One of the first things you will learn on entering university dormitory halls as a witch is that ritual space is at a premium and fire, candles, incense and athames are not allowed. Your dorm room has many purposes, only one of which is to provide space for spiritual wellbeing. So what’s a university witch to do?
Having dedicated ritual space does not necessarily mean having a full-time altar. Preparing a ritual space that can be easily deployed and packed away is simple and using tools that can be rededicated can help to make the most of a limited budget.
All rituals can be adapted to your needs – that is the beauty of witchcraft. Preserve the intention and the symbolism and the rest is just energy work. You will need:
A small box with a lid
To keep your ritual tools in. It can act as a temporary and transportable altar and be stored under your bed the rest of the time. This saves space and keeps your magical items out of dorm mates’ hands.
A ritual mat
Muslims uses prayer mats as a dedicated holy space to pray and a Pagan ritual mat can be used in a similar way. Any colour or cloth will do, so long as it is dedicated to ritual purposes. It is helpful to have one that you can comfortably sit on and that already has a large circle on it.
An altar cloth
Also known as a scarf. Charity shops are full of them in an array of colours. Place your ritual box in the middle of the ritual mat and then cover it with your altar cloth. Tah-dah! You have created a dedicated ritual space.
Borrow one if necessary so that you know which direction north, east, south, and west are for spell purposes.
Use in place of sage or incense for cleansing your room and your tools. Think of the sound as literally vibrating the air to shake loose unwanted energy and to energise your spell space and tools. The bell is also handy for opening and closing rituals.
A black feather and a white feather
Use these as your air symbol, in place of incense. Use the feather to move the air around when you invite air to join your circle. You can also use the feathers to draw your circle if you do not have a wand.
Use it to hold your feathers up on your altar. Having the feathers standing creates a clear demarcation between active air and the resting tool, in the same way that lighting an incense stick would.
A small jar of earth
Your symbol for earth. I like to use small jam jars – cleaned and dedicated, the jar closes so that earth does not get all over your ritual tools. It can be opened during your ritual to invite earth to join your circle.
A small bowl
Use this as your symbol for water, rather than a chalice or cauldron. They are easier to get a hold of and to wash without causing too many questions. Fill with water when you invite water to join your circle.
Volcanic rock such as pumice, obsidian or basalt
Use this as your symbol for fire. Some people recommend using electric or battery-powered candles but I don’t find them very effective. Visualise the rock in its burning form and then surround it with a red piece of ribbon to enhance the visualisation. This will create a demarcation between the burning and resting state.
You can use green, red, blue, white, black, yellow, pink, brown, silver and gold. Use these to add appropriate colours to your spells. Once your spell is complete, cleanse the ribbons with salt water, dry them completely and then pack them away for your next spell.
You can use coloured paper if you like but plain white covers most needs. A lot of spells call for you to write an intention or incantation on paper, or inscribe it into a candle and then burn it. This uses air and fire for spell work but it is just as valid to use water and earth for that purpose. Dedicate the piece of rice paper you are using for your spell purpose. Decorate it with symbols, words, colours and intentions appropriate to the energy you are calling and releasing. When you are finished, drop the paper into your water bowl and watch it dissolve, visualising the intention dissolving into the water.
Take the water outside and give it to the earth to work with. Just as with air, almost all places and people touch earth. Energy sent through the earth with water also has an added bonus of being grounded and cleansed when it reaches its crafted destination.
A pen dedicated to spell work
A set of coloured pens for spell work is invaluable. You can use them to record your spells in your Book of Shadows, as well as for doing spell work with rice paper. For that matter, blessing pens for jobs (such as doing well on exams, or taking notes) is a skill I would recommend cultivating.
Other items you can use include scented oils, which can be applied to cotton balls and left out until the scent is gone. Stones, either picked up from outside or bought coloured and tumbled from your nearest Pagan shop, are also a good idea. These stones can be charged with intention and either kept with your ritual tools or carried
in your pocket when you need magical aid.
Kitchen herbs such as rosemary, cinnamon and thyme can be added to the water of your spell for extra oomph and to your food for extra taste. Rather than dedicating the jar of herbs or salts, pour only what you need. Table mats could have the symbols for earth, air, fire and water drawn on to them.
Kitchen witchery is another skill to cultivate. Brew your tea and charge it with energy for a productive day, or add symbols to your morning toast. Charming your own food is great fun but make sure that you get permission before you bewitch any communal food.
Don’t forget to look out for your uni’s Pagan student society in fresher’s week and remember the Pagan Federation also offers an online list of local moots. Not only can these people provide you with a great source of community but they are also likely to know where the local Pagan shops are in your new home and where safe outdoor ritual spots can be found.
The opportunities for magic are endless, even in a small space. Be safe and enjoy the start of your dorm witch path!
DeAnn Bell is a North Wales-based writer and lecturer in creative writing and creative studies. She is a kitchen witch with a pragmatic approach to practising Paganism in modern life.