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Author Topic: No access to ritual tools  (Read 6551 times)
stephyjh
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« Topic Start: January 26, 2010, 12:49:25 pm »

6 years after I graduated high school, a year into my exploration of paganism and witchcraft, I've finally made the transfer from junior college to a 4-year university and am living on campus. Much of my practice has been very ritualized in nature, so I'm used to having access to ritual tools such as candles, incense, and my athame. I'm used to being able to pour a libation if I feel the need to. Here, however, if I'm caught with anything that burns, cuts, or intoxicates, I'll be kicked out of the dorm. I've asked the housing supervisor for accommodation based on my religious practice, but I was told that the rules apply equally to everyone (the crowd that hides behind the building to indulge in illegal drug use notwithstanding, apparently). So my question is, are there acceptable substitutes, particularly for the incense and candles? Or do I need to hold off on any kind of ritual practice until I can afford to move off campus?
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« Reply #1: January 26, 2010, 01:00:28 pm »

6 years after I graduated high school, a year into my exploration of paganism and witchcraft, I've finally made the transfer from junior college to a 4-year university and am living on campus. Much of my practice has been very ritualized in nature, so I'm used to having access to ritual tools such as candles, incense, and my athame. I'm used to being able to pour a libation if I feel the need to. Here, however, if I'm caught with anything that burns, cuts, or intoxicates, I'll be kicked out of the dorm. I've asked the housing supervisor for accommodation based on my religious practice, but I was told that the rules apply equally to everyone (the crowd that hides behind the building to indulge in illegal drug use notwithstanding, apparently). So my question is, are there acceptable substitutes, particularly for the incense and candles? Or do I need to hold off on any kind of ritual practice until I can afford to move off campus?

There are candles that are actually lights and battery or electrical cord operated.  And for incense, how about one of those light bulb operated scent things (I think one brand is scentsy). 

http://www.candleimpressions.net/

http://www.getascent.com/

Though my biggest suggestion is that you learn to visualize the entire ritual (yeah, I know, it won't be easy) since then you can do whatever you want with no one the wiser.
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« Reply #2: January 26, 2010, 01:15:29 pm »

6 years after I graduated high school, a year into my exploration of paganism and witchcraft, I've finally made the transfer from junior college to a 4-year university and am living on campus. Much of my practice has been very ritualized in nature, so I'm used to having access to ritual tools such as candles, incense, and my athame. I'm used to being able to pour a libation if I feel the need to. Here, however, if I'm caught with anything that burns, cuts, or intoxicates, I'll be kicked out of the dorm. I've asked the housing supervisor for accommodation based on my religious practice, but I was told that the rules apply equally to everyone (the crowd that hides behind the building to indulge in illegal drug use notwithstanding, apparently). So my question is, are there acceptable substitutes, particularly for the incense and candles? Or do I need to hold off on any kind of ritual practice until I can afford to move off campus?

Welcome to the Cauldron!

We've had a few threads on this over the years, actually.  I think most of the suggestions given have centered around finding alternate ways to signify the parts that the tools you're used to using play in your ritual.  For example, if you're using incense to invoke air, you could try a feather instead.  It does require a little creativity, though, because instead of just thinking, "OK, I need an athame," you have to really think about why you need the athame and what else you could use to accomplish the same task without getting yourself kicked out.

I'd try doing a search on the forum using the term "dorm"; that might help turn up some helpful discussions.  The one I keep thinking of was on a previous incarnation of the board; I'll see if I can't turn it up for you, or maybe someone else will remember where it's at.  (Someone mentioned using colored ribbons to represent the elements?  Anyone else remember this thread?  And I think there was mention of using melting ice to accomplish the same magical purpose that letting a candle burn down all the way would?  Maybe a tiny altar in a box?)
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« Reply #3: January 26, 2010, 01:18:15 pm »


Sorry, I forgot to add:  You might poke around in the College Pagans SIG folder and see if there's anything there.  I don't know if we've had this sort of discussion since that SIG was founded, but it's worth looking at least.  Smiley
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« Reply #4: January 26, 2010, 02:44:12 pm »

(Someone mentioned using colored ribbons to represent the elements?  Anyone else remember this thread?  And I think there was mention of using melting ice to accomplish the same magical purpose that letting a candle burn down all the way would?  Maybe a tiny altar in a box?)

Both of those were me! (May also have been other people on the first one, too.) so let me expand.

One thing to think about is why the prohibition is there: in a close-quarters living situation, incense can trigger other people's allergies (not good) besides covering for other things (pot smoking, for example). And a lot of dorms are older buildings, with scary low timber times mean that any open flame can be extremely dangerous.

Options that come up:
- Using fingers (most commonly index and middle finger together) instead of a blade. An obviously blunt blade-like object (like a letter opener) can also work. The two fingers together are so that it's an intentional act, not something you're going to randomly do while gesturing in general.

- For candles, yes, the LED ones are really quite good these days. They work well for an ongoing candle for devotion or other purposes.

