The tools of magick—wands, chalices, robes, altars, pentacles and more—can be daunting to an aspiring magician. If you read some books such as those involved with Solomonic magick or Enochian magick, these are just the beginning tools. If all you want to do is perform a few spells or begin to move along on your magickal path, that’s a lot of stuff to find or make. Some of the things that are required for more advanced, specialized, or group work can be expensive (banners, triangles of the art, rings) and rare (a lion-skin belt).
When I started with magick I was eager to obtain all of the appropriate tools. I sewed my own robe. I built an altar. I bought an expensive dagger to be my Air dagger that was modeled after the sword described in the Key of Solomon from Herman Slater’s Magickal Childe store in New York. I found a nice glass chalice and painted it myself. I did the same for a disk of wood for the pentacle. For a swinging censer I found one from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice store in England. I purchased a box to hold my Tarot deck from Z Budapest’s store on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice Beach, CA. I made my own banners. I purchased a set of Enochian chess boards and pieces from Aztral Games in England. Of all the stores I bought tools from, only Sorcerer’s Apprentice is still around.
In Modern Magick I point out that if you’re going to use the elemental tools (Chalice for Water, Wand for Fire, Dagger for Air*, Pentacle for Earth), either have them all on your altar, or don’t use them. I also point out that you don’t have to use the traditional tools (archaically called “weapons”). For example, you could use a shell for Water, a match book for fire, a fan for Air (I have one made of sandalwood that I love for this purpose), and a cup for Water.
I still get questions as to whether someone can use something else for a tool. One of the things I like about magick is that real magick is not composed of laws in books. Books of magick, at best, are guidelines. Using a fan instead of a dagger for air isn’t traditional, but for me it does work. Look to books for guidance. Look to books as fallbacks if your new interpretations don’t work. Experience, however, is still your best teacher.
I have also stated that a real magician doesn’t need tools. He or she should just be able to use his or her mind to perform entire rituals. I know I don’t have to use tools for magick, but most often, I choose to use them. Why? Because I like using them!
I like the feel of putting on a robe and standing before an altar. I like the sense of holding a dagger or chalice. They have a positive affect on me, and I would contend using them, for me, improves my magick.
It is true that consecrating and using your tools does have the effect of turning them into talismans or reservoirs of magickal energy that you can use. For example, a Wand can act as a battery for holding Fire energy.
It is possible to find some traditional tools for purchase on the internet. For example, if you’re interested in the tools used by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, authors of books such as The Essential Golden Dawn, have handcrafted many of the tools and offer them for sale through the Hermetic Virtues website. By the way, Hermetic Virtues magazine features articles by some of the best modern writers, and I highly recommend it. You can obtain subscriptions and back issues through their website.
I’m very glad I began learning magick the way I did. Some people who come to magick through reading “here’s a bunch o’ spells for every purpose” books end up being disappointed. By starting out guessing that magick was a real science I began by learning the tradition and then expanding upon it. By becoming familiar with each type of energy I could harness and direct it toward my goals, initially with tools, and eventually without them. This isn’t the only way to learn magick, but it’s been effective for me.
So it was more than a bit of trepidation that hit me when I first saw Christopher Penczak’s Instant Magick. Really, Christopher?
You see, I have had the good fortune to have met and talked with Christopher many times. But Instant Magick? Instant? Frankly, it sounded like a bit of the old spellbook-to-solve-all-of-your-problems books. Okay. It sounded like a bit of a scam.
Or perhaps I could be more clear if I wrote, IT’S NOT! In fact, this is a great book. It presents magick with an attitude that is very much like mine: learn magick thoroughly so you can instantly call on it whenever you need it. It’s different from my approach in that it comes from a Pagan perspective rather than a ceremonial magick perspective and that’s fine. The concept and the practices work.
I find it very interesting that beneath the differences of different styles and forms of magick there is community and similarity.
—Sure! I Can Do Magick for That—
Just let me go back to my personal temple,
assemble my tools,
and wait for the hour of Venus on Friday…
What do you mean you need something now?
It is true that certain ceremonial magick rituals require you to perform them during a certain astrological time. Ceremonial magicians have been laughed at about this for a long time. The truth, however, is that most rituals do not require it. It’s like the difference between elective and emergency surgery. You choose the time to do elective surgery. Likewise, you might choose a specific time to invoke a particular entity. There’s no rush on that.
But if you must have emergency surgery, you need it performed now. Likewise, if there is some specific magickal need that must be immediately fulfilled, there are plenty of ceremonial magick rites that will be able to help you.
Honestly, the same is true with Pagan rites. If you need something done now there are rituals and spells for it. If you’re doing a ritual for Beltane, you really need to wait for (wait for it)… Beltane.
In the meantime, don’t sit on your behind picking your nose! Take the time between rituals to read, study, and practice. That way, when you are ready to perform a ritual you will know how to do it. And when you need to perform a ritual, whether you have your tools or not, you will be ready to successfully accomplish it.
So whether you are a ceremonial magician or a Pagan, I do recommend Penczak’s Instant Magick. Pagans will learn the basic skills of magick and be ready to use them when necessary. Ceremonial magicians will get another approach to magick and also better understand the idea that you can perform magick anytime, any place. This attitude exemplifies the concept that I present in Modern Magick:
Magick isn’t something you do.
Magick is something you are.
*Yes, I know that in some traditions the associations for the wand and dagger are the opposite of what is listed here.