Taken from The Art of Ritual book...
I want to emphasise here…you don’t need any fancy tools to hold a ritual, in fact you don’t need any tools at all. However, it is a very personal choice. Sometimes it is nice to go the whole hog and put on a big ceremony with all the bells and whistles, but it is also good to just have an impromptu ritual in the middle of a field with nothing but some pebbles and sticks. You are the power; the magic is within you, so tools aren’t necessary.
Having said that tools can carry their own power, each tool has an element that it corresponds with and they can be consecrated and charged with energy as well and they can give us a focus to work with, it really is your call. If you haven’t worked with tools before my suggestion would be experiment, see what works for you. I have often found that handmade tools work better than machine/mass produced ones especially if you make them yourself because you add your own energy into them.
The power and energy you receive from a tool will also depend on what material it is made from along with any specific designs or symbols it has on. A copper wand will react differently to one made from oak for instance, add a quartz crystal to the end and the energy will take on another dimension again.
Part of this journey when working with tools of any sort is to fathom out which ones work in harmony with each other and for what specific intent or magical purpose. Again, this is personal, what works for one person may not work well for another.
A lot of pagans will have an altar (or in my case and much to my husband’s dismay several altars) set up at home. If you hold your ritual in the room you have your usual altar set up in then you are part way there already.
Your altar is many things, not just a place to hold your magical tools but also somewhere you can sit and meditate in front of, use as a focal point for spell work but also as a place to honour the seasons and deity. It is also a mini sacred space and a place that over time will soak up the magical energies when you work with the tools on it and when you spell cast around it. It is a place for you to ‘touch base’ with deity, the divine and your inner magical self on a daily basis. For instance, I have a working altar, this one I decorate for the energies of each month but I also have another altar dedicated to my matron and patron deities, then I have a kitchen altar, one in the garden for the Fae and also one in my office for things I am currently working with. Each one is different and has its own very individual style and energy.
When we hold our coven rituals we have a very practical altar, it has to be transported through the woods, so it starts out in the car as a large plastic box which holds all the bits for the ritual. When we get to our grove of trees we empty it and turn it upside down, then it is covered with a pretty silk altar cloth. Our portable altar is then ready to hold the items we need for the ritual which usually consists of a cauldron for the incense, chalice for the drink, flower petals to cast the circle, our script books and occasionally a seasonal decoration. We are in the middle of a forest having had to walk some way from the cars carrying not only the altar but also flasks of drink, cups, and ritual items and of course plenty of cake boxes so we keep the altar simple.
However, for a ritual altar at home it is much easier to add whatever items you want and however many you want.
I do think it pertinent to mention here…clean your altar regularly, it gathers dust very quickly and that can cause blockages in energy flow.
If you are not ‘out of the broom closet’ at home or sharing a house with others that wouldn’t appreciate you setting up altars all over the house it can be done in several ways. Keep all your altar items on a tray in a cupboard then just bring the tray out when you need to use it or have your altar inside a cupboard, so you can close the doors to it when necessary or have your altar on a shelf or if you are really being a secret squirrel then just a shelf or window sill with a candle and a vase of flowers works perfectly well as a basic altar, no one would ever know.
Traditionally (and by that I really mean more along the Wiccan lines) your altar will hold specific items; representations of the four elements, deity (the god, the goddess, the divine) often it will hold a pentacle in some form and then items that you are working with.
You do you need to rush out and purchase all of the items (your altar would be pretty crowded with every tool on it) in fact some items you may never use. I boringly repeat…it is personal, go with what works for you.
When I first started on this pathway I made out a list of all the things I ‘needed’ and did a whole big shopping trip which apart from being hugely out of pocket resulted in me having items that I have never once used and a lot that now sit in the cupboard gathering dust. I have two beautiful athames which I have not used, preferring to cast a circle with my finger. I have four gorgeous wooden wands, all made from sacred woods and hand carved which whilst they often sit on my altar I don’t actually use. I have two chalices one silver, one ornate with dragons rarely used. I have a bell that was rung when I unboxed it and it has been silent ever since. I do however use my cauldron on a daily basis but that is perhaps more to do with me having a liking for setting fire to things…
There are some wonderful tools on the market so do have a look around, but a lot of items can be handmade, wands in particular can be created from a stick found in the woods and don’t forget to check charity/thrift stores as they often have a whole host of ornate chalices in the form of odd glasses or cups and brilliantly cheap cauldrons in the shape of casserole dishes costing a lot less than shop purchased items.