Thoughts about Magical Tools

In her discussion on magical tools (Note 1), Heron Michelle writes, “a Witch’s tools function like a key that unlocks each gate to an elemental realm and then directs that power into Middleworld reality.” She continues to write that they “are consecrated to embody their elemental force, anchor their elemental mystery lesson in our consciousness.” Her logic is that the tools are important to the sacred purpose of a witch’s work. They are an extension of the witch and helps to focus their energy for working magic.

In her work, Michelle developed the “Witch’s Jewel of Power.” She assigned four grand tools (emphasis Michelle) (besom, staff, sword, cauldron) to anchor “the elemental gateways at the boundary between worlds, working magick of interconnection.” These tools also anchor the receptive energies of the Jewel – resonance, wonderment, surrender, and acceptance. Therefore, the four altar tools (pentacle, wand, athame, chalice) empower and focus the witch’s will. These particular tools anchor the projective mysteries – silence, knowledge, will, daring.

Applying Michelle’s ideas to my new perception of magical tools, I realized that they are not trifling. My first impressions of these tools were formed from the various Wiccan rituals that I had attended. I noticed that the participants were causal in working with them. Perhaps they themselves did not understand the true essence of the tools. As a Roman Polytheist, I did not see the tools that I used as being significant either. For me, I needed them to conduct a correct ritual to the Gods.

After working with the magical tools of “modern traditional witchcraft,” I now understand that all tools have power. Every tool needs to be selected with care, since they have a particular purpose. My approach now is to see the tools as embodying the elemental forces. Each allows the magic to happen through the witch. The tools used in my worship of the Gods are now understood for how they interact in the ritual.

As to working with the tools that I assembled for modern traditional witchcraft, I do not have a plan. As a rule, I do not do formal magic. For the time being, I keep them on my Ancestor altar. The pantacle acts as an anchor between the worlds, therefore the Ancestors can employ it during the times when They want to contact me. The athame is something that Mars and Minerva deem useful to Them. I already use the wand (my pencil) and the cauldron (tea kettle) for mundane magic. (They do help to fill my day with wonderment.)


Note 1. Her book “Elemental Witchcraft” discusses this in detail.

Works Used.
Greer, John Michael, “The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2003.
Michelle, Heron, “Elemental Witchcraft.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2021.
Zakroff, Laura Tempest, “The Witch’s Cauldron.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2021.
Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, “Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard.” Franklin Lakes (NJ): New Page Books. 2004.

Magical Cauldrons and Teakettles

When people picture a witch, they often imagine an old woman stirring potions at a cauldron. Shakespeare’s Three Witches of “MacBeth” comes to mind. MacBeth goes to see these witches in a clearing in order to secure his kingdom. He hears them chanting their spell, “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” (Note 1.) The witches are using the cauldron as a magical tool to brew their potions and cast spells.

As a tool of magic, the cauldron has many mythological qualities. As one of the Four Treasures of the Tuatha de Danann, the Cauldron of the Dagda (the Good God) (Note 2.) provided eternal abundance through food. The Lord of Abundance, the Dagda allowed no one to leave his hall hungry. One of the Thirteen Treasures of Britain, the Cauldron of Dyrnwch the Giant would not boil meat for cowards. This Cauldron (Pair Dyrnwch Gawr) separated the heroic person from the others. The Cauldron of the Head of Annwfyn also would not cook food for a coward. Moreover, this cauldron was the holder of mysteries. In the Mabinogion, the Cauldron of Rebirth (Pair Dadeni) would return the Dead to life, although they could not speak. Other cultures such as the Greeks have their myths about cauldrons as well.

In magical practice, the cauldron has many uses. Representing the Divine Feminine, the cauldron is the Womb of the Goddess, which makes it a tool for transformation. As Ceridwen, a Welsh Goddess, makes magical potions in her cauldron, so can the modern wizard. A cauldron full of water can be used for scrying. On an altar, it can represent the Four Elements, according to Doreen Valiente, the mother of modern Wicca. (Note 3.) The cauldron is a tool of creation, abundance, and transformation.

In “The Witch’s Cauldron,” Laura Tempest Zakroff lists items that could be considered a cauldron. Since the utensil itself has undergone many changes through time, modern things can substitute for the traditional cauldron. She writes, “the cauldron is first and foremost a container. It is shaped to hold things and is designed to conduct and retain heat.” Zakroff compiles nine uses for a cauldron – container, maker (cooking), transformer, purifier, gateway (connection between realms), marker (guide), drum, divination, and rebirth (renewing life). Things such as the bathtub, washing machine, and tea kettle fulfill many of the uses that Zakroff lists. A stockpot, Dutch oven or crockpot could also be considered a suitable substitute.

Pondering Zakroff’s list of uses, I decided that a tea kettle is a worthy substitute. After all “cauldron” also means “kettle.” To me, the brewing and consumption of tea is sacred and transformative. In Japanese Tea Ceremony, the selection of the kettle is as important as the selection of the tea cups. Since the kettle brews the magic potion known as tea, I chose mine with great care. It does hold all the elements as Valiente detailed in “Witchcraft for Tomorrow.”

