|Fire is a sacred element in Druidic ritual and cosmology. As a result, it is almost always present at our rituals. Photo by Weretoad, 2012.|
Have you ever wondered what Druids use in magic and ritual? Due to the variety of Druidic traditions that exist, an exhaustive list of tools is impossible. That said, here are some of the more common paraphernalia:
- Fire – A usual element in most religious traditions, fire holds a special place in the Druid’s heart. It is at the center of almost every ritual in the form of a bonfire or candle. In the home, fire is represented by the hearth fire, or stove. It symbolizes the comforts of civilization, the inspiration from the Gods, and the powers of transformation.
- Cauldron – Although cauldrons are often thought of as a witch’s tool, they have their place of honor in Druidic tradition too – in part thanks to an Irish story about An Dagda and his magical cauldron that provided food according to need and worthiness. And we musn’t forget the Welsh story of Ceridwen and her cauldron of magic! The cauldron can also be a representation of sacred wells – vessels of water that connect us to the Otherworld. Indeed, many Druids often put water in their cauldrons to symbolize this. If a cauldron cannot be found, a simple bowl may be used. In addition to Otherworldly associations, the cauldron can represent the waters of life, the magical powers of the divine world, and healing.
- Wands and Staves – Wands and staves can be used to direct energy. There are many Celtic stories about Druids utilizing these tools, such as the story of Cormac Mac Art and his silver apple wand from the God Manannan mac Lir. As in other magical traditions, they are used to direct energy. Some Druids use them to open gates between the worlds. On a practical level, many Druids also use staves while taking nature walks for balance and protection. The type of tree wands and staves originate from are often chosen with special care, and, although there is no substitute for an actual grove of trees, these tools can stand in as representations of them. Trees are central to Druidic cosmology and rarely omitted from ritual.
- Sickles – Pliny the Elder described ancient Druids in Gaul ritualistically cutting mistletoe from an oak tree with a golden sickle. Because of this reference, some Druids utilize the sickle in their ceremonies and magical workings. They may be used to harvest plants or direct energies similar to wands. Some traditions use sickles in oath keeping; the blade is placed against the throat while the person swears to complete a task. This is not done to physically threaten the person, but to remind him or her that the spirits of Justice take oaths very seriously.
- Cloaks – Ancient Druids wrapped themselves in the hides of newly slain bulls to meditate and communicate with the divine. Many modern Druids use cloaks for such workings. Although one does not need a cloak to participate, on the practical level cloaks are perfect for cold rituals in the snow!
- Divination Tools – Although augury was one of the most popular forms of divination, there is some evidence that ancient Druids used tools to discern messages from the Otherworld. Modern Druids may use a wide variety of divination tools – ogham, runes, tarot cards, the Druid Animal Oracle, or even coins. Often, these are stored in a special bag and may be poured or read on a consecrated cloth.
Although it can be very exciting to add to your Druid toolbox, it is important to remember that the greatest instruments you have are your brain and senses. A person may have all the above tools, but without a proper grounding in history, lore, and the realities of the natural world, they will be as good as toys. Finally, a Druid must have compassion for the natural world, and not confuse obtaining magical tools with materialistic goals. Often, Druids work hard to create their own tools from locally harvested materials, or they look to trusted artisans who use ethically obtained resources.