Saturday, September 10, 2011

Everyday Tools

Growing up, the magical tools were everyday things around the house. The "athame" was the old bread knife, which, when you think about it, was perfectly appropriate. It wasn't set aside for "magic" it was there to cut the bread! But it could also cut away The Evil Eye. Scissors? In the crazy drawer of tools and bits n bobs everyone has in their kitchen. No special place, not wrapped in a scented cloth... The mortar and pestle? There on the shelf. Used to grind herbs for cooking as well as for cooking up something or healing. There were things that came out at certain times of year: The New Year's Eve bell to clear the energy from the previous year, the drinking vessels that came out only for certain occasions... the recipes that are made only at certain times of year... So many Italians have this in common: The rhythm of daily magical life.

I've read elsewhere that all tools should be set aside for magic and nothing else. I disagree, at least in part: What gave those items their power and meaning was their daily mundane use- their place as an integral part of daily living. Yes, there were things reserved for certain occasions, but the tools that have been most dear to me are the ones that were just plain ours. The objects I use to connect with my ancestors are the ones said ancestors had on their person the most and aren't necessarily the fanciest. I prize the every day dishes of my family more than "the china" which I've never seen used.

I gave a very rushed, 30 minute presentation today at North Jersey Pagan Pride about Witchcraft in Italy. I talked a bit about the differences between La Vecchia and the typical forms of modern Paganism: In Italian family traditions, the mundane is magical; The two are irrevocably intertwined. Time isn't typically set aside for magic as a separate part of life. You went to make dinner, you lit candles. You made dinner, you offered part of it, and while making it you knew what effect the herbs used would have on the people eating it as well as the words to say to enchant it. After you cleaned up the dinner mess, you cleared out the energy. Any tools that I have set aside for no purpose other than magic are ones which happen to be used in my daily devotions. They are part of my every day life.

Some of this has to do with hiding out from the inquisition; It was necessary to blend in for survival, as Carlo Ginzburg's The Night Battles will attest. Happily, we don't have to do that as much anymore. Some of it is a matter of wealth- unless you're rich you can't afford to have certain things set aside. Most importantly, regular, intimate use means these object are being fed energy and given a purpose.

I believe there is no magical working that can't be done without a tool. However, a tool is supposed to make it easier. How can a tool make it easier if it has no stored energy? Consecrating it isn't enough- one magical zap and it's good to go forever? Not so much. You need to cultivate a relationship with it, and make it part of your flow of energy if you want it to serve you properly. Tools are supposed to be extensions of ourselves and our energy. Setting it aside to deal with it sometimes just doesn't get you there. It's like trying to drive somewhere without putting gas in the car first.

How lucky! A rambling rant! Blame it on the sun. I picked up more today than new students, new clients and raffle prizes, I brought home a sunburn! Working with Apollo is not the same thing as using sunblock.

1 comment:

  1. I have several altars around the house, and the "sacred knife" on some of them are steak/butter knives ... much to the dismay of some neo-wiccans. Yes, I have fancy tools on my public ritual altar, but the private altars elsewhere have "comfortable" tools from everyday use. It's true: Streghe don't need to do magick because they ARE magick.