Magic On A Budget
Written by Thelma6954
Posted by Faery Warrior
People new to Wicca or the Craft are oftentimes anxious to quickly acquire magical tools and items they believe will be needed for their altar and practice. Or, sometimes they feel overwhelmed and lament about the expense of buying everything they think they will need. Although not perhaps what they want to hear, newcomers to Wicca or Witchcraft are cautioned to go slow and not rush to purchase anything. The reasons for this are threefold.
First, both Wicca and Witchcraft are Nature-based, and for this reason you can find many useful items needed to practice your Craft for free from Nature. Granted, there are many beautiful or ornate items available for purchase to use in rituals, spells, and general practices, but it’s entirely possible to acquire everything you need and not spend one cent on tools and other necessary items.
Second, as you walk your spiritual path and spend time reading and researching, your ideas, needs, likes, and tastes may change as you develop and grow. Some items that you once felt you needed or wanted may no longer appeal to you or may no longer be necessary. Instead of hurrying to find your tools, a rule of thumb to remember is to give the tools time to find you.
Lastly, as time passes you’ll most likely learn methods or acquire information that will enable you to use your own skills to make some tools or items yourself. There’s much to be said about the energy and power you infuse into an item that you’ve made, gathered, or grown yourself as opposed to something store-bought or made by others.
The following are some low-cost or free sources and ideas for the basic items normally used in Wicca and Witchcraft:
Altar: You don’t need a large, elaborate, or ornate table for an altar. A card table, a TV tray, a box, a crate, a good-sized rock, or even a piece of wood can be used for an altar. Some people use tables, end tables, or dressers already in their home for an altar. You may already have something at home or in your garage that would be perfectly suitable. You can also shop garage sales or second-hand stores as low cost sources for an altar. Years ago, my very first altar was the largest table in a set of three wooden stacking tables that I bought very inexpensively at Wal-mart. For outdoor altars, you can use a workbench, a large rock, the ground, or even a good-sized tree trunk. Put your creativity and imagination to work, and you may find you already have something very usable and practical for an altar. Fortunately, most of us are able to leave our altars permanently set up. But, if you don’t have the room to do so or you’re not able to leave your altar visible for any reason, you can use a box for your altar and then store your altar contents in the box when not in use. It’s portable, easy to store in a closet or under a bed, and quick to set up.
Altarcloth: Although an altarcloth isn’t a necessity, it does add a festive or decorative touch to your altar. Changing the design or color of your altar cloth for the various Sabbats also helps freshen and renew your altar as we transition through the Seasons. Depending on the size of your altar, placemats or tablecloths usually work just fine. Check your own drawers, closets, and cupboards at home for tablecloths or placemats you may already have stored away that you can use. You can also use a sheet or pieces of left-over fabric. If you don’t have anything usable at home, you can buy inexpensive tablecloths or placemats at discount stores. You can also purchase remnants of fabric very inexpensively at fabric stores or sewing departments. Another source for pretty or one-of-a-kind tablecloths and placemats are antique or second-hand stores, and once again, don’t forget those neighborhood garage sales. If you’re so inclined, decorate your altar cloth with sewn embroidery or designs drawn with fabric paints, or tie-dye with assorted colors to give you an item that’s both beautiful and unique.
Altar Decorations: Use items from Nature to decorate your altar. Some examples of simple but beautiful things used to decorate are feathers, rocks, leaves, twigs and branches, pine cones, acorns, dried corn or grains, ivy, and flowers. You can usually find these things in your backyard, neighborhood, or local park. You’d be surprised what you can find when you take a walk, but remember that it’s always best to pick up from the ground what you need or want as opposed to plucking things from trees or plants. Change your altar decorations according to the Season and upcoming Sabbat. Some choices would be autumn leaves, pinecones, and acorns in the fall; pine boughs, ivy, holly, or mistletoe in winter, and various flowers and greenery in spring and summer.
