Note: My friend Jason Walton over at Three Dragons Grove is also posting on this same topic.
A while back, I came across a post by Jason Miller. I cannot find it again to link. He said that some people feel that they have outgrown tools. That is fine for mental magick but for manifestation you need tools
That post hit me between the eyes like a Nerf two by four*. Just a few days before, I asked someone how her magick manifests so quickly. My magick always works but it can take a very long time. I can set records with the length of my manifestation curve. I was not fond of her method. Jason had taught me a similar lesson to tool use once before but I had forgotten.
The next day, the sun rose.
On that day, I conjured a spirit of the Lesser Key using no tools at all** while sitting in my office at work. Most of the time, I just chat with them. This time I asked for something. What I wanted manifested in less than twenty minutes. So what gives? How can Jason be correct and I received the results that I did?
I will get back to that.
First, we have to define what a magickal tool is. To me, a tool is any physical object that aids the practitioner in doing magick by aiding in the creation of a proper environment for the working. That can be anything from a Solomonic circle, triangle and the like to a tree-filled environment. Yes, the setting you choose for your magick could be considered a tool. The set of tools most common to Neo-Pagans are the elemental tools. Some tools are consecrated. Some tools are not. Most of the time consecrated is better.
In Golden Dawn traditions the tools are basically very colorful cheat sheets. Each of the elemental weapons has a list of 8 items the god name, the Hebrew name of the element, the cardinal point, names of spirits and their sigils etc. When invoking or evoking a power of the element these names are used. The problem of course is that it is hard to get in the proper headspace if you are using cheat notes. So certainly, the exact construction of a GD tool is unnecessary. You should be able to outgrow the cheat sheet portion. Your magick will be better for it.
And now to completely contradict myself. That cheat sheet is there for a reason. First, the names and sigils are telesma. When you call on the spirits to consecrate your tools having their names on it helps. Just as a physical shape in alignment with the element helps. Secondly, using the tool when calling a spirit of that tool is a great advantage. After all, when you are calling a spirit specifically named on the tool, you are calling one that helped consecrate the object. Thus you have at least some relationship with the spirit that you are calling. You are also working with an object the spirit ‘touched’. Is it any wonder that the tool makes it easier to call upon such spirits? Basically, the tool is the proper environment to call the spirit into. This is most easily seen with the water cup but it applies to others as well for various definitions of ‘into’.
There is very little need to “outgrow” the use of the tool. I do not live near a body of water. If I am going to call on a water spirit, it seems reasonable to have a bit of water in a cup. You would be surprised how little water can make a water spirit comfortable. Do you need a nice pretty GD water cup? No. Can you use a paper cup that held your soda ten minutes before? Yes. Would it create a better environment or vibe to have a cup that you always use for that purpose and is treated with reverence and respect? Yes. This creates not only a physically acceptable environment but a psychic one as well. Further, it shows respect to that element you are calling.
Some of that environment is for the magician. Very recently, I had a little water spirit crawl out from inside a plastic cup of water. It was quite content and simply appeared as I was making offerings to the local spirits. I would have felt much better had I seen the tool as dedicated to holiness in much the same way you feel better inviting an acquaintance into a freshly cleaned room rather than something more ‘lived in’.
For some magicks to work, you absolutely, positively need to create an appropriate environment. A wide variety of tools can be used. Scent is great for creating a general environment.*** Cloth is often neglected. Imagine invoking water in a room full of deep blue cloth covering the walls with orange highlights (GD colors) and a similar cloth and cup on the altar. Then add sound from a bell or gentle gong, the scent of a lilly etc. Being a good magician can mean being a good host. Make your guests comfortable!
Solomonic magick is a bit different. I have found the tools in that system work more like a combination lock. The more dialed in you are the better. In this case the wrong combination doesn’t just fail to open the lock, it sets off an alarm. The alarm is one that warns other magicians not to do what you just did. You could wind up in a lot of trouble. As Jason Miller says, “Magic is dangerous,” which is the topic of my next post.
Now, why did I get manifested results when I used no tools? Because I was mentally/astrally able to create the environment necessary to interact with those spirits. In Solomonic magic part of that is an attitude. Part of that is a profound understanding of my circle. Part of it was I did not ask for something that I did not need. Had I asked for ten dollars it would not have worked. I would have needed the full layout. I asked for something that is an expression of my soul’s manifestation. Theurgy has its advantages.
You can, with what is misleadingly called visualization skills, get by without tools and still manifest. The problem is that you have to have a great deal of focus. That may be pretty hard to do in an emergency or when you are upset. You could also just do it with tried and true safe basics. I recommend the latter. To completely contradict myself again, manifesting without tools is quite satisfying in its own right.
*In the past that two by four felt like a steal beam.
**Do not try this at home.
*** I prefer oil on cotton or myself. This just lets the scent evaporate and, to me, is more air-like than a fiery censor. The latter is best used when an overwhelming scent is needed.