Thursday 21 January 2021

Treasured Possessions: Finding the Magic of Old Things

I love old things, and this is a post exploring why I find them magical. I'm writing it because the other day a friend shared a quote saying that when you buy new things, it devalues your old things. I disagreed. 

Don't get me wrong, I love getting new things. New books, new clothes, a lovely new coffee mug; these things delight me. But I also have things I've kept from my childhood that I'll never get rid of. Just opening up my battered copy of The Arabian Nights brings back the enchantment I felt when I first read the tales. 

My favourite old pair of jeans don't stop being my favourites when I buy a new pair - they'll need a lot of wearing in before they even have a chance of doing that. It's the same with shoes. My new slippers might be warm and cosy, but my flip-flops will be better when warm weather returns. With most shoes it takes a while for them to be comfortable and I only throw them out when they're beyond mending. Even then, I've usually become so attached to them that they've become almost part of my identity. I wonder if that's the reason behind the historic folkloric practice of people putting old shoes up in their lofts for protection?

I love the coffee mug I was given for Yule, but I still fill one from decades ago with coffee every morning. It doesn't matter that it's scratched and scuffed. It's become part of my routine and helps me get in the right frame of mind to start my work. I have new candleholders, but the ones my grandma once owned usually light my altar.

With jewellery, old is often better too. One of my most precious possessions is an amber necklace I inherited from my mother. She in turn inherited it from my Polish great aunt, who inherited it from her mother. I don't know its history before that, or how long it had been passed down through the family or when it was made. And, of course, the amber itself is millions of years old. In witchcraft amber is associated with our ancient ancestors rather than just our grandmothers or great-grandmothers. No new necklace is going to devalue my amber beads.

There are many reasons why old thing seem more magical. Perhaps it's because we build up associations with those objects. Our memories of them and how they were used affects the way we think of them, and how they make us feel. It could be that objects pick up energy from the people who habitually use them, and how they were used. An animist view might be that everything has a spirit, and those spirits get older and more defined through time. Perhaps it's a mix of all those things.

You can use the magic of old things to add power to spells and rituals. Would a vintage glass that belonged to your grandmother be better than a brand new chalice in a ritual to honour the ancestors? Would a knife your grandfather used to sharpen pencils or open letters be the perfect athame to direct energy in a spell for communication? Would their wedding rings add extra symbolism to a spell to find true love? 

Spellwork: Finding the Magic of Old Things in Your Home

Wander around your home and collect a few old things. They could be everyday items you often use, they could be things you keep for special occasions or sentimental value, or they could be objects you inherited but have tucked away in a drawer and almost forgotten. 

Find somewhere to sit with those items where you won't be disturbed. This could be at an altar or another special place you have set aside for spellwork, or it could be the living room when no one else is about. Cast a circle around yourself and the objects to create a safe and special space in which to work witchcraft. Then, spend a little time with each item. With all your senses and your magical intuition, contemplate what it means to you and what energy it has.

  • What do you know about this item?
  • What does it mean to you?
  • What does it feel like in your hands?
  • Does it have a smell of any kind and how does that make you feel?
  • How does its energy feel?
  • Can you sense the spirit of the item, or even some lingering connection with those who owned it in the past?
  • What will you do with it in future?
When you have finished, thank the items and any spirits you sensed, then uncast your circle. Ground by having something to eat and drink to help bring yourself back to the real world. 

The top photo show a very old candleholder I inherited; the lower picture shows a book from my childhood with a flower I found pressed inside it and a magnifying glass I still use to read small print, my favourite jeans, an old scarf, my amber necklace, my parents' wedding rings and items from my mother's sewing box that I still use.


Jane said...

I loved reading this post, Lucya. I too have objects that belonged to my forebears, now mostly deceased, and they live on my ancestors' altar along with photos, a bowl of grave dirt and a few flint tools I found in the garden, the ashes of Trevor, our most legendary and sorely missed cat, and an assortment of candles. It's amazing the wealth of memories they evoke when I hold them and look at them.

Badwitch said...

Thanks! How wonderful to find flint tools in your garden! I do think the idea of having ancestor altars is one of the great aspects of paganism.