Tools of Air (and Fire)

Aug 26th, 2014 | By | Category: Articles, Guest Blogs, Nikki Shields

by Nikki Starcat Shields

ToolsAirFireWhat type of witchy tools are on your altar? Do they reside there as symbols of their particular element, or do you use them frequently? Or are you more likely to grab a tool from everyday life and use that for your spells and rituals? In this series of posts, I’ll take a look at some tools associated with each element, and their common uses.

Over the last nearly 25 years that I’ve been an actively practicing witch, I’ve ebbed and flowed with how much I use magickal tools. Ultimately, I believe that we are enough just as we are. Your magick is directed by your thoughts, energies, and will. Our entire Universe is made of energy. You can shape and move that energy without ever picking up an athame or a sword.

At the same time, it can be helpful to have a physical representation for the sacred work that you’re doing. Younger Self loves all the trappings of ritual, and when you delight your senses with color, texture, and smell, you draw closer to your Deep Self. At times, when I’m most in the flow of life, paying graceful attention to my surroundings, a tool will present itself to me. I may not have my wand with me, but a smooth piece of driftwood on the beach will call out to be picked up and hefted in my hand. The impromptu wand and I will play together for a time, and then I’ll either return it to where I found it, or if it wants, it comes home to live with me. Perhaps that’s why my shelves are so cluttered!

nikkiA close Pagan friend of mine is a knife maker, and so I do have some bladed tools that are dedicated to my Craft. In my studies and practice, I’ve most often considered the athame, or sacred dagger, a tool of Air. However, this year my coven and I are studying T. Thorn Coyle’s Evolutionary Witchcraft together. In the Feri tradition, which is what the book is based on, the blade is the tool of Fire. It is an extension of your will, which you can use to direct the flow of energy.

Besides the athame, a witch often uses a bolline, or utility knife. It traditionally has a white handle and is used for all kinds of practical tasks. In the picture, my bolline is on the left. The handle was made from a deer antler that my father found in the woods. I use it when I’m out camping or hiking, and most recently I employed it in the crafting of an oak wand (more on that in next month’s post). Some witches use a kitchen knife, especially those who work with herbs quite a lot.

The athame itself isn’t traditionally used to cut physical items. Mine, pictured here on the right, is used for casting the circle in some of my rituals (both solo and with the coven). I’ve also used it to cut energetic bindings, and to direct energies during spellwork. The athame often has a black handle; mine is made of wood, and decorated with a pentacle and a crescent moon pommel.

Other tools that I’ve used for Air include feathers, most often ones that I’ve found while out hiking or walking, and incense or sage. When smudging an area or a person, the feather can be used to waft the smoke where you wish it to go. When I set off on a sacred walkabout, such as a hike to a place where I’ll meditate or trance, I might stick a feather in my floppy leather hippie hat, carrying Air and East with me as I go.

As a writer and avid journal-keeper, pen and paper are also frequent tools of Air for me. The majority of rituals that I do include time set aside near the end for journaling about what I’ve experienced. Some tech-savvy witches will use their iPad or laptop for that purpose, but I much prefer the sensations of the pen flowing across the paper. It makes my Younger Self happy.

What tools have you used for Air? Do you associate the athame and sword with Air, or prefer to use them as tools of Fire?

Bio: Nikki Starcat Shields is a licensed Pagan priestess and the author of Starcat’s Corner: Essays on Pagan Living. She blogs at, and is also the co-founder of the Feline Dreamers website.


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