The Four Hallows of Witchcraft - Water and the Cup of Compassion

By Erin Coats
on December 11, 2016

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft - Water and the Cup of Compassion

     We place a cup in the west quadrant of our altar to represent the element of water.  The chalice is used to store and direct water energy.  Water changes shape and form as it moves to fit and fill the container.  Water magick employs the same practice by aiding a transformation in shape, moving things along, or helping them flow more freely.  If air is the mind, than water is the heart.  Like water, our emotions are fluid and inconstant.  They drift this way and that, affected by environmental changes from within or without.  Disturb the surface of a lake and that change will reverberate throughout the system before settling back into its normal state.  When our feelings are disturbed it can be perceived with our entire bodies, whether that disturbance is affirming or unfavorable.  All forms of love belong to the realm of water, but its highest form, that of unconditional love and compassion are the most elusive and sought out.  The chalice represents the womb of the goddess and the well of creation. The cup is employed in the Great Rite, a symbolic act of divine copulation and creation involving the joining of the god (blade) with the goddess (chalice).  Water is also associated with the shifting energies of the astral plane, the realm of the dead, psychic abilities, dream work, and healing.

     The most popular witch’s tool associated with water is the chalice.  A traditional chalice is made of silver or is silver plated and is symbolic of the Moon Goddess.  My first chalice, made of pewter, served its purpose without issue.  Chalices and goblets come in a variety of materials including glass, stone, and stainless steel and can be ornate or of simple design.  Though the drinking horn is often associated with male energy, it can also be used in place of the chalice.  The Egyptian Hathor and Hindu Kamadhenu are bovine goddesses often depicted with horns.

Small Stainless Steel Blessed Be Chalice     The Tuatha Dé Danann’s Cauldron of Dagda is said to be never-ending.  It refills itself constantly, an eternal source of abundance and nourishment.  We seek the Cup of Compassion for our own divine nourishment.  We claim and drink from the cup to heal our emotional wounds by finding common ground and understanding with those around us.  Perfect love does not mean we strive to like everyone we meet.  It does not mean we aren’t allowed to disagree with someone.  Perfect love is the recognition of the divine in every living being.  We search, claim, and drink from our Cup of Compassion through careful introspection and work in our craft and we place our Cup of Compassion in the west of our altar to store and direct energy and as a reminder to be empathetic to another’s feelings or situation, while also allowing ourselves to maintain a healthy distance.

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft – Fire and the Spear of Victory

By Erin Coats
on December 08, 2016

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft – Fire and the Spear of Victory

 


Rosewood Twisted Copper Wand             We place a wand in the south quadrant of our altar to represent the element of fire, though some witches reverse the tools associated with the fire and air and place it in the east.  Fire is energy and represents the transition that takes place between a resource or talent as it is being transformed into action.  Fire is will and passion and without those things, we are only fuel with no flame.  Where we put our passion and willpower varies from one person to another – throwing our enthusiasm toward a job, hobby, or our craft.  When immersing ourselves in that particular activity, we burn our hottest and shine our brightest.  A witch uses a fire tool to drive and direct will.  If we are not passionate enough or lack the will to control ourselves, our actions and words, then we will fail in our magick and in all other aspects of our lives.  In this sense, fire is an animating force and some would also connect it with life force and spirit.

                There are two tools a witch commonly uses in association with fire, the wand or the staff.  A pointed finger can do the same job in a pinch.  An acceptable length of a wand is typically measured as the distance between your middle finger and elbow.  Wands are made from all manner of materials including wood, metal, and glass and are adorned with crystals, stones, runes, and feathers.  The material used in the makeup of the wand and it’s décor tend to have a specific focus and can help magnify any work you do in that corresponding area in the same manner other magickal correspondences work.  While wands are commonly used for circle casting and generalized energy directing or charging, they can also be utilized for healing.  The wand is used for more precise work while the staff is considered stronger, but less precise.

