This article is part of an ongoing series on Building Competency in Witchcraft. This series aims to prepare you to do advanced witchcraft by filling the beginner-become-adept void of information. The first post was Crafting Your Spiritual Calendar, which focused on the importance of consistent practice and provided examples and guidance in creating a regular spiritual practice. The second post was Mastering the Basics of Witchcraft, which provided a working definition of witchcraft and identified the basic skills that are foundational to all witchcraft practices -regardless of whether you’ve been practicing for 2 years or 2 decades. The third post was Intention is NOT Enough and it took an in-depth look at why intention alone is useless and does not provide the transformational power that bullshit new age “spirituality” would have you believe, with science- and magickal-based evidence to support this denouncing. The focus of this, the fourth post, is to boost your functionality as a witch by teaching you how to determine the magickal use of any object. This will allow you to use any object, any item, and plant for your magick and free you from reliance on store-bought witchcraft supplies -making you a truly functional witch.
Within witchcraft, we are able to use virtually any object as a means of creating powerful change within our lives. While the shiny tools with their hefty price tags may carry with them the illusion of Authenticity™, the witches of old and practitioners of folk magic didn’t have the convenience of Amazon or a local metaphysical shop to spend money they didn’t have on supplies they didn’t need for their magick. Rather, they used items they already had access to, items from around their homes or that the land right outside their doors provided. They worked with local items that were easily obtained, placing emphasis on doing the magick and not on “doing things the right way.” If there was a need for magick to be done, then magick was done. No excuses.
Although we live in very different times, we are able to recapture that perspective of practicality and pragmatism. In looking to our own ingenuity and to the land -from where witchcraft springs forth- we can become not just more competent witches but more powerful. We build competency in our magickal skills and the ability to work magick regardless of the circumstances. This is the true sign of a powerful witch. It’s not adhering to the absurd witchcraft aesthetic that is so painfully prevalent right now but being able to do the magick when the magick needs to be done, without any excuses.
Why we Use Objects in Witchcraft
The materials we commonly use in witchcraft are less formal than tools, but they are effective in helping us to work magick and created desired changes within our lives. These materials are sought and used because they are accessible and because of the intrinsic ability they have in aiding us to shape and direct energy. Of course, it is very possible to work magick without the use of tools, but this is more easily -and more reliably- accomplished when you have a firm grasp on using physical objects first.
Objects are used in witchcraft for a number of reasons:
As mentioned above, any object can be used for witchcraft. Anything. Bit of string and a clump of dirt? Sounds like the start of some magick focused on encouraging loyalty. Pieces of broken glass and some rusty nails? Everything you need for some serious protection magick or even cursing. A dandelion root you pulled from your backyard and a small, dark stone that was stuck in the bottom of your shoe? You could only be getting ready to talk to some spirits, especially the Dead.
While anything can be used for magick, why it is used and to what end is crucial. The use must make sense just as much as how it is used must make sense. The magickal correspondence of that object must fit the magick you’re working. And while you won’t find common items like a book of matches, a die, or a paperclip in the correspondence list of your favorite witch book, determining the magickal use of any object is a remarkably simple task.
Determining Correspondence: It's All About Perspective
So how do we move to that place of being able to use literally any object for magick and away from that place of consulting published lists of magickal correspondences (that we don’t know who put together based off of what information or if that person has ever even used that particular item in the manner they’re advising...)?
There are three methods that can be used to determine an object’s correspondence. While any of these can be used individually, applying all three will afford you a more complete profile of that object -which helps you to realize a greater range of uses for it -and this is information that you can rely on later when the need for magick strikes.
These methods are:
The process is a little different if you have an object for which you want to identify magickal uses than it is if you have a magickal goal in mind and want to find items you already have to that end. But once you can do one, you can do the other. Let’s look at the former, identifying potential magickal uses for an object.
Witch Tip: it’s handy to have paper and pen on hand when identifying the magickal use of any object, including herbs, as this information becomes your personal correspondence list, based off your own experiences and intuition. This information is incredibly more valuable and relevant than any correspondence list you will ever find online or in a book. Treasure it and guard it well, for it will continue to be relevant and applicable within your practice.