Element Representatives: To represent the East, items that can be used include feathers, a bell, or a wind chime for the Element of Air. For the West, a simple bowl of water, shells from the beach, or an item made out of blue glass or blue pottery can represent the Element of Water. For the North, a small dish filled with table salt, sea salt, or soil can represent the Element of Earth. You can also use rocks, hand-form a pentacle out of clay, or use a piece of pottery. For the South, items that can be used include a red candle, an oil lamp, or any plant that has red leaves for the Element of Fire. Again, you may already have some of these items in your home. Others can be found for free in Nature or from low-cost sources like swap meets, garage sales, and discount stores. Use your imagination while thinking about the specifics of each Element, and you shouldn’t have trouble formulating a
list of items you can use.
Wand: Pretty and personal wands can be made from small tree branches. Look under the trees in your yard, neighborhood, park, or any rural area you may live near as a source for a wand. As you look around, see what tree seems to draw you to it. Some Wiccans and Witches insist that you must use a certain kind of wood for a "proper" wand, but any branch that looks right and feels right to you serves the purpose just fine. Remember to use fallen branches, and try to avoid cutting them off the tree. If there are no fallen branches and you must cut one off, it would be wise to spend a few moments meditating under the tree. Then, approach the tree with respect, and thank it for its gift to you. Take only as much branch as you intend to use. If possible, give a gift back to the tree by pouring water at its base or leaving food for the birds it may house. The basic rule for the length of a wand is that it should be the approximate length of your elbow to your wrist or elbow to your thumb. To fashion a wand to suit you or to personalize it, you can whittle it, carve designs on it, paint it, wrap pretty ribbons or copper or silver wire around it, or glue on stones or crystals. In a pinch, a wooden spoon can be whittled and decorated into a wand or even used "as is."
Staff: The same information given above for finding and decorating a suitable wand applies to a wooden staff, except the finished length will naturally be much longer.
Athame/Boleen: You don’t necessarily need to buy a special knife for your athame or boleen because you may find something usable right in your own kitchen. Although an athame is usually a double-edged blade, any simple kitchen knife that appeals to you will work. Any ordinary household item that is cleansed, charged, and dedicated to magical use can be a ritual item. Remember, however, that once chosen and used, you shouldn’t go back later and use it for mundane household chores. If the knife handle doesn’t match the color that you need, you can paint it, stain it, or even wrap ribbon around the handle (black for your athame and white for your boleen). The handle can also be decorated with painted designs or runes of protection and power. Other sources for athames and boleens are gun shows, swap meets, and garage sales. Some people find that a small letter opener in the shape of a knife or sword works wonderfully as an athame. When not in use, your athame can be wrapped and stored in a piece of fabric remnant, or if you’re handy with thread and needle, you can inexpensively make a drawstring bag to store it in.
Cauldron: Any type of fireproof container that’s bowl-shaped can serve as a cauldron. Check out cooking stores, second-hand stores, and garage sales in your area for cast iron pots.
Chalice and Plate for Food Offering: Any cup or plate can be used for food and drink on your altar. Just make sure the item isn’t marked "for decorative purposes only," especially if it’s made out of pottery or metal, to be sure you can safely drink and eat out of it. You probably already have something suitable at home you can use, but if not, discount stores, second-hand stores, and neighborhood garage sales are all good sources.
Incense and Incense Burner: There are many types of incense burners available depending on the type of incense you choose to burn, whether it be stick, cone, or resin. Although cone and resin incense can be purchased in more expensive "head shops," Nature-based stores and New Age stores, you can also find inexpensive and good quality stick incense at discount
stores and craft stores. These same locations have inexpensive incense
burners made out of wood, resin, or marble. You can also use an empty glass bottle to burn stick incense, or if so inclined, make an incense burner out of clay.
Scrying Mirror: A very efficient scrying mirror can be made by purchasing an inexpensive regular mirror at dollar stores, discount stores, garage sales, or swap meets. Spray it with flat black spray paint. (Spray paint works better than paint you have to brush on.) Similarly, you can also use a picture frame from a garage sale or dollar store, and spray the inside of the glass with flat black spray paint. A bowl of water, a bowl of earth, black ink added to a bowl of water, and even a reflective item like a metal bowl turned upside down can also all be used for scrying.
