The Tools At-Hand
Like many spirit-workers and shamans, I appreciate a powerful tool for my work. Something that is both beautiful and practical, that has built up mojo from many uses over the years, something that has connections with my spirits and maybe even a historical tradition behind it. Not only do tools unite the physical and spiritual worlds (which is, essentially, the crux of my whole practice), but tools that are used and loved and fed (in any number of ways) can become animistic spirit-helpers in themselves, and/or be drawn upon like spiritual batteries, storing up power and releasing it when needed.
That all being said, one needs to be able to make do without them. You will not always have your favorite tools on-hand when certain Work comes up. You may also lose or destroy tools now and then. And the more you can do without them, the stronger and cleverer you’ll become in your Work (not to mention being able to make smarter use of the tools when you do have them).
This does not mean, however, that you need to be able to do everything in your head. In fact, for many of us, that is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing, which is integrating the physical and spiritual worlds. So, a good compromise is to learn how to use what you always have with you, and what you can usually find in your surroundings.
For instance, in several traditions there are tools that symbolize the elements. But the elements themselves are always present. The air we breathe in and exhale, the earth we walk on, the water that is in the atmosphere even if it’s not in abundance in your vicinity, the fire that is the sun and stars. These can all be used in magics quite readily.
Then there is your own body. You can use your fingers, hands, arms and legs to make gestures that communicate or symbolize concepts, like stadhagaldr. While I have an antler stang I sometimes carry with me on pathwalking, I also frequently just use my first and middle fingers held in a V in front of my eye. You can even take this a step further and get body modifications such as tattoos that will help you. Use your voice for poetry or cantrips (everyone should have at least a few of these memorized). Sing invocations, chant, or use breathing techniques to alter consciousness. You can use your own blood or saliva in certain circumstances for offerings or spells.
Next, look to your immediate environs. Divination can be done without tools by learning to observe and interpret the behavior of birds and other common animals, or the weather, or by looking for symbols like runes and ogham feda that might naturally or accidentally appear in everything from the fall of twigs to graffiti. Pay attention to the things around you that are associated with your deities – a fence or a train or a grave could be connected to Hermes, for instance – and which might communicate a message or be a suitable focus for impromptu offerings. Give from what you have on-hand: a drink from your water bottle, a bite of your lunch, wildflowers growing by the side of the road, coins in your pocket.
Not only will this strengthen you as a spirit-worker and enable you to do your Work anywhere at any time, but it will likely have the side effect of making the world a more magical place at all times. When you learn to see everything around you, and your very own body, as a means of interfacing with the spirit realm, life begins to resemble a fairy tale, where even the plainest crabapple or quartz-flecked stone might be magic waiting to be recognized.