Is it possible to practice the occult on a budget? I certainly do because I live a rather Spartan lifestyle and am able to practice easily with what I have. It also depends a lot on your tradition and what the needs of your practice are. I practice from a very minimalist perspective so take what I say and apply it how you can.
The Occult Can Be Really Expensive
Practicing the occult is one of those hobbies (practices, religions, whatever you consider it) where the expense can rack up very quickly. If you were to say buy just the basics many recommend like an altar, altar cloth, printed ritual circle, magick wand or athame, nice chalice, a ton of incense sticks, a plant or some special dirt, candles, and special salt, you could pretty easily be at a few hundred dollars or more.
This is before you get into buying specialized items you’ll need for the rituals or magick practice itself like crystal balls, tarot cards, black mirrors, statues of deities, incense, oils, coals, notebooks… Not to mention the often very pricey books–especially if you’re into demonic magick or left hand path traditions where the books are often only printed in limited quantities. Or if you’re interested in practicing more intense forms of ritual magick like Enochian Magick that “require” things like huge chunks of wax with sigils and correspondences carved into them…
My two cents: use the minimum amount of stuff you can and invest your time and money into books, reading, and actually practicing with what you have available. You can also make the tools yourself, which will deepen your connection with it, but will also cost you money and take a tremendous amount of time. I have a friend that’s a tarot reader, he recommends making your own deck–his class on this spans two years! He and I agree that practice is what’s most important, but disagree on the needed tools. I think buying a tarot deck is a worthwhile expense (click here to see how much Crowley’s Thoth Deck sells for ATM on Amazon) if you want to practice tarot, especially if you can find one cheaply. Making one is IMHO for someone wanting a way deeper connection to tarot. [You might hate tarot! What a time investment to learn a lesson…]
Of course, there’s that dude on Facebook that tells you not to worry about the expense because “Seere or Paimon’s got you bud. You’ll have all the money you need in a jiffy!” But will you?
I’m going to recommend a different approach: practical minimalism. Especially because I know that when I was getting into magick originally, I was still in school and was practicing magick in my tiny room in my very Christian mother’s house in secret. I used candles from around the house and snagged one of my mom’s coffee cups to use as a censer. I filled it with rubbing alcohol and set it on fire to evoke spirits. [Note: this is potentially very dangerous as the vapors can be harmful if the area is not well ventilated and the coffee cup can explode, especially if overfilled or overwhelmed with spirit–I’ve experienced this several times… I’m a fearless minimalist, or just kind of foolhardy.]
The only tool I bought was a wand I bought from an occult store during lunch years into my practice. It was $17. Though it was a lot of money to me at the time (I worked, but almost all of my money went to supporting my family), I wanted it so I bought it. In hindsight, I realize this was a steal of a deal for a handmade wand and was almost twenty years ago–they are generally much more expensive. And I still use it, even though I’ve broken it and glued it back together.
So, if you’re in a similar position, the less you need the better. And the less obvious your stuff looks, the better. But even if you’re not, it makes sense to figure out the bare minimum you really need to practice. The other stuff is great (or so I can imagine), but really, most of it is just to help you connect with spirit or get into state. Ironically, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve slipped into using even less stuff and using it minimally (you’ll see just how cheap I get as you read on!).
What’s The Minimum Amount of Stuff You Can Practice Magick With?
This will depend on who you ask and your tradition, but as far as I can tell, the bare minimum you can practice with is just your mind. Magick is a heavily hypnotic activity and thus you can achieve much of it just by getting into the right states mentally.
Am I for real? Yes.
You Can Practice Magick In Your Mind?
In fact, you can create a temple in your mind and just practice there. In which case, you don’t need anything other than time and skill at meditation. I did rituals in a mental ritual space for several years. I had all the tools there because why not, but I did the whole ritual in my mind. I had bought into the psychological model and figured psychodrama works better in your head anyway. It was in my internal temple that I first encountered my higher self, my holy guardian angel, etc. This also made pathworking when I got into higher levels of magick much easier.
So, what’s the point of all the stuff then? Again, it gets you into state, it can hold spirit or connection to spirit, and it can serve to create certain mental states in your mind–and frankly, it’s a decent business opportunity (and without all that stuff, your local magick store would be hard-pressed to stay in business making .35 profits every time you buy 1 ounce of dragon’s blood resin).
In Liber Null, Peter Carroll describes different types of “physiological gnosis” (trance states) and how they can be created. One excitatory mode is “sensory overload”. I’d argue that the magick using long drawn out rituals, incantations, and tons of stuff are one way to create sensory overload. [I think Carroll argues this too, but I cannot find a quote.] The opposite, inhibitory mode of this is sensory deprivation. And many people like sensory deprivation for magick or psychonaut experiences because deprivation can lead to visions rather easily.
Why Do You Need Magickