by Aislynn and Alorer
There are a variety of terms used when referring to the putting of energy into a tool. These include (but are not limited to) charging, consecrating, and blessing. Deborah Lipp states that blessing and consecration are comparable in Elements of Ritual; “To bless is to make holy by religious rite, sanctify, and to invoke divine favor upon.” Therefore, the divine is needed for both blessing and consecration; our word and action alone are not sufficient. Charging is slightly different; Deborah Lipp goes further to explain that charging is “to impose a duty, responsibility, or obligation on…to energize” So, through charging, we may bring energy (divine or personal) into an object, but it is specifically to give that object a purpose (which might also be called dedication). We might charge a talisman, for example, to draw healing energy to us, or we might charge a knife with the purpose of acting as our athame, however we define its duties. Through this dedicatory act, we not only tie the tool to us and to its new use, we set it in motion on its path, much like a Self-Dedication ceremony sets the practitioner on their new path.
As you may know, purification and consecration go hand-in-hand because purification is the removal of unwanted or unneeded energies while consecration is bringing desired energies into an object. They go hand-in-hand because nature abhors a vacuum; when we remove energy from an object, we must then put energy into it. So, naturally, if you perform a purification of a tool, you must perform a consecration, though you may perform a consecration of it without the purification. As we just discussed, the definition of consecration implies a blessing by a deity which sets the object apart. Only some practitioners subscribe to this definition, and that belief is discussed a bit more under “How we do it” for this step. Purification and consecration are lumped together for this step because they are often performed together. Usually the practitioner will purify a tool (or all their tools) and then consecrate them. Sometimes, though, they are separated for a variety or reasons (again, see the “When we do it” step for more information).
Not all practitioners perform this step in every (or any) ritual. It is similar in this way to purifying the elements. It is often believed that once it is done, it is not undone unless an exterior force is at play (someone touching it, mundane energy attaching to it if you leave it out, etc.). It is a matter of personal preference.
Many believe divine blessing (if the Divine is involved in the consecration of the tools) should be renewed in every ritual because some of the energy has dispersed during and since the last time the tool was used, the tool might have been affected by its environment as discussed above, or because that energy should be renewed as worship is renewed at each ritual. Again, this is largely a matter of definition, personal preference, feelings, and beliefs about this step.
Consecration can be akin to charging an object. We are essentially bringing the energy we want into it and saturating it so that we can later use the energy that has been stored within it. Our tools are no exception. We use them in ritual to purify, draw elemental energy to the circle, cast the circle, manipulate energy, and so on. For them to be effective in these tasks, they must contain energy within them. And, many believe, they do not possess that energy naturally; so it must be put in at some point in the ritual process.
When we purify a tool, we are essentially opening the energy channels by removing whatever might have been clogging them. By then putting new energy into that tool, we are ensuring that the new energy is able to flow more easily and appropriately. Therefore, some believe that using tools that haven’t been purified and consecrated might impede their work. Others simply view it as disrespectful to bring anything that isn’t purified or consecrated into their circle, especially if it is being placed on the altar and/or being used for the manipulation of energy.
Some practitioners believe that once a tool is purified and consecrated (and thereby dedicated to its new purpose as a ritual tool), it should never be used in a mundane fashion. Some take this so seriously that if a tool is used in a mundane fashion, they will have to do a lengthy purification and consecration ceremony or destroy the tool altogether. Others, particularly those that see the magical in the mundane, will use their tools however they need them or will purposefully pick mundane tools to also use as ritual tools as a reminder that magic isn’t only found within a circle.
Some prefer to do a more permanent consecration that they may also refer to as a dedication which permanently seals energy into the tool, in their mind, and assigns it its new role; this is mainly for more permanent tools, like athames, wands, pentacles, etc. than consumables like candles, incense, etc. There are cases when consumables are dedicated as well, although they must be replaced when necessary (e.g. a specific candle dedicated to the God and/or Goddess).
For more info on why we purify and consecrate objects and how we do it, see our article on Purification and/or Consecration of the Elements.
Usually, the purification and/or consecration of tools takes place either before the main part of the ritual begins or, in the case of a new tool, during the “Magical Work” step (this article is coming soon). This will vary greatly depending on how the tools are purified and consecrated, if it’s done before every ritual, and the layout of the ritual itself. They may also be done separately because of those variables.
A common method is to sprinkle the tool with blessed/salt water before censing it. This is because the blessed/salt water is viewed as the purifying agent due to water and salt’s cleansing and eroding properties and due to the fact that incense is often viewed as a consecration agent because it brings sweetness and heat with it. This is a purification and consecration process that is elementally balanced because all four are present equally (earth and water in the salt water and fire and air in the incense).
