We are all feeling the effects of a tough economy and having to make difficult choices about how we spend whatever money we still have. And this concern can affect our Witchy lives as well as our mundane one. Let's face it—Witchcraft can cost you a lot of money if you’re not careful: ritual garb and velvet cloaks, athames and wands, crystals, magickal candles, herbs, and oils can all add up to a chunk of change. And that's before you even include books, my particular weakness. Or have all your friends over for a big ritual and feast.
Does this mean that we can't have a satisfying spiritual and magickal practice without spending money we can't afford? Not at all! All we need to do is adopt a different attitude and a new approach. I call it witchcraft on a shoestring, and I, and my coven Blue Moon Circle, have been following this path for years without sacrificing any of the aspects of our practice that are truly important to us.
Witchcraft on a Shoestring Basics
To adapt your current practice (or start a new one), you need to start with a few basics:
- Remind yourself that all you REALLY need to practice The Craft are your heart, your mind, and your spirit. The tools we use otherwise are useful (and often fun), but not necessarily irreplaceable as long as you have faith, will, and focus.
- Figure out what your priorities are. For instance, I value learning and acquiring new knowledge over almost any other aspect of The Craft (besides connecting with the gods and my fellow Witches), so I'm going to keep spending money on books, no matter what. But I may not buy new garb, or add to my (already large) crystal collection until the economy picks up a bit. Take some time to think about what your focus is when you are practicing, and what you must have in order to support that practice.
- Decide what you MUST have, as opposed to what you'd LIKE to have. For instance, if you have a tough time focusing when you cast spells, you may still need things like candles and incense, to get you in the proper mental state. If you are working on healing, you may need a particular crystal. And of course, you need a new book or two (hint, hint). But do you really need a third cloak? Probably not.
- Look for less expensive options for the tools and supplies you do need. I'll give you a few suggestions below to give you a head start.
Use This, Not That—Inexpensive Substitutions for Expensive Items
- Instead of buying garb, go to a consignment store or the local Salvation Army shop and find something funky that can be used as witchy garb. For instance, if it is black and lacy, any shirt or skirt is likely to look Pagan. Or keep your eye out for old Halloween witch costumes at yard sales.
- Instead of buying an expensive metal chalice, go to the dollar store and buy a glass goblet. Decorate it with glass markers or ribbons if you want to dress it up a little.
- Instead of using fancy candle holders, get some inexpensive glass or pottery plates (bowls work, too) and sit your pillar candles or votives on them. Just make sure the containers are fire-safe and that the candles won't tip over. In our outside circle, out behind my barn, we often just use four of the large flat stones already in the circle to put our quarter candles on.
- Instead of a pricy athame or wand, go out into the woods and find just the right piece of wood and sand or decorate it as needed. If you have one, you can use a wood-burning kit to inscribe mystical symbols on your stick. Or use colored markers, ribbons, feathers, or crystals to make it a little more magickal. But since both tools are primarily used for pointing and directing energy, a plain piece of wood is fine. For that matter, your finger will work, too.
- Instead of buying a pre-made Book of Shadows, take an inexpensive binder or folder and decorate it with magickal symbols, a pretty cloth cover, or pressed leaves. Or just find a cheap journal that already has a cover you like.
- Instead of spending a lot of money on special spell candles, take a votive or taper (less than a dollar, most places) and anoint and consecrate it for whatever magickal work you are doing. You can etch appropriate rune signs into the candle with the point of a toothpick, if you want.
Ten Ways to Deepen Your Practice for Little or No Money
There are plenty of witchy activities you can do that cost nothing, or next to nothing. Here is a list of ten, just to give you the idea:
- Grow your own magickal herbs and flowers. Even apartment-dwellers usually have a sunny windowsill they can devote to a few herbs. And growing the plants yourself means that you are putting your energy and intent into the magick you will eventually do with them from the very first moment you plant the seeds.
- Go for a walk and pay attention to nature. If you live in the country, or have a park nearby, it is easy to take a mindful stroll and watch for the animals and birds we share the planet with. Even in a city, you can usually find a green spot, or go to a botanical garden. Breathe the air and notice what you smell. Listen to the sounds, and just connect back to the earth. If you can, sit for a while with your body in contact with the earth or a tree, and feel its strength supporting you.
- Stand out under the night sky and look at the stars. Feel how small you are, and yet how vital a part of the universe.
- Stand out under the night sky and look at the moon. What phase is it in? Is there any way in which that phase corresponds to where things are in your life? If the moon is full, be sure to soak up the light and love of the goddess while you're out there.
- Teach someone something about The Craft. Passing on knowledge in one of the most important aspects of being a Pagan. Share what you know with another Witch who is just starting out, or gently educate a non-Pagan about what it really means to be a Witch.
- Sit by a body of water and listen to the soothing sounds it makes. Think about how all the water on the planet is connected, from the smallest drop of rain to the biggest ocean, and so are we.
- Plant a tree. You can usually get bare-root trees for very little money at your local Cooperative Extension, or from the Arbor Foundation. If you don't have property on which you can plant a tree, see if a local park will let you plant one there, or help a friend to plant it on their land. Or donate to the Arbor Foundation and they will plant one for you, if you can't do it yourself.
- Drum. The drum has been used by Pagans for as long as we have history to look back on, so drumming is a connection with all those who went before. It can help you achieve a meditative state, or you can just use it to send out a message of joy into the universe.
- Help someone who needs it. I firmly believe that the goddess (or deity in whichever form you find it) wants us to look out for each other. When you help another without expecting anything in return, you are doing Her work.
- Give someone a kiss or a hug and tell them you love them unconditionally. Perfect love and perfect trust are at the core of a Witchcraft practice, yet who among us can say we truly get or give enough love?
Why You Should Spend SOME Money
Witchcraft on a shoestring isn't about spending NO money ever on your magickal practice. It is about being careful how, when, and why you do buy things. And there are a few reasons to occasionally open your wallet and pull out a little of your hard earned cash.
For one thing, it is important for us to support the rest of the Pagan community, and that includes those who own Pagan stores, bookstores, or hand-craft items with a magickal bent. After all, if we don't buy things from these folks now and again, they won't still be there when we need the items for our practice we can't get anywhere else.
For another, I believe it behooves us to buy books on Pagan topics, for much the same reason. Yes, I am a bit prejudiced, since I write some of those books, but let's face it—I was buying books on magick long before I ever wrote one, and I'll undoubtedly still be buying them long after I write my last magickal tome.
As I said earlier, learning and acquiring knowledge are among my greatest priorities. And if we don't buy books, the publishers won't publish more, the authors won't write more, and then how will the next generation of Witches learn? Few of us are lucky enough to have a Witch who lives nearby and who is willing to share his or her knowledge, so books are the path that many of us walk to get from there to here.
That doesn't mean you have to buy every book you ever want to read, of course. Sometimes you can find one at the library, or swap with a friend, or even find a Pagan book at a yard sale, if you are very fortunate. As with everything else, you'll want to consider how much you'll use any particular book (I have quite a few Witchcraft reference books I refer to over and over), and how much you need the knowledge contained within its pages.
Witchcraft on a shoestring, at its core, is all about making choices and setting priorities. And always keep in mind that as long as your heart belongs to the goddess and the god, you already have gifts that no amount of money could buy.