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Class 4

To: Sherry Michael 
From: Sherry Michael 
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 22:16:42 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Class 4

****"Wicca 101" Class 4 from the teaching coven of the Three Crescents****
  **Please send all e-mail to this account.**
***** Please do not distribute in full or in part without this header*****


This class introduces magical tools, sacred spaces such as circles and 
altars, and a general ritual outline. Note that this class foreshadows 
lessons to come and is non-specific. I hope this isn't too frustrating!


The use of tools in ritual and magic has been documented since the ice 
age. Neopagans, ceremonial magicians, and even Christians still use various 
tools in ritual today. In this section, we will discuss commonly used tools 
in Wicca and what they symbolize.

First, I want to mention a few things. Tools are nice to have, however, 
don't run out and buy a cauldron because you NEED one to work magic or use 
in ritual. If you don't want to work with a tool, or can't find/afford/make it, 
don't worry. The power is inside you. Tools just help to focus and store 
energy. Also, feel free to add or create tools that work for you if the 
traditional set leave a gap.

When collecting tools, consider a few things. It is always best to try to 
make or customize a purchased tool yourself. No one expects you to forge 
a knife blade, but why not inscribe in the blade with an engraver or acid?
Tools that are handmade or customized have part of your energy stored in 
them from the creation process, and make them "in tune" to you. Most 
Wiccans prefer natural materials like clay and wood and natural 
cloths (don't get paranoid over some glue or polyester!).

You can buy tools from mail order, thrift shops, and anyplace else you can 
think of. When buying a tool, please wait until you feel you have found "the 
one"; just don't grab the first thing you see because you "need it".
Look around your house! A cooking pot is a great cauldron; if you notice 
most of the tools are household objects, helpful when trying to hide them 
during the burning times! One more point, just because some of the below 
descriptions state certain specifications doesn't mean your tool can't be 
different. I'm just stating the traditional descriptions for a tool. Please 
feel free to modify (as always).

The following is a list of the most common Wiccan tools, what they are 
used for, and what they symbolize (elemental meanings will vary from 
tradition to tradition):

Athame: (ath-ame or ath-ammy)
Commonly called a magic knife. It is traditionally dual sided, with a 
black handle and dulled. The knife is used to direct power, and you are 
not supposed to cut or peirce anything with it. I'd guess the 
reason the knife is dull is because you don't want to cut yourself while 
waving it around, or to remove the weapon association with it. (Mine is 
sharp because IMHO, I think knifes are SUPPOSED to be that why. A useless 
knife is like having the cup that can't hold water!) The athame 
symbolizes magic, masculinity, the God and the element fire.

The bell can be of any sort. I own two bells; a Indonisian black copper 
bell and a set of Tibetan chyme "cymbols" (if anyone knows the REAL 
name of these things let me know!). The bell is used to announce the 
start/end of a ritual, to invoke the Goddess and to banish negative 
energy. The bell symbolizes female power and the element air.

This is the white handled knife. Unlike the athame, it is single edged 
and is used to cut things for magical use (herbs, etc.), carve magical 
symbols into objects, and general utility. (I just use my sharp athame!)
It is not generally given any magical meanings, but it is thought can be 
used in circle above a non-magical cutting item because it has been 
consecrated and purified.

This is a Celtic tool, symbolizing the womb everything is born from, and 
the place we return to to be reborn upon death. Anything of any size 
can be used as long as it can hold water and can resist heat. A typical 
three legged cast iron pot will be hard to find other than mail order. 
Household stew pots and crystal bowls are other options. The cauldron can 
be used to brew drinks for ritual or potions (IF yours can be used for 
cooking!), hold ritual water, and a place to burn paper in spells. The 
cauldron symbolizes female power, transformation, bounty and the element 
of water (as in birth waters or primordial ocean).

Fancy name for incense burner. Incense is used a lot in Wicca to set the 
right mood for Work, purification and other magical uses, and for 
offerings. The holder can be anything from a fancy brass hanger to a 
simple heat resistant pot or bowl filled with sand. Whatever you use, 
make sure it doesn't get too hot and scorch you or the surface it's on.
It symbolizes air.

