Today I’m going to talk a bit about a tool I don’t hear much about today in the Pagan and Wiccan communities, and that is the Pen of Art.
For those not in the know, the Pen of Art is nothing more than a simple ink pen that is reserved only for magical work, which can involve various aspects of spell work or writing in one’s Book of Shadows. I’m about 99% certain we get this term and concept from Mathers’ Greater Key of Solomon, where it is used many times. In modern practice, the Pen of Art can be just about anything: a feather quill, a favorite ball point, a collection of Sharpies…heck, some would even argue that you could have a “Keyboard of Art.” Truly, it doesn’t matter what the pen is, so long as it is dedicated for magical work.
I think mentions of the Pen of Art have declined in part because keyboards do rule our lives. I’m a bona fide stationery nerd–I go through the pages of the Levenger catalog with the same glee that other women have for Victoria’s Secret–and even I have come to prefer typing to handwriting. As with many others, I can type much faster than I can write, it’s easier for me and others to read, my hand doesn’t ever cramp up, and I can edit all day long without having to re-write every single word. And then we have something attacking on the other side of the spectrum: scrapbooking. I swear to you, I’ve seen some amazing hand-crafted Books of Shadows that must have required an entire room full of specialized equipment and supplies in order to make. Between the two ends of this increasingly polar spectrum, it’s no wonder that we don’t really hear much about people reserving one special pen for their magical work.
However, I really do think that this is a practice to be kept. We all know that doing something by hand increases the energy (and provides a greater opportunity for one to meditatively infuse more energy into a working). Hand writing craft lore, personal spells, different rituals and other things can be beautiful…even if your penmanship is atrocious. I myself have long enjoyed doing this…but I certainly make sure to do all the primary drafting and editing rounds on a computer and only hand write the final master copy!
So, as you can imagine, I’ve made the rounds on choosing a Pen of Art.
In my first year or so studying the craft, I actually used dip pens, if you can believe that! Those are sort of like quills without the feather–you dip them directly into the ink and write until you need to need to dip again. I had a couple, actually…and I think my mother bought them for me at Tuesday Morning! One was a metal rod you could insert different nibs into, and the other was a swirled glass one. I might actually have them tucked amongst my belongings at my mom’s, come to think of it. Dip pens are definitely a little annoying to use and can be incredibly messy, so that was a short-lived endeavor.
I think that I would have eventually settled on a nice rollerball pen, but sometime around the beginning of my junior year in high school, my German friend Julianne turned me onto fountain pens. After consistently writing with a couple cheap ‘disposable’ ones for a year, I decided that I wanted a ‘good’ fountain pen for my Pen of Art…and that started me on my path to Fountain Pen collecting.
My first pen was Levenger’s Verona, which was made for them by Stipula. I lusted over that pen. I thought its aqua blue pearly color was gorgeous (I still do, actually), and thought it’s modern style was just what I was looking for. I even liked the little onyx cabochon on the clip. So even though this pen was ungodly expensive for me at the time, I saved up and eventually treated myself to the pen, which I intended to be my Pen of Art for life.
Unfortunately, it wrote scratchily and I never took to it. I thought I just had to break it in, but–as it turned out–the Veronas were a bit hit and miss. Some wrote beautifully while others had poor ink flow. By the time I realized it was the pen’s fault, it was far too late to exchange it.
Funnily enough, even though I’ve continued to acquire fountain pens, it’s been a long road to finding one to dedicate as a Pen of Art. This fellow, a Waterman Phileas I acquired sometime in college, was another that I’d intended to be a Pen of Art. I like it a lot: it’s a pretty weighty pen for its size and I do enjoy its Art Deco styling and it’s vague resemblance to a cigar. Better still, it writes really, really well. In fact, because it writes so well and because it wasn’t insanely expensive, it’s become the pen I use for everything. Of course, that pretty much precludes it from specialized dedication as my magical pen.
When I acquired this pen, a Waterman Man 100 Opera, I really wanted it to become my Pen of Art. It’s the favorite in my collection. It writes like a dream, feels great in my hand, and looks as sharp as a tuxedo. But I’ve got sentimental associations with this one. It was a gift, and a really important one at that: my father gave it to me when I graduated from college, telling me that I was to write my first prescription or sign my first book with it. Moreover, it was a pen that was special to him, too. I don’t know how he acquired it, but I do know that he really only used it to sign the most important documents. His giving me his favorite pen meant so much. So now I regret to say that I really don’t want to add magical meaning to a really important personal meaning. In my mind, this fellow already has a dedicated purpose, and that purpose is not a magical one.
And that brings me to the final pen in my history of searching for the right tool. I’ve just ‘rediscovered’ it, and I really think I’ve got my Pen of Art this time!
As with the Opera pen, I got this from my father, too, although he doesn’t know it. After he and my mother split up, Mom found it in its box, crammed into a deep corner of his desk and completely forgotten. She sent it to me, and as I was really upset with my father at the time, I put it in a storage box and promptly forgot about it, too. I only recently found it again in a massive round of reorganizing.
The pen didn’t look as nice as this at first. It was pretty tarnished and grungy looking, and I couldn’t get it to write at all. I actually thought that both the exterior and interior were permanently ruined and that I’d have to get rid of it. Instead, I decided to see what the pen was and decide if I could rehabilitate it.
A long round of googling eventually told me that this pen was a Parker Sonnet Fougère. This pen was part of the original Mk. 1 pens that launched Parker’s Sonnet line in 1993. In fact, it was the top-of-the line Sonnet in that first batch. Unlike the other Sonnets, it boasted a thick gold cap band, a duo-toned nib, and two gold nib rings. And its exterior casing was solid sterling silver.
You definitely don’t blithely dispose of such a pen, so I set to rehabilitating it. Of course, the exterior cleaned up quite nicely with a little sliver polish (and some gentle ingenuity to clean under the pen clip). Getting ink to flow again took some doing, but after a few hours of trying every trick in the book, I got it going again.
I’ve spent a couple days now using this pen whenever I have the chance, and I’m finding I like it quite a lot. It is a smooth writer; perhaps not as smooth as my beloved Phileas, but very good nevertheless. I guess its original marketing as “the writer’s pen” wasn’t too far off the mark!
I think this pen is it for me. It came to me through serendipity, and I like how it looks and how it writes, and I don’t have any emotional attachments to it. As a nice bonus, its silver exterior makes it especially suited for magical work. I think, then, that I will ritually dedicate it as my Pen of Art.