We prepare for witchwork – Chapter 2

And now we come to Chapter 2 – Preliminary Preparations.  Sharing his insights with us is Harold Roth, magical practitioner and proprietor of Alchemy Works.  Mr. Roth is also in the process of writing a book on growing and using witching herbs.

Alchemy Works is bursting with oils, incenses and philters which have been developed and blended with Mr. Roth’s exquisite detail and attention to the magical history, properties and effects of the ingredients.  He also offers his handmade traditional talismans, as well as seeds, growing information and herb lore.

Mr. Roth mentioned he would gladly discuss his responses further, and answer any questions that may arise about them.  Post them in the comments section, and he’ll be happy to answer.

For more by and about Harold Roth, visit him at his blog The Alchemist’s Garden or his online shop Alchemy Works.

For your reading ease, bits from Mastering Witchcraft are quoted below, with discussion points.  The bolded bits are Harold’s responses.


hapter Two, in which Our Hero urges us
to make a Name for ourselves, cast a
type of Boiler Tank, Get Naked (or not),
and “Tool Up.”


“Assuming you have embarked on your career as a practitioner of the Black Arts, you will have to take a new, magical name to supplement your old, mundane one.”

“The witch name is basically designed to be an indication of the true nature of you as you really are deep down!”

Is it possible to work effective magic without a witch name?

Yes. A person’s given name is just fine, IMO. I don’t use a magical name, even though I chose one years ago. I thought I really needed one, but I have never actually used it for anything.

How widely do you use your witch name? What are the ramifications?

I never use my magical name. It is an unused tool, and as such, I think it has no power. I sometimes have used my Hebrew name in rituals. This I think actually has more power precisely because it is a recognized name in one community in a particular context. I guess you could say it’s a spiritual name, because its purpose is to identify me in a spiritual community. So it has more power to me than the magical name I chose and haven’t used. But honestly, I have not found much use of any name. I feel like the spirits know who we are. I have this idea that they can identify us fairly easily (if they want to).

Some witches believe to know the “true name” of something/someone gives power over the named.  How much power do you feel is given over to those who know your witch name?  Does knowing your legal name give folks the same amount of power over you?  Why, or why not?

Well, knowing someone’s social security number gives someone a great deal of power over someone else in the mundane world, so I can imagine that knowing someone’s name in witchcraft or even their legal name would give someone power over another in the magical world. But I don’t think it is that important. I think it is more important to have in one’s mind the image of the person, their themness, their who-they-areness. Even better if you have an item of theirs.

Is it possible to change your witch name?  What are the effects of doing so?

I have not changed my witch name, but I have changed my legal name, and it had profound effects. I would imagine that changing a magical name could have the same possibilities. I don’t see why one couldn’t grow out of one name and into another.

“All witches and warlocks usually possess items that are often known by occult ritualists as jewels … They usually serve three purposes … providing a means of recognition between members of different covens; a talismanic ‘link’ with the collective mind of their own group … and third, sometimes as a means of ‘Fascination,’ that is to provide a reflective surface of the same sort often made use of by hypnotists when they wish to throw their subjects into a trance.”

As the pentagram and other symbols of witchcraft become more widely recognized, do they become less or more useful as jewels of recognition?

I think they are helpful, although I am aware that some people will wear a pentagram, for instance, just to look outré to their schoolmates. But does the image of the Goat of Mendes being sported by every wannabe badass high-schooler diminish it? I don’t think so. I think it remains a powerful image. For me, more often the pentagram has become a Wiccan symbol, which is a whole nother ball of wax than plain witchcraft. It’s not a symbol that I personally make use of for that reason. Not that it’s no longer powerful due to its use, but that to me, it has become a Wiccan symbol, and I am not a Wiccan.

Does wearing a witch jewel daily lessen or heighten its magical effect?

I would think that continued contact with one’s body would heighten the magical power of any object. I used to be in the habit of wearing rings for magical purposes, especially rings dedicated to particular planetary energies, and I know that the more I wore them, the more powerful they became. They seemed to store quite a bit more energy, to the point where I quit wearing them except when doing rituals, because I felt like they had too much of an effect.

“Many practitioners claim that the best way to work magic is the traditional way: nude.  Others, equally tradition-minded, claim that this is not necessarily the case … The rationale behind nudity … is that clothing inhibits the emanation of your witch power.”

Does working magic naked affect the outcome?  How so?

