Ritual Without Tools
For beginners on the Pagan path, most every book available for purchase talks about the importance of ritual tools. It is seen almost as a sacrilege to enter the circle without, at least, the "standard" items - wand, athame, chalice, a few crystals and a book of shadows. Many authors and mentors in the traditions make it out that there can be no real ritual unless there are tools.
This is not necessarily the case. Knowing that one's faith comes from within, there are times and places where tools are not feasible, or not permitted. Performing a Sabbat ritual at a public park, for instance, weapons are prohibited in more localities. That means no athames. Does that render the ritual invalid? Of course not.
Inside a prison's walls, security would also prevent practitioners from using an athame, and a wand. But, if one looks deep enough, information in many books and passed along by wise teachers show how the wand is an extension of the arm - as is the athame. Thus is it that the arm is what directs the energies, and not specifically the ritual tool. So, in those times when no tool is available or acceptable, one's own arm is the key tool.
The crystals, or other representations of the earth element such as a handful of dirt, some rocks found in a parking lot, or a clay bowl, may be welcome on the majority of altars but, again, may not be accessible or allowed in certain circumstances. Remembering the best representation of earth is that on which an individual stands with his or her own feet - even if we're thirty stories up in a high rise building, because of the connection of the structure itself to the solid earth - is a valid substitute for these symbols.
For the chalice, signifying water, there is the body itself, which is made of mostly liquid components. The "draw" on the body by the other elements is evident in the cycle of the moon: the energies are higher when the moon reaches its fullness, and tends to wan as the moon becomes less visible. Compare this to the lake and ocean tides, which are similarly affected...
The Book of Shadows has many variations, from a finely bound blank journal to a three-ring binder crammed with looseleaf paper, a computer hard-drive or diskette, or a dog-eared spiral notebook. All depends on the practitioner's preference, but in circumstances where one is not obtainable, another will do in the interim. When the situation warrants, the old Book of Shadows can be copied into the newer one (which often happens anyway, over time, when the pages fade or the material is so well-worn it can no longer be used in its current form).
So it is there can be vibrant, meaningful rituals - private and group - without "formal" ritual tools. Yes, charging and using the tools can be far preferable, but lack of such should not prevent practitioners from casting the circle and expressing their faith.
Such is one of the incredibly fantastic aspects of Paganism: the flexibility of the systems. Pagan traditions acknowledge where faith truly originates - in a person's soul - and provides the means to express that faith in many different ways, all of which are equally effective. No one way is "right"; no one way is "wrong".
It is the intention of one's heart that is important, and the performance of the ritual itself.
Home Page Current Issue Past Issues The Frater's Domain Quill's Corner