The next four days in Roderick’s 366 have us consecrate our four main ritual tools, but before going ahead and actually performing the consecrations, I thought it might be nice to briefly meditate on why we consecrate these tools.
In Gardner’s novel High Magic’s Aid, tools are given utmost importance. After all, no magic large enough to change an outcome can be done without the magus Thur and his friends Jan and Olaf questing to find the Witch of Wanda (Vada/Morven) and securing her athame and white-hilted knife. And these are secured so that Thur can make the burin which will help him make the sword which will finally allow the poor man to cast a proper circle. It certainly gives the overall impression that tools make the witch. And yet, Gardner does say in the novel’s opening pages that while “a magician must have the proper instruments of art [, …] the power lies in himself.” The problem is that if the magician works without tools, he must have absolute “peace and quiet to inflame himself to the highest might of frenzy”, and it is terribly difficult to “concentrate his will do draw down the most powerful forces when one ear is cocked for fear my lord Abbot’s men come thundering at the door”.
In essence, then, Gardner is trying to convey the idea that tools don’t make the witch, but they really help achieve the magical ends in a timely manner. As we all know, it’s a very difficult thing to shift your mind out of the mundane and between the worlds. To be honest, I think this is why we time most of our rituals for the night–it is decidedly different from the daytime hustle and bustle where we spend the majority of our active lives. Because it is different, it is easier to mentally put our daily “to do” list on the back burner and get in the “be here now” space where magic happens.
Our tools help make ritual space ‘different’ than the mundane space of our daily lives, and when we take care to keep them very ‘different’ from our daily lives, they help us get to the altered mental state where we can create magic a little more quickly. I believe that this is why we try to make these items ourselves rather than go out and buy them as we do for practically everything else in our lives. I also believe that this is why we consecrate these items and set them apart as special. We even mundanely treat them as special–when their tools are not in use, many practitioners shroud these items and put them away in a special, closed off box or cabinet, and we actively discourage anyone (with the exception of magical partners) from handling our personal ritual tools. By treating these tools so differently from any other item we own and only seeing and using them in ritual, we soon psychologically connect them with that altered ritual state. It’s Pavlovian, really: we see the tools and our brains instantly slide into ritual mode.
This is a fully psychological response, but I like to think that there’s a psychic response here, too. After all, when we interact with these tools, we have a very clear function in mind. When I use my athame, I channel all my will through my body and out that knife and direct it into forming a sphere of energy around my workspace. When I use my chalice, I bring up every feeling of love and fellowship I have in me and focus it into the tool and its contents. Over time, I’d like to think that these psychic energies cling to that tool and impregnate the molecules that make up its physical form. In other words, I think there’s a point where that tool is no longer just a cup or a blade. It is also pure love and pure will, and interacting with that pure essence stored in that tool directs the new energy you’re putting into it far better than if you’d just grabbed any cup or blade.
Consecration, then, offers two major boons to magical working: it makes your tools more ‘different’ to you, and primes them to receive that pure energy, or it initiates your Pavlovian response to the tool while simultaneously lays down the circuitry for the magical battery it will become.
This being said, I think that there are more ways to effectively consecrate a magical tool than ritually casting circle and directing your energy through symbolic words and actions. For example, I believe that if you create the tool in a magically-grounded fashion and imbue each step in its creation with magic and purpose, it’s already consecrated–maybe even more thoroughly than through any other method. If you have an already-fashioned item, ritual consecration is perfectly fine. All you really need to do there are physically and psychically cleanse the item from its past uses and associations (voiding any charge of the battery it was), and then imbue it with the power and intent you have for it, as well as to imbue part of your psychic self into that object. The third way I believe an item can be consecrated is simply treating it as though it is already consecrated.
I think this last method is a little controversial, but I do think it valid. When you treat an item specially, it IS special, and you do interact with it differently. For example, my mother kept two complete sets of china dishes in our house. One was a plainer, sturdier set and we used those dishes every day without thought. We chucked them into the dishwasher, scratched and knicked them up, and broke several pieces here and there. The other was more elaborate and delicate. We only hauled it out for holidays, special occasions, and when company was over. It got to a point where all me and my brothers had to do was see those dishes, and we were instantly better behaved. Those dishes had a little magic just because we treated them specially. I do not think that this is the best method for magical consecration. After all, it definitely leaves a lot of room for accident and neglect–but I do think its results over time in a similar psycho-psychic effect to both magically making a tool or going through an elaborate magical consecration event (and its subsequent treatment).
I will be performing Roderick’s ritual consecrations of my athame, wand, chalice, and pentacle. In part, this is because I want to complete Roderick’s exercises, but it is also because I have not actually made any of my magical tools and it has been a long time since I have consecrated them. I also always leave them permanently on my altar so I have psychologically begun to treat them more like mundane objects.