There many other ways and methods to perform purification of tools, such as elemental purification/consecration (passing the object through/near every element – always be careful not to destroy your tool or cause other problems, especially when using fire – read the “Warning” section towards the end of this essay for more information), using solar/lunar light, smudging it, using an herbal bath, using your own breath to channel cleansing energy into the tool, placing it in running water, burying it in soil or salt, and so forth. Some of those (particularly using solar/lunar light, smudge, herbal baths, the elements, and/or your own breath) can be used to consecrate a tool as well; some other methods of consecration involve calling upon Deity to bless the tool alone or channeling divine energy into it yourself, allowing the four elements present in your body (your blood/saliva, breath, skin, and heat) to come in contact with the tool, channeling your own personal energy into the tool, passing the tool through your God and/or Goddess candles, etc. Many of these methods work because magic is believed to be contagious. So, if you have something that is consecrated already, allowing it to come in contact with something that is not consecrated passes on that consecration.
Some choose to touch the tool slightly after purifying and consecrating it or perform some other small act to reaffirm their connection to the tool. Others prefer to carry it with them for some time, in order for the tool to synchronize with their energies. It is also not unheard of, to store it away (e.g. in a box) with talismans or other magical objects to further build its energies.
When first consecrating and/or dedicating a tool, it is important to get to know its energy and listen to it so that you are sure that it is the tool for you. If you feel any discomfort from or with it or if it doesn’t seem to be responding, always heed that feeling and do not force a connection when none is present.
When dealing with consumables or new spell items, it is usually considered very important to purify them, since we cannot be completely certain of the energies they might have picked up – moreso if the item was bought and not crafted personally or by a trusted person. Thus, in order to avoid bringing negative/tainted energy in, consumables are usually purified. Also because you will only be working with them for a short time, they might not have time to grow accustomed to your energy like an athame (for example) would. If they are not in tune with your energy, how can they work with and be receptive to that energy?
Some practitioners will only purify and consecrate their “main” tools (the athame, wand, pentacle, chalice/cauldron, and any other tools their tradition dictates). Others will only re-purify and re-consecrate these “main” tools because they are the ones that most come into contact with their energy and are used the most as opposed to an altar cloth or offering bowl, perhaps. The choice, as always, is up to you and what feels right.
The main question this article (and any source on purification and consecration) brings up in many newer practitioners is the need for these two steps to go hand-in-hand. If purification cannot be done without consecration, does that mean if I re-purify a tool, I must re-consecrate it? The answer is up to you. It depends on your method of purification and if you were clear in your act of purification to only remove unwanted or unneeded energies and keep the energies you’ve built up in it or not. To state that purification must be followed by consecration is a bit of an over-statement, I must admit, but it is one that is often necessary to demonstrate their interconnectedness and the problem with only purifying an object.
There are multiple dangers and potential hazards when purifying and consecrating your tools. You must be aware of your tools various weaknesses: for instance, consecrating most gemstones with sunlight will cause them to dim or lose their color altogether; some metals, paper and other materials can be harmed by salt; many tools could be destroyed if buried; others can catch fire even by close proximity to a flame (paper is a great example!).
You should always be VERY careful when handling your tools, candles, etc. That way you won’t only spare yourself a new purchase but also avoid health hazards.
How to become proficient:
As with most things, practice makes perfect! When starting out, try different methods and then settle with the one(s) you feel most comfortable using. As time passes, keep exercising those same methods with as little changes as possible, in order to fully familiarize yourself with them. When you feel you can perform them flawlessly and without hesitation (e.g. forget your words, mix things up, etc), you can rest assured: you are proficient in those methods!
Pgs. 66-67, 94-95 in Solitary Wicca for Life by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
Pgs. 150-154 in Wicca for Beginners by Thea Sabin
Pgs. 77-80 in Elements of Ritual by Deborah Lipp
Pgs. 43-4 in A Witches’ Bible (The Witches’ Way) by Janet and Stewart Farrar
Pgs. 67-70 in Solitary Wicca for Life by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
Pg. 60 A Grimoire of Shadows by Ed Fitch
Pgs. 270-271 in Ritual Craft by Amber K and Azrael Arynn K
Pgs. 151-154 in Wicca for Beginners by Thea Sabin
Pgs. 56-57 in Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland
Pgs. 126-127 in Creating Circles & Ceremonies by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart
Read about the next step – Purification of the Space