The altar is the sanctified space that witches use as the physical space in which to pay homage to the spirits and perform the physical aspect of one's work. The altar can be made of any material, and it can be plain or ornate. The altar needs to be big enough to perform one's magick and to hold one's tools.
One typical Wiccan layout is to divide the altar space into three, with the left side dedicated to the Goddess, and the right side to the God. On the left, one would place a statue of the Goddess, a silver candle at the back of the altar. In front of the statue, you would place a bowl of water, then the cup, then the sphere, and the bell. On the right, one would place a statue of the God, and a gold candle at the back. In front of the statue, you would set the censer, then a bowl of salt, then the wand and boline. The center of the altar is the working space; you would place the pentagram and the tools needed in your workings. There are many altar layouts; each religion has its setup.
The altar is a sacred space and needs to be respected.
The altar disk is of the North, governed by the Earth. It is a disk made of any material and inscribed with a symbol of power, the five-pointed star. The altar disk has roots in ceremonial magick and is a tool of protection and invocation of the spirits. In a ceremony, the altar disk is used to amplify and intensify the energies of objects placed on it with intent. The pentacle is a symbol of protection of one’s home by placing it over doors and windows. In Gardeners Wicca, the points of the star had no meaning; the symbols power transcends the elements. In Alexanders Wicca, the points represent the five elements, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Ether, in essence turning in to a pentagram.
The athame is a black-handled knife that is inscribed with symbols that invoke and channel supernatural energies. The athame is blunt, and should never be used to cut or draw blood. The athame is associated with the East and the elemental of Air. In a similar fashion as a wand; it is used to channel and direct energies for a purpose, to cast a circle, to banish spirits, as well to open and close doorways. The athame, like the sword, strikes, fear into malicious spirits and places one in a position of control.
The bell calls the vibrations of the universal energy to a purpose. It is an old and powerful form of magick that aligns the vibrations of the universe with will and intent. The bell is a feminine symbol and aligned with the Goddess; it is used to evoke the divine, good, and sympathetic energies, as well it wards off evil. The tone of the bell is essential and fundamentally tied to the material of its construction. The shape and design of the bell is not as important as the sound. Everything; including all energies in the physical, and metaphysical universe, vibrate at specific frequencies, this is seen at the molecular level. The key is to find a bell that speaks to you, that you can feel tap into the energies, a singing bowl can be used in place of a bell if the sound speaks to you.
The bell branch, is historical a silver branch that is adorned with bells. The Druids used the bell branch to call to the Goddess and the God in ritual. The sound of the bells is offensive to malicious spirits and will drive them away from the practitioner. The bell branch was also used to cleanse a space or a person of negative spiritual attachment.
The besom or broom historically was made of an oak staff and a bundle of birch twigs wrapped with willow bindings; however, other sacred woods have been used. The primary use of the besom is for cleansing, of a physical and spiritual nature. Before a ceremony; the sacred area must be physically and mentally cleansed of all negative or contradictory energy. The ritual area is cleansed again of any residual energy from work or unwanted spiritual presences, at the end of the ceremony.
The smaller hand besom is used to move energies in the space around the practitioner, and the circle to cleanse and protect. The smaller besom can be used to move incense around a room or space when smudging.
The Book of Shadows is used to document one’s spiritual journey and the methods one uses. The Book of Shadows contains one’s steps, rituals, ceremonies, and spells; this allows the witches to look back on one’s journey and to pass on one’s knowledge. The Book of Shadows preserves one’s magickal workings and outlines their path. An individual Book of Shadows should be kept for each religious discipline that a person explores.
The boline or white-handled knife is a working tool; engraved with sacred symbols. The boline has limited ceremonial purpose; it is used to harvest herbs, wood, carve or inscribe wax, or wood.
Candles are of paramount importance in witchcraft; and used in almost all religious and magickal ceremonies; they focus the will and intent. The color, oils, and herbs the candle is anointed or dressed with are essential. They are important in focusing on the proper vibration of the energies that are being evoked.
A cauldron is an integral tool of witchcraft; it represents the goddess and the place of rebirth. The cauldron is used as a tool for spiritual and physical alchemy. The physical ingredients and the spiritual energies are blended in the womb (cauldron) to give life to one's will and intent to create a new reality. The cauldron is commonly used in witchcraft for scrying, alchemical creations, and burning intent.
The censer is associated with the element of Air and must hold smoldering charcoal to burn incense during rites. The censer should be used to burn, resins, woods, and herbs on smoldering charcoal. The blend of ingredients depends on the energies called upon, and the state of mind one wants to achieve.
Cords are used in witchcraft for a variety of purposes, from creating tools to binding magick; the color and material of the cord are essential. Cords used in magick should be made of natural material; this is due to the vibrations in that material.
Crystals have different vibrations; each crystal has a unique vibration that corresponds to a purpose. Crystals act as a storage for universal energy like batteries. The energy can be focused, enhanced, and released for a purpose. Crystals are associated with magickal work, emotions, protection, and deities; every crystal is a conduit to the universal energy. Using crystals during magickal work helps the mind centralize one's focus to a singular purpose.
The cup or chalice represents the West and the elemental of Water; it represents the Goddess and womb. The cup can be made of any material and may be used to hold water on the altar, but more commonly holds a liquid consumed during a ritual.
In Druidism a curved bladed knife/sickle is a sacred blade that represents the element of Fire. It is used to harvest herbs and wood for ceremonial or alchemical purposes. The sickle was the primary instrument to harvest mistletoe in a Druid ceremony.
Herb's, resin, and wood have multiple uses in witchcraft, and each one contains individual vibrations that correlate to a universal purpose.
Herbs, resins, and wood are used in incense, talismans, anointing oils, cleansing baths, teas, offerings to the deities, and consecration rituals.
The sphere is placed on the altar to represent the Goddess, and it should be of a type of rock crystal and a perfect sphere in shape. The sphere is used to store magickal energy raised in ritual and connect to the divine. One may use it to receive messages from the divine, as well the sphere can be used to scry.
The staff represents the South and the elemental of Fire. It is inscribed with sacred symbols. The staff is primarily used to call or evoke the deities, but it is also used for energy manipulation and focus like the athame. The traditional staff is made from sacred wood most predominantly hazel. The staff does not require elaborate or ornate decorations or crystals.
The sword typically is inscribed with symbols that invoke and channel supernatural energies. The sword is associated with the East and the elemental of Air. It is used similarly as a wand; it is used to channel and direct energies for a purpose, to cast a circle, to banish spirits, as well to open and close doorways. The sword strikes fear into malicious spirits and places one in a position of control.
The wand represents the South and the elemental of Fire and is inscribed with sacred symbols. A wand should be the length of the practitioner’s forearm, from the crook of the arm to the middle finger. The wand is primarily used to call or evoke the deities, but it is also used for energy manipulation and focus like the athame. It will direct and concentrate energy when performing altar alchemy. The traditional wand is made from sacred wood, most predominantly elder. The wand does not require elaborate or ornate decorations or crystals. Some witches will use crystals to help focus energies through the wand.
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