Magical Tools: The Chalice and Ninhursaga

When I first pondered the magical tools of Western magic, I looked for similarities with my Roman Polytheistic practice. Going deeper, I realized that the two used dissimilar spiritual technologies for different ends. Since Roman Polytheists are focused on proper relations with the Gods, their altar items reflect this. Meanwhile, Western magicians, exercising their personal sovereignty, wield their tools to create a new reality.

Eliphas Levi, noted French occultist, introduced the chalice as a tool into Western Magic in the 19th Century. Levi was inspired by the suits of the Minor Arcana of the Tarot. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn expanded on his intent to have the chalice represent the feminine power of the Cosmos. For modern witches, the chalice represented the Goddess (Note 1) in the Great Rite. In “The Witch’s Altar,” Jason Mankey and Laura Tempest Zakroff write “The love of the Goddess is expressed in the waters and wine of the chalice. May all who come to this altar never thirst. Blessed Be!” The chalice then becomes a sacred tool to convey the essence of the Goddess.

Heron Michelle noted in “Elemental Witchcraft” that Modern Witchcraft restores “the full complement of tools to our magickal tool box so that we may attain true mastery as humans forsaking neither god nor goddess.” One thing that it does well is “reconciling the tensions between the chalice and the blade.” (Note 2.) “This becomes the Great Work of transformational magick.” Traditionally the chalice is symbolic of the receptive womb of the Goddess. Heron Michelle says that since “creation flows from union,” the Great Rite of the Male (the Blade) lowering into the Female (the Chalice) need not be hetero-centric. It can be thought of as the merging of the projective and receptive mysteries into a harmonious relationship. She refers to these mysteries as “Two who move as One.”

In “Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard,” Oberon Zell-Ravenheart observed that the chalice contains the “Mysteries of Life and Death.” According to him, the chalice represents that ancient Cauldron of the Goddess Cerridwen. This cauldron gave poetry and inspiration to those who drank from it. Since the chalice is the tool of emotions “especially Love,” it contains the “Elemental Water of Life.”

Various blogs written by witches offer suggestions for devising a chalice. One common one is to use a paper cup. For me, a red plastic Solo Cup does not seem to be a proper receptacle for the Goddess. I think something more elegant would be appropriate.

Zell-Ravenheart suggests using a drinking goblet (a cup on a stem with a base). I took this to mean a wine glass. Obtaining one would be easy since the stores that sell wine often sell wine glasses. Since wine is the usual offering for the Gods, a wine glass would be acceptable. Wine is regarded to be the creator of new realities. It was a sacrament for various sacred mysteries such as the Dionysian ones.

To consecrate the wine glass as the chalice, I would first rinse it out with salt water and pass it through a candle flame. Then I would sprinkle flour in the chalice (a traditional Mesopotamian method of protection) and ask Ninhursaga, the Mother of the Gods to bless it. (I am a follower of Mesopotamian Gods as well.) Then I would wrap it up in flannel to keep it safe.

Ninhursaga is the Goddess of the Womb, who gave birth to eight Gods. Among her titles are “Mother of Wildlife,” “Mother of all Children,” Form Giver,” and “Birth Giver.” The chalice would be the representation of Her powers of creation and fertility.

I would dedicate the chalice singing traditional praises of this Goddess: (Note 3).
“Ninhursaga, being uniquely great,
Makes the womb contract;
Nintur, being a great mother,
Sets the birth-giving going.”

“Mother Nintur, the Lady of form-giving,
Working in a dark place, the womb (lit. “heart”)
To give birth to lords, to place the crown
On (their) heads, is in her hands.”

Note 1. In Western magic and Modern Witchcraft, there is a Goddess and a God. This differs from Polytheism which has many Gods and Goddess.
Note 2. Michelle is referring to the athame.
Note 3. Translations are from original texts as selected by Jacobsen.

Works Used.
Greer, John Michael, “The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2003.
Jacobesen, Thorkild, “The Treasures of Darkness.” New Haven: Yale University. 1976.
Mankey, Jason and Laura Tempest Zakroff, “The Witch’s Altar.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2021.
Michelle, Heron, “Elemental Witchcraft.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2021.
Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, “Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard.” Franklin Lakes (NJ): New Page Books. 2004.