- For scent - applying perfume oil to yourself, or to a piece of cloth can work really well and be easier to contain than even a scent ring (if part of the issue is allergies on the part of your roommate or hallmates.)

Ribbons:
- The group I trained with uses ribbons in various colors as part of the altar decoratons, and I have something similar hung around my house. They're inexpensive to do: each just takes 4-5 suitable colors (so water, for example, might have colors ranging from very pale blue to deep blue, and mid and dark purple. Fire might have golden yellow, two shades of orange, and two shades of red.) In general, higher number of colors (5-7) are better, if you can manage to find shades that work, and a length of 5' or so seems to be a good balance between practical and optimally decorative. (Coil them for a smaller altar, hang them for decoration on a wall, etc.) 10-15 strands works pretty well - visual presence without being unwieldy.

Now that my budget's better, I sort of want to redo the house ones using a few lengths of higher quality ribbon (a strand of velvet, a strand of wider ribbon printed with suitable designs, etc.) but both the current sets I've been a part of are done with 50cents a roll inexpensive ribbon from Joann's or Michael's.

Ice:
I came up with this one for a ritual where we were talking about preparing for spring. I took small silicon ice cube trays (from Ikea, but there are other inexpensive options out there) and froze a small bead in the center. At the end of the meditation in the ritual, I passed around the ice, and asked people to hold it and let their body heat melt the ice until all that was left was the bead.

Smaller cubes work better (part of why I like the Ikea shapes - I have stars, hearts, triangles, and they make others) and if you're freezing something in it, it's easiest to pour in water to fill the shape half way, place the bead, then top off and freeze again. If you're actually using it in a group ritual setting, you'll want to keep it in a cooler or something insulated on top of a bag of ice until you're ready to distribute them, but that's pretty simple.
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« Reply #5: January 26, 2010, 04:54:26 pm »

6 years after I graduated high school, a year into my exploration of paganism and witchcraft, I've finally made the transfer from junior college to a 4-year university and am living on campus. Much of my practice has been very ritualized in nature, so I'm used to having access to ritual tools such as candles, incense, and my athame. I'm used to being able to pour a libation if I feel the need to. Here, however, if I'm caught with anything that burns, cuts, or intoxicates, I'll be kicked out of the dorm. I've asked the housing supervisor for accommodation based on my religious practice, but I was told that the rules apply equally to everyone (the crowd that hides behind the building to indulge in illegal drug use notwithstanding, apparently). So my question is, are there acceptable substitutes, particularly for the incense and candles? Or do I need to hold off on any kind of ritual practice until I can afford to move off campus?

Hi Stephyjh,

As others have already mentioned, try the LED lights, or electric "candles" (my former teachers used those on their altar). Would you be allowed to have a letter opener? You could use that as an athame, or just your index finger. Make your own potpourri instead of burning incense (my teachers also used potpourri). Someone suggested oils: You can dab some oil onto a lightbulb (before you turn it on), and when you turn it on the heat will release the scent. Smiley You may need to experiment w/diff brands/scents, as not all oils smell good when they're burned. Most do however.

BTW, where the hell do you go to college that they won't allow candles?
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« Reply #6: January 26, 2010, 04:56:01 pm »

BTW, where the hell do you go to college that they won't allow candles?

OT, but I've yet to come across a college in the US that allows candles in dorm rooms. They're too big a safety risk.
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« Reply #7: January 26, 2010, 05:03:53 pm »

OT, but I've yet to come across a college in the US that allows candles in dorm rooms. They're too big a safety risk.

Yep. As someone who lived in a large dorm with a timber time of 3-4 minutes, I totally get the restriction. Two of the three dorms I lived in in college were built in the 1920s - amazing views, rooms with really lovely quirks of architecture, etc. But also tons of very long-dry wood in the floors and in the structure of the dorm.

We were not only not allowed candles, but we were really limited on what heat-producing things could live in our rooms - no hot plates, no hot water electric kettles, and microwaves were strongly discouraged, if I remember right. And no open-top halogen lamps, because of the risk that something would fall down on them and catch fire (poster, hanging, etc.) though most lamps now have a metal grid or something similar well away from the bulb to solve that one.

(Fortunately, the dorm made it easy: we had microwaves, stove tops, and boiling water taps on every floor kitchen and a full kitchen somewhere in each dorm we could use. But still.)
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« Reply #8: January 26, 2010, 05:17:34 pm »

OT, but I've yet to come across a college in the US that allows candles in dorm rooms. They're too big a safety risk.

I did not know that. I didn't live in a dorm when I was in college. Thanks for the info.
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« Reply #9: January 26, 2010, 06:30:09 pm »

We were not only not allowed candles, but we were really limited on what heat-producing things could live in our rooms - no hot plates, no hot water electric kettles, and microwaves were strongly discouraged, if I remember right.
[....]
(Fortunately, the dorm made it easy: we had microwaves, stove tops, and boiling water taps on every floor kitchen and a full kitchen somewhere in each dorm we could use. But still.)

