Saturday, March 2, 2013

Witchery On A Dime

When I was just starting out as a solitary practitioner, there were few Pagan/Witch goods shops around; the majority of the places that sold the materials I felt I needed were either musty old emporiums that had a slightly creepy vibe, or places that sold supplies for ceremonial magic. Most were at least a day trip out of town, and shipping charges usually curtailed any patronage of those that did take mail orders. I knew that none of the 'niceitieswere necessary, but still, I yearned for the trappings of Witchery.

I had been following a path that incorporated the teachings of Scott Cunningham and used things found in Nature- unpolished stones, mostly- which I would use with organic materials such as flowers, leaves, grasses, sand and wood. It was satisfying and basically no cost. I used white utility candles and tied colored ribbons around them for correspondences,(birthday candles when I could find nothing else, and I still use them today for much of my spell craft) and made my own essential oils and blessing oils out of flowers, fruits and grape seed oil. I anointed candles in olive oil and rolled them in cooking herbs. My magical herbs came from the grocery store. Shells and beach glass came from the nearby seashore, ferns, nettles,thistles and other plants came from the woods, marsh and roadside. My first wand was a small branch from an ancient pear tree that was gnarled and appropriately 'witchy' looking, which I topped with a sliver of quartz I found on a hike in the mountains.

Later, as my practice expanded, I used to make fantastic finds in antique and second hand stores-wooden and pottery bowls, silver spoons, candle holders, antique papers for written spell work, fancy containers to use on my altar, even clothing to re-purpose into ritual garb. Old colored bottles with stoppers became receptacles for herbs, oils and tinctures; some were used as spell bottles. Odd plates became candle holders. I found a beautiful green marble mortar and pestle at the Goodwill for $4.95.

I was overjoyed at the advent of the 'dollar' store! They carry a fabulous array of 'occult' supplies- colored candles, star and moon candle holders and plates, over-sized wine glasses for chalices,river rocks, oils ( check the ingredients, many inexpensive oils are made of chemicals and not essential oils, although I did find genuine lemon oil in the cleaning section, and lemon, orange,and vanilla in the food section and clove oil in with the first aid supplies). They carry the same herbs I used from the grocery store for much less. I found small cellophane and plastic zip-lock bags in the crafts section, and brass bells, oil burners,incense, and candle plates in with the decorating things. Some of my prettiest altar cloths are actually cloth napkins. They carry beads, thread, needles, glue and disposable butane lighters and even fire place matches. There are tall seven day and shrine candles in glass or plastic sleeves, and some dedicated saint's candles. My very realistic skull is in fact a plastic one from the Dollar Tree which I detailed with a little paint. I have bought ready-made corn husk dolls (corn dollies), and corn husks in bags from the food section. Take a little time and do a walk through, especially at Easter, Halloween and Christmas (especially good for stars and metallic gold and silver candles). You'll be surprised what you'll find. The more expensive art/craft/DIY/fabric stores like Michal's, Joann's and AC Moore carry a wider variety of most of these items, and also things like blank journal books, small metal charms and clay to sculpt things such as god/dess images, and tiny glass bottles and wooden boxes.

My first 'cauldron' was a round black glazed sugar bowl (half-filled with water for safety sake!), which I used to burn candles in before I purchased a small iron cauldron that I could actually burn things in. The bell on my altar was a chrome plated Christmas 'dinner' bell( I removed the red velvet bow). I made a set of runes out of decorative pebbles, and a pendulum from a small crystal drop on a thin chain (originally a child's necklace). The 'dollar' store was the only place where I could find Chinese almond crescent cookies that I used in ritual; I also bought individual bottles of real apple and grape juice for a fraction of the cost of the grocery store. In one place near the Hispanic part of town, I found the 'mother load'- Florida Water, Money Spray, Bay Rum, small mojo bags, glass charms,figure candles, anointing oils, holy water, saint's candles and packets of exotic 'medicinal' herbs such as rue and hibiscus, and Everclear.

Outside of  the old Magickal Childe store in NYC when I was in college, I'd never set foot in a metaphysical/occult/witch shop until many years later. I never had to, because I had learned the cardinal rule of good Witchery...learn to use what you have available and make do with what you have.


  1. Oh I loved this entry. My first athame was a butter-knife which I wrapped the handle with a black leather thong. My pentacle was an old place on which I drew the five pointed star in holy oil.

    1. Thank You, Dean! I like to encourage folks to patronize their local shops as much as they possibly can so those places are available in the future, but the fact is that practitioners have used what's available and handy for centuries. I'd hate to see us loose the ability and knowledge to substitute tools and supplies. I think that's vitally important, especially for those using folk magic/medicine and to keep the practice of cunningfolk alive.

      I have always felt very fortunate to have you as my go-to guy for hoodoo and folk magic!

  2. I nominated your blog, should you wish to participate. I think its a nice way to show off blogs that we enjoy/admire:


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