Looking at Practical Uses
First, consider what the common uses of that object are. These are the ways in which that object or item is used most frequently, as well as other purposes it could serve in a practical manner. For example, in looking at a cup, we know that it can be used to hold things, to pour, to transfer. If we flip the cup upside down, such as when catching a spider to take outside, we see that a cup can be used to cover, to conceal, to protect, to deflect. From these, we can infer magickal use that is sustaining and protecting. In following the five elements model, we can easily see there are associations with water (i.e., it can and does hold liquids,) air (i.e., it can and does transfer things, such as water to our mouths,) and earth (i.e., it holds, protects, and maintains.) We can also draw potential use in invocation and working with the element of spirit (i.e., the Gods) in that, as a cup can be filled so, too, can we. And it can be used in evocation, being filled with a particular type of energy, especially archetypal.
With herbs and plant matter, the process begins the same way, by first looking at the common and practical uses. One common use of a plant is cooking. How does it taste? Does it have any unusual effect on food, such as thickening liquids or imparting a strong color? Next, consider what medicinal uses the plant has. Does it burn out infection or soothe rashes and irritation? Does it relax muscles, diminishing pain, or excite the nerves, increasing attention and focus? From there, consider the type of environment that plant naturally grows in. This may not be a way that the plant is used, but the environment in which it grows and the conditions it needs to thrive speak intimately to the nature and qualities of that plant. Does it like hot and arid climates or does it prefer cold and humid areas? Does it prefer a moist, loamy soil or course, rocky soil? How does it blossom? How does it reproduce? Is it edible? What animals naturally rely on it for food? Which animals avoid it?
All of these qualities give you a profile of that plant and helps you to more fully understand it. Together, this information shows you how it can be used magickally (at least, from a logical standpoint; more on that in a bit.) Additional things to consider, specifically with plants, are its history, is it native to your area or was it naturalized? Look at any folklore that exists for that plant. Are there stories connecting it with specific uses, such as providing miraculous healing or being used to speak with the dead?
For example, in looking at the familiar black pepper we know that it is spicy, but it has a sharp heat, not an enduring heat. We know that black pepper was once available only to the wealthy, especially royalty, and that wars have been fought for it. We know, too, that it is responsible for much of the spice trade, encouraging travel and seeking in far off places. We know that it can help with treating colds, especially sinus colds. All of these traits show us an obvious association with the fire element and Mars. We can also easily infer that it would be useful for magick needing fast results or magick that hits hard and then abates. So, it can be used for immediate boosts in protection, driving off a threat. Its association with wealth and fire can add urgency to prosperity magick. In healing magick, it can be used to hit hard, drive out, and provide extra vitality.
In both examples, a cup and black pepper, we have identified a handful of magickal uses just by looking at what we already know about these items and the ways in which we commonly use them in our lives.
Listening to Your Intuition
While looking at the practical uses of an object provided us with a logic-based understanding of how an object can be used in witchcraft, using our intuition provides an emotion- and psychic-based understanding. This is a step forward in magickal application, which does not, however, diminish the value in considering how the practical use of a thing translates to metaphysical use.
In effectively applying intuition to a task, it is essential that one has first done the work to develop and hone their intuition. While each of us possesses intuition, it is part of that evidence that shows us that humans are naturally made to be bridges amongst the Worlds, the ways of modern society directly contribute to diminishing and stifling the development and use of intuition. This necessitates a rediscovery of our own innate ability to be aware of how much larger the world is than we are told it is. A witch sees and hears what others can’t -or won’t; a witch knows what others deem impossible or fantasy. The practice of witchcraft is a process of unfolding our inner being in an expression that is harmonious to the natural world. With that unfolding comes access to greater amounts of power and ability, greater ways of being and perceiving. But all of this begins with learning to pay attention.
Intuition is one of those ways in which we pay attention. It is the way in which we perceive the imperceptible. Many like to say that intuition is messages from our “Higher Self” which is a limiting way of thinking. This is because of the implication that the way you are right now, physical and active within the world, is inferior to a spiritual -yet distant- part of yourself. And, again, that’s bullshit. If there wasn’t value and importance in physicality, then it wouldn’t exist. Put the religious baggage and new age nonsense to the side; a witch is active in the world because the practice of witchcraft strengthens your bonds to the physical world. You cannot be a witch and neglect the land beneath your feet.
