Tips for Wiccans on a Budget
So you’ve started on your Wiccan path, you’ve read all the books you wanted to read, and you’re excited to start creating your sacred space and construct your altar. However, as you’re reading about the Wiccan tools of the trade, you’re not even sure you’d be able to either find or afford these things.
When I started my journey within the Craft, I was in grad school, and living on my own. I counted on student loans for financial support. Basically, I had to watch my spending in order to afford rent and bills. It seemed overwhelmingly complicated to even ponder having an altar or performing any spells or rituals. I did get a few lucky breaks here and there, and everything I was able to find in the beginning came to me at exactly the right time. I was able to front the money for most of what I wanted to buy. The Goddess was looking out for me.
So what do you do in the beginning when you don’t have hundreds of dollars set aside for that expensive quartz wand you’re dreaming of - or the plethora of beautifully crafted statuary to represent all of your revered deities? You’ve probably already scoured Ebay and Amazon for some neat doodads, but even those can come at a steep price once you factor in the shipping costs. Rest assured, you don’t need to break the bank! Wicca isn’t about what you own.
Find a place in your home in which you’d like your altar and working space to be, and get a cheap end table (after measuring dimensions, if needed). I recommend searching on Craiglist to see what people are looking to sell. More often than not, sellers are willing to work with you on prices, so you can save a lot of money. Don’t forget garage sales, too.
While a permanent working space is nice, it is not necessary or mandatory. If you lack the room or the funds to set up a permanent altar, you can just as easily substitute a portable altar. These altars generally have the same tools, but they are smaller, and designed to be easily packed up and stored. That way, when you are not using your tools, you can wrap them up, and store them until next time. For portable altars, since the idea is that they are easy to transport, I’d advise carefully choosing your ritual items, to make sure they are meaningful to you, but also small enough to stow easily. Consider purchasing a cloth fragment to wrap up your items when they are not in use, as well as to use for a place to lay them out when you are working.
Here's one example of a very simple portable element altar:
Now that I’ve mentioned altars and working space, what tools should you have as a practicing Wiccan? Where can you find them? The typical and most common, but not the only tools of Wicca are the wand, athame, cauldron, chalice, censer, and pentacle. This article assumes you know about these as well as others - because after all, you've studied hard to get to this point!
Each tool represents one of the four elements. I am of the opinion that you don’t necessarily need all these items. Remember that magick doesn’t come from the tools, it comes from you. The tools are just there as assistance. So really, in theory, you don’t need any of them for ritual work! That certainly saves money.
On the other hand, if you are like me, then having a physical, tangible tool helps you focus. Your wallet’s looking bare, though, so what can you do? Let's examine some items that will definitely leave you free of buyer’s remorse.
Sticks, Twigs, Branches, Etc
I recommend taking some time to go to a park, lake, beach, or some sort of natural area. Take some time to look around and see what strikes your fancy. Don’t rush. Really look and see if something jumps out at you. Regular sticks can be used as wands. Sticks are all over the place and come in all shapes, sizes, and textures. If you see your neighbor doing some bush trimming, you might ask if you can have some of the clippings to make your wand. Sticks and branches are also good for making your own besom (witch broom). There’s really a lot of room for creativity here.
Stones, Rocks, and Crystals
Rocks tend to represent the Earth, but they can really be about whatever you like. If you’re out and about, and you find a rock you like, keep it. If you have crystals, their colors and properties can represent the God and Goddess, the four elements, or maybe a goal or mood. If you don’t have access to colorful crystals, rocks are pretty easy to paint. If you’re trying to attract more money, perhaps you’d like to paint your rock green to attract wealth - or draw a $ sign, or even the Fehu rune. Rocks and crystals are some of my favorite magickal items! Again, flex your creativity!
The bowl can be used to represent water, and the Goddess. Bowls are found in every home (I assume!), so check your cupboards and see if you have one that you’d be willing to reserve for magickal use. Sometimes, we get bowls and silverware handed down to us, and gifted to us. Perhaps you have something nice and special to you that you’d like to use as your offering dish or chalice. The dollar store is always a good option if you’d like to get a cheap bowl. My “chalice” is actually some kind of weird candy dish that I purchased for about $2. Second-hand shops and antique shops often have great deals.
For me, the best place to find candles has always been Walmart. My altar candles tend to either be tealights, or candles that were given to me. Tealights are very affordable, and are great if you’re using a portable altar. If you are able to find small “chime” candles (like the ones pictured above), they come in assorted colors, and are generally about 30 cents per candle. Scope out your local dollar store as well and see if you can find Catholic vigil candles. There are some without Catholic imagery, but even so, you can always take the pictures off, or substitute your own. They last for a long time!
This seems out of left field, but I feel the need to mention that tupperware has been my friend throughout my Pagan journey. I store everything in some kind of Rubbermaid container. I just didn’t have the money to shell out for a wooden altar box. I also have too much material, so I’d need more than one box. That gets expensive pretty quick. I’m not much of a woodworker myself, so making one was out of the question. As a result, plastic and I became buddies. Certainly, it’s not elegant, but I have a bunch of it, and it gets the job done and keeps everything neat. I keep incense, oils, and small objects stored away in these containers. Sometimes, I have oil spills, and tupperware cleans up nicely with a bit of alcohol.
What about the rest of it?
I did not talk about incense, athames, or herbs because I wanted to make sure this article wasn't too lengthy, but I didn’t want to neglect these other popular items either.
I do not work with herbs very much, but you might try purchasing seeds to grow them yourself.
Incense is relatively inexpensive no matter where you go. You can venture to make it on your own, but you can also purchase it in stores for low prices.
In regards to the athame, and the bolline, a regular kitchen knife would do just fine. I do not use an athame or bolline in my rituals. I simply have no need for either tool. At the risk of being redundant, try making an athame or bolline using some of nature's supplies. You may surprise yourself and discover some hidden talents.
It’s important to play around with ideas, and to let ideas come to you. When they surface, don’t question your inner voice! There's a reason you are being pulled in that particular direction. Even if you are someone who perhaps can afford extravagant and fancy magickal tools, you may also try going out into nature and seeing what the Goddess has to offer, or try your hand at making your own tools. I believe this process allows greater attunement to the subtle energies around us, and to the inner self.
I have always believed that there’s no reason to stress about whether or not you have all the "necessary" items to effectively practice The Craft. Lastly, I must say one last time: please remember that magick is within you, and it is your power and intent that manifests results! Enjoy the journey!