One of my absolute favorite witchy movies (and actually, one of my absolute favorite movies of any category) is Practical Magic. If you haven’t seen it, highly recommend. Near the end of the movie (no major spoilers here, promise!) the main characters are trying to pull together a rag-tag coven of ordinary women. They’re asked to each bring a broom with them. One of the ladies blows in, triumphantly holds a Dirt Devil above her head, and queries, “Is this okay? It’s all I had!”
As much as this moment is played for comedy, I’ve come to appreciate it as a moment of witchy resourcefulness, too. (Though tragically, she doesn’t end up using the Dirt Devil in the spell–they loan her a broom like cowards.) Many of us can remember reading our first witchcraft book or attending our first metaphysical event and feeling overwhelmed at the number of tools, accessories, and trinkets you can use in your practice. From wands and athames to candles and crystals to herbs and oils, there’s an unbelievable amount of paraphernalia out there. But if you’re just starting out, or you don’t have much space to store lots of tools, or if you’re in a living situation where you have to keep your witchcraft closeted, or you don’t have money to spare on fancy tools…it can feel like there’s an awful lot of prerequisites to being a witch. (And I probably don’t need to say it, but many of us in the disabled and neurodivergent [ND] community struggle with space, money, and/or living conditions…so that describes a lot of us.)
In previous Fundamentals posts, I’ve discussed why witchcraft should be accessible, and how to consider your capacities and limitations. Today’s post (you may have guessed) is all about tools. What tools do you have? What tools do you need or want? And what tools can you create–not just physical tools, but quick, accessible shortcuts to make spells and rituals more manageable for yourself?
Let’s dive in.
HAVE, NEED, WANT
Brace yourself, we’re making another list. As always, this doesn’t have to be a physical list. It could be a bullet point list of scribbled notes on your phone or laptop. It could be a voice memo. It could even just be quiet time and your own thoughts. Whatever works best for you.
First of all, think about what witchy tools you already have. Maybe you picked up a wand. Maybe you have a handful of carefully-collected crystals. Maybe you have a gorgeous notebook that you’d like to use as your book of shadows. These are all somewhat conventional magical tools, but make sure to think about tools that seem mundane at first glance, too. I do a lot of witchy needlework, so I could include all of my cross stitch supplies, for example. You might use a sketchbook to create sigils, so that sketchbook and any drawing supplies would count. Basically, any object you own that you use to enhance, channel, or inspire your witchy practice should be part of this list.
Now then. Shift to considering all of those shiny, beautiful witchy tools you’ve seen in your local metaphysical store window. Or that list of “must-have tools for beginners” in your Wicca book. Think about what tools you might need or want. Now, at the end of the day, you don’t need most (if any) witchy tools to do magic. Intention is the most important thing, and you can direct that with words, focused thoughts, and/or movement. But there are tools that might feel particularly necessary for the flavors of magic you’re most interested in. If tea magic seems like the perfect method for you, you will need a teapot or water heater, mugs or cups of some sort, and at least one or two types of tea. If candle magic feels like your scene, you’ll need a few candles and either matches or a lighter. Etc. These are the types of items to put on your “need” list–any object you don’t currently own that would significantly impact your magical practice for the better.
For the final category, list any object that would just be really nice to have, but wouldn’t necessarily have a huge impact on your practice. I don’t need yet another tarot deck, but boy that one deck is gorgeous and I’d love to have it. I don’t need amethyst for my altar, but it is my birthstone and an amplifier for magical workings. I don’t need this print of my patron deity, but it is from one of my favorite etsy artists. You get the picture. Having witchy accessories to sprinkle through your life, while not necessary, can be incredibly fun and affirming. And this is just a wishlist, so you can feel free to make it as extravagant or exhaustive as you’d like!
For the moment, focus on your “need” list. Are there items that could sub in for the witchy objects you’ve listed? (A Dirt Devil instead of a broomstick, for example?) I’ve talked about this before, but I use battery-operated candles in place of regular candles most of the time because of my spouse’s fragrance/smoke sensitivities. You might create a google drive folder or document to function as a book of shadows instead of a physical notebook. Maybe one of your kitchen knives could play the role of ceremonial athame. (Or a spoon instead of a wand! That’d be thematically appropriate, wouldn’t it?) There are apps with virtual tarot decks if you can’t currently afford a physical one. And so on.