Candles: Although some people say that candles used in spellwork "must" be pure beeswax, my personal belief is any candle used with the right intention works just fine. It is important to note, however, that for candle magic it’s usually best to use candles impregnated with the color throughout
instead of those merely color-coated on the outside and white on the
inside. Although, again, with the right intention, even these coated candles can work just fine. Candles can be purchased rather inexpensively at places like dollar stores, discount stores, or craft stores. Pay attention to the after-holiday sales to stock up on certain scents or colors. For instance, the 50-75% off sales after Halloween is a good time to stock up on orange and black candles, and the after-Christmas sales are perfect for stocking up on red and green candles. In a pinch, don’t forget that white or black candles are "universal" colors that can be substituted for any color candle you don’t have for a particular spell. I save all my wax drippings from my burnt candles and never throw any wax away. I store them in Ziploc bags according to color, and then several times a year I’ll spend a day or an evening when the Moon is in the right phase for my intention, melting my wax drippings to make a large batch of new candles. Although there are commercial candle molds sold at craft stores, I oftentimes use inexpensive waxed paper cups and cartons of various sizes to mold my candles. Any leak-proof container that can hold hot wax without cracking or melting can be used as a candle mold.
Herbs, Flowers, and Oils: Many of the herbs and base oils you need for spells can be found in the spice or baking section of your local grocery or health food store. I’ve also found large jars of good quality lavender and lovely varieties of potpourri at discount stores. Many herbs and flowers can be grown inexpensively from seed or started from small plants available at home improvement stores and garden stores. Orange, lemon, and lime peels can be saved and thoroughly air dried. Small pieces of the dried peel or the peels ground into a fine powder can then be used in amulets, charms, or spells. You can save bouquets of flowers you receive, and hang them upside down to air-dry after they begin to wilt. My prior residence had rose bushes in the yard, and I saved the roses and dried the petals and buds. Once thoroughly air-dried, keep the herbs or flowers in a tightly-lidded,
dark colored container away from sunlight until needed for rituals, spells,
or amulets. Oils should also be stored in the same way. Be sure to label
the container with name of item and date, and use in a timely fashion.
Pendulum: A simple pendulum can be made from a piece of string tied to a paperclip or crystal. While the best pendulums are weighed, balanced, and have a pointed tip, this homemade version can still work well for you.
Runes: A very personal set of runes can be handmade using wood, bone, small stones, or even pieces of leather. Put your imagination and creativity to work, and look around your neighborhood, local park, or any rural areas for small stones or sources of wood the right size to cut into a set of runes. Bones and pieces of leather can be purchased inexpensively at craft stores. You can then inscribe the runes by carving or painting.
Book of Shadows/Grimoire: A very meaningful, personal, and unique Book of Shadows can be inexpensively handmade, and you are only limited by your creativity, taste, and imagination. A Book of Shadows can be made from a simple spiral notebook, a three-ring binger, a blank journal purchased at a book store, or even from wooden covers you make yourself from thin pieces of wood. You can cover it with fabric and lace, or decorate it with embroidery, ribbons, paints, gems, stones or metals. Look to dollar stores, hardware stores, book stores, craft stores, and fabric stores as inexpensive sources for materials.
In conclusion, it really doesn’t take much money to practice Wicca or the Craft, and a little imagination and creativity will go a long way. Naturally, it’s not necessary to make any of your tools if you’re not inclined to do so, but the money you will save by being creative, using more natural items, and using your own skills and talents might enable you to be able to spurge occasionally and purchase that special ready-made or store-bought item that you just can’t pass up.
*****Thelma6954 is a practicing eclectic solitary Wiccan who enjoys writing
articles about Wicca and Witchcraft and also moderates several online
message boards regarding Wicca, as well as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgendered issues. Prior to a disability in 1996, she worked as a medical
assistant and paralegal. She has a grown son and daughter and two grandchildren. She’s originally from southern California, but currently resides in northeast Texas with her boyfriend, son, cats Luna and Deuce, and turtle Freya.
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