Part of keeping things simple, to me, is keeping things inexpensive. My outlay is relatively small as I don’t really use many tools, but others do and it can cost a lot of money as you build your collection of wands, chalices, athames et al. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take advantage of the many cheaper alternatives with spectacular results, as I will demonstrate here. It’s what I call Dime Store Magick!
What is a wand, essentially, but a stick? The thing that makes it wand is YOU, not how extravagant or ornate it is, nor how much it cost, but what YOU put into it. Therefore, surely, the most effective wand you can use is one you’ve made yourself. Don’t listen to the nonsense you here about only using “live” wood, asking the tree for permission to take it and lopping off a length of branch. Whether the tree agrees or not, it’s going to cause some damage. There is no less magick in a fallen branch than there is in the tree – it came from there, after all, and it is still a part of nature.
Choose a length of wood from a tree you associate with, whether it is willow, oak or chestnut, it will work just as well as long as you are comfortable with it. Traditionally, it should be the length of your forearm from your inner elbow to the tip of your middle finger, but really, it’s unimportant if it’s slightly longer or shorter. Make sure the wood isn’t too dry, or it will just break and be useless – you should go for wood that is still quite fresh. After that, what you do is up to you. You might strip it of its bark, decorate it with gems, feathers and leather thongs, and oil or wax the finished product. Alternatively, you might like to leave it in its rustic, natural form. Imbue it with your own, personal energy and it will be more powerful than any wand you can buy in a shop.
I have several different drinking receptacles as chalices when I have need of one, but the one I use most often was a gift from my friend, Esk. It’s a beautiful wine glass with ornate metalwork around the stem and base of the glass. I use it simply because I love it so much. You can often pick up a silver chalice or pretty wine glass from a charity shop or a car boot sale – you just have to keep your eyes open for a bargain. So what if it isn’t engraved with a pentagram? Who’s to say you can’t do that yourself with glass paints, or take up a class in etching and try that?
As I said in the last article, use whatever’s handy – I use a good old kitchen knife whenever I need to cut anything – it sits comfortably in my hand and is good and sharp. Why should you pay top dollar for what is essentially only a knife? Again, try charity shops, car boot sales, or even the kitchenware department of a local shop. Choose one that isn’t too big (or you risk doing yourself an injury when it gets spun off your altar!) and you can decorate it if that takes your fancy, especially if it has a wooden handle. Paint, engraving, whatever you please – just make it personal.
Just about every beginners guide to the Craft will tell you that you need such-and-such a colour for this, that or the other. This is absolute ROT! If you’re using candles, they can be any colour you will them to be. I keep a supply of white tea-lights handy (and believe me, they DO come in handy) for every eventuality. If a spell calls for a red candle, I tell the candle it is red, and so it is. I also love to use beeswax candles, as I love the smell, but these can be expensive. The alternative? Make your own! You can buy candle-making kits from craft shops at a very reasonable price (if they’re in the sales, I buy bulk) and they’ll keep you going for quite a while, topping up with refill kits when you need to.
What is an altar? It’s a table on which you place your ceremonial tool. That’s it. It’s a table. Or a shelf, or a deep windowsill, or a bed-side cabinet. Even a large box will do. Decorate it to suit your style or leave it bare and cover it with a cloth, it’s up to you – after all, it’s YOUR altar, nobody can tell you it’s not right or proper.
Book of Shadows or Grimoire
Yes, you can buy the most beautiful hand-crafted books to keep all your Craft secrets, but it’s just a book! Some people have £90 to spend on one, I don’t and I’m guessing many other people don’t either. Why go to extremes when you can buy beautiful notebooks of all sizes for under £10? If you want something fancy to fill with beautiful calligraphy, try one of those photo albums with tissue between the pages (they often have the added bonus of having removable pages). Even a ring binder is fine, especially if you want to use an ornamental font to print out all your pages and fill them with corresponding pictures – it can look stunning! Or, again, you can put your crafty talents to good use and make your own. Whether you use wood, metal, leather, cloth, or just plain cardboard for your cover, you can decorate it in any style and perhaps even make the paper for the pages yourself. It can be as big or small a project as you like, just make sure it’s durable because chances are you’ll be using it for a long time. Barring all that, keep it on a floppy disk or CD-ROM – I know many who do and I keep back-ups that way myself.
These are just a few of the simple ways to keep expenses from spiralling out of control when you start out on your Path, or even when you’ve been strolling along for decades. There are so many cost-cutting methods I can only go into a few here, but if you use your imagination, you can do anything. Happy bargain-hunting!
Kell Smurthwaite ©
1st Published in the Samhain/Yule 2004 issue of Dragonswood Magazine