Ritual jewellery and symbols

Doing : white spiral on deep purple circle

Many people wear specific jewellery, symbols, or decorative pieces as part of their ritual or magical work. Here’s some things to think about as you decide what you want for your own practice.

Why wear them?

People wear pieces for all sorts of reasons. They can be a reminder of what matters to us, an anchor for a religious commitment or oath, a piece we wear to honour a deity, a piece related to our specific path or tradition, and much more.

Some people wear the same piece every day (or even all the time.) Some people wear a piece sometimes or in some settings, but not other times (for example, wearing a piece in ritual). Some people pick and choose what they wear based on the needs of that day.

Choosing a piece

Pieces can be made of all sorts of materials. Some obviously hold up better if you’re going to wear them a lot. Others may be a choice for particular magical or ritual reasons. And some people may have allergies to metals or other needs that mean they need to make specific material choices.

If you choose something metal, be aware of safety concerns. Some items aren’t safe if you work with machinery or in some hobbies. You may have situations (like job interviews, some medical testing, special occasions, etc.) where you may want to be able to take the item off and carry it or wear it less obviously. Planning ahead for an option that works in these cases is worth doing for long-term wear.

Some people find chains aroun their neck work well, but for pieces I’m wearing all the time (including in bed) I prefer cord, or to make an anklet with embroidery floss. My experience is that people rarely notice anklets – I mostly wear skirts, and even when people could see my ankle, it didn’t get comment. If you want to be able to take it off, include a little lobster clasp or something else flat and sturdy in the design.

Personal work

One reason to wear a piece is for personal work. If this is the case, then you have a lot of freedom to choose what you wear, based on your own personal needs and preferences.

Daily wear

Probably the most common reason is to wear a symbol that matters to you of your path, beliefs, practices, or deity commitments. Obviously, the symbol or item you wear can take many forms, depending on exactly why you’re wearing it.

Some symbols are fairly common among Pagans – pentacles and triskeles particularly, but there are plenty of others. Others may be much more individual, like deity symbols.

Ongoing workings

Another reason many people wear ritual jewelry is as part of an ongoing working. These can be formal talismans, or they can be pieces we’ve enchanted and chosen to use as a magical focus.

Last time I was job hunting, friends bought me a pendant while they were travelling. I was not only delighted they’d thought of me, but they picked the symbol to help me have the sense of stability and joy I was looking for in my next job. I wore that piece every day until I got hired. (It worked really well!)

Group work

Many groups have ritual jewelry that has particular significance for the group members. These can have specific roles as ritual tools, indicate membership in or particular roles in the group, or reflect commitments to deities, among other things.

Because they’re a group item, sometimes the group or group leadership will determine what the item looks like. Sometimes there may be a requirement the jewellery is made of a certain material or includes a particular design, but the members can choose their preferences within that.

Group membership

Many groups have some sort of token that indicates membership or initiate status in the group. In the group I trained in, you got one medallion at initiation, and another (some similarities and some differences) at third degree.

If you see lots of people in a group wearing the same item, don’t go out and buy it! If you’re not sure, ask someone quietly at a convenient time. Even though the item may be something you could order, it’s probably not appropriate to wear it in the group unless and until you’ve reached that stage.

Amber and jet

For a variety of reasons, a number of witchcraft groups use amber and jet as signifiers of training/responsibility within the group. (This is maybe less common than it used to be.)

Amber and jet are both fascinating because they began as organic substances (sap and trees) and are tremendously old. They can represent light and dark, with a thread of life running through them. And they both have some interesting properties as jewellery materials.

In some groups that use them to indicate rank, amber is first degree, jet is second, and the two together indicate third degree. Not everyone does this, so you can’t actually assume much about someone who’s wearing it.

You probably do want to avoid wearing it to big public gatherings if you’re brand new, because people may assume you have more experience/comfort with what’s going on than you actually do. (A single amber or jet pendant is less an issue here than a necklace with a lot of relevant beads, too.)

Cords

Finally, a word about something that’s not jewellery but fits somewhat into this category, which is the use of ritual cords. These are a mix of a signal to others and a ritual tool.

They can be worn as a belt, or some people may wear them wrapped around one wrist (like a cuff) or dangling around their neck like a stole.

In traditions that use them, you often wear one cord while you are a student or dedicant, then get a new one at initiation, and subsequent degrees. Some traditions will braid or twine them together at 3rd degree (or whatever the last degree is), others will wear them separately or keep the older ones safe and use them for some ritual goals.

What these represent varies a lot depending on tradition. White for first degree, red for second, and black for third are common, or some groups use colours for the elements. Some groups or traditions also create cords for other purposes, such as elemental work, deity work, or personal work. The cords themselves are also often ritual tools, anchoring oaths in the tradition, or acting as an anchor for the person whose cords they are.

In groups with regular guests, they can be handy, since you can say “Anyone with a green cord (a student in my tradition) can point out the bathroom, but ask questions about ritual to someone with a white or red cord.” (The people with the black cords are probably busy getting things get set up, and can get brought in for more complex stuff by the others if needed.)

It’s usually better to avoid wearing ritual cords at a public ritual unless you’re helping with the event, or you’re sure they’re welcome – sometimes it can be confusing to people, since different groups use different colours and meanings.

You may also want to check out my article on ritual clothing.

Added July 27, 2017

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