Knowing Elusive Gods Through Gnosis

To construct the Starry Bear proto-tradition, Sannion listed several ways to uncover elusive knowledge. The objective is to connect with the Gods Themselves. According to Sannion, the Gods are still revealing Themselves, especially to those who seek Them out. Consider the various visions of the Virgin Mary from Fatima to Lourdes. Meanwhile Mary of the Cell, the Mother of Austria, became known through the experiences of monks and others.

How does Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG) occur? Dreams, visions, ritual encounters, and inspired writing and painting are ways that Gods often reveal Themselves. For me, free writing is how the Gods prompt me. I write what comes to mind while practicing cursive letters. Writing a page of Bs for me can release my ability to listen inwards.

We can start by being in our sanctuary space or altar. Sitting quietly in the presence of the Gods brings about divine silence. Allow for the spark of the Divine to enter the space. This is the heart of prayer, where visions of the Holy Powers are possible. There we practice incubation and gestation of the vision that we have received.

A God that I have a cultus for is Summanus, one of the oldest of Roman Gods. Romans honored Him at the summer solstice with summanalia (baked bread resembling sun wheels). Since Summanus was regarded as the Night Thunderer, He was thought of as Jupiter’s “Dark Twin.” Pliny wrote “They attribute daytime thunderbolts to Jupiter and ones at night to Summanus.” Varro claimed that Summanus was originally adopted from the Sabines. However, by early Imperial period, the Romans forgot who He actually was. In “Fasti,” Ovid marked the solstice as dedicated to “Summanus, whoever he is.”

I see Summanus as the Jupiter of the Night. Dreams are a portal to the Otherworlds, where I feel Summanus’ presence. Tradition has it that the time of the full moon is when the worlds are close. During that time, I felt a subtleness that told me Summanus rules the skies from May to October, while Jupiter reigns from November to April. That is my UPG.

Another tool for knowing elusive Gods is divination. This is the traditional manner to converse with the Gods. (Note 1.) Engaging in divination puts a person into a sacred space. Divination shifts the boundaries between the known and unknown. In divination, the answers always stand outside of ordinary time, since Gods are not linear. Since the meaning is immanent, it can be found in trees or stones and other things. UPG comes from pondering the answers

People should share their UPG. By comparing and contrasting theirs with others, a group gnosis can emerge. This is how a fuller picture of the particular God develops.

Note 1. Never ask the same question twice. It drains the moment of meaning and therefore is useless.

Lituus, Wand, Pencil

Since I am a Roman Polytheist, I usually do not use magic in my practice. However, in reading about wands, I realized that I do use a wand. When I do Roman divination, I use a lituus to mark out a templum to take auspices. The lituus is a curved wand with the top shaped as a question mark. Pointing to the sky or an area of land, I set up a square which I quarter, and then quarter again. This is the templum, which could be thought of as sacred space. I ask my question and note the signs occurring within the templum. I interpret the bird signs to discover what the Gods’ answers are to my questions.

In “The Witch’s Wand,” Alferian Gwydion MacLir wrote, “You aren’t begging for divine intervention, you are casting your will upon the cosmos as a person of power and confidence. That is what the wand signifies.” (Note 1.) In using my lituus, I am doing precisely that since I want an answer to my question. I am not foretelling the future but want to find out if I have divine approval for something.

In magic, wizards use wands to cast circles and direct magical energy. Wands are also used for channeling magical energy. With a wand, a wizard can write out their intention in the air. Oberon Zell-Ravenheart in “The Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard,” sums up what the wand means to a wizard. “In ritual, the wand strives to unite our body, mind, and soul with that of universal consciousness to bring into manifestation our magickal desires.” (Note 2.) I interpret that to mean that the wand unites the wizard with the Cosmos.

