I'm not much of a spell caster which in the eyes of some would make me a pretty lame witch. OTOH, my practice, or lack thereof, is in the best spirit of those in the neo-pagan/magical community who teach that magic only works, or should be used, after, or along with, more mundane means of addressing the issue. Maybe it's a lack of faith in the efficacy of spells having been raised as the child of a conventional and conservative computer programmer and a scientist (although that same scientist is the person who gave me my magical roots) or an uncertainty of where the efficacy of the mundane application ends and the influence of the magical working begins. The latter is actually much more likely since as something of an empath I have had various experiences throughout my life which do not allow me to deny the exsistence of other realm(s) and ways of perception/interaction. In the end, it doesn't matter but I do have a heck of a time quieting my rational, skeptical mind; the one thing about magic is - if you don't believe in it, it ain't gonna work. OTOH, one must believe in their ability to accomplish anything, even simple mundane activities, to actually be able to accomplish it. Due to western society's emphasis on logic and empirical results the working of magic in this day and age does require a certain amount of 'willing suspension of disbelief' for most people.
Lately I've been reading Blood Magic by Seth/Sean-Michael Argo which is one of the most no-nonsense, concise treatises on the basic elements of magic, including the use of blood, I have run across. Some people will object to his writings because they do address the use of magic in harmful ways without condemnation placing him outside of the 'harm none' philosophy that is the mainstay of most of the neo-pagan/Goddess/magical/Wiccan community. What he does emphasize is the fact that the mage must take responsibility for the consequences of their actions - a philosophy that drew me both to Judaism and the Neo-pagan communities. Getting those 2 religious communities to see, much less accept, that they have basic elements in common would be much like trying to convince my husband and my father that they truly do share characteristics of personality. I've had some success in 8 years with the latter, I'm not enough of a masochist to attempt the former although I have to wonder how much good it would do in the world to accomplish such a Hurculean task and therefore 'am I free to leave it alone?' (verse 16).
What prompted this bit of research is that later this month, on 30 Sivan/Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, the day after the Summer Solstice, during the dark of the moon, I intend to consecrate my athame. Most witches would do this during the full moon but some of the things Myfanwy brought up in her discussion of her athame and the fact that I am a devotee of the Divine in the aspect of the Crone Goddess make this more appropriate. I got the dagger I'm going to consecrate last month but I'm a ritualist and somewhat enamoured of the pomp and circumstance of ceremonial magic so I've been researching various athame consecration rituals in order to find elements that I can use/adapt in the creation of my own ritual; when I get it cobbled together I'll post it. I've wrestled with this one (if you've been reading my other entries you'll see that I do that a lot) since I'm not Wiccan and respect Wicca as a religious path unto itself and therefore feel a little strange lifting the physical items it finds sacred for my own use in the ways they find them sacred. If I were adapting the use of the dagger somehow rather than relating to it as a repository and director of will and energy I wouldn't feel so much as if I'm violating their sacred turf. They probably don't mind but to me this 'borrowing' feels as uncomfortable as if I were to take communion when I've attended my dad's Catholic church with him; not doing so has resulted in some awkward occassions but still I feel as if I'd be giving offense if I did. Part of this is due to my understanding of and agreement with how a vocal percentage of Native Americans feel about their sacred customs being lifted by the "dances-with-credit-cards" spiritual seekers. OTOH, they have so many great ways of spiritually relating to nature, something conventional western thought/religion has stripped us of, that it is hard to not borrow their customs; one often has to dig deep to find the same things in western religions - an excavation many are unable to accomplish so people are inclined to pick up the spiritual gems they see comparatively just lying on the surface. There is something about the athame though that just resonates with me (a wand, despite it's similaties in usage doesn't resonate at all and in fact seems a little silly) - perhaps it is the fact that it is designed as a weapon and carries a certain edgy-ness to it that brings home the seriousness and responsibility of magic use. I also like Myfanwy's thoughts on the 'redemption' of the athame as a life affirming object although I would have no compunctions about using it as a weapon if need be and not feel that it had been descrated by the drawing of another's blood although I'd have to be in a pretty tight fix to see that happening and would have to address the energy repercussions of that.
Even though blood is nothing more than the "nutrient rich fluid that permeates creatures complex enough to have circulatory systems" and yet blood is life (hence the prohibition of it in kashrut and treatment of it in Torah) and therefore quite powerful in contagion magic. So besides inscribing the sigil for my magical name on the blade I intend to use some of my blood in the consecration/dedication ritual in order to more closely bind it to me which I realize carries it's own risks since a physical item can be lost/stolen. Since the athame is the most personal implement a witch owns it reasons that it should be as personal as possible; no wonder one's fingers are the perfect athame but we do like our pretties. :) If I had my way I'd learn metalsmithing and forge my athame but between the physical aspects of the fibromyalgia and the feeling that the time is now for me to have this tool, that isn't going to happen.
So if I don't do much spell work why do I keep acquiring the tools to do so? Besides becoming more comfortable with where spells and spell work fits in my religious practice and wanting to utilize that avenue of affecting the universe, it's like having cardamon or orange peel in your kitchen - you may not use it often but you don't want to have to not make/do something just because you don't have all the ingrediants. Yes, doing magic is at least 80% will and intention, just like bakery is 80% flour, eggs, butter, sugar and other on-hand ingrediants, but with all the energy swirling around (the universe is energy after all), I know I can use the help one can find in the various tools mages/witches use. I don't know about anybody else but I still need the physical symbols of the application of my will on the universe. Heck, even Hashem uses the natural/magical tool of the rainbow as a reminder of His/Her will not to destroy mankind. I do find it curious though that Judaism, with all the objects it ascribes magical attributes to, doesn't deal with long sharp pointy things. Hmmm