A more useful definition of intuition is that it is the way you receive information without physical means or methods. It is information you know without engaging the five physical senses. It is the sense that encompasses all of the psychic senses and is the way you spiritually interact with the world in a passive way.
Witch Tip: Strengthening your intuition is a process that takes time and repetition. It is not something that you can accomplish in a few months, let alone even a year. But it is one of the single most effective means of increasing your psychic abilities -which directly translates to you being a more effective.
Using this spiritual awareness to determine the magickal uses of an object is simple, so long as you have strengthened your intuition in the first place. To begin, you must have that physical object before you. Calm yourself. Performing any grounding and/or centering exercises is useful if you are still learning or if engaging your intuition isn’t second nature for you yet. Hold or touch the object in some way. Open your awareness and extend your senses into the very being of that object. Listen, feel, be. What have you learned? Be sure to record all thoughts and impressions. Even something that you intuit that doesn’t quite make sense now may make sense later.
Letting the Spirit of that Object Teach You
Where looking at the practical uses of an object provided logic-based information and using intuition provided emotion- and psychic-based information, consulting the innate spirit of that object -or plant- provides spiritual-based information.
In considering that both animism and spirit partnership are woven so tightly within the fabric of witchcraft, that extricating them would only render witchcraft something else, this approach is highly recommended and is a mode of perception that should be sought and put into practice regularly. It is animism that marks the fundamental worldview of witchcraft as it defines the way that witches see and interact with the world. This is partly why there truly is no division between the mundane and the magickal and why one cannot be a witch only on the weekend. It is a practice that changes how much of the world you see and that causes changes within you both mentally and on an energetic level. These are not things that can be set aside to only exist when it’s “safe” or when convenient.
Unexpected tangents aside, animism is the term for understanding that every object -animate and inanimate- contains a sentient spirit with whom we are able to form a relationship. It is through communicating with this spirit that you can uncover new and sometimes surprising uses for objects. It is not uncommon to encounter a plant and have it whisper to you new ways to use that plant, ways that you did not know but that you are able to corroborate with through medicinal herbalism and folklore.
If you are new or inexperienced in spirit communication, it is tempting to dismiss the whispers of such a small spirit as intuition, or vice versa. But there are notable differences in the ways these messages will come to you. These differences, however, can vary from spirit to spirit and are not bound by logical assumptions. For example, it is not unusual to have a plant speak to you in sharp, clear sentences while a stone may speak just in colors and emotions and a piece of broken glass in bursts of music that conjures memories that speak its message.
Witch Tip: Although working with spirits is traditionally and historically a fundamental part of witchcraft, hearing the whispers of spirits is a combination of skill, talent, and willingness on the part of that spirit. It is not easy and takes time and effort in order to reliably develop. This is not a beginner skill, but it is one that will add richness and depth to your practice incomparable to any other skill you will cultivate.
When communicating with spirits -no matter if they are the small spirits of objects, purely spiritual beings such as the dead or nonhuman/nonanimal etheric beings, or Deities- discernment is essential. Care must be taken to consider if the messages you hear are in fact from a spirit and not your intuition, mental chatter, or just some nonsense your mind through you at you because you want so badly to hear something, anything from that spirit. These are not concerns to dismiss. Developing and practicing discernment is also what allows you to tell the difference among the voices of spirits -useful for when you find yourself woken up at 3 AM because one of your familiars saw something in the house, chased it down, and although it turned out to be nothing, they thought they’d wake you to at least let you know they were doing their job.*
This may seem a bit more than is necessary for a discussion on speaking with the spirit in, say, your favorite teacup, but spirit communication is a serious topic and even a light dive into it cannot be without a few quick caveats, not without being utterly irresponsible.
