The ritual knife, or athame, is one of the prime Wicca altar tools.
(It is pronounced AH-tha-may or ah-THAW-may.)
Traditionally black-handled, the athame lives in the East, the direction that represents mind, thought, and choice.
An athame doesn't have to be metal. You can find ones made out of wood or carved stone, if you prefer. It's not used as a physical knife, anyway, but a symbolic one.
Athames hold yang [god] energy.
Athames are used to direct energy, typically in casting ritual Circles and recalling them. They may also be used to cut energetic ties.
Ordinarily, an athame is not used to cut anything on the physical plane.
Bells are like the Voice of the Goddess. When you ring one, it brings the Divine's attention to you. And your attention to the Divine!
A bell with a lovely tone will call beautiful, healing energy to you. Bells can also be used to clear energy. At the end of a ritual is a good time for this, but if unwanted energy crops up during a ritual, you can use the bell to disperse it.
Candles - Direction Candles
One candle for each of the directions, colour-coded, are often used on a Wiccan altar. One would go in each appropriate direction . . .
For North: black, green, or brown
For East: yellow or white
For South: red or orange
For West: blue or aqua
For Centre, where you aren't using God and Goddess candles: white, silver, or gold.
Candles are used to invoke and hold the Powers of each direction.
Candles - God and Goddess Candles
Often large candles, such as pillar candles, are used to represent the God and the Goddess. These are usually set on either side of the Pentacle, or somewhere in the centre of the altar.
Other options are having just one large candle for the Great Goddess, or three - white, red, and black - for the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.
Where they go is up to you. Somewhere they won't drip onto delicate items or catch things on fire is always good.
These candles invoke the Energies of the Divine.
The Wiccan chalice is one of the most important altar tools. It signifies the Mother Goddess.
As such, it is a "yin" altar tool.
Some people like very fancy bejeweled cups for their altar chalice, but this is not necessary. A cup or wine-type glass of any material will do, or even a bowl. Something that holds water and, ideally, is round or curvy is good.
Silver is always nice for Goddess tools - a silver chalice is a perfect Wiccan chalice.
The altar chalice is placed in the West, the direction of Water and the yinnest of the yin.
The Wiccan chalice is used for ceremonial drink, offering libations to the Divine, or holding the salt-water solution.
Images or representations of any gods and goddesses who are special to you are always welcome on an altar. Though of course we could not respectfully consider them "altar tools."
They are more than reminders of Divinity. Statues of the gods and goddesses can actually hold the vibrations of the Divine.
So your altar becomes a living temple - a place where the Divine dwells.
A small dish, bowl, or cup can go in the centre, ready to receive offerings for the gods and goddesses. (See below.)
You can also use your altar chalice or cauldron for this purpose.
Later, pour or bury the offerings in the Earth, or into living water (rivers, lakes, etc) to carry them to the Divine.
When you would honour the Divine with a gift of thanks or prayer, you can bring them to the Altar as an offering.
Often flowers are kept on the altar as an offering. Anything that is beautiful or special to you, or symbolic of the purpose for the offering, can be offered.
It is probably not necessary to point out that offerings should not be anything that could harm anything (but just in case, I'll point it out anyway).
For one thing, since the Divine lives in all things, anything you harm is an injury to the Divine. And pragmatically, you'll be giving the offerings to the Earth later.
Offerings are one of the most overlooked practices in Wicca today, yet one of increasing spiritual power and importance.
The Pentacle, a 5-point star within a circle, usually is placed in the centre of the altar. The pentacle is one of the most important altar tools, offering protection and power in magickal work.
A small bowl of water with salt dissolved in it, for cleansing. This would be appropriate in the centre. Alternatively, the altar chalice may be used to hold the salt water.
Water and salt are both purifying agents, not only in the physical realm but the energetic as well. Salt water also represents the energies of earth and water united, the ocean womb which gave birth to all life on the planet. So while this may seem an insignificant addition to your altar tools, it holds great power.
Scent or Feather
Some representation of air, commonly something scented like incense, essential oils, or smudges, or else a flying bird's feather goes in the East, to represent Air.
Sacred scents are used to cleanse an area energetically, call in certain powers, or help witches shift consciousness.
Feathers can also be used to cleanse energy fields, and to fan incense or smudge smoke.
Stones or Crystals
For the Earth element, in the North, stones and sometimes crystals are used.
These bring in Earth energy, which helps with grounding (except perhaps for quartz crystals). Gem stones also carry certain energies which can be invoked by having them on your altar.
(Another option is to have elements of nature such as plants or animals represent Earth.)
The wand is like a portable, handy version of a broom. There is a theory that originally one instrument performed all the purposes served by the two today.
A wand can be made of any natural material. Wood is traditional. Since all woods have unique Powers, you may like to choose the wood to suit your particular needs.
Wands can be used for divination and channeling magickal energy. They can be used to cast and recall circles, in place of the athame.
The magickal wand goes in the South, for the power of will, magick, and transformation. It also represents yang, or god, energy.
A broom is not necessarily classified among altar tools, but it is indispensable for energetically cleansing sacred space.
While handy to keep nearby, brooms are usually too unwieldy to put atop an altar.
Traditionally cast iron, a cauldron is like a 3-legged rounded cooking pot. You can get them in sizes from huge to tiny.
Cauldrons are handy items for burning things, like incense and herbs. This is one of the reasons it is one of the most common altar tools.
Put an incense charcoal in the bottom, and sprinkle the herbs and powders onto it for very pagan incense.
(Caution is required when burning anything, of course. Cast iron on legs, if made properly, will keep the heat from the surface it's standing on, but check to make sure. Also be aware of anything flammable nearby or above the cauldron - particularly sleeves and hair!)
Cauldrons can also be used to hold "witches' brews," that is, magickal spells in liquid form. These range from simple salt-water purifications to complex spells.
Those are some tools, on the craft. Next will be the Bos, enjoy and rate.