Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Aaron Leitch, author of several books, including Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, The Angelical Language Volume I and Volume II, and his new Essential Enochian Grimoire.
Every so often, usually in online groups or forums, someone comes along and asks if it is always necessary to construct your own magickal tools, or if one can simply purchase them instead.
Overwhelmingly, such a person receives the same answer: Of course you must make your own tools! Constructing the tools is part of the ritual, it is how you imbue the tools with your personal energy and link them to your psyche. To use a tool made by someone else, you are bringing in that person’s energy and any impurities that might come along with it. Besides, just going out and buying all of your tools is lazyâ€”an indicator of our modern consumer culture of instant gratification and simply purchasing your way through the system rather than doing the work.
Some people are very adamant about making their toolsâ€”even to the point of losing respect for anyone that purchases them instead. They feel the necessity of constructing the tools from scratch with your own hands is an obvious no-brainer. For them, there is no reasonable excuse for lowering yourself to consumerism to obtain your tools.
But, are they right?
I’m not sure who was the first to insist that one must construct their own magickal weapons. Nor do I know exactly at which point this became a “given” in modern occultism. However, I do know that this attitude seems to be a modern convention. I’ve never run into it in the African Traditional Religions (like Santeria, Palo, Voodoo, etc). I’ve never heard it said about Hoodoo or Hexcraft/Pow-wow. I’ve never encountered it in the grimoires, nor heard it said in any form of (pre-modern) witchcraft or shamanism.
Of course, we do have some points to consider here. Most of these forms of old magick existed before there were occult shops or websites to sell us fancy magickal wands and talismans. So, these systems never directly address the issue of making vs. purchasing the tools, and it is obviously assumed you will be making them from scratch.
Also, we have to consider that some magickal textsâ€”like the Solomonic grimoiresâ€”contain extremely involved ritual instructions for the creation of most of the tools. Given that we know a store-bought item will not have been created according to those instructions (and may have even been mass-produced with slave labor, or in an environmentally harmful manner, or both), we might assume it is necessary to make them from scratch instead.
However, both of these considerations are assumptions. In the former case, there was simply no issue to address at the time. (There were no stores.) We don’t know what the ancient shamans would have done if they had had access to occult shops and websites. However, many systems of old magick continue to exist today, and they have directly addressed the issue. What you might find surprising is that none of them seem to have a problem with buying magickal items.
Hoodoo is likely the best example, as its proliferation in the American south was largely thanks to “occult curio” mail order catalogs. Hoodoo has an ingrained tradition of using materials that are cheap or already on-handâ€”such as writing talismans on brown paper from old shopping bags (which, at the time, were often laying around your kitchen in stacks)â€”but it was also acceptable to buy nearly everything from the catalogs: candles, floor washes, herbal baths, oils, powders, incense, talismans, etc, etc.
Santeria, Voodoo, and other ATRs also embraced the concept of occult shopsâ€”and today one can find any number of “botanicas” in heavily Latino populated areas. (They are very common here in Florida.) In the botanicas you can buy statues, icons, herbs, beads, animal products, urns, cloths, iron tools, railroad spikes, and nearly everything you’d need to set up the altars and practice the religions.
Going back a bit further, we find the famous Key of Solomon makes mention of buying your magickal dagger. After giving the instructions for forging the blade yourself, the text amends: “But if it seemeth unto thee too troublesome to make a similar knife, have one made in the same fashion.” (Key of Solomon the King, Book 2, Chapter 8.) Likewise, one is encouraged to get ahold of holy itemsâ€”such as robes and censersâ€”that have been used by priests or rabbis during religious services.
Other grimoires even give guidelines for having your tools made by professionals. The person you hire must be trustworthy and upstandingâ€”likely so his personal character will not taint the tool before it even gets to you. Some even insist the person you hire should be an occultist himself, and willing to follow all the ritual instructions as he makes the tool. A common warning (often heeded even by modern occultism) is that one must never haggle over the price of a magickal item.
Even as recently as the advent of Wicca: in the Book of Shadowsâ€”just after the instructions for making the altar tools (which are adopted largely from the Key of Solomon)â€”we find a clause stating that if the witch can get her hands on the magickal tools of a wizard, then she should not pass up the opportunity. I’m fairly sure that Gardner had either Solomonic tools or Golden Dawn tools, or both, in mind when he wrote that.
As far as I can tell, the concept that you must make your own tools is strictly modern, and its validity depends entirely on the psychological model of magick. If the magick you are doing is strictly in your head, and the rituals are only intended to activate aspects of your own psyche, then it would be vastly important to craft the tools yourselfâ€”as part of the psychological exercise.
On the other hand, if the tools are houses for real spirits, then who makes the house isn’t as important as knowing and working with the spirit. Aladdin didn’t have to make his own lamp in order to summon the Jinn from it.
Now, before I sign off, I’d like to make a couple of points clear. First, I’m not suggesting that the above evidence should give us permission to indulge our consumerist laziness and simply purchase everything we need! It is still true that making the tools yourself is the best-case scenarioâ€”because it does indeed become part of the ritual and puts a piece of your own soul into the items.
However, there will be some things that are beyond your ability to make from scratch; for example, how many of you can forge your own blades? It is at these times one should consider buying the itemâ€”or the ingredients to make it. At no time ever should you decide to purchase something because doing so is simply “easier” or “faster.” That attitude will put an end to your magick right away.
There will also be times when it is impossible to buy a tool and still meet the ritual requirements for its creation/consecrationâ€”especially if you don’t know an occultist who can do the work for you and reliably follow the rituals in your stead. In such cases, you will have no choice but to make it yourself.
Thus, in the end, I’m not taking a firm stance either for or against purchasing your magickal tools. Instead, I wanted to illustrate that, historically, there hasn’t been a firm stance either way. Buying tools and ingredients is neither encouraged as “the way to go” nor discouraged as detrimental to the magick. The concern is for what is most practical given your circumstances, and protocols are given for both options.
In my own practice, I have many tools I have made myself and a few that I have either purchased or have inherited from other occultists. Sometimes what I need to make requires me to go out into nature and gather the ingredients myself, and sometimes it requires me to seek out a good botanica.
Of course, I never haggle over the price.
Our thanks to Aaron for his guest post! Visit Aaron Leitch’s author page for more information, including articles and his books.