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Witchcraft on a Budget: an Introduction

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Witchcraft on a Budget: an Introduction

Postby jcrowfoot » Tue Sep 04, 2007 1:28 pm

Note: this is mostly for people new to the Craft, or other Pagan path. I figure most advanced people have already thought of what I've posted here. I haven't seen anyone really spend more than a few paragraphs on it, even published authors. So here's my contribution. I was on social security disability for a few years when I injured my back, and these are the ways that I managed to maintain an active tradition with very little cash. Further, while I suspect that my methods would transplant well over seas, I am from the US and I'm not very familiar with the availability of items eslewhere.

Let's face it: it's easy to get on the "bankruptcy path" of witchcraft. :-)

Doesn't matter which specific path you are on, the tools for the job tend to cost. I'll grant you it's fun to go to those nice looking metaphysical bookstores with the crystals and cauldrons and get starry eyed at the new, specially made items just for you... but hold on a minute. Most of us aren't rolling in the dough. So what's a pagan/witch to do?

There are three basic skills that can help you get to do spells and ritual tools without spending that last dime on your paycheck.

Well, first of all, being a bit of a do-it-yourself kind of person does help, but you don't have to work *too* hard. Having an eye for finding treasure that other people see as trash is invaluable.

Being (somewhat) organized also helps. Make lists. First, know in advance how much you have to spend. Second, make a list of the things you need. Then, a list of things you want, and you can decide based on all that what you are going to do.

The third is the hardest, especially in spellwork. SIMPLIFY. Can you get away with less? Once you get the hang of it, you can take a given spell or ritual and take out the bits you don't need to spend on. Keeping an eye out for spells that are specifically geared to encourage one to buy particular products is a critical one. AVOID them at all cost! They may not be honest in other ways.

Here are the questions you want to ask yourself when looking at spells rituals and the like:

Do I need this?

Do I want this?

Can I make this?

Breaking down a spell into components that are needed to work, and things that are nice to have is a great way to save money. Spending your money on things that can be re-used for multiple purposes is another good way. My next article will explain how to do just that.

Things like amulets can be made with paper or wood (harvested from a tree or gotten from a scrap bin at your local hardware store) instead of metal and/or crystals.

Substitutions are your friend. If your spell calls for herbs or compounds you can't find or afford, figuring out what it's for can help you come up with your own swap method. Cunningham has a great section on this in "Incense Oils and Brews."

I will also post a substitution list here as well, which contains attributions and herbs that he doesn't list as well as herbs one can safely wild harvest. Why? Because they are noxious weeds, that's why! The environment will thank you, and they will be vigorous and plentiful.

Another tool: The library. It has handy things like: lot of books for free (duh), photocopy machines, and a quiet space to work. You can go there, look up what you want on a wide variety of topics, photocopy what you want, and put those into a "patchwork book of shadows". A handy and inexpensive tool are Postit notes, so you can mark all your pages before you head off to the copier. Postit also has specific little tags that you can use, but they may or may not be cheaper than the original note thingies.
Remember that if you find yourself copying a LOT from one book, buying it used (through Amazon, or your local used bookstore) is probably cheaper. Depending on how big the book is, you will spend more copying it manually,than buying it outright. IF you don't find what you like on the shelf, try interlibrary loan. Also, your local used bookstore can also search for books for you, if you don't have access to the Internet.

Knowing where to shop for the items you can't make is another great thing to know. Using resale shops is a great way to save. Also, recycling depots for construction, scrap yards and the like usually have good prices, too. Habitat for Humanity has them, and earth minded communities often have at least one. A down-market variation on this is the Flea market. There are low rent antique shops that can also have items that would fit. Heck, I've found good spell components at dollar stores.

I will be coming up with sturdy, easy to do and inexpensive crafts and projects to demonstrate how this is done. I will leave a link here in this thread, then post the actual project in it's appropriate topic. This way, you don't have to move all over the map to see what I'm up to.

Notes on bias: I tend to work a kind of eclectic hedge magic, with maybe a few more tools than one needs at times. For this series, I'll be conscious about that, but not everything I post is connected to this. I will not be covering theology, but practical magic and ritual construction. Everything I post will be an example, subject to your whim for yourself. Edit until your heart is content. Your words are free!

