Disclaimer: Any of the tools or implements featured in this series of blogs are not my personally consecrated tools. They are either tools I have previously used which are no longer in service or pictures kindly donated. I have made the personal choice not to photograph my own working tools to protect their sacredness and integrity. This is my choice and a matter of personal opinion.
Then there entered into the hall the Holy Grail, covered with white samite, but there was none might see it nor who have it. And there was all the hall fulfilled with good odours, and every knight had such meats and drinks as he best loved in this world. And when the Holy Grail had been borne through the hall, then the holy vessel departed suddenly, that they wist not where it became.
Le Morte d’Arthur Thomas Malory
Over the years a Witch’s tools become friends and close allies, each with its own spirit, its own personality, quirks and character. You can imagine then, my sorrow and dismay at discovering (mid ritual I might add!) my own beloved cup sprung a devastating leak which I’m not sure I can fix with my limited handy skills, although I haven’t ruled out at least trying!
The only solution was to purchase a new one. I am very fussy when it comes to my magical implements. Not only must they compliment me and what I do, they must complement each other. Magic works like a symphony where the Witch assumes the role of conductor and their tools are the instruments upon which the spirit plays…whilst a violin solo can be moving in its simplistic beauty; a whole string quartet adds dimensions and layers of complexity and interest. This is partly the reason any tool soon becomes irreplaceable, a sentimental and spiritual bond forms as they evolve into a niche which only they can fill…a niche upon my altar and within my affections.
Nowadays, few of us bare the skills to be able to craft a cup from scratch and so realistically most of us must purchase one from either someone who does or at least a merchant of such things. The range of cups on offer range from incredibly basic and simple beakers right up to incredibly expensive and ornate chalices with a huge range in the middle. I like my tools to reflect my craft so I tend to go for handcrafted, simple and natural. My previous cup was a simple hand crafted horn beaker which suited me perfectly as I tend to steer away from the metallic flamboyant chalices which have become increasingly popular (and more mass-produced). So why horn? Several reasons, firstly metal will rust over time especially with the introduction of acidic liquids like wine. Some leech into the fluid and can leave a somewhat metallic taste on the lips (That being said I remember a ritual last year where warm red wine was used in the sacrament, the ferrous after taste added a whole new level to the experience…forget turning water into wine when you can turn wine into blood!)
The second reason I chose horn is because the horn cup has a resonance with Kent’s Anglo Saxon ancestors…references to the mead horn are prolific in mythology (See especially the Tale of Thor in the Land of the Giants) and mead plays an important role in my sacraments. I brew my own for one, secondly the Medway (Kent’s primary waterway) is said to have obtained its name from the Saxon word for mead. So Horn and Mead seem like a match made in…well…Valhalla, it is after all the realm of slain Kings and Heroes and so further plugs us into the mighty dead and one of the primary functions of the Sacrament!
Horn is also born of animal which once lived and breathed and may also have died to give up its horn, my cup is imbued with all that creature once was and therefore lives again through my sacraments.
Of course, as I said before there are a myriad of other options out there and personal preference should of course take precedent. If possible visit a dealer, maker or merchant so that you can see the cup in the flesh (so to speak) and hold it. eBay is great for this sort of thing but the downside is you only see a photo which can hide a multitude of sins. Alternatively charity, Bric ‘a’ Brac, antique shops and Car Boot Sales often house the occasional treasure. In fact my Mum has a set of 6 pottery Goblets which she bought some time in the mid 80’s when the infamous Tupperware and pottery parties were popular… one of these would be perfect but alas she wouldn’t ever let me break up the set!
Once you have your cup the first job is to clean and consecrate. Depending on its condition and material of construction it will probably benefit from a wash in luke warm mild soapy water (don’t use harsh detergents or very hot water on wood, bone or horn). If your cup is silver or pewter for example it may be quite tarnished and a good polish with ‘Brasso’ and a little elbow grease will bring it back to its original lustre in no time. A paste of bicarbonate of soda will also work but to be safe test a little of your cleaning agent on the underside of your cup to see what, if any, reaction occurs. Once confident the polish is safe and effective feel free to go at it (another reason I like to use Horn or pottery…much less labour intensive!)
