A Beginner's Guide to Common Altar Tools and Supplies for Spellwork

A Beginner's Guide to Common Altar Tools and Supplies for Spellwork

A Beginner’s Guide to Common Altar Tools and Supplies for Spellwork

Whether you’re a practicing Wiccan, some other form of Pagan or someone who wants that witchy Pinterest aesthetic, this one is for you.

Whether you’re a practicing Wiccan, some other form of Pagan or someone who wants that witchy Pinterest aesthetic, this one is for you.


Although it can be tempting to buy every tool, spell kit and sparkly crystal available, ritual items are optional.

If you’re interested in altar work for spiritual purposes, tools and ritual items can be a way to ‘focus’ your intentions and aid in visualization.

And if you enjoy divination tools like tarot cards, rune stones or pendulums for their entertainment value, these systems can have a lot of in-depth information to help you make decisions and reflect on what you want out of life.

However, there are no hard and fast rules on what makes a proper witch or a proper altar.

If an item speaks to you, it counts, and if you feel dumb waving around an athame or a wand, don’t use one!

This post is a helpful reference to let you know what’s out there. Not a rulebook.

This post contains affiliate links. While we only recommend products we would use ourselves, we may earn a small commission on qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. 

So, if you do end up buying something, thanks!


Altars come in all different shapes and sizes and serve as a ‘sacred space’ for many people, not just witches.

It isn’t uncommon to see an ‘Ancestor Altar’ or ofrenda where photos, precious heirlooms and ashes of loved ones may be displayed along with small offerings and prayer candles.

Religious people may use a home altar to display small figurines or portraits of patron saints and deities, offering dishes, rosary beads and well-worn scriptures.

An altar can be a grounded and focused place for witches to hold all their tools, prep and cast spells.

And for the more agnostic, altars can be a nice place to display unusual stones, animal bones, chunks of driftwood and other small tokens.


When buying crystals or amulets believed to absorb and redirect energy, you may be told to ‘cleanse’ them periodically.

There are several different ways to achieve this. And often, the desire to purify can extend to objects, rooms or spaces.

This is why many people use small witch brooms or ‘besoms’ to physically and spiritually clean spaces before a ritual.

Some people like burning smudge sticks or scented incense to clear out negative energy from specific rooms in their houses.

And others may dedicate a specific bowl for purified salt water or ‘moon water.’


Because people believe candles can absorb your energy and release it into the universe, they are used in ALOT of spells and personal alters.

You will see candles used in everything from cord-cutting spells to scrying and meditation practices. And often, people may choose different coloured candles for different kinds of spells (love spells, hexes etc.).

Sometimes people may even ‘sweeten’ a candle by rolling it in honey or oil and various herbs or spices before burning.

Important: Always practice proper fire safety when using candles.


Most commonly seen in ancestor worship, some families burn special paper offerings at their altars, believing the smoke will create a link to the afterlife.

Often these incense items are made with specific patterns or designs meant to imitate things like money, houses, and even cars. 

Sometimes ‘joss paper’ offerings are requests for good fortune or, in the case of ‘Hell Notes, ‘ a way to ensure your loved ones are comfortable in the afterlife by sending them  material items as gifts.

While this practice comes from a specific set of cultural values, making or buying special paper crafts for burning can be an incredibly visual way to set intentions.

And it can also serve as an excellent way to offer items to loved ones or personal deities.


There are many different methods of divination, each with their own systems and symbols.

Tarot decks,(arguably the most popular form of divination), come in a wide range of art styles, and there are a lot of helpful resources on how to read and interpret tarot cards.

However, tarot cards aren’t your only option.

Some people are drawn to rune stones and sigils based on the Elder Futhark and the Galdrabok. (You might recognize these as Norse or ‘Viking’ runes).

There are incredibly complex systems of reading notched sticks like the Ogram Staves or the I-ching.

On the more user-friendly side of the spectrum, pendulums can also be used for divination and dowsing.

Brown champagne coloured crystal pendulum for dowsing and divination.

Like a planchette, pendulums are weighted objects hung on lengths of cords or chains swung to ‘divine’ certain positions on a Ouija-like divination board.

While detailed pendulum boards are extremely helpful, you do not need to use traditional crystal pendulums to practice this form of divination.

As long as the item is non-magnetic, you can use just about anything; lockets, beads, heavy stones on a length of cord etc.

But really, anything can be used as a form of divination as long as you develop a system for what different responses mean.  So, why not experiment a little!

Crystal ball surrounded by lit candles.


Scrying is one of those esoteric witchy pursuits that isn’t talked about enough. Most people just starting are probably picturing a crystal ball right now.

But scrying in its purest form is simply staring into a medium to induce visions of signs and symbols that can then be interpreted.

This means you can use just about anything your heart desires.

Often people will use black ‘obsidian’ mirrors,  bowls of water, tea leaves, coffee grounds, flames or thick emulsions.

You can even make your own scrying mirror if you feel so inclined.

Crystal balls can cause housefires tweet.

Important: Crystal balls can cause house fires!

Example of a sympathy based candle burning hex that uses sewing pins.


