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
What is Simple Witchery?
As long as I can remember, I’ve always liked to keep things as simple as possible – I never saw the point in taking a complicated route if a simpler one presented itself to me. This isn’t laziness, just common sense, from my point of view. It’s something that has bothered me for a long time, this need people often seem to feel to complicate things which needn’t be so hard, and so I set out to boil things down to their barest components, take out all things unnecessary and just get things done.
This is, essentially, what Simple Witchery is all about; leaving out all the extraneous information and implements, taking advantage of what we have ready to hand, and simply enjoying the flow of things.
Why Simple Witchery?
When you lift out all the superfluous items, you are left with the most important element of the Craft. Which element is that? Earth? Air? Fire or Water? Perhaps Spirit? No, none of these. The most important element is always YOU; the person living it and experiencing all it has to offer. When you learn to rely on yourself and your own abilities, you learn that nothing is impossible, you can do anything you set your mind to. That’s what it’s all about; setting your mind to something and getting it done.
For example, I don’t use a wand in any of my work. Yes, I own one – a very ornate and beautiful one which was given to me by a very close friend – but I see it as purely a decoration for my home and it sits on a cherry wood stand atop my bookcase, where I can see it whenever I look up. It has never and will never be used by me or anyone else. Why? Because it doesn’t need to be. I have no need of a wand when I have myself. Besides, what if at some point I had to cast in an emergency and found myself without my wand, what would I do? Panic? Well, that’s not really very sensible, is it? I’d do whatever needed to be done without my wand and it would work every bit as well as it would while using a wand!
Basically, all you need to get yourself started is focus of will and energy. Once you get the hang of that, there’ll be no holding you back and no end to the things you can accomplish.
Kell Smurthwaite, 2004 ©
First Published in the Lammas/Mabon 2004 issue of Dragonswood Magazine
I must have been about 14 years old when I first stumbled upon the thing that got me interested in Witchcraft. I had an obsession with vampires (bear with me here!) and had been reading Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula. As a laugh, I decided to look up Dracula in an encyclopaedia and was pleasantly surprised to find that he was actually based on a real person; Prince Vlad Tepes (who was known as Vlad Dracul) of Walachia. This got my heart and mind racing! If Dracula was real, what else was real that I had previously thought to be fiction? What about Witches…? I quickly picked up the ‘W’ volume and flicked through the pages till I found what I was looking for. I read that Witches were, essentially, nature revering people who worshipped both a God and Goddess (where they were religious, that is) and that Witchcraft was an offshoot of Paganism… I picked up the ‘P’ volume and it went on from there.
I was, at that time, doing religous studies as part of my school curriculum and had a wonderful teacher in that subject, so I asked him why, if we studied Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, et al, we didn’t cover Paganism at all? He smiled at me and said “It’s not on the curriculum… but that doesn’t mean you can’t do some research on your own.” Well, that was that! I studied religiously (hahaha) and ended up writing an exam paper comparing methods of worship between different religions. I included Paganism in my paper and was awarded an ‘A’.
After 2 years of reading about it, I decided I liked a lot of what I’d discovered and decided to try actually living it, rather than just reading about it. Thus started 2 more years of studying, learning, absorbing, questioning and questing. I followed the seasons, became more aware of myself and the world around me and loved all of it. At Imbolc after my 18th birthday, I performed a self-dedication and I’ve never looked back. I chose the name Mabon as it is the festival closest to my birthday (I was born just a few days after it) and just really liked the sound of the word. I felt it suited me and I still do. Even now, many of my oldest friends call me Mab. Some say it suits me better than my ‘real’ name. I reply, “That’s because it IS my ‘real’ name!”
Now, after all this time, I still feel that all this is new to me, that it’s still very much fresh and vital. I love to watch the seasons change, and take delight in the simple things. My interests haven’t changed all that much; I still read all the time (I’m never far from a book, even when I’m out and about!), still love writing, still adore artsy-crafty things like cross-stitch and calligraphy, and I’m always in the kitchen, trying out new recipes on my hubby. I’ve managed to work all this into the Craft I practice. I like to keep things as simple as possible on every level (it saves getting confused – LOL) and love nothing more than relaxing in a hot, lavender-scented bath with a good book, some music, candles glowing and oil in my burner.