Textual Arachne

A weaver of threads.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I am fairly attached to the tools I use in my rituals and in my prayers. All of them are battered or banged up: no shiny-bright athame or pretty crystal stuff, no nice pentacle and polished goblet. Half of that's carelessness, and the other half is a weird reverse vanity. My Tarot deck is one of these tools, and my morning shrine another.

There are four directional-elemental tools, adaptations from the Tarot suits and some Starhawk/Scott Cunningham reading from long ago. A grey cup, probably an aluminum alloy, that always gets dented out of its sleek chalice-style lines. A black-handled knife, the kind made by a blacksmith at the Engine and Tractor Show in my hometown. A piece of driftwood, smoothed by the lake, straight and sleek, about eight inches long. A black cast-iron cauldron, only about 4" in diameter, which I picked up at a shop in Salem about six years ago, stuffed full of things I keep meaning to burn away. Cup, knife, rod, cauldron.

(I've never quite figured out how to sharpen the knife. Since it can represent the intellect, this isn't a good sign for a wannabe academic!)

The leftover Calvinist in me is appalled that I'm so attached to my tools. You must rely on your faith alone! she cries. What is this ritualistic fooferaw? Can't you be a Pagan without these?

Well, yes; and then again, no. Of course my beliefs and my faith exist outside of this particular set of items. Of course She's bigger than a bit of steel and wood. But although the tools themselves are subject to change, the use of tools isn't. They represent the concrete face of a belief, the connection between the will and the physical.

That's why I call them tools, not ritual objects or holy things. They are functional, like a pen or a hammer. You could do the same work without them, but it would be much harder and much more clumsy, like writing or hammering without the proper tools.

And these, in particular, are tools that I have come to know, to invest with additional meanings and strengths. Like a loom that you've used long enough to know where the thread catches, or a computer that you've customized.

Prayers and rituals and tools serve this purpose. Yes, we can love Her without them, we can reach out to each other and act upon the world without them. But they make it so much easier, as long as we don't mistake the tool for the intention, the ability to accomplish something with ease for the ability to accomplish something at all.


At 7:16 PM, Anonymous Rachel said...

This post resonates for me in part because I'm so attached to my two primary ritual tools, my tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries). On the one hand, I know they're just tools, symbols; they're meant to remind me of an underlying reality, and that reality is true regardless of whether I'm wearing/using my reminders on any given day. On the proverbial other hand, they're important tools, and even though in theory I feel like I ought to be able to remember my connection with God without the tools there to remind me, in practice they make a big difference.

At 4:57 AM, Anonymous Sandy said...

I'm really enjoying reading this, BTW.

I think part of the reason that I've been so dissociated from God/dess is that I more or less set my altar tools aside (and I like the kitchen-witch functionality of "tools") -- and haven't found an adequate replacement. It's worth thinking about.


Post a Comment

<< Home