To communicate with the spirit within an object in order to uncover additional applications for it in your witchcraft, the process is much the same as with using your intuition, as noted above. That clarity and empty/openness of mind is even more important, as you must be without attachment to the idea that a response is guaranteed or that you are owed one. Grounding and centering beforehand can be useful, as can taking extra ritual steps such as purifying yourself and the space in which you will be working. Rather than extending your senses about the object, hold yourself in gentle openness. You want to let the object speak to you, to let its words come to you (hence why you hold yourself back, not forcing yourself onto it but remaining open, passive.) You may find it helpful in remaining passive to not look directly at the object, lest you inadvertently wrap your senses about it in anticipation of a response. From my experience, a more intense seeking of answers from a small spirit can be met with a complete refusal to talk unless a relationship has already been established or the spirit is a living spirit, such as within a live plant, and has chosen to speak with you and tolerate the pushiness.
Is Cleansing, Charging, or Consecration Necessary?
Once you know how an object can be used in your witchcraft, it’s time to put it to use. There are no special or extra steps that must be taken before you can put it to use. The object does not need to be cleansed, charged, or consecrated. Hear me out, I promise you nothing but experienced truth and not regurgitated nonsense I read online...
Every object is not naturally an energy suck. Every object you own absolutely will not absorb every bit of energy it ever comes across. Every object -natural or manmade- will not suddenly become infused with “negative energy” if you don’t pass over it with a smudge stick you bought off Etsy and bathe it in the light of a Full Moon. That isn’t how energy works. Some objects do naturally absorb energy more easily, some will naturally absorb, transmute, and diffuse energy. But the simple fact that you went to work with a piece of amethyst in your pocket doesn’t mean the stone needs to be cleansed because of doing so. Again, that’s not how energy works.
Energy is neither positive or negative, and certainly not with the good/bad association those words have come to imply. Every object already contains its own energy -that’s why you’re able to speak with the spirit within that stone, that plant, that piece of broken glass, or that teacup in the first place. That energy isn’t going to become altered just because it was in a room with someone who was stressed out and angry. A stone isn’t going to become a cat just because they were near each other. The energetic integrity of your favorite crystal point necklace will not change because you got into an argument with your partner. Promise.
That energetic integrity is the same reason why charging that object is very likely unnecessary. Charging is a process by which a certain flavor of energy is pushed into an object. That energy then slowly dissipates, effecting change and working your magick this way. Unless that gradual release of energy is a critical component of your magick (such as if you’re making a ward or a charm,) charging is not needed at all.
A good way to determine if you need to charge an object as part of your magickal working is to consider how it will be used. Will it perform a passive function, such as physically holding another object or blocking/reflecting light? Then charging is likely unneeded. Will the object perform an active function, such as transferring energy or forming connections? Then there is a good chance that you may want to charge the object beforehand.
As for consecrating, unless you are deliberately setting that object aside as being for a specific Deity, imbuing it with Their power for Their use alone, then consecrating the object is not in any way required. Consecrating is a process of making something sacred, that necessitates the involvement of Deities. It’s a process that really just doesn’t most of the magick any of us do as witches. Not all of our magick or spells involve Deities and some witches work entirely without Deities altogether.**
Like most things in witchcraft, determining the correspondence of an object is relatively simple. Each of the processes described above can be completed in a matter of minutes, allowing you to easily acquire all the materials you need for an impromptu bit of magick in less than five minutes -just by thinking about what it is you need the spell to do while walking through your home being attentive to what objects jump out and demand inclusion. Remember, it’s not about how shiny your materials are, what exotic herbs or crystals you have, and it sure isn’t about putting glitter on candles. What matters is that you’re doing the witchcraft and that the witchcraft you’re doing is effective. And you can be effective even if you never step foot in a metaphysical store or buy one specifically marketed for witchcraft item in your entire practice. But if your witchcraft is lacking that potency, then you work on building and strengthening your skills so that you become more effective; there is nothing you can buy that will make you a more effective witch.
*Regardless of the lack of sleep, that spirit familiar got an extra treat the next day. This is a perfect example of why you can’t just be a witch when it’s convenient, the witchcraft won’t allow it.
**Because witchcraft is inherently secular (see here and here for more.)
This article was based off an article included in the November 2018 edition of my Dark Moon Newsletter. While some sections have remained essentially the same, this article has been greatly expanded to over thrice its original length to provide you the most comprehensive approach to determining correspondences. May it help you to practice more deeply and more often.
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Throwing the Bones
Whether you're struggling with something spiritually or in everyday life, bone divination can highlight areas where focus is needed and identify alternative ways forward.