I pondered how I could make a wand since I am limited by my brain injury. Christopher Penczak, a noted wizard, inspired me in his observations about wands. He wrote that wands can be disguised as everyday tools. “I’ve known witches who use their wooden kitchen spoon and mechanics who use their screwdrivers.” (Note 3.) The important point is to be united with the tool so that it becomes a part of you.

For a wand, I chose the yellow No.2 pencil. (Note 4.) I use one daily to write in longhand for my exercises to promote brain health. Since for many cultures, words are magic, I regard my pencil to be a magical tool. Dr. Bernard Beitman writes in “Meaningful Coincidences, “words are created to carve out portions of reality that deserve our attention.” (Note 5.) With cursive, I can create and direct my will. (Note 6.) The flow of writing the words out by longhand channels the will of the writer, thereby creating magical intent. Cursive translates my will physically on to the paper much like a wizard writing with a wand in the air.

I have always been particular about my pencils. I routinely dedicate them to the Gods to aid in my writing. After placing them on my lararium (Roman altar), I ask Mercury the God of Communication to bless them and my words. For writing poetry, I ask Apollo, the God of the Bards. I dedicate those pencils to the act of creating beauty and truth.

For me, the pencil would be appropriate for a wand. It is made from wood, which is a traditional material for wands. Moreover, the yellow color represents the mind. The eraser, which is the pommel, balances the yellow and also represents intuition.

Note 1. Alferian Gwydion MacLir, “The Witch’s Wand,” P. 170.
Note 2. Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, “Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard,” P. 104.
Note 3. Penczak quoted by MacLir, P. 26.
Note 4. No. 2 lead is neither too hard nor too soft for regular use.
Note 5. Dr. Bernard Beitman, “Meaningful Coincidences,” P. 10.
Note 6. I write all my essays using cursive in multiple drafts.

Works Used.
Adkins Lesley and Roy Adkins, “Dictionary of Roman Religion.” New York: Oxford University Press. 1996.
Beitman, MD.,Bernard, “Meaningful Coincidences.” Rochester (VT): Park Street Press. 2022.
Greer, John Michael, “The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2003.
MacLir, Alferian Gwydion, “The Witch’s Wand.” Woodbury (MN): Llewellyn. 2021.
Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, “Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard.” Franklin Lakes (NJ): New Page Books. 2004.


For the Romans, October is a month to focus on the affairs of the state and of the community. Fides (Good Faith), Felicitas (Good Fortune) and Venus Victrix (Venus Victorious) are honored for the protection of the people and the continuing favor of the Gods. Di Penates (the Gods of the Pantry) are also given sacrifices for protecting the food stores. Meanwhile, the welfare of the people is prayed for by offerings to springs for Fons and drinking the first wine for health in the honor of Meditrina.

Also, October is a month of transitions. The campaign season is over and soldiers return home. They and their weapons need to be purified before they can rejoin the civilian population. For that reason, this month is under the guardianship (tutela) of Mars.


FIDES PUBLICA: The Goddess of Good Faith and Trust, Fides Publica has sacrifices made to Her on October 1. This Goddess presides over oral contracts both political and social. Roman priests make offerings to Fides with gloved hands, to show their absolute trust in Her.

MANIA and DII MANES: The Opening of the Mundus (the Well to the Underworld) is conducted for the second time in the year on October 5. At this time, the Dead (Dii Manes) go amongst the living. I say prayers to Dii Manes and Mania, who is Guardian of the Underworld, to protect my family from the restless Dead.

The Roman calendar differs from the standard Neo-Pagan one. There is no thinning of the veil, instead the Mundus is opened three times a year (August, October and November). The honoring of the Ancestors and the Dead is held in February and May.

FAUSTA FELICITAS: On October 9, a festival is held for Fausta Felicitas, the Goddess of Good Fortune. As Felicitas Publica, She is the Divine Force of the State. People pray to Her in both aspects to keep the commonwealth prosperous and successful.

VENUS VICTRIX: The Roman Goddess Venus has many aspects. One of them is Venus Victrix (Venus Victorious), who protects the State. As Venus Genetrix, She is considered to be the Ancestress of the Roman People. As the Evening Star, Venus led her son Aeneas to Latium to settle. Her festival is also on October 9.

