:Altar Tool Basics:
First and most importantly you do not NEED any of these things. Magick comes from within and the tools are only a guide for your use to focus your energy and power. There are so many tools and items, it can be a bit overwhelming to know which is which and what you need. Tools can be purchased or made, whichever works better for you. All tools as they are collected, should be cleansed of all negative energies and past use influences. Unless you purchase them brand new you won't know how or for what they may have been used before you acquired them.
The correct pronunciation is ATH-amay, not A-THAME. The athame is a ritual knife or dagger. Traditionally it is double-edged blade with a black handle. The athame is a tool of command, used to direct the power we pass through it. The knife is never used to cut anything physical. It is used to cast circles, charge and consecrate objects and to banish negative energies. It's symbolic only and many suggest you dull the blade to prevent any accidents. The athame is a masculine tool and its element is fire, or air depending on the tradition.
Originally thought to have been adoped from ceremonial magic the pentacle is the traditional tool of the craft. The pentacle is an upright five pointed star enclosed inside a circle. Your altar pentacle can be anything from a simple pendant, to a large table-top platen, but is usually made from wood, stone or copper. The pentacle is usually the centerpiece of the altar and used to cleanse, consecrate or charge things such as amulets, charms, ritual tools, etc. The pentacle is a feminine tool and it represents the element of earth.
Altar chalices are typically stemmed goblets used to hold the blessed water and wine during ritual. It is a symbol of containment and often represents the womb of the Goddess. The chalice symbolizes the connection of man to the spiritual with the mind open to receive spiritual energies. The chalice is a feminine tool and its element is water.
The wand is one of the prime magickal tools of the witch. Your wand can be any material you feel drawn to but traditionally is made from the wood of a sacred tree Willow, Oak, Apple, Hazel to name a few. Your wand is the tool used to direct energy during ritual, it is a tool of invocation used to charge objects, draw down the moon, evoke the Gods and bestow blessings. Wands tend to be the one tool that most Wiccans are likely to make themselves. The wand is a masculine tool and its element is Air or Fire in some traditions.
Most Wiccans don't actively use cauldrons but keep one for the symbolism and the sheer 'witchy-ness' of it. The cauldron is probably the tool most associated with witchcraft. It is symbolic of the womb of the Goddess and the essence of femininity and fertility. Everything is born from the womb of the Goddess and everything returns back into it. It is symbolic of reincarnation, immortality and inspiration. Traditionally cauldrons are made from cast iron on three legs with an opening smaller then its widest part. If you cannot find a true cauldron, other bowls or pots may be used. Many rituals also call for small fires to be burned in the cauldron. If you plan on doing this, make sure to have a cauldron that can take the heat. The cauldron is more commonly used as a container for making brews or potions and for scrying. The cauldron is a feminine tool and its element is water.
Bowl of Salt
Salt is used to cleanse other tools, crystals, jewelry or any item that may pick up negative energy. A small bowl of salt is simply kept on the altar. Coarse sea salt is the best to use for this purpose.
The censer is an incense burner used to contain burning incense during ritual. Any type of censer can be used, even a simple bowl filled with sand will do. The censer is a masculine tool and represents the element of Fire.
The besom, or broom, is used for a variety of purposes but most generally to purify and protect. It is used to ritually cleanse an area before magick is performed by symbolically sweeping away negative energies and astral build up. The besom is a ritual tool that is sacred to both Goddess and the God. The God - through its symbolic phallic shape, The Goddess - through its three-piece make up, the stick, brush and binding cord being symbolic of the triformis aspect of the Goddess. Traditionally the broom is made from three different woods:Ash for the handle- Ash is protective and has command over the four elements Birch twigs for the brush- Birch is purifying and draws spirits to one's service. Willow for the binding cord- Willow is sacred to the Goddess.
The Boline is the practical knife of the craft. It has a white handle to differentiate it from the Athame. Any ritual function requiring the use of a knife is performed with the boline. It is used to harvest herbs, cut wands, mark and carve candles, cut cords, etc.
The bell is a ritual tool of invocation and banishment. The bell is used to indicate the start of a ritual, invoke the Goddess during ritual and to call the Quarters. Bells can be used to guard the home by warding off evil spells and spirits, or evoking good energies when placed in cupboards or hung on doors. The bell is a feminine tool and its element is Air.
Book of Shadows
The Book of Shadows is the working book of the witch. Traditionally it is always written by hand. Today many people often keep a computerized version on Disc, some times referred to as a Disc of Shadows. In it is recorded: Rituals, Invocations, Spells, Runes, Ethics, Symbols, Poems, Chants, Correspondences, and anything else of use. To make your own Book of Shadows, you can use any form of blank book, but perhaps the best type to use are those of a loose-leave nature allowing pages to be added later and moved around.
You may never use all of these tools on a regular basis, but you may come across a spell or a ritual that you want to do that requires one. If you don't have a tool, you can always improvise, or keep your eyes open for your next magickal item.