Dixie cups and paper plates, oh my!

Out of the Broomcloset photo by Leon Calafiore
Out of the Broomcloset photo by Leon Calafiore
Out of the Broomcloset

It’s that magickal time of year again; as the season changes, opportunities arise for all sorts of transformation to occur, strictly personal and internal, or, in effecting change in oneself, enabling the possibility of change in the wider world (which statement you may take as a none too subtle hint to also carve out some time from your busy schedule and vote; consider this digression a public service announcement).

As Halloween/Samhain nears, even the disinclined or disbelievers may find themselves intrigued by the possibilities or the paraphernalia associated with the “occult.”

No matter what sort of magickal workings you may consider engaging in, whether entreating/engaging the aid of some deity, spiritual being, the “something” residing in a particular locale or object, attempting a love or money drawing spell, it all comes down, eventually, to what “stuff” you need to do what you want to do. The sheer quantity of things you might feel you need to be effective can be as overwhelming for the practiced hand as it is for a newbie, especially when approached with enthusiasm.

One’s home or work space can quickly resemble those of someone bitten by the cooking bug; can you live without a lemon press, or a truffle mandolin? When is the next time you might use tarragon, or the ground nutmeg at the back of the cabinet? Will you remember where any of this is when next needed? (A certain friend, a deft hand at both magick and cuisine, discovered eight tins of nutmeg when rearranging his spice cabinet, for all the above-mentioned reasons.)

So, where to begin? The first thing to keep in mind is that you may already have much of what you need at home. While some of the ingredients needed for a spell or charm may seem (or are) rare or exotic now, they were close to hand further back in time. Many sorts of magickal workings derive from a pre-industrial, or at the least, less industrial age than that we occupy. While we can order an elaborately bedizened hazel wand online, they would just walk off to the woods and cut off a branch (yes, I simplify, but you take my point). Various animals which we wouldn’t dream of eating today were considered perfectly fine eating, and the byproducts, while not universally available, were more so.

At the same time, some ingredients that were expensive or difficult to obtain are, today, as common as salt. Salt is actually a good example, as it was a highly regulated necessity for life, expensive enough to be kept under lock and key, and still utilized across cultures for purification and protection work. Nowadays, when was the last time you thought about the price of salt, or where would you obtain more?

Finally, many “prestige” items you might see at an occult shop are a consumerist society version of what were once, and still are, fairly mundane item. Much of what you need to actually “do it right” is close to hand, at home, right now; no web browser needed (even the more financially stressed of us have exponentially more stuff than was the case even two generations back. The most important thing is the intention with which it is used and dedicating a portion of these common items to this more specific use.

Generally, as with most things, it’s good to start out with simple spells or workings; think of it as the training wheels stage of your introduction to the mystic arts. Your basic tool kit can be some plain bowls and plates, paper, a range of colors in pencils, paints, some chalk, markers, string, candles, a couple of knives, salt, and a range of herbs. As I’ve explained to students, when teaching in the past, while it’s wonderful to have all the wonderful, exotic, expensive paraphernalia, with the right frame of mind, working with intention and will, you could do this with Dixie cups and paper plates, as long as you do it with skill. And you went out to vote.