To consecrate my tea kettle, I first clean it with hot water, and let it air dry. Then I ask the Roman Gods to bless it – Vesta of the Hearth for the kettle. Fons for the water, and Libera and Liber for the tea. Then I make an offering of tea to the Gods by spilling the liquid on the earth. Then the kettle is ready for magical use.

Note 1. The full chant is:
“Round about the cauldron go;
In the poisoned entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Sweltered venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ th’ charmed pot.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil, and bubble.”
(“MacBeth,” Act IV, Scene 1.)

Note 2. The Cauldron of Plenty is also known as the Undry.

Note 3. Valiente in “Witchcraft for Tomorrow,” writes “need water to fill it, fire to heat it, the green herbs or other productions of the earth to cook in it, while the steam arises from it and spreads it aroma into the air.”

Works Used.
Ellis, Peter Berresford, “The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends.” Constable & Robinson Ltd: London. 2002.
Greer, John Michael, “The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2003.
Michelle, Heron, “Elemental Witchcraft.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2021.
Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise, “Celtic Gods and Heroes.” Dover: New York, 2000.
Zakroff, Laura Tempest, “The Witch’s Cauldron.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2021.
Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, “Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard.” Franklin Lakes (NJ): New Page Books. 2004.

“The Whirlpool of Grief”

Dr. Richard Wilson devised the “Whirlpool of Grief” (Note 1) to illustrate what happens with grief and our responses to trauma. The person is boating on the River of Life, when they are suddenly plunged over the “Waterfall of Bereavement.” Following the shock of the traumatic event, they fall into the “Whirlpool of Grief.”

He describes the Whirlpool where the person experiences the “Breakdown,” which is defined as a falling apart. “The Breakdown” lies in the Whirlpool itself. “All Washed Up” is the exhausted person landing on the shore. “On the Rocks,” at the edge of the Whirlpool, is where the pain of the loss hits us – physically and emotionally. The “Banks of the River” is where they feel stuck and unable to go anywhere.

People have different types of boats that can or cannot withstand the waterfall. Sometimes they have to remain on the Banks and repair their fragile boat. They may wade out in shallow water to test the boat multiple times. This is a part of mourning.

As people mourn and accept the new reality, they move to the lower part of the river. Navigating through this reality, they will find themselves on a new stream. This placid stream is a tributary of the River of Life. This process reminds everyone that “we are all sailors on the seas of fate.” Some are better sailors, but everyone has to navigate the River of Life.

The Whirlpool of Grief can be reflected in Alchemy. There are various processes to undergo before you can bring the Philosopher Stone into being. Translating the relevant ones (Note 2) into a grief line – the first phase is shock, then tears, and finally self-examination. You experience the shock, and then you re-enter the grief which brings the pain to the surface. After experiencing the emotions, you separate them. This is the time of self-examination which results in discernment and ownership. Sorting through the pain, you separate who you are from who you are not.

Moving forward with courage is not something that anyone automatically does. My brain injury brought me this understanding. I experienced the Waterfall of Bereavement with losing my old self. Anubis, one of the Egyptian Gods of the Dead, helped me through this. As I wandered the World of the Dead not knowing where or what I was, Anubis led me to the Banks of the River to regroup. It was there that I separated who I was from who I wasn’t. As Dr. Wilson said, “Bereavement is what happens to you; grief is what you feel; mourning is what you do.”

Note 1. Dr. Richard Wilson, a pediatrician, devised the Whirlpool of Grief to help parents grieve for their deceased children. The Whirlpool represented the emotional upheaval and disorganization (anger, guilt, sadness) that follows the traumatic death. He diagramed the states that person goes through until they find themselves in calmer waters. His diagram can be seen here: Coping with loss and bereavement – Counselling in your Community.

Note 2. The relevant processes are (1) Calcination: heating the material to drive out impurities. (shock) (2) Dissolution: applying water to wash the remaining ash to be in a purer state. (tears) (3) Separation: filtering the dissolved substance. (self-examination)

Suggested Reading:
“Different After You,” Michele Neff Hernandez
“From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Ourselves,” Rev. Robert Fulghum

Disenfranchised Grief, Anger, and Sadness

With grief comes sadness and anger. When sadness pools around you, it numbs you, and leaves you helpless. Meanwhile, anger gives you something to do. A common reaction to loss, anger is a temporary relief from the sadness, since it masks the grief.

Anger is a response to a sense of unfairness. It offers you information on what hurts, and gives you fuel to tackle that grief. However, it is a tricky emotion. If you are not aware, it can become rage. If you already have a well of unresolved grief, that particular anger is silently lurking and unspoken. New grief will ignite it into rage.

When Trump was elected President, the dreams and hopes of my former friends were utterly shattered. The pieces of their world now lay about their feet. This left them in a deep well of rage. Since their overwhelming grief threatened to engulf them, they preferred the white-hot heat of anger to dwell in.