MEDITRINA: The Meditrinalia, the Festival of First Wine, is held on October 11. Cups of new wine mixed with old wine is drunk to Meditrina, Goddess of the First Wine and Healing. She is the daughter of Aesculapis God of Healing, and the sister of Hygenia,

FONS: Fons, the God of Springs, is honored at the Fontinalia on October 13. I make offerings for clean water at a neighborhood stream.

DI PENATES: On October 14, Romans honor Di Penates, the Gods of the Pantry. Along with the Lars, Di Penates protect the household. Since They guard the food stores, Di Penates can be considered the Gods of the Food Banks. Taking canned goods to a food bank is one way to honor Di Penates.

MARS: In October, the Roman armies came home from the wars. They and their arms had to be purified, and Mars thanked for another campaign season. The final sacrifice to Mars for the season was the October Horse. The Armilustrium was the purification of the weapons and trumpets (tubae). At this time, I honor Mars and say prayers for veterans on October 18.

Co-creation with the Sacred

In “Birthing the Holy,” Christian Valters Paintner shows how a person can have a sacred retreat in their daily lives. To engage the Holy, a person needs to have two main elements – time and space. Emphasizing this, she writes in her on-line “Monk Manifesto:” “I commit to find moments each for silence and solitude to make space for another Voice to be heard.”

Paintner says that people hold inner multitudes. According to her, inner conflict arises when people refuse to make space for the multiplicity that they contain. Referring to this multiplicity as archetypes, she matches them to the various Titles of Mary, the Mother of God. (Note 1) For Paintner, each of the names of Mary is something for a person to encounter and experience. (The Names of Mary Mother of God:

My Polytheistic antennae perked up. Then I realized that the Gods match the inner multitude of myself during my encounters with Them. For that to happen, I prepare for my journey to Them by retreating to the quiet of my in-between place. There, my multiplicity reaches out to Them.

Before starting a sacred journey, I ask for support. I call upon my Ancestors and Holy Beings that I feel close to. For me, it is the Squirrels, Who are more than squirrels. Since Paintner is Roman Catholic, she says to call upon the “Communion of Saints and Cloud of Witnesses.” (Note 2) She also suggests saying the many names of Mary, the Mother of Christ. As a Polytheist, I ask the Ancestors of the Heart and Place, and Heroes (such as the Divine Julius and Hercules).

Asking for support can be done in various ways depending on the person. I write. However, other people employ sitting in silence, creating art, dancing, playing music of simply using gestures. Each activity prepares us and transports us to the liminal spaces and times.

While we wait for the Call to journey, we listen and reflect on the Holy Powers. Jung said, “If you put yourself into the icon, the icon will speak to you.” As we step into the unknown, we let go of controlling the encounter. When we crossover the threshold, we give our consent to the invitation of the Gods to enter the Sacred. To navigate the Unknown, we do divination.

Then we wait and incubate the Holy. What does this mean? By welcoming what we have been given by the Gods, we practice hospitality. We now have their seeds to attend to in our fertile soil. Through dreamtime, meditation, dance, and other holy arts, we tend to the moments of unfolding and ripening of these seeds. Of course, divination will guide us in the spiritual alchemy that is occurring.

As Paintner points out in “Birthing the Holy,” we are given expression to the Sacred through co-creating. Relying on the Divine Graces, we can give birth to a new dream. Our inner mystic takes us to where we need to go, and to what we need to do. We co-create with the Divine Energy that flows through us. In the end, we aid the ecosystem of the community of humans, Gods, and Others.

During this alchemy, we must remember that things do not unfold linearly but in circles and spirals. Since we are engaging in mythic time, many things do happen simultaneously. While this is occurring, we do our daily devotions. This is how the Gods sustain us.

Note 1. While Roman Catholic, Paintner sees meditation on the Titles of Mary to be embracing the Sacred Feminine during meditation.
Note 2. The “Cloud of Witnesses” are all of the believers who have gone before including those of the Old Testament.

“Birthing the Holy” by Christian Valters Paintner, Sorin Books, 2022