Recycling Ritual Tools
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Article ID: 14927
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Lupa [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: February 5th. 2012
Times Viewed: 3,539
While neopaganism is relatively young, there are a variety of traditions that have arisen among some pagans surrounding ritual tools. Some have to do with their procurement, such as never haggle with the maker or seller of a tool you want. Others deal with their handling and care, such as periodic purification, not letting others handle them, and energetically insulating then when not in use.
But what about when you no longer have a need to use them? What if you’ve moved past a particular tradition and don’t have a use for tools specific to that tradition? Or what about tools that you used a few times but never really connected to? Maybe there are things that no longer fit you for other reasons, or that you feel need to move on to someone else.
Some people have absolutely no problem with passing their old tools on to someone else. Others are less comfortable with it, often citing the idea that a lot of their personal energy has gone into those tools and they don’t want that mis-used. Or they dislike the idea of some random person at Goodwill buying something that used to be sacred, and using it as an ashtray or letter opener. And some people dislike buying or otherwise receiving secondhand ritual tools, again often because of the “energy issue”.
In this day and age, though, there are a lot of resources going to waste. Countless amounts of perfectly good household objects, clothing, and otherwise usable things end up in landfills and garbage incinerators because nobody wanted them any more—at least no one who had access to them. And to replace these destroyed resources, there are more minerals being strip-mined, more forests being cut down for cash crop agriculture like cotton, more chemicals going into synthetics like plastic, and so on.
Pagan tools and other sacred objects are no exception. Most crystals are strip-mined, and even those that are from smaller operations still require the ecosystem to be disturbed in some way, even if only by human presences. The same goes for metals used in athames, chalices, pewter pentacle necklaces, and the like. Teak and other woods used in altars and boxes and other trinkets are often unsustainably grown and harvested with a negative effect on the local ecosystem. Many altar cloths, as well as a lot of flowing, brightly-colored clothing favored at festivals is made by slave labor in Asia and elsewhere, using harsh chemical dyes that can be horrible for the health of the laborers, as well as the environment that suffers the wastes from these processes. Most commercially available leather, feathers and other animal parts used in drums and other shamanic tools came from animals that suffered bad deaths, and often bad lives in captivity, and are often treated with more polluting chemicals.
On top of all this, pagans as a group are notorious for “magpie syndrome”. I have known entirely too many pagans—and been one myself—with huge collections of random magical tchotchkes, most of which just sit there and “look pretty”, or clutter up small spaces designated as altars. Granted, my tastes tended toward neat secondhand things I found at flea markets, and handmade pieces of art, but it still remains that pagans have a tendency toward packratting, and that includes all sort of mass-produced cheap statuary, pewter jewelry, and other things made cheap by cheap—and cheated—labor.
So with all that in mind, does it not make sense to reduce the demand for new resources? Isn’t it better for those who profess to follow nature-based paths in particular to get over the “icky energy” hangup and find green ways to deal with ritual tools that no longer suit us? Here are some suggestions:
--Anything can be purified, and I do mean anything. If you feel something is “dirty” even after scrubbing it with salt, washing it with running water, or censing it with sage, it’s most likely that you’ve got a personal bias about it on some level that makes you still see it as “bad” or “tainted” or even just “mine”. If you don’t feel you can effectively purify it yourself, find someone who can. In my experience, most cases of “cursed” items tend to be a matter of confirmation bias—if you receive an item being told that it’s “cursed”, or if the physical appearance of it hits enough “creepy” vibes on a subconscious level, then you’re more likely to continue the story of “it’s cursed!” Yet if you handed it off to someone who had no idea and no belief in any of this sort of thing, chances are they could just set it up on their mantle with no harm or foul. So when doing purifications, don’t just purify the object—purify your own mind as well.
--Have a swapping party with some friends or other folks in the local pagan community. Make sure especially that people who are relatively new, or who may not have a lot of extra funds to buy tools, know about it. Have everyone who has tools to rehome bring them to the party, put them in the middle of the room, and let folks take whatever they will regardless of how much or how little they brought. At the end of the swap, if there are leftovers, let the people who brought them initially decide whether they’re okay with them being donated to Goodwill or another thrift store, or given away as a raffle prize at an upcoming pagan event/fundraiser, etc., or whether they’d rather take them back home and try again later.
--If you have something very special to you, just wait for the right person to come along. I ended up giving my very first set of ritual tools away to a relatively new pagan who didn’t have any, and I didn’t feel at all bad about it. She appreciated the tools, and I felt better knowing she had some that had been very near and dear to me.
--If the tool is simply too physically damaged, see if there’s a way to repurpose or otherwise recycle it. Can a cracked cauldron be used as a flowerpot, or an old wand help to prop up a young plant in the garden? Would an old, worn altar cloth still be usable to wrap a set of tarot cards, made into part of a quilt, or even be torn up into cleaning rags so as to save trees that would otherwise be made into paper towels? If you have an old broken rawhide drum head, can it be cut into smaller pieces, painted with seasonal decorations, and made into a bunch of Sabbat ornaments?
--Reduce your consumption as well, particularly of brand-new resources. Do you really need that cheap black metal candle holder from Wal-Mart made with strip-mined metal and shaped by slave laborers whose health may have been affected by metal fumes and anodizing chemicals? In my experience, thrift stores tend to have shelves upon shelves of similar candleholders secondhand that may just need a quick smudging and maybe a little dusting. If you must buy new, give your money to individual artisans, especially those who make use of secondhand materials and give them a new life. And, of course, there’s always the option of making your own if you’re so inclined!
There’s really no excuse to do things like bury old ritual tools in the ground or toss old crystals in a lake where they’ll never get used again. No matter what you have, someone, somewhere will make use of them and give them a cherished place. It may take a little effort to make the right connection, but in the end, everybody wins!
Copyright: Copyright Lupa, 2012. Please link, don't copy and paste!
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