Disclaimer: Blah blah blah. Three Fold Rule. Karmic forces. Use at your own risk.

Many baby witches are curious about hexes. 

But it can be hard to find good information on the subject. At least without an onslaught of DON’T DO IT. BLACK MAGIC BAD.

So, I’m going to assume you’ve already had ‘the talk’ and get right into it.

  • Sharp things. Broken glass, rusty nails etc. These items are often incorporated into spell jars with a person’s name, picture or a ‘request.’
  • Sewing pins. Technically, they’re also sharp, but they are usually used in black magic to ‘attack’ a person. Sometimes, using poppets can be used with positive intentions, so it’s essential to always be clear on what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Vinegar. Hex jars often require nasty concoctions like rotten eggs, spoiled milk or alcohol to ‘sour’ things for the recipient.
Example of a binding or love spell.
  • Graveyard dirt. I’m not sure where in the hell to find a cemetery that’s cool with this, but the idea is that it’s helpful when entreating spirits. I feel like forest or garden spirits would be much more chill about this, but you do you.
  • Black Salt usually describes a ground mixture of salt, black pepper, ash, charcoal and sometimes eggshell. It’s thought to be a powerful tool for protection, hexes, binding and banishment, so it’s not exclusive to black magic despite the name.
  • Bodily fluids. PLEASE DO NOT murder animals for your spellwork unless it’s specifically part of something like Santeria. If you want niche parts like cow tongue or chicken hearts for symbolic reasons, they sell them at Walmart. Other things (nail clippings etc.) can easily be sourced at home without maiming anybody.🙏

Basically, hexes are a weird vibe. So, it’s best to proceed with caution. It’s not healthy to hold onto grudges for too long.

Fresh and dried herbs in terracotta pots.


Certain aspects of witchcraft and paganism rely heavily on developing practical skills like growing, harvesting and using natural materials in herbal remedies, teas, medicines and spellwork.

And these practical skills require practical tools.

However, there are a few specific items I wanted to highlight.


I’m using vessels as a broad term to refer to chalices, offering dishes, bowls and cauldrons.

Each of these items may be filled with;

  • ‘Moon Water’ for scrying.
  • Offerings of food, flowers or interesting stones.
  • Blended herbs.
  • Drinks like tea and mulled wine.

Or any other number of things needed to achieve mundane and magical goals.

The only hard and fast rule when selecting proper vessels would be never to put burning objects in something flammable and avoid drinking out of non-food safe materials.

Other than that, a ‘chalice’ or cauldron can be anything you want⁠—a crucible, your favourite coffee mug, even a black salad bowl.

Example of a 'hex' or curse potion submitted by a Reddit user.


Glass mason jars, bottles and vials have a lot of applications for the everyday kitchen witch as well as hoodoo practitioners and grey witches.

They can hold ingredients for spells, tinctures, tea and potions like dried herbs, graveyard dirt and curse water.

Medium-sized glass jars are generally used for jar spells(Honey Jar Spells, Sour Jars etc.)

While smaller vials are often used to make personal fetishes and pendants that can be used for protection or hexes. 

Many potions are made by filling glass jars with herbs, spices, handwritten ‘requests’ and whatever else feels appropriate to focus a spell before sealing the container with candle wax.

From The journals of Constantine Samuel Rafinesque


Although these two terms can be used interchangeably, they are slightly different.

Generally, a Book of Shadows refers to a witch’s book of spells, practices, rituals and anything else they’d like to keep track of.

Because a Book of Shadows is somewhat diary-like, witches may consider these books private records they do not want to share with others.

On the other hand, a Grimoire can best be compared to a textbook on magical practices. The information is almost entirely educational and usually meant to be shared.

Whether you create one or the other, or a combination of the two, it is traditional to put together the contents yourself.

However, the way you put the contents together is an entirely personal preference. Some people scrapbook, others log, and some illustrate.

Ritual athame knife on a log next to a feather and a candle.


While I’m not sure how often non-traditional practitioners use athames and wands, they are a staple of Pagan and Wiccan rituals.

These items can be store-bought, custom or handmade using various tools and materials.

Despite the knife-like appearance, athames are not generally meant for cutting real-world objects. Instead, they symbolize cutting cords and veils in the spiritual plane or simply drawing a circle.

Likewise, wands help direct and focus energies during a ritual, consecrate sacred spaces and invoke deities.

However, in theory, this is a bit of a visualization tool in the same way runes might be activated by ‘breath.’

So, the untraditional could easily forgo these items altogether or use something stick-like to direct their energies.

A variety of small ritual bells hanging up.


Whatever your thoughts on vibrational energy, we know music and sound profoundly impact the human mind and circulatory system.

This may be why musical instruments are a popular addition to rituals and altars.

For some, ringing a bell at the beginning and end of a rite is a way to invoke a deity or close a circle.

For others, shakers, rainsticks, singing bowls, and drums help bring harmony to a magic circle. 

Certain sounds can even help induce meditation.

So if you believe loud noises scare away evil or can call forward ancestral spirits, musical instruments may be a valuable addition to your next ritual.

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