If you can’t think of any pre-existing alternatives, would it be possible for you to make one? A medium-sized stick can be decorated with ribbon, beads, etc. to create a wand. A stone gathered from your backyard can be infused with energy and purpose just as well as a polished crystal. A cloth napkin can be embroidered upon, and presto, you have an altar cloth. It might not have the same sparkly “but new pretty tool though!” vibe, but it will work–and more importantly, you’ll have it accessible and ready for witchy doings, instead of just wistfully staring at it through a shop window or a computer screen. Obviously your mileage may vary if, for instance, fine motor skills are a challenge for your particular body or brain. But it’s definitely an avenue to at least consider when you’re assembling your list.
You can go through this same process for your “want” list, though you might want to prioritize the “need” items–at least a few of them. The “want” list is a good one to circulate for gift ideas, or to turn into an online wishlist. The “need” list might be something to save up spoons for if you’re making items, or to save money for if you’re purchasing.
Not all tools are physical, tangible items. You can create mental tools–behaviors and activities that make the processes of magic easier and/or more accessible for yourself. I like to think of this as magical shorthand: you are building a language of magic and symbology that is meaningful to you.
Here’s an example I absolutely love (and not JUST because it comes to me from one of my partners). For each of their loved ones, E selects a special crystal or stone to be that person’s. They keep these crystals on their altar most of the time, but if they want to feel their loved ones’ support more tangibly on any given day (especially since many of E’s people are long-distance!) they can put their stone in their pockets or bag and carry that person’s love with them. And if they wanted to do a spell for someone specific, they could use that person’s stone in the spell as an anchor of sorts. Outside of the initial energy of acquiring/selecting/programming the Right Stone, this is a super low-spoon option for invoking someone’s presence! And you could do this with anyone or any energy you wanted. Program a special stone or crystal for a deity you work with often, or an archetype like Empress energy, or an ancestor!
The possibilities for these sorts of shorthands are endless. If you aren’t sure where to start, think about magical activities that you often get tripped up on, that seem to drain more energy than you’d prefer, or that are frequent parts of larger rituals/spells. Grounding might be a good starting place, for example–where an abled/neurotypical witch might be able to spend 5-10 minutes meditating in silence before moving on to a spell or ritual, a disabled or ND witch might be exhausted by trying to focus that hard for that long. Maybe your grounding shorthand could be putting a hand over your heart and taking three deep breaths. Maybe it could be doing a specific stretch you reserve for grounding. Maybe it could be opening a window and getting a breath of fresh air. You get the idea!
Creating sacred space is another action that many spells and rituals begin with–casting a circle, inviting in deities/ancestors/spirits, etc. You don’t have to walk the perimeter with a broomstick if that’s Too Much for you physically or mentally. Maybe you sit in the center of the circle and trace out the perimeter with your pointer finger. Maybe you visualize a bright white bubble expanding out from your heart, protecting the space you’ll be working. Maybe you have a tangible item that usually lives on your altar, like a larger stone/crystal, a small statue, etc. that you bring into your working space and set in the center to signify sacred space.
Here are a few more common witchy actions that you might want to create magical shorthand for! Obviously this list is not exhaustive by any means–it is merely a starting place.
- Protection (sending it to others, invoking it for yourself)
- Attraction (calling in some sort of energy and anchoring it to yourself)
- Blessings (sending them to others, invoking them for yourself)
- Energy (building for spellcraft, directing it towards someone or something)
- Healing (it can be especially helpful to create shorthand for your common symptoms/triggers! For example, I have a special sigil I created for fibromyalgia flare-ups, which I draw on my wrist when I’m flaring)
- Release (letting go of something that no longer serves you)
If you want a ready-made set of mental tools and self-care actions based around the tarot, look no further than my upcoming book, Your Tarot Toolkit! We are SO CLOSE to February 8th, which is release day! But you can go ahead and pre-order it here.