This technique may or may not work for High Ritual Magic, which was created by wealthy aristocrats and researchers of the Catholic Church, or Court Magicians of various stripes. So they went out of their way to get exotic materials and so on, to maximize their likelyhood of success. This was done on the theory that the more money you invest in the spell, the more energy was put into it, and thus the more impressed God and everybody would be, so the more likely it would work. This is by NO MEANS a universally held opinion. After all, the vast majority of mesopagan magic in the world is FOLK magic, generally not done by rich people with fussy ingredient lists. Yet, they frequently get successes.
Even some Hermetic inspired folks don't follow their recipes to the letter. Chaos Magick is an extreme example, but I'm sure there are others.

Anyhow, no matter what tradition you hail from, I hope you can find something that fits with your own style. Any questions, or contributions? Feel free!
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Postby Mozelle Ellis » Wed Sep 05, 2007 9:01 am

Thank you! Because I have been that person. Eyes may want but do I really need it.

Here are the questions you want to ask yourself when looking at spells rituals and the like:

Do I need this?

Do I want this?

Can I make this?
Mozelle Ellis

Postby jcrowfoot » Sun Oct 21, 2007 5:42 pm

Substitution Doesn't Hurt: Even for Financial Reasons!

One of the other problems with being a witch on a budget, is doing research. How do I mean this? Research is free after all! Well... If you want to do historical research into Pagan cultures, you get some interesting problems.

First of all, some of our fondest sources for historical practice came from wealthy cultures who's vast wealth was brought to bear when showing devotion to the Gods. For example, what's a city girl to do when you see that sacrificing cattle is how the Greeks apologized to the Gods for a given issue? Obviously, sneaking to your local livestock farm and killing someone else's cow is NOT the answer.

It gets even thornier when we realize that morality has, for better or worse, changed since then. Also, our view of the universe itself and how it works has changed. After a while, you get the sense that you are throwing out most of the valuable research you started to begin with.

It gets worse. Personal devotions weren't really talked about in ancient Greece and Egypt, because it was the kings and royalty that mattered. There are small exceptions, like Dir El Medina (a settlement on the West Bank of the Nile, near the Valley of the Kings) in Ancient Egypt, where there was a very literate and devout middle class. Finding that info can be challenging, however, since most classical archeology is still geared at the ruling class, with their shiny gold and mass sacrifices. Not to mention... they were usually the ones that could read and write.

Heck, even if you are looking at Mediaeval manuscripts, culture has changed sufficiently that things like blood, and body parts are much harder to come by (we hope!) than they seemed to be at the time. We don't have public hangings anymore, so you can't get that all important dead hand of a thief for that stealth spell.

Of course, people have been making compromises in this area for a long time. Egg white and Dragon's Blood are all touted for blood substitutes. Not to mention that working with blood can be very iffy health-wise. Besides, do you really think that actual blood would work well as a binder in your incense? I don't even want to think about what it would smell like!

Speaking of the Mediaeval times, the sorts of botanicals that were available in those days are different than they are now. We also know that a lot of materials commonly used in Magick are poisonous. Lead is a great example. It was used for seals and curse tablets as far back as the earliest settlements of ancient greece. Bdellum, a form of sap found in plants like poinsettias is also toxic if eaten or absorbed. You probably don't' want to breathe it, either, but it was used a great deal in incense.
Then you have the stuff that one can get in this day and age, when nearly everything is available with the click of a button on your local web browser.

Truthfully, many of the botanicals I've seen on the web are actually pretty reasonable to purchase. It's the tools and the like that are difficult.
Rune-stones, cauldrons, and special made objects that are the most pricey.
Gums, on the other hand, can be very expensive. And most people can convince themselves that they can get by with frankincense as a substitute for most of them. So then, what's the point of all this? To remember that everyone has used substitutes since the beginning of time.
That it was even more common in ancient times than it is now, thanks to the vagaries of supply and demand. If anyone tells you that only *this* *one* *thing* magickally speaking will work, and I'm talking about tools, charms, or the like, RUN. This is a hoax designed to scare you into buying their product. Especially if the thing is expensive. There are ALWAYS alternatives.