                When seeking the Spear of Victory, we must find our True Will.  The Tuatha Dé Danann’s Spear of Lug(h) was said to be such a powerful weapon that no battle could be won against it and no man could stand against the one wielding it.  The spear ends in a point.  It is a focused weapon, wielded with single-minded ambition.  To hit your target you must be precise with your aim.  When we work our magick, we must be direct with our intentions and focus our will on that single outcome.  To decipher and follow one’s True Will and obtain the Spear of Victory, we must be just as focused and adamant.  We search, claim, and wield our Spear of Victory through careful introspection and work in our craft and we place our Spear of Victory in the south of our altar not only to store and direct energy, but as a reminder that we cannot be victorious lest we apply ourselves and direct our will toward our goals.

Rosewood Snake Wand

 

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft – Air & the Sword of Truth

By Erin Coats
on December 05, 2016

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft – Air & the Sword of Truth

     We place a blade in the east quadrant of our altar to represent the element of air.  Some witch’s use a wand as their air element tool with the blade being placed in the south, and my own tradition, that of the Temple of Witchcraft, places fire instead of air in the east quadrant.  Correspondences will differ between traditions and from witch to witch.  The blade in this instance is symbolic of the mind and communication.  Like the sky, our minds can be calm and tranquil at times while being cloudy at others.  When we seek to learn and expand our knowledge, we connect and engage with the realm of air. Knowledge is mobile like the wind; it blows from one person to another.  The learning process should not become stagnant, but be a continuous journey.  When we speak of intellect, we say things like, “She’s sharp”, or “She’s a dull one”, as one might refer to a blade.  The element of air is used in communication as the use of breath and vibration through speech.  We listen through vibrations in the air as well.  Consider the delivery of quick and precise communication, we “cut to the chase” or “come to the point”, both are references to sharp, pointy objects.  Someone with a quick wit may be said to have a “sharp tongue” and we may say that his words have “cut” or “stabbed” us.  We work with the blade to store and focus air energy and we work with the element of air for clarity and understanding on all levels.  Most witches do not use their ritual knife for cutting physical objects, but reserve it for energetic cutting like releasing bindings or cutting a doorway in the ritual circle.  Physical cutting, herb harvesting, or carving is sometimes done with the white handled, curved blade of a boline.  I personally have no qualms about using my athame for cutting, though I do have a smaller knife I use for carving candles.  Some witches use the blade in focusing energy to cast the circle and the blade is also used in rituals to channel energy.  When Drawing Down the Moon, one pulls goddess energy from the moon into the blade and then into themselves.  The blade is also used in the Great Rite to join the creative god energy (the blade) with that of the goddess (the chalice) in a ritualized dramatization of divine intercourse.

Wire Wrapped Athame w/ Pentacle Sheath

     The most common blades used on a witch’s altar are the athame (a black handled double edged dagger) or a sword.  Both tools are used for storing and directing energy.  The black handled blade is the traditional tool, black to absorb energy and double edged as a reminder that the use of one’s power or knowledge can cut both ways.  I know a number of witches that simply work with a dagger they find appealing or a small blade that called to them in some other fashion.  The athame is small and precise while the sword may be considered stronger, but with less precision.  

     The quest for your Sword of Truth will lead you on a winding path of personal exploration and understanding.  The Tuatha Dé Danann’s Claíomh Solais or Blade of Light was said to belong to their first King, Nuada.  Legend states that much like absolute truth, no one was able to escape the sword once it was unsheathed.  The blade is symbolic of the divine truth – not that personal truth we hold about our political views, personal preferences, or social expectations, but the eternal and universal truth about the whole of life and creation.  We know that truth can be both subjective and absolute.  We have our own personal truths which may not be the same as those of our neighbors, friends, or family, but there also exists absolute truths that stand the test of time and even the fiercest investigations.  We work to keep our egos in check and to distinguish the subjective from the absolute.  When we are unable to recognize our own personal truths from absolute, we become closed minded and fanatical by attempting to force our beliefs on others or alienating people whose beliefs differ from our own.  We search, claim, and wield our Sword of Truth through careful introspection and work in our craft and we place our Sword of Truth in the east on our altar as a reminder to always seek knowledge and truth. 

