Acquiring Tools of Arte
Tools are central to the work of artisans and craftsmen of all sorts. The blacksmith and the painter both work to create masterpieces in their respective field using tools unique to their craft. Such tools would be useless in untrained hands. If the blacksmith switched tools with the painter, neither one would know how to work with the tools of the other. Without the knowledge and experience that wields them, these tools remain utilitarian objects. In the hands of a master these instruments are used with finesse. Regular use and proximity to with these objects form powerful connections with the person using them. These once useless objects are honed into powerful instruments of creation, guided by the experienced hands of the artisan. Just as a musician grows in connection to his instrument, practitioners of magical arts grow in connection to their tools as well.
The tools of British Traditional Witchcraft, Ceremonial Magic, and American Wicca Traditions are similar in symbol and meaning. Reminiscent of the four suits of the Tarot; the Pentacle, cup, wand and sword are all laid out before the Magician of the Major Arcana. One of the first things mentioned in beginner books on witchcraft are the Tools of the Witch. These introductory sections are meant for beginners and are often repetitive in nature, many outlining the same details over and over again. While there are many layers of lore that can be learned about each of the symbolic tools of the Craft; I believe many of their deeper meanings present themselves overtime emphasizing one’s personal experiences. Too much emphasis on these tools in the beginning overshadows the initiatory roles they have later on in one’s practice. Often leaving the superficial symbolism for those on the outer edge of the labyrinth, saving their deeper secrets for those on the inside.
While there will always be an emotional nostalgia connected with one’s first tools, especially when ritually made or gifted by a special person; some practitioners use whatever is on hand at the time, not having one specific item designated for the task at hand. For example, I have made so many wands over the years that I no longer have, I eventually just stopped making them. Now I simply wait for the right one to come along when the need arises. I love the idea of a wand, but it never felt particularly empowering to me. I feel like anything that makes you feel silly during your rituals is counter productive. Although, I do sense power and authority in the staff when used in place of the wand.
I used to do this thing with my occult research and book of shadows, where after some time something would happen that would prompt me to destroy everything. This would usually have to do with one of my parent’s finding my research material and being less than excited. I would go through phases as a teenager where I would destroy everything in an attempt to walk away, but magic would always find its way back to me. I cannot fathom how many pages of research I have written over the years only to be destroyed. I started my occult studies at the young age of 12. I remember having my first computer, and discovering endless resources on witchcraft and magic. I would spend hours amassing large stacks of notes, filling notebooks from front to back, and copying and re-copying pertinent information. As a young person I lacked the conviction of my beliefs, and feelings of guilt or shame could easily topple my resolve.I would continue this pattern of hopping on and off of the carousel of academic witchcraft until I was 23-years old, and I haven’t stopped riding since. It has taken the past six-years of playing catch-up that I feel like I have recovered much of what I lost. In addition to recovering lost information, many new authors and publications had been released in the previous years. I devoured as many of these resources as possible, infiltrating the new world of witchcraft that I had returned to. Although I have taken time off from occult studies, and the practice of witchcraft itself in the past; looking back I realized it never left me. Even when it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind during times when I wasn’t practicing or studying; the Nameless Arte remained part of who I was and continue to be.
Restarting serious academic study as an adult has given me a new perspective on magical practices as a whole, and how they fit into the historical and social framework of humanity. By incorporating my academic experience that I acquired majoring in Religious Studies I was able to develop further insights into various folk practices and the magical atmosphere of the Middle Ages. By studying history and religion we are able to see how spiritual beliefs transform over time, gathering layers of cultural nuance that when peeled away can expose the universal truths hidden within.
There are many details left unturned in a lot of beginner books geared toward a mainstream audience. These modern publications focus on modern witchcraft and neo-pagan practices, overlooking many of the historical details from the Middle Ages and Early Christian mythology. My passion for history and affinity for obscure magical practices has led me to find a place under the branches of the traditional witchcraft tree. The tree that is home to the eldritch serpent of wisdom and knowledge.
Although magical purging seems to be a regular occurrence in may practice, it hasn’t happened in many years and I retained much of my earlier knowledge. It did help me to become rather proficient at writing my own spells and detailed rituals. I would rebuild entire bodies of lore, filling pages with complex circles of transmutation of my own device. I learned to write many powerful spells, by understanding how to layer different energies onto magical objects. I believe that when we aren’t processing any new information; the existing knowledge we have forms new connections in our mind, allowing us to discover new techniques of magical arte.