We're allowed a microfridge and a microwave in our rooms, IF it's the one we've paid to rent from the university. But they had more students than appliances this semester, so I couldn't get one. And no kitchen access. Next semester: Off-campus housing!
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« Reply #10: January 26, 2010, 08:34:45 pm »

So my question is, are there acceptable substitutes, particularly for the incense and candles? Or do I need to hold off on any kind of ritual practice until I can afford to move off campus?
Others have made excellent suggestions about specific substitutes, so I won't be redundant.  But, another possible approach is to use this as an opportunity to get a better understanding of why you use each item.  I'm guessing that, to begin with, it was largely because that's what the books said was How It's Done.  There's nothing wrong with that; it provides a start point - most people, when they're first learning and practicing, just don't have the background to invent a tool structure specific to their personal path from scratch, so it's good to have a pre-existing structure to make use of as you gain experience and self-knowledge.

If you're working within a specific trad or system, you'd be continuing to use its structures (or making your adaptations or variations according to whatever principles that system had for doing so).  But I see your profile says you're an Eclectic Pagan and refers to your influences, so that probably doesn't apply; you're free to ask yourself questions like, "What does the athame signify to my personal practice?  Can that significance be equally, or perhaps better, served with another tool?"  You can apply that to anything and everything about your practice.

I'm not saying, "throw out everything the books said" - if it wasn't, overall, working reasonably well for you, you wouldn't have stuck with it.  Chances are, you'll retain many features of it - but you'll retain them not because a book said (or even becase dozens of books agreed) that's How It's Done, you'll retain them because they have meaning within your practice.

You might find Darkhawk's essay On Eclecticism helpful - it doesn't address the questions you've asked, but it does pertain to what I've suggested, and could be a useful framework if you decide to try this approach.

Sunflower
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« Reply #11: January 27, 2010, 12:34:48 am »

So my question is, are there acceptable substitutes, particularly for the incense and candles? Or do I need to hold off on any kind of ritual practice until I can afford to move off campus?

I've rarely heard of people actually doing this, but in my opinion, you should be able to use a wand for just about any task you normally use an athame for. (I mean, in popular imagination, the wand is the primary tool of a witch or wizard, so the association should already be there in your mind.) And in lieu of lighting candles for the four directions, there are some folks I know of who simply ring a bell to call the quarters. But drawing the elemental pentagrams in the air with your fingers or wand should be more than enough IMO: http://asiya.org/article.php/InvokingandBanishingPentagrams.

Air is a little trickier. If you were a chaos magician, I'd suggest putting a hand-held fan in place of the incense on your altar. Or a can of air-freshener! Cheesy But you sound more Wiccan-leaning, so maybe you want something more picturesque. Someone suggested a feather - that's good too. You can even use it to cleanse things, just like you do with incense - in Afro-Caribbean traditions they use feathers like a comb to sweep away bad energy. (Well, usually they use a whole live chicken whose wings are flapping, but feathers should work just as well! Haha. I think one of the Native American cultures uses turkey wings/feathers for the same purpose.) Or heck - a paper fan! That could be fun. You could even spray perfume on it, so you can fan things when you want a pretty scent, and then just put it down so the smell doesn't annoy your roommates.

Representing fire on your altar might need some more abstraction. I would go with just placing an appropriate stone there - a fire opal, or a piece of volcanic rock, or garnet, something like that. Or maybe a little toy salamander. Or - while we're talking about alchemical symbols - you could just draw the four hermetic symbols of the elements on your altar space: http://realmagick.tripod.com/arrangement.html. (They're the triangles around the big pentagram on the right.) That would be pretty darn simple, and completely free of safety hazards.

(...I like how I come up with the simplest suggestion at the very end.)
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« Reply #12: February 13, 2010, 05:53:12 pm »


Thanks for the help, everyone. The lack of access has really made me think about my direction and made me realize that I wasn't really connecting with that much ritual anyway, that what feels appropriate for me is less formal and ceremonial than what I'd been doing.
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« Reply #13: April 12, 2010, 06:32:04 am »

There are candles that are actually lights and battery or electrical cord operated.  And for incense, how about one of those light bulb operated scent things (I think one brand is scentsy). 

http://www.candleimpressions.net/

http://www.getascent.com/

Though my biggest suggestion is that you learn to visualize the entire ritual (yeah, I know, it won't be easy) since then you can do whatever you want with no one the wiser.

Thanks for the links, did not know that anything like this existed..
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« Reply #14: April 24, 2010, 05:46:05 pm »


Two things... does your campus have a pagan group? If so, they may be a good resource for finding pagan-friendly housing or knowing who to talk to that may be able to accommodate your needs.

Second... what about doing ritual outdoors somewhere? You'd at least be able to light a tealight and a stick of incense if you wanted to, though I know it can be difficult sometimes to find a private space on campus that isn't completely unsafe. I went to a large four year university and lived in the dorms for three of the four and a half years I was there.

Karen
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