This is like a mini-cauldron and holds much of its symbolism. Any cup or 
chalice can be used. The cup is used in ritual to hold the 
wine/cider/beverage that will be drunk and passed around in ritual. It is 
also used in the symbolic recreation of the Great Rite: the athame is 
placed in the cup to honor the pairing of the God and Goddess.

This is the pentagram (5 pointed star) with a circle around it, engraved 
in a clay or wood circle. In case you didn't know, the penatacle symbolizes 
the four elements and the top point the soul, and the circle enclosing it is
the neverending circle of life. The pentacle is used for protection (its good 
to have one over your door!) and is a good place to put offerings, 
amulets to be charged, etc. It is sometimes used to place soil or salt 
on, because it is the symbol for earth.

This is the proverbial magic wand in stories. It can be made of copper 
tubes or wooden rods or tree branches with feathers, crystals and other 
decorations attached (when making, consider what the wood, crystals mean 
magically!). The wand is used to invoke deities, and to draw power to you 
(opposite the athame, which is used to SEND power). The wand symbolizes 
the element air.

Other more mundane things that come in handy are small crystal or clay 
bowls (for holding offerings, food, crystals and talisman) candles in many 
colors and holders, crystals and stones, incenses, herbs and oils, and cloth 
drawstring pouches (I can never make enough!), salt (sea or otherwise), 
water (sea or otherwise!), and some clean earth.


An altar is simply a place to put you tools, or less simply, the focal 
point for ritual and worship. There are usually two types of altars, 
permanent household altars and altars used in ritual.

Household altars: Anything will do for an altar, like a shelf, top of a 
dresser, etc. Your altar should hold your magical tools, any sculpture of 
the god/dess and anything you like such as seasonal greens or flowers, a 
nice stone you find, or tarot cards, etc. Nothing non-magical or 
religious should be placed on it (like your mail, housekeys...). You can 
use your altar as a place to pray or give offerings. It's nice to have an 
altar, but if you can't have one, don't worry. (I've heard of college 
altars that are simply a few stones, a vial of sea water and a small 
feather, nothing anyone would think twice about. This is an option if 
you are a closet Wiccan and still want an altar.)

Circle altars: These are altars used in ritual. If you are lucky enough 
to hold celebrations outside, this can be a permanent stone altar, or a 
tree stump. You can use your home altar for your circle altar, especially 
if you can move it to where you plan to have your ritual. A coffee table 
or a milk crate with an altar cloth (tablecloth) will be fine.  For 
your circle altar, only have the tools you need for the ritual on it. Also, any 
decorations for the holiday or season and food for offering or feasting 
should be present.

Scott Cunningham suggests in his solitary Wicca books to have a diagram 
and planned placement of each tool and item (wand is always to the right 
side, censer to the left, etc.). This is an option if you wish. 

If you can sneak to the bookstore (are you getting the hint that I never 
BUY books? :) ) look at different altars to give you ideas. Cunningham's 
_Guide for the Solitary Practitioner_ and _Circles, Groves and Sanctuaries_ 
by Dan and Pauline Campanelli are great, especially the later.

Circle casting is one of the very first magical acts you will need to 
learn. It will take practice to perfect, but soon it will become second 
nature. The circle is the high holy place of Wiccans; it is the "church" 
were we worship and the place we seek protection.

Here is a full description of a circle by Scott Cunningham (from _A Guide 
for the Solitary Practitioner):

"The Magic Circle is constructed of personal power in which Wiccan rituals 
are usually enacted. The term refers to the circle that marks the 
sphere's penetration of the ground, for it extends both above an below 
it. It is created through visualization and magic."

The function of the circle is to hold in a buildup of power before it is 
released toward a goal (discussed in the magic class), protect anyone 
inside it from negative energy and to create a space environmentally 
isolated from the world. Think of the circle as both a physical and 
magical manifestation; the circle is the place that marks its boundaries 
on the ground or floor, as said above, the actual energies circle is a 
sphere or globe that encloses everything in it from inside the ground to 
above your head. Think of it as a glowing blue globe that surrounds you.

