements: Earth, from which all incenses come whether they are of plant or animal material; Air, their method of dispersal, and Fire, which gives them life. Frankincense and myrrh, combined, make an excellent cleansing and dedication incense. If you wish to conduct those operations separately, either lavender incense or smudge sticks can perform the cleansing.

Mugwort tea is often used for dedication. Salted water (the salt drives out any energetic impurities) must be wiped from metals quickly, as it is likely to tarnish or pit them.

When to dedicate a tool? The day of the Full Moon is best, but the ceremony should be completed before the Moon begins to wane. Void-of-course Moon is not a good time for the work.

Once you have set a date, write your dedication. In my experience, rhyme and rhythm work very well to lube up the subconscious, and notify it that yes, Work is going to be done.

Sample:

“Mother Great, Mother Divine,

“Lend to me this tool of Thine.

“From this day, from this hour,

“I use this tool to wield Thy power.”

You can probably do better than that. But you get the drift.

Preparations: clean the area and the altar itself. Brew the tea if used. Set the tea or salt and water, the incense, incense burner, lighter or matches, lighting candle in holder if used, on the altar, and tool(s) to be consecrated nearby but not on the altar itself. (Have you thought about consecrating your altar table or surface? Wipe it down before you begin.) Fill your chalice if you will be using it; place the water in a bowl if not. If you are using salted water on a metal tool, you will need an absorbent cloth to wipe the tool clean.

Cast your circle, sweep it clean, call in the elements/quarters, call in the Goddess and God (in whichever order you feel appropriate).

Light the lighting candle if you use one. Fire the incense, and allow the smoke a couple of minutes to build.

Take up a pinch of salt, and cast it into the chalice or bowl, saying, “O thou creature of Earth, Thee I call upon to cast out any impurities from this water.” If you’re using tea, pour it into the chalice or bowl, and say, “O thou creature of Earth and Water, be thou cleansed of any impurities.”

Take up the incense stick or holder in your dominant hand, and the tool to be consecrated in your non-dominant hand. Wave the incense over and around the tool four times, chanting as you do so.

The first time, face East and chant, “O creature of Air, I ask of Thee to cleanse this tool, and consecrate it to magical use.”

The second time, face South and chant, “O creature of Fire, I ask of Thee to cleanse this tool, and consecrate it to magical use.”

The third time, face West and take up the salted water or mugwort tea and sprinkle the tool with it lightly, chanting, “O creature of Water, I ask of Thee to cleanse this tool, and consecrate it to magical use.” If you used salted water on a metal tool, wipe it clean immediately.

The fourth time, face North and chant, “O creature of Earth, I ask of Thee to cleanse this tool, and consecrate it to magical use.”

Place the tool on the altar, in its appropriate quarter according to your tradition’s elemental associations. Bow to the North, the Goddess’ direction, and say, “Great Goddess, to Thee and Thy purposes I dedicate this tool.”

Repeat as desired. End the ritual by taking down the circle and dismissing the Elements and deities.

Have you dedicated your very own self to the Goddess? If not, consider it. Consider it heavily before you do so, though, because if you carry through with it, you will become Her tool. This is not usually a very comfortable function, but believe me, it has its rewards.

Supplies are a bit different from tools, in that they do not require consecration. A “supply” is something that is not merely used but also used up: incense is a supply, the incense burner a tool. Herbs, essential oils, and candles are the commonest supplies. Ready-made oils, potions, and powders also qualify.

Upon purchase, take an herb, oil, potion, or powder into your non-dominant hand, and feel, and appreciate, its power. My very favorite incense in the entire world is nag champa, which feels quite different energetically from my second-favorite, dragon’s blood.

Once you’ve done that, put the supply into your dominant hand, and raise your non-dominant hand. Pull that power down into yourself, and push it out into your supply, “charging” it. Repeat before use.

You can do the same with essential oils. Candles are basically blank slates waiting to be programmed … although you can feel the energetic difference among soy, paraffin, and beeswax candles.

