The athame is a ritual knife that is used to absorb and direct energy. The knife is usually double-edged with a black handle and, since it is not used for physical cutting, the blade is usually dull. As one of the most common tools used in Paganism and Wicca, the athame also becomes one of the most personal. Usually, the athame is not used to call upon the Gods since it is more of a commanding tool, especially in Ceremonial Magic. A sword is sometimes used instead of the athame and carries the same attributes.
Swords are usually used with a larger group, such as a coven.
Some Pagans engrave sacred symbols into the blade and handle to help make the knife more personal, and thus more powerful. The athame is a tool of change and therefore is associated with the Element of Fire. Also, because of its phallic shape, it is considered a masculine (God) tool.
The wand is used much in the same way that the athame is used. It can be used instead of the athame or in conjunction with it. The wand can be made of almost any kind of material. Some are made of wood and can be topped with crystals, pine cones, or stones. Sometimes symbols are engraved in the wand for specific reasons. There are several recipes for making wands, but there is no one true way of creating one. Whatever feels right to you will work best for you. You may find that this holds true for almost everything in Paganism and Wicca.
Unlike the athame though, the wand can be used to invoke the Gods since it is considered a "more gentle" tool. It is associated with the Element of Air and is also considered a masculine (God) tool because of its phallic likeness.
A censor is a container made of metal, clay, stone, etc. (being fireproof is preferred) which is used to ignite and burn incense for rituals or spells. Incense has, for thousands of years, been used to enhance the religious experience in almost every form of religion. Some say that the smoke of the incense carries your prayers up to the Gods where they are heard. Others use a censor to burn certain combinations of incense for spells and magic. Many Pagans and Wiccans will use a censor, containing burning incense, to cleanse and consecrate their circles and/or other sacred spaces. It is also used to cleanse and consecrate people, items, etc. If for no other reason, using a censor fills the space around you with a very magical atmosphere, and lends a special mood to any temple or sacred circle.
The censor is usually associated with the Element of Air, but some link it to the Element of Fire because of the burning that takes place.
Bowls can be made of virtually any type of material and can contain anything that the practitioner wishes. Water and Salt are two of the most common things Pagans keep in bowls on their altars. Water is needed by virtually every living thing and is therefore considered sacred to us. Salt (usually Sea Salt) is also considered sacred because we need it as humans for survival. Salt is also known as a purifier and thus when mixed in the bowl of water, we have created our version of "Holy Water". Salt and Water are also two items which are sometimes used to Erect Temples or Circles.
The bowl can be used to hold any item the Pagan wishes, such as...flowers, corn, stones, oil, etc. it is not generally related to any one Element due to its diversity but is considered feminine due to the womb-like feature of the bowl.
The magical cauldron is famous when it comes to Witches and Witchcraft, but it is not used to boil unspeakable animal parts or the fat from unbaptized babies! The cauldron has many uses. Like the censor, it can be used for incense. It is also used in the mixing of herbs for healing or spells. In one tradition, the cauldron is used as an "ash pot". An ash pot is a small cauldron where pieces of paper, with wishes written on them, are burned, throughout the year, and placed in the cauldron. Then on Imbolc, (a Pagan Holiday celebrated on Feb. 2nd) a special ritual is done where the practitioner anoints themselves with the ashes.
The Cauldron is a symbol of the Goddess because, like the womb of the Goddess, the cauldron is used for creating. It is a symbol of fertility and is associated with the Element of Water.
The Pentacle is a circular disk or plate upon which a Pentagram is engraved, etched, or painted. It is a very decorative item which is used to hold items during consecration of those items or as a plate for food or other offerings. It is a point of focus upon the altar and can be made of any material and decorated as you see fit.
Since the pentagram is considered a symbol of Earth, the Pentacle is associated with that Element and is sometimes used as a form of protection or consecration.
Candles are a very attractive way of brightening any room, but in Paganism they have an even more important purpose. They may be used in spells and rituals as symbols of certain objects or even symbols of the Gods. Different colored candles have different properties in magic. For instance, green candles are sometimes used in money magic since money is green. Candles are also used for practical reasons, such as lighting.
Candles help set the mood when doing rituals and creating candles can be a great project for coven meetings and gatherings. The candle is associated with the Element of Fire for obvious reasons.
Statues and Idols have long been used in religion to depict Gods and Goddesses. There are literally thousands of statues to choose from when picking your favorite God or Goddess representation, so there is no need to "settle" on any one. Horns or Antlers are sometimes used for God images, as are statues of ancient Roman and Greek mythologies. A seashell can be used as a Goddess symbol, as can several other natural objects.
The sky is the limit on this, for we must each decide for ourselves how we see our Gods. Just about anything that you can find may be used as a representation of your Deity.
An altar is merely a place or object upon which sacred items are placed for the purpose of worship or ritual. Altars can be anything, from a coffee table to a tree stump. Some Pagans and Wiccans claim that the altar must be round to represent the circle and others claim that there is no particular shape that an altar must be. Again this is entirely up to you. No one has the right to tell you that your altar is the wrong kind or shape. Anything that you find where you can place your ritual items and it works for you, can be considered an altar. In fact, there is an old saying that goes, "In a Pagan home, every vertical space is a bookshelf, and every horizontal space is an altar!".
Altars have always been used as a focal point for worship or ritual. It is the place where energy is focused or released. When performing spells, think of the altar as a workbench.
A chalice is a ritual cup, made of wood, stone, glass or metal, and will usually contain water, juice or wine. During Cakes and Ale, the chalice is used as a symbol of the Goddess for the Symbolic Great Rite or the Union of the God and Goddess. Groups of Pagans and Wiccans will generally share the liquid inside with one another in order to promote health and unity.
The chalice is a Goddess tool since it is symbolic of a womb and is usually associated with the Element of Water.
Book of Shadows
The Book of Shadows (BoS), given its name because it was usually kept hidden from non-believers, is a sort of diary or journal for the Pagan or Wiccan. The BoS contains spells, rituals, chants, songs and other information that the practitioner uses during their life in the Craft. Some Pagans have several volumes of books dated back several years. The BoS does not necessarily have to be an actual book. More modern Pagans place their BoS in their computers where they can use photos to enhance the book and make it easier to read and edit. Other Pagans will swear up and down that it must be handwritten by the witch in order to truly be a BoS. This is up to you. There is no "right" way of creating your BoS, only different ways.
However, there is much to say about the handwritten BoS. For one, by handwriting the book, you are putting much more thought and energy into the book and it does kind of enhance the experience of the Craft as a whole. Also, if you have any artistic talent, you may wish to create the book from scratch and decorate it as you please. This ensures that no one else will have anything like it and it will truly be an original. Some groups get together every now and then to swap books and copy from one another. This really is a lot of fun, and a great learning experience. Each Pagan or Wiccan can have their personal BoS and if the coven or group wishes, have a separate one just for the group.