You can exorcise and consecrate your cup in any tried and tested method of either your own design or alternatively Paul Huson’s ‘Mastering Witchcraft’ has a good chapter on tools and their consecration. Personally I would normally wait until my next ritual where the cup is required (which is most of them) and I will take along some salt, water from a natural source and incense. I first hold my cup and speak words of intention (i.e. To cleanse and strip this vessel of all former ties and association). The idea is to create a vacuum or ‘hollow’ which you will later replace with more appropriate energy. I present the Cup to the four winds from North travelling widdershins back to North asking that each cleanse and purify the cup. Returning to my altar I add a few pinches of salt to the water with appropriate prayers and blessings to make it holy and generously wash the cup with it. I pass through the incense smoke all the time seeing any association or ‘bad vibes’ leaving the object. The Cup is then presented to the powers and dedicated to their service with heart-felt, spontaneous words and finally bound to my service using either blood or spit.
Once consecrated, it’s a good idea to use the cup straight away. It kinda ‘seals the deal’ for lack of a better term. A sacrament is the best way to do this as your ritual is more often than not likely to finish with some kind of sacrament or communion.
Here is a very simple ritual which makes exclusive use of the cup a representative of the ‘Sangreal’. The Full moon is an ideal time for this and can follow on from the above consecration, the rite can be done anytime however and with repetition becomes powerful and profound. A simple altar is constructed with a plain white cloth, a candle, a rose in a vase and the chalice filled with suitable drink (water is fine). If you wish to burn some incense by all means do. After a period of quite preparation light the candle. Hold your cup in both hands and if outside you can try to capture the moon’s reflection in the liquid contained within, or perhaps the light from the candle. Gaze within (we’re not trying to Scry!) relax and breathe slowly.
“Beloved Blood Mother of my especial Breed
Welcome me into your willing womb
May I learn in life to Love all that you are
That my seeking spirit may serve the Sangreal”
Say these words with heartfelt intention, then do then what feels natural and right. This is simple, but beautiful and should flow from within like water… Like the Rose upon the altar allow the ritual to blossom and evolve. This should be repeated often.
We have touched on the Cup as symbol of the Sangreal which in itself is deep as the ocean, but like many other tools the Cup’s symbolism and associations are vast and varied. There are some widely known and well published attributes of the cup. The cup is innately feminine, look at its shape and the fact it is a vessel, a receptacle. It is generally associated with Water and the Moon again emphasising its feminine, passive nature. Dame Fate is the Muse, the source of our inspiration and the Cup is symbolic of this, when we drink of the cup we drink of her gifts for the cup is also cauldron and we can gaze within to scry and read the web of Wyrd. The function of the cup is to hold and contain and for this reason it is womb. Yet there is a darker side, for the cup may be emptied, turned upside down upon the altar and it immediately becomes the burial mound, the tomb and / or the poison chalice. The Dame gives and takes life and as such the cup represents her dual nature as mother and destroyer. In the Robert Cochrane tradition the cup is placed to the left of the Altar as you are looking at it. The left is associated with the feminine, widdershins and dark introspective nature of the psyche and the Pillar of Severity on the tree of life with the Dark Mother, the Cauldron (Binah) at its pinnacle. As I said in the previous post I am not one to spoon feed anyone what can be discovered for themselves so once you have your cup use it, work with it and its importance will slowly but surely become clear. So raise your cup high to The Old Ones… and raise it often!
The ‘Sangreal Prayer’ was the creation of W.G Gray who shared it with us including Evan John Jones. It can be found in ‘Witchcraft; A Tradition Renewed’ by E. J. Jones and D. Valiente. Robert Hale Publishing.