It can. There is something incredibly thrilling about working naked outside on a windy, rainy black night. It seems easier to build energy. But most of the magic I do is clothed. I think clothing cannot inhibit the emanation of power, but not having it on can make you feel both more powerful and less so. Depends on the circumstances.

“In order to perform any act of successful ritual witchcraft, you must have your set of basic traditional working tools…. The magical act is a cumulative one.  You start from scratch with newly purchased substances, ritually purify or demagnetize them with salt water, and incense, and then recharge them with your concentrated witch power.  From these charged substances, you then fashion your implements, and with these implements, you cast your first spells…. Buy, without bargaining over the price …”

Some witches argue that a kitchen knife can be a household tool during the day, and an athame in circle.

Not in my world. I could more easily pick up a stick and use it for a magical purpose than to use a kitchen knife. I think of it this way—we use a kitchen knife like it’s our slave. We don’t work with its spirit. We don’t cosset it. We don’t imbue it with energy. We throw it in the drawer or it sits in the sink with the dirty dishes or we use it to crack open a jar and it gets nicked and dulled. We don’t ask its permission or aid, and generally we don’t treat it with respect. This is not the way to treat a magical tool, IMO. A magical tool should want to help you, if that makes sense. Maybe I have too utilitarian an attitude towards kitchen implements.

For purposes of magic, do separate witch tools work better than tools in mundane use?  How so?  Why not?

I think so, but I also have few witch tools. One thing I remember from when I first got interested in magic was Aleister Crowley describing how he would banish by using his thumb in the “fig” position (British fuck you symbol). I thought this was a great idea and I have always banished nasties that way. OTOH, I have used a particular wand I carved to send out negative energy when it is called for. I think it works better than using my hands. It felt like it was a focus. Like a laser. I would not use it for any mundane purpose.

Would such tools need to be consecrated before each use?

Yes, in whatever way you consider consecration to be done.  I like to use incense or rub the item with herbs.

Why would it be important to not bargain over the price of an item intended for magical use?

I think this comes from the idea of not being cheap. If you are cheap with your magic—not frugal, I think that’s different—than it is like you are not giving it your all. You have more important things to devote your money to, like your cable bill or music downloads or some new clothes, etc. That doesn’t mean you have to spend big or even spend at all on magic tools. I think tools you make or get from the woods or even your yard or have the capacity to be more powerful than a purchased tool, especially when I see some of the wands I see for sale that look like junk. I don’t know how people can do magic with some of the stuff I see.

Does marking a ritual tool make it more effective for purposes of working magic?

Anything you do to a tool to make it more particular for the task will, IMO, make it more effective. Marking, censing, washing, rubbing, etc.

In Mastering Witchcraft, the directions for preparing an Athame are much more elaborate than for the other tools — mix drops of our own blood into the  consecration water, temper the blade (heat it, then plunge it into water), magnetize the blade, bury it point down in earth for three days and.  Why is this tool different?

Probably because it is essentially a tool of protection, on the one hand, so you want such a tool to be especially powerful, But also because as I recall, knives and swords were thought to have a possibly bloodthirsty history which had to be cleansed away before they were used for magic, otherwise the user might be harmed—as if the blade, in fact, had a will of its own that came about because of its past uses.

“To those familiar with Cabalistic sorcery, the magic circle is generally viewed as a means of defence against hostile spirit entities; to the witch, however, though it may serve this purpose … it has a far more important function … to serve as a lens to focus the witch power…. A magical boiler tank in which the steam is compressed in order to channel it”

How does a cast circle feel to you, personally?

I do not cast a circle with an athame. I use a modified version of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram to draw up energy in and around me and/or to clear a space of bad stuff prior to and after doing magic. I guess you could say that the ritual serves as a lens to focus power, but I think of it as more a drawing up of power that then fills the magic worker and can be directed to a task. 

Are all cast circles similar, or is each one different?  Why?

As mentioned, some people use circles for protection when working with demons. I have not worked with demons, so I don’t know.

“You must [move] in a clockwise direction (known as deosil to witches) always turning to the right?

Why move deosil?

Some would argue that deosil would be for working with positive energies or rituals for protection, money, love and widdershins with negative energies or cursing. I do not believe that things are that clear cut. I usually go widdershins if I am doing any ritual action because I feel closer to more chthonic entities like Hermes, and to me, widdershins is the underworld direction.

What would happen if you moved right, but spun left?

You could do such an action to build energy, IMO, like winding yarn on a spindle.

