The Altar and Other Tools
In Druidry, no tools are absolutely required, but there are several tools that enhance or assist in ritual and the experience of the faith. The most common tools are the altar, bowl, wand, and knife. During rituals, Druids generally wear special robes.
There are no specific requirements for a Druidic altar. It can be inside or outside, depending on whichever works best, but outside is preferable. It can be a large stone, a tree stump, or a small table. The altar can be in honor of an ancestor, an element, a god, or several gods. An altar can also be to the awen, or it can be to something the individual wants to achieve.
An altar should be maintained regularly (daily, if possible). Doing so will strengthen the practitioner's connection to the focus of the altar. It can be decorated with power objects and symbols of personal beliefs. If power objects are used, they should be found rather than bought, because you can't always guarantee that a purchased object was collected with the correct intention. A feather found on the ground was freely given by the bird, but a bird feather purchased in a store may be the result of a slaughtered bird.
Ritual altars are usually decorated with the tools to be used in the ritual. It is typically in the center of ritual space and is sometimes called the Stone of Speech. It contains the incense and bowl of water. If candles are used during the ritual, or the practitioner has offerings, they can be placed there until it is time to make the offerings to the fire. The ritual fire, if small enough, can be on the altar or in front of it.
The ritual bowl symbolizes feminine energy and the womb. The bowl and its contents represent rebirth, the unknown potential of birth, and the awen. It is a tool for transformation and a container for the elements.
A bowl can contain water, incense, fire, or a ritual beverage. A standard Druid ritual may use several bowls. Bowls can be made of any material, but they should be fire and heat resistant if they are to be used for burning items. Sand or earth can be placed under the incense to absorb the heat.
The water in a bowl is often pure water or drawn from a sacred source. It can be well water, rainwater, spring water, seawater, or tap water, depending on the purpose and accessibility.
A ritual fire can be contained within a bowl or cauldron, which has the same associations as a bowl. The wood used for the fire should be connected to the purpose of the ritual. Many druids consult tree lore and their own personal connection to a tree when choosing the wood. A ritual fire can also be lit in a hearth or a fire pit rather than in a cauldron or bowl.
The bowl that holds the ritual beverage could also be a chalice. A bowl can be used to receive offerings from the chalice or other containers if pouring them on the fire would douse it. A more popular alternative is to pour the offering directly on the earth, but if the ground is frozen solid, this might not be possible. The goal of Druidic ritual is to leave no trace of the practitioner's presence behind.
Wand and Staff
The ritual wand is used to close and open the ritual circle. It also serves to strengthen the practitioner's connection to the tree it came from and her or his connection to trees and nature in general. A ritual wand should be the length of the user's arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Many Druidic wands are carved.
When choosing a wand and staff, consider your personal connection to various trees. Before cutting a branch to make your tool, request permission from the tree and then make an offering in return. You can also look for an already felled branch, but request permission from the spirits of the place before taking it. The day after a storm would be a good day to go in search of a staff or wand.
The staff is rather like a walking stick. It is a great deal larger than a wand, usually at least shoulder height. It can be carved or plain. The staff is a symbol of the practitioner's connection to the earth and his or her stability. Some Druids carry their staff when walking or hiking to help strengthen that connection.
Dagger and Sword
The dagger or sword is a symbol of masculine energy. It represents dignity, honor, clarity, strength, and desire, all of which are associated with male energies. Either can be used to sever the ties to the web of connection when casting the circle. The dagger can also be used to cut branches from trees or harvest herbs.
There are no rules governing the size or design of the Druidic dagger. The handle can be metal, wood, or stone, depending on personal preference. It can be carved or plain. The main concern is that it's comfortable to grasp and use.
Most Druids work in robes. Traditionally, the robes are white, but they can also be other colors. Depending on the grove, the color of members' robes might symbolize their rank within the grove or their path: bard, ovate, or druid. It might also symbolize a particular element with which the practitioner is connected or trying to gain a deeper connection to. In pageants, the robes might symbolize the performers' roles, such as yellow for the Corn King or a white or pale blue robe adorned with flowers for the maiden.