Be even more suspicious if there's a close time restraint. Things happen in their own time. The only counter example I can think of, would be something like... "the only thing that will help you is to get out of that burning building before it falls on you!" But that's a completely different sort of situation.
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Spells and Ingredients

Postby Artemis » Wed Jul 03, 2013 3:44 pm

Some spells call for ingredients, candles, or incense, etc. For someone who has very little spending money for things other than bills and necessities it's not easy to find that spare amount of cash to purchase these items. Which is why I shy away from spells that need anything but yourself and items you can find around the house, like say a piece of paper, pen.

However is it possible to still perform those spells without the items specified for casting the spell? Is it just as effective or less?
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Re: Spells and Ingredients

Postby North Star » Fri Jul 05, 2013 5:07 am

I believe, and I think many others do as well, magick is not in those things, they are just tools. That's it. Many witches use nothing but their mind a lot of the time. ;)
"She's mad, but she's magic." -Charles Bukowski

"No snowflake ever fell in the wrong place."
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Re: Spells and Ingredients

Postby firebirdflys » Fri Jul 05, 2013 2:18 pm

North makes a very good point, much of what we do is will. As one teacher I had used to say," be ready to preform magic at a moments notice"...OK, so if that is the case, I am going to be places where I have none of the accoutrements many associate with witches.
You can do much with what nature has provided, sticks and stones and plants... its all right there. Many plants can be burned as incense or just be present to lend their energy, rocks could make your circle or used to form a sigil , twigs can be formed as messages or symbols or instant wand. I get great joy and find the creative mind flows when I design a "Rite-on-the-spot", or even if nothing is available...the mind is always there.
There is power in paper and pen. Can you make a small fire in your BBQ? write your wish on the paper and throw it in the fire...>PooF<... you have just preformed magic.
Much of the things I have obtained over the years were very inexpensive (other than my Blade, which after 20 years in the craft I felt it was time for a treat) I found cups and incense burners and offering plates at thrift stores or garage sales. Many of my tools I made myself, my first blade I made out of an old file. My 1st pentacle was salt clay, my cup was more like a bowl I made in ceramic class...then it became an incense burner. The 99cent store (the unofficial pagan shopping place!) has candles other things for the Altar, and while I don't recommend incense from there, it could be used.
Many blessings, Firebird
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Re: Spells and Ingredients

Postby Lillady » Sat Jul 06, 2013 12:26 am

I most defintely agree here. I also understand as I personally, cannot always afford things on a budget. Things such as Athames, candles, incenses etc. are just tools. Our power that enables a "spell" to work is within us and nature. If you feel more comfortable using tools, like firebird said sticks work well. With sticks my suggestion is to go out and talk to them, they will talk back. Ask them if you can use them. When one (or more in some cases) gives the go ahead. Pour your energy into it. Alas, you have a wand. As witches are known to do we use our imaginations to help us in many things and that works with our subconscious allowing what we work towards to become reality. Best of luck to you and Blessed Be!
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Re: Spells and Ingredients

Postby AutumnGirl » Mon Jul 15, 2013 2:20 am

Magic has been done all over the world and throughout time without athames, wands, or specific colored candles. In fact, a huge percentage of magic has always belonged to the "common folk." Peasants who wanted to perform spells (including the accepted "Christian" spells of the middle ages, where you recited a prayer in a certain way, along with certain actions and sometimes certain ingredients) often used household items to do their magic. A wooden spoon that was a "wand" or the center of a ritual in the evening might be used to stir the porridge in the morning.

When I use ingredients, they're almost always a candle, plus natural things, including things I have around. I love cooking spells, for example. I made honeyed bread recently for a spell. I use rosemary, which is in my cabinet to cook with. I use water. Twigs. I have never found that spending more money or searching out dragon's blood on the internet added anything to any spell.

I'm not putting down the use of ingredients, if they add a real emotional energy to your working, then they ARE worthwhile. But do you need specific ingredients every time, and specific tools? IMO, no. It's always, always the intention that, in the long run, does the work.
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