“Try to keep all your magical things together, preferably locked away in a safe place”

Why together?  Why locked away?

I think it’s a good idea to keep them together and if not locked away, at least put away. I keep mine in an old record cabinet I got at a used furniture store (and tarot cards in a separate wooden box). I consider that by being together, their energy is less likely to be negatively affected by things around them. Just feels like a good idea. I also keep them put away because I would not want someone else handling certain of the implements I use, like my ritual clothing. It feels too private. Not so much a magical concern as a private one. This is even though I felt perfectly okay about keeping a magical staff outside by the side door, where it was regularly seen by strangers and friends alike. I felt that staff was impervious to anything. And yet what happened to it? It fell and cracked in two. J

Do you allow others to handle your magical tools?  Why or why not?

I let people shuffle and cut my tarot cards. I would not even show them some things, like ritual garments. I guess with the ritual garments, I feel like it is too personal an exposure. I remember when I saw a photo of Aaron Leitch in his Abramelin robes how I thought he was quite brave to have such a picture taken and then up on the net. I have sometimes seen folks in their ritual garments looking foolish. So there’s that. But even though I would not mind if someone borrowed an item of personal clothing, with ritual clothing, I would feel like the item would be compromised magically. I would never thenceforth feel it was quite all mine. Probably a silly superstition. It has not come up.


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8 responses to “We prepare for witchwork – Chapter 2

  1. One thing about Huson’s instructions for consecrating the athame that is missing from later books on the subject is the use of one’s blood (or that of a steak bought at the market) in the ritual.

    From my reading, more Trad-focused witches don’t balk at the use of a few drops of blood freely given, whereas other witches seem to view blooding the blade as a huge breach of ethics. I’ve read suggestions that athames that have drawn blood need to be destroyed and a new one consecrated in it’s place.

    I can think of lots of good reasons to blood my athame, or any of my other tools, but I can’t seem to find any reasons why doing so would be the horrifying breach some make it out to be. Can anyone shed light on where this divide occurred?

    • trothwy

      Perhaps a matter of different traditions, different practices?

      I recently ran across the concept of using a red knife, particularly for the housle, at American Folkloric Witchcraft.

    • I believe this is all part of the watering-down and whitewashing of Craft. “We Never Do Ritual Sacrifice!” became “We never shed blood” became “shedding blood is bad” became “the athame must never shed blood” … which became “If the athame ever sheds blood it’s evil – kill it.”
      One must Keep Up Appearances, lest people think we Witches are actually, y’know, doing witchcraft.

      I’ve never moved in circles where there was a taboo on blood, and in fact moved in a few where blood was an everyday (even blase) part of the proceedings – by default, however, we used sterile scalpels. Seemed far more sane not to cut oneself or others with a tool that was regularly rubbed down in fat based salves, plunged into the dirt, and sheathed in the same leather holder it’d had since being made.

    • Maybe by “drawing blood” they meant the athame being used like a common knife to stab someone. I remember a while ago reading about someone who had been arrested for carrying his athame around. He said he carried it on a regular basis, and everyone wanted to know why. It seemed like he was treating it as a common knife. This to me is not a good idea.

      It seems like I remember something from grimoiric magic about getting a sword to use ceremonially, and as I recall, it had to have been used to kill someone, like in battle. I’ve been trying to remember it more exactly, but can’t. A whole different practice, obviously.

      For drawing my own blood, I have used a medical lancet.

      • trothwy

        Interesting! I’d never heard the bit about the sword needing to have killed someone, but now that you say it, it makes sense. In an upcoming chapter, Huson talks about amulets not needing additional consecration, as they are consecrated by their use (like a holeystone created by dripping water in nature, or a fishing float, through it’s use on the sea). So I can see how a sword used successfully in battle would have strong leanings towards protection, survival and/or sovereignty.

  2. Corsen

    I haven’t read the book yet, so I don’t know if it touches on this, but to me, on top of defending against hostile entities and containing the raised energies, the circle has always served as a little microcosm. The directions and elements are all in attendance, representing the whole of creation, presided over by deity. Desired changes are made symbolically, and then released to take effect in the material world.

  3. The River Daughter

    I posted a little bit about the craft name bits of chapter two over at my blog: http://theriverdaughter.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/magical-names/

  4. To me the directions of movement have two purposes, first clockwise for conjuring and counter-clockwise for banishment. Second, if there are multiple people working in a circle moving in the same direction keeps you from bumping into each other.

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