If you had come to me three or four years ago and asked, “Are tools a necessary part of worship? Do the Gods need them? Is it important that we use them?” I would have said, “Eh, not so much.” I would have said that tools are useful when helping focus attention (and thus energy) and play a key role in helping create a ritual mood for us to experience during worship or workings. I would have certainly acknowledged that even though our intent is the gasoline that fuels the engine of our spiritual art and craft, tools are a very helpful way to help stir that intention – but not perhaps strictly necessary.
I also would have said that no, the Gods don’t *need* these tools, not in any realistic sense. Objects don’t much serve the Gods – but objects can serve the people that serve the Gods and therefore the Gods may sometimes desire them. Gods might desire objects for functional reasons, for aesthetic reasons, as vehicles to interact with their people, as points of power to become established in this world – all very important but not perhaps a need, exactly.
Today I have a slightly different answer. I hold all the above statements to still be true and valid and helpful answers but I have come to learn two additional answers that go along with these questions.
Yes, sometimes tools are necessary. Tools are frequently used as education and training within spiritual traditions. This is especially true of spirit work though I’m sure you can think of other examples where the tool *is* the lesson and without the object, the lesson is just simply not going to happen and you’re going to end up with an incomplete education. Some examples that come to my mind include various stages of ceremonial magic systems. Sometimes you just need the sigils and the wand and the candles and maybe someday you will put them aside and work only with their astral counterparts but until then, you will use the tool. The tool has things to teach you and you can show up for the lesson or you can fail to learn something very important.
Yes, sometimes the Gods need tools. Well, I should qualify that by saying that we’re not always 100% sure what the Gods need. If we are open to the possibility that They are Their own personalities with their own independent agencies and agendas (or even if we’re a little softline on the matter), then we have to accept the possibility that They’re going to express a need or desire that seems illogical, nonsensical, or confusing to us. Certain deities – My Lord included – are rather notorious for having a hands-on approach to the world. Usually He can be negotiated with: “You don’t really need that thing, do you?” And frequently no, He doesn’t need that thing. He would like it or He would like to share it with me, or He would like to have me hold and play with it and stick it on the altar and keep it around for a while.
Sometimes, just sometimes, a need is expressed. So far it’s never been a “I need this thing or I’ll DIE” because that’s not really the way it works with Gods (thus it’s not a terribly helpful metric to apply to their needs and wants). Simply put, I’m not in a position to judge exactly what His needs are from an objective, rational point of view. Thus I’m required to trust His assessment of His own well-being. If there is something that He needs in order to fulfill His point and purpose in this world and if that something is a thing that I can provide, then I will attempt to do so. Accepting our ignorance and deferring to Their expressions when it comes to Their specific needs and desires is part of what is meant when we take up the effort to displace our individual cosmologies from a human-centric perspective.
And no, naturally I’m not advocating violence or theft or injury or harmful sacrifice or anything like that. Negotiation remains a possibility though it is helpful if you have a history of actually negotiating and not just saying, “I want to hear your reasons and I’m not going to do it anyway.” Basically I’m trying to say that we should not dismiss Their expressions of need and desire out of hand simply because the metric of need that we apply to ourselves and our world doesn’t seem to apply. We can take Them at Their word, with faith and love and trust and a willingness to explore together. Though I can’t speak to the needs and wants of all the Powers at every time in every place, I can say that my experience with a great number of them suggests that faith and love and trust and willingness are all needful to them. Sometimes tools and objects have a role in these achievements.
2 thoughts on “Do we need ritual tools? Do our gods need them?”
So much YES in response to your thought here.
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Thanks! And thanks also for your lovely pictures.