Wrapping a tool or supply in silk will insulate the charge. (I buy old stained silk shirts from thrifts for a dollar or two, and use the pockets for pouches and the sleeves to store wands, candles, and incense.)

Candles of disparate colors should not be stored in contact with one another, as the colors will leach. I use tissue paper a lot in crafting sigils, so that’s available in my home. I wrap figure and reversing candles with it. Other than those specialized types, my candles are all of five colors, and each has its own box inside a drawer.

(Five colors? Yep. Orange attracts, black banishes, shrinks, or negates, green asks for personal growth, gray disperses [not the same as banishing], and white purifies, heals, and increases. Those five functions cover every spell, or at least I’ve seen none yet which fall outside one of those categories. — If I were going to add a sixth color, it would be magenta, which speeds up the work of any spell.)

Once a tool or supply is consecrated, there are opposing opinions on whether it should be used in daily life. “A consecrated tool should be reserved only for spiritual functions!” snaps A, whereupon B puts fists to hips, scowls, and snarls, “A consecrated tool used for mundane purposes sanctifies all parts of life!” Which seems more logical to you? As with so much of life, there is no universally correct answer. Choose one, and live it.

Consecrated tools on my altar: shell-rattle, mini-cauldron, chalice, platen, pentacle, flint and steel, candleholder, essential-oil diffuser, incense holder, feather smudge fan, Book of Shadows, fountain pen and ink, Tarot deck, Goddess and God figurines, offering bowls, lighting candle, black- and white-hilted knives, two wands (the crystal stays at the top of my keyboard), and God and Goddess candles and holders (while supplies, the candles are also consecrated). Of these I created the God figure, the shell-rattle, the feather smudger, the platen, and the wands; I also modified the Goddess figurine.

There’s an ashpot too, for whatever a spell might generate in the way of physical waste. While necessary, it’s not consecrated.

Consecrated tools not on my altar: chef’s knife, breadmaking bowl, yoga props (mat, strap, blocks, practice journal, and meditation wrap), gardening tools.

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Overview: Creativity is a gift from the Goddess. If, while creating any of these tools, you have a Wild Idea, go for it.

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How to Create a Shell Rattle

Needed:

cowrie shell 3+” long

13 dried soy or other small beans or grains

scissors

length of leather or fabric fringe 2-3 times the length of the opening in the cowrie shell; instructions for using braided cord below

glue if necessary

Cut the fringe free of its header. Knot one end of each strand; pull as tight as possible. Cut the fringe to random lengths if you like.

Put the beans into the cowrie.

Thread the knotted end of a fringe into the cowrie through the large opening at one end. Gently tug on the fringe until the knot is seated at the far end of the opening. Repeat until the opening is filled very full indeed. When you cannot insert any more fringe, pull the last one you were able to get in toward the large opening, seating it as securely as possible.

Use glue to seal the opening if you lose any beans upon test-shaking.

It is possible to make a shell rattle of fabric fringe, although most such fringes will be subject to fraying and should not be cut free of their header. Should you prefer fabric to leather, cut carefully, and stabilize the ends of 2-3 cowrie-opening lengths of the fringe (whipstitch or melt. Don’t double). Apply glue to one side, and glue two lengths together. See if that fills the opening. If not, glue on a third length. Fill cowrie with beans. Apply glue to both sides of multi-ply fringe header, and insert into opening.

It is also possible to use a twisted-braid cord instead of fringe. Untwist the braid. Cut braid strands to length desired + 2″ (about 5 cm) – err on the side of “too long.” Do be aware, however, than if the fringe is very long, it will tangle incessantly. Knot one end of each strand, and proceed as for leather fringe. If you wish the fringe to lie straight, and not in the waves resulting from being braided, wet thoroughly after mounting to shell, comb strands straight, and allow to hang down until dry.

My cowrie, made using leather fringe, did not require glue. As I’ve only made one with leather, I can’t say whether this was luck or not; three fabric-fringe rattles did need it.