Each quarter of the circle is dedicated to one of the four elements.
The standard directions/element set, along with representative colors is 
		Air:   East,  yellow
		Fire:  South, red
		Water: West,  blue
		Earth: North, green

When the circle is cast, each element is asked to protect and lend its 
energies to the circle. The Goddess and God are also asked (invoked) to 
be present.

The physical circle can be set up many ways. The first thing is the altar
placement. Usually the altar is facing the north side of the circle. The
boundaries of the circle can be marked with stones, candles etc. on each
four elemental points. I have seen the entire circumference marked with
salt and seasonal greens (flower petals, dried leaves, pine trimmings, etc.).
Have fun and use your imagination!

Ritual is used to help open up your spiritual self and provide an
uplifting and mystical experience. Because of this personal function, the
best rituals come from you, not from a book or another Wiccan. Some people
find structured ritual uplifting and others constricting. Besides all this,
there is a basic structure to Wiccan ritual:

1) Ritual purification:
This is a purification of mind and body as well as physical spaces. A bath
always beneficial to help you feel refreshed and ready for ritual. You may
also want to dress for the occasion in a ritual robe or jewelry, or not
wear anything at all (skyclad). Likewise, the space where you plan to
hold your ritual should be vacuumed and cleaned of everyday clutter and more
importantly, emotional clutter. Rooms hold a lot of vibrations, and they
should be purified magically to even out the energies and get rid of
negativity (how-tos in magic 1 class). If you are outside, less magical
cleaning is necessary, but clear the area of leaves, sticks, etc.

2) Cast the circle, and invoke the elements, God and Goddess.
3) Ritual
This can be a seasonal holiday, moon holiday, a meditation or magical
working. Ritual can be planned or spontaneous, complex or simple, 
structured or unstructured. I will go into more detail on how to create a 
ritual in another class. 

4) Cakes and ale
Magic is hungry work, and this is time to relax, have a bite to eat and 
chat with covenmates (if any!). The food is traditionally some type of 
bread and drink like ale, wine or cider. Anything will do however, and 
seasonal foods are a great addition. The circle is closed and the spell 
dissipated after or before this.


These build skills for magic use. I suggest you practice both until they 
become easy.

1) Tree meditation:
Begin by entering a meditative state, as described in class 2.  During 
this exercises you should have your feet on the floor, or on the ground 
outside. You may also stand. 

Imagine you are a tree. Feel how tall you are, and stretch your body 
upwards. Your arms are no longer human arms, but branches, and your 
fingers are smaller branches yet. Stretch your arms up towards the sun. 
feel the breezes through them. Your feet and toes are roots, imagine them 
digging deep into the cool nurturing earth. Let your roots go deeper, 
searching for nourishment. When you find it, draw up the boundless 
energies from the earth, up through your roots/toes, body/trunk and 
fingers/branches. Create a cycle by visualizing the energy coming out of 
your leaves/fingers and returning into the earth again.

At then end of the session, transform yourself slowly back to a human again.
When you feel comfortable with the tree, try #2.

2) Globe visualization:
Begin by entering a meditative state, as described in class 2. Draw 
energy up from the earth, as in the tree meditation (you don't have to 
think as yourself as a tree this time). Draw it up slowly, and "hold" it 
in the center of your torso. It helps if you can imagine the energy 
coming from the ground into your body as a glowing white light, and 
building into the center of your torso as a football shaped blob.

step 1) Next put your hands together, about 5 inches apart. Pull some energy 
from your storage in your torso, imagining a white light, to your hands. Let 
the energy flow between your hands. Imagine the energy as a wavy line, 
straight line, change the thickness, move your hands farther and closer 
apart. When you can actually feel the energy and change the shape of the 
beam, move to the next step:

step 2) Take the beam of energy and make it a thin line. imagine the line 
spiraling tighter and into a ball of light. One you can create a flat 
circle of energies, pull it open into a glowing blue sphere floating 
between your hands. Try to make it as perfectly round as you can. Feel 
what it is like, can you expand and shrink it and keep it round? Are the 
sides equal thickness?  Can you move and rotate it?  Play will the sphere as 
long as you like.

When you are finished, it is very important to return any stored energy 
back into the earth. If you fail to do this, the pent-up power may make 
you moody and hyperactive. Imagine the football of energy draining away 
through your feet, back into the earth until it is gone.

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