22 June 2011

The Magical Weapon

Magical 'weapons' (or tools) have been an important part of ritual magick ever since, well, probably prehistoric times already. But choosing the right tool or set of tools is no simple matter.

Old grimoires are full of swords, daggers, wands and other implements, complete with mysterious sigils. The problem with these, however, is that the grimoires are rarely very specific about the actual use or meaning of the weapons. 19th century occult revivalists attached an endless amount of symbolism to weapons, but actual functionality still didn't seem to be a high priority. And that was the conclusion I came to after a fair amount of thought on the topic: functionality should be paramount.

The Basic Weapon

So what it all boils down to is the 'Pointy Thing'. This is the tool you use to 'channel energy', to trace symbols in the air etc. The most obvious choice of tool for the PT is the wand, since this is pretty much its function. If you don't use the wand for pointing at things and waving about, what's the point of having one?

You could use a dagger or knife for this, of course. But the function of a knife is to cut. If you plan to do any kind of carving or cutting as part of your occult endeavours, the knife may be best reserved for this function. (Also, waving a knife about haphazardly does have an element of risk involved.)

Of course if you're going for a more Wiccan feel, the knife, or athame (this name is basically meaningless, probably a corruption of Latin 'artavus', which quite possibly originally referred to a different tool entirely, but it is fairly universal in Wicca, so I guess it's fine), is quite traditional, and using it is perfectly fine (as long as you pay heed to safety). Most sources call for a different knife for actual cutting, and that's fine too, although by no means compulsory. Some Wiccan sources say either knife should not be used outside the magic circle, but I think that's simply poppycock. The wand is traditionally also listed among Wiccan tools, but, like I said, if you use a knife for pointing, what use is there for a wand? I don't see much point in cluttering up the working space just for the sake of it.

Many traditions have a sword, but frankly, a sword is rather too unwieldy to use as a PT, and it doesn't really have any other function, either. Of course there are many other possibilities for both a Pointy Thing and other functional tools. Simply use what feels right. Use your imagination.

Other Stuff

The Pointy Thing and the optional Cutting Thing are pretty much all you need, really. You may want to have candles, incense etc. around, but these don't really count as magical weapons, in my mind.

If you really, really want to have the complete set of elemental weapons as used by the G∴D∴ or A∴A∴, that's fine, but I don't really see the need for it. You might want to think about the functionality again, though. What is the pentacle? It's essentially a plate. And what do you do with plates? You put food on them. Well, this could be useful if you intend to make sacrifices to any entities. Likewise, a cup is for drinking. If you want to make a toast as part of your ritual, that's fine of course.

In most cases, if you stick to just one or two tools and don't use a lot of materials, an altar is probably unnecessary. If you feel you need one, just improvise.

The Four Elements

Many systems and authors associate weapons with particular elements. This is an important feature of the above mentioned G∴D∴ and A∴A∴ weapons, but Wiccan authors have also continued the tradition.

To put it bluntly, I don't see the point of this. In my mind, the weapons are defined by their function in the ritual, no more, no less. For elemental attributions to truly make sense, the number of weapons should match the elements, and they should all be equally meaningful in the ritual.

The Question of Appearance

Well, there really is no right answer for this. There are tons of instructions around in occult texts, both ancient and modern. You could use plain tools, or decorate them with elaborate sigils, modern, ancient or entirely original. It really is up to you.

I find a wand is best when it's no more than a foot long, and fairly slender. I have used plain wands, and some decorated with astrological symbols. For a while I even used one that had decorations based on the fire wand of the G∴D∴. This wasn't planned, really. I'd made it a couple years earlier, at a time when I was more enamoured with Victorian systems of magick than I am now. I had planned to make a complete set of elemental weapons, but never got around to it. However, comparing some of the wands I'd made over the years one day, I discovered, to my surprise, that this one felt the best in my hand. Who was I to argue with physical attraction? Of course it had a very strong association with fire, but I didn't feel that was a problem, even if I didn't have other elemental weapons to balance it, since the Pointy Thing is supposed to be a tool for channelling energy, after all.

I have a white handled working knife with symbols from the Key of Solomon painted on it. This one as well dates from an earlier period of my occult career, and the paint job is less than perfect, but what the heck, it's a good, functional knife. I also have a black handled knife, or athame, with symbols based on some presented in Janet and Stewart Farrar's The Witches' Way, a modified version of Key of Solomon originals.

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