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How to Create a Feather Smudge Fan

Needed:

Feathers

Thin strong string

Wider material in color of choice, to wrap “handle” of fan

Scissors

Possibly glue

Find out where the crows hang out in your town. In spring and fall, you will have a plethora of shed feathers to choose among, but any time of year you’ll find some. If you don’t want to use crow feathers, which are universally black, you’ll have to choose feather colors, too.

Assemble 10-15 feathers.

Put feathers into one hand. Tap ends gently on a level surface, until they are aligned. Arrange into a “fan.”

Wrap feather quills (the “root end”) with thin strong string and knot securely. (I used 20-lb. nylon fishing line.)

Overwrap with wider material in Air color (yellow, pastels) or color to match the feathers. Tuck the end of the wrap material inside. Glue to secure, if needed.

Alternatively, you can purchase an inexpensive paper fan, and glue feathers to it. You won’t need wrap material, but you will need smaller feathers to cover the quills of the larger at the bottom of the fan. Once you’re finished, the fan will no longer shut.

My crow feathers are wrapped in black and did not require glue. I chose to use it on two smudge fans I made as gifts.

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How to Create a Paten (Altar Plate)

Needed:

Material

Design

Engraving tool

Patience, or bandages and 3AO (Triple Antibiotic Ointment)

Acquire a slab of metal, stone, glass, or other scribable material of the size and shape you wish. If you work in fired ceramics, you have absolutely got this one sacked; you’ll inscribe your paten when it’s either wet or at the leather stage, and after that you don’t need instructions from me!

Draw, print out, or copy design(s) to be inscribed.

Transfer the pattern onto the material using carbon paper; trace with thin-line permanent marker.

Using an engraving tool appropriate to the material of the slab, carve the pattern. Remember that using a lot of force to scribe a line only makes any error big, deep, and hard to get out. Be patient; go gently multiple times.

Keep in mind that bleeding all over the paten because you cut yourself while engraving it is not required. However, be prepared for that eventuality; stock up on bandages and 3AO before you start.

Polish if necessary.

If desired, apply clear protective coating.

My paten is round, of copper, engraved with a pentagram, and was a stern teacher of patience who gave me a scar to remember the lesson by.

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How to Make a God Figure

Acquire the action figure of your choice, and dress as desired, creating the clothes yourself. Make a wig of your own hair clippings if possible. Fingers from gloves make great medieval-or-earlier shoes if leather, and pants or hose if cloth.

TOS Spock is dressed as Otzi the Iceman on my altar, and Elderly Spock is dressed as Odin and keeping watch over my books. Karl Urban’s McCoy is Mercury-in-boots on top of my desktop computer. How did you guess that I’m a Star Trek geek? However, my athames are not bat’leths. One can go too far.

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How to Make or Modify a Goddess Figure

Acquire the Goddess figure of your choice. Thriftshop Barbies work well; their former owner imbued them with great girl-energy. ist’s wooden figure models may also be used. Replace any jewelry She wears with the best you can make or afford, and use paint judiciously to make Her more awesome. Pearlized or silvery transparent wash always works. Consider diluting blush and lipstick color with the wash before applying Her makeup. You can also make a wig for Her of your own hair clippings, or other cordage if that is not feasible. If She is clothed, consider making replacement garments yourself of the best quality fabric you can find – you’ll need, at most, a yard of it.

Bast got a real lapis-lazuli earring and gold leaf on Her collar and base, as well as emerald-green eyes with ebony pupils, and all of Her except Her eyes was washed with pearl. Venus, my other Patron, wears heavyweight embroidered silk paisley sold as a placemat and bought for a buck at a yard sale. She got the pearly-makeup treatment, two coats of pearlization on top of it, and an embroidery-silk wig; She looks much more “Goddess” than “Barbie.”

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Next month: How to move your mind from everyday consciousness into magical consciousness. Blessed be!

Thrifting the WitchyWay

January, 2012

There are some wonderful, beautiful, and totally witchtastic ritual tools out there for sale on the internet, aren’t there? And they tend to be a pretty penny too. But part of Witchy Thrifting is getting out there and using your own creativity to make your own witchtastic ritual tools that are unique and filled to the brim with your intent and power.