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft – Earth & the Stone of Sovereignty

By Erin Coats
on December 02, 2016
2 comments

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft – Earth & the Stone of Sovereignty

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft – Earth & the Stone of Sovereignty

                We place a stone or crystal in the north quadrant of our altar to represent the element of earth.  This is symbolic of the tangible manifestation of all elemental energy and the physical results of our work.  The stone is used to store and focus earth energy; to keep us grounded in the middle world and on task and to aid us in manifestation in all areas of our lives.  It is a sturdy foundation, one
born of endurance and strength.  Though some would associate strength with the willfulness and passion of the element of fire, I feel it also belongs to the earth when examining the timelessness and immovability of a mountain.  Earth magick centers around our own physical manifestations, that of ourselves and our home:  our health, the roof over our heads, the food upon our tables, and the amenities and luxuries we splurge on to bring us joy and comfort.

Lily's Stone of Sovereignty

                There are a few other items commonly found on a witch’s altar as a vessel and conduit for earth energy.  A bowl of dirt, salt, or sand can easily suffice, though the later doesn’t work for me after having considered the instability of shifting sands.

                Each of the suits in a tarot deck has a corresponding element with coins, disks, or pentacles being linked with the element of earth and dealing with financial matters, material possessions, and practical concerns.  Some witches may work with a special coin and others with a pentacle or paten.  When studying the pentacle, we learn that each of the points themselves are associated with an element and is therefore representative of all the elements.  For this reason I do not use a pentacle as my symbol for earth.

                My studies with The Temple of Witchcraft have brought deeper meaning of the elements, their lessons, and corresponding tools.  The Tuatha Dé Danann’s Stone of Fal (also called the Stone of Destiny) was a magickal stone that cried out when the rightful king stood upon it.  Some sources state that the stone had regenerative powers and the ability to bless the king with a long reign.  A king is master and ruler, sovereign of himself and his people.  An important and necessary part of a witch’s evolution is the mastery and sovereignty of self.  We work to ensure that we are not giving our power away to others, that we are in charge of our lives and are taking responsibility for our actions and manifestations.  We search, claim, and stand upon our Stone of Sovereignty through careful introspection and work in our craft and we place our Stone of Sovereignty in the north of our altar not only to store and direct energy, but as a reminder of that personal power or as a call to action if we feel we’ve lost our ground.

 

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft – An Introduction

By Erin Coats
on November 30, 2016

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft – An Introduction

What are the four hallows?  What are they used for and what do they represent? 

                The four hallows (also known as jewels or treasures) come to us from Celtic mythology.  It is said that the Tuatha Dé Danann, an ancient race of gods founded by the goddesses Danu, brought the four hallows with them when they traveled from their homeland in the west to settle in Ireland.  Each of the treasures was brought from a different island: the Stone of Fál from Falias, Núadu’s Sword from Findias, the Spear of Lug from Gorias, and the Cauldron of the Dagda from Murias.  Each hallow had a special property and could be linked to an element, much the same as the four hallows of a witch’s altar.

                The witch’s altar is where we make our sacred space.  This is where we work our magick, the launching pad for our petitions to the universe.  We can use a variety of tools to aid us in the process, items to help build energy or direct the flow, supplies to stack the deck in our favor.  There are four main tools on a witch’s altar, used to store and direct energy:

  • Earth - The stone, coin, soil, salt, shield, or paten / pentacle.
  • Air / Fire - The athame or sword.
  • Fire / Air - The wand or staff.
  • Water - The chalice or cauldron.

              Over the next week or so we will be reviewing each of the hallows and explaining their correspondences, symbolism, and use.