I suspect that Trump, the man, sparked the silent and denied grief and anger of their past. It became easier to rant at him, then to face that old grief. Now, my former friends wrap their rage around themselves as a warm blanket to comfort them. They still drip venom, which eats away at everything.

As for me, I had to separate myself from my friends. I felt that loss deeply. However, my friends’ bitterness threatened to overwhelm me. I had watched my former friends transform into something other than human. Now, I mourn the loss of friendship that we once had.

Grieving a dream or a lost friendship is hard. It is easier to rage against the unfairness, the injustice of it all. Fueling the anger is the fact that society has denied our need to grieve. What we have is known as “disenfranchised grief,” (Note 1) which means that our losses are not worthwhile since a living being did not die. However, we feel them just the same, and mourn them.

All grief is not the same, but all grief is valid. The death of a dream can be as traumatic as the death of a person. The dream had sustained us and gave us hope. Since the dream was alive to us, we mourn the loss just the same.

In “From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Daily Lives,” Unitarian Universalist Minister Robert Fulghum wrote “When we’ve changed our religious views or political convictions, a part of our past dies. When love ends, be it the first mad romance of adolescence, the love that will not sustain a marriage, or the love of a failed friendship, it is the same. A death…. And there is no public or even private funeral. Sometimes only regret and nostalgia mark the passage. And the last rites are held in the solitude of one’s most secret self —a service of mourning in the tabernacle of the soul.”

The rite of mourning will help us with our disenfranchised grief. My ritual was dedicated to Anteros, the God of Requited Love (one of the Erotes (Note 2)). Although a Greek God, Anteros has helped me through the loss of friendship. (Venus Verticordia (the Changer of Hearts) introduced me to Him.) By embracing the Children of Aphrodite, I was helped through my grief.

Note 1. “Disenfranchised grief” was first described by Dr. Kenneth Doka in 1989, “to capture this feeling of loss that no one seems to understand and that you don’t feel entitled to.” He defined it as “a loss that’s not openly acknowledged, socially mourned or publicly supported.”

Note 2. The Erotes (Cupides) are the Children of Aphrodite.

Anteros: The God of Mutual Love.
Eros: The God of Love.
Hedylogos (Hedylogus): The God of Sweet-talk.
Hermaphroditos (Hermaphroditus): The God of Love in All Forms.
Himeros: The God of Sexual Desire.
Hymenaios (Hymenaeus): The God of Marriage.
Pothos: The God of Passionate Longing.

Suggested Reading:
“From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Daily Lives,” Rev. Robert Fulghum
“How to Carry What Can’t be Fixed,” Megan DeVine
“In Love’s Winged Harbor: A Novena for Anteros,” Galina Krasskova

Beginning Meditations on Grief

When the cherry trees bloom, I am reminded of the brevity of life. In Japan, cherry blossom time is celebrated as a moment of beauty and transience. For a short while, the trees are in their full glory. Then their petals start to fall and dance in the wind. Green leaves start to appear, and life goes on.

At the same time, violets bloom carpeting the fields, growing in sidewalk cracks, and flourishing in yards. Purples and lavenders are mixed with the kelly greens of the new grass. During the Rosalia (held in May), Romans place violets on graves (This is known as dies violae (day of the violets)). The purple of these flowers evoke blood, since spring is both a season of death and rebirth

While others rejoice in springtime, I feel grief mingling with the joy. One moment. the violets are blooming. The next, the heat heralds the coming summer.

One April while I was walking to high school with my girlfriend, a deranged man jumped out of the bushes. In a blink of an eye, he stabbed my friend in her neck. I remember her dark blood seeping into the sidewalk. Then afterwards, silence.

Grief morphs into many forms. It can turn from a knife to a stone in the heart. It can creep back on you unawares, slamming you into a wall. It can become a shrine to visit from time to time. Or a tomb to live in. As one doctor put it, grief can be either a whirlpool or a waterfall. For me, it is a lake that I paddle my canoe in from time to time.

As a Polytheist, I believe that the Dead live in both our world and their world. There are times when they visit the living. In July, Babylonians welcome their family dead into their homes and feed them hot soup. In May, Romans will leave out broken pottery to encourage the unwanted Dead to accept their offerings and leave.

Grief is like that. It comes travelling from between the worlds. You welcome it in, give it hot soup, and wish it well. Or you leave out broken pottery for the time you want it to be gone.

I am reminded of “Stumpy,” the stump of a cherry tree at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. Stumpy lost half of its canopy in a late frost a few years ago. However, the stump has one large branch that still blooms. Every year, Stumpy continues to have cherry blossoms like the other trees. As Stumpy is resilient, so can we.

I chose remember my high school friend as she was. Full of life, laughing, pushing her glasses up on her nose. Sharing a table at Fine Art Class, bemoaning our painting techniques. That is how I honor her. I will hold her in the living flame of Vesta.