One of the key things to adding all that personal connection to your projects is YOU. Make sure that when you are sitting down to work on them that you are relaxed, enjoying yourself, and in a good mood. Put on some music, have your tools set out and in reach. Don’t let yourself get stressed out or upset. While you’re creating these pieces make sure to imagine the mod that you’re in seeping into the project every time you touch it. Every touch ‘tunes’ it a little more to you, and your happiness and peace. Keep it in the back of your mind that the end product will have soaked up your essence and the end result will be a part of you.

What I have here is just one idea for how you can make yourself a custom offering bowl for your altar after a hunt down at the thrift store. Take it and run with it or come up with something of your own!

What you will need:

1. A glass bowl the size you want for your altar. I got mine from the thrift store for 58 cents. Make sure it’s clean and dry.

2. Patterned paper that you like and would like to have the bowl look like. I just printed some out which made my paper one sided so I needed 4 pieces, but if your paper is double sided you only need 2.

3. Modge Podge or a decoupage medium (hence forth known as modge podge because I’m kinda lazy like that) of your choice and a brush to go with it.

4. Scissors to cut things!

Now here’s what you do:

Step 1.


Lay your bowl down upside down on your paper over whatever part of your pattern you really like and trace around the rim. Pick up the bowl and cut out the circle. You’ll need 4 of those circles if you’re using one sided paper, 2 if you’re using double sided. Then put the bowl on the paper right side up and trace around the base, then cut out 2 of those circles.

Step 2.

Take your big circles and fold them into quarters like this-

Then cut along the folds to have 4 “pizza slice” shaped pieces (everything makes more sense to me when referenced to food, lol) for each circle.

Step 3.

Here’s where it gets a little different depending on if you’re using one sided or 2 sided. I’ll do 1 sided first.

1 sided-

Now grab your modge podge and brush and paint up the outside base of your dish and take one of your small circles and put it on with the pattern you want to be visible from the inside of the dish facing down and pat it until it’s smooth. Then choose 4 wedges that you like and position them like the 4 points of the compass with the “pointy” ends over your small circle and your wide end over the edge of the glass. Secure them in place by painting modge podge where you want to put them and then pressing them into it until they are flat.

It should look kinda like this-

Then take 4 more wedges and position them to fill in the “blank” spaces until your back  like this-

2 sided-

You’ll take one of your small circles and use your modge podge to paint the bottom of the bowl and press the paper into it with the pattern you want to see from the inside of the bowl down. Now take 4 of your pizza slices and position them around your bowl like the points on a compass, with the pattern you want on the inside of the bowl facing down and the pointy bit on the bottom of the bowl. Paint the area you want them with your modge podge one at a time and then press the pieces down until they are flat. Once your first 4 pieces are in place repeat the process with your other 4 wedges until all the “blank” spaces are filled in. Now skip down to Step 5

Step 4.

Not you have a great looking inside of your bowl, like this-

but the outside is all white.

This is why you needed those 8 other pizza slices.

First you’ll flip your bowl back over and grab 4 more wedges. You’ll begin positioning these around the outside of the bowl just like you did in the last step, but with the pattern facing outward, like this-

Once the first 4 are in place you’ll repeat again filling in the blanks until no white is showing except on the very bottom (for me this made a cool star shape that I proceeded to not get a pic of, lol).

Step 5.

Now it’s time to use that second small circle you cut out. Paint the bottom of the bowl with your modge podge and place the circle with your chosen pattern facing out and pat it down until it is smooth.

Take your scissors and trim the excess off around the rim of the bowl until all the paper is “flush” or smooth to the edge of the rim with none above it.

And now you should have something that looks like this-

Step 6 (optional).

Now I didn’t like the mat finish on the paper, and because the modge podge I got was the glossy kind I just painted the outside all over with it and let it dry shiny.

So now I have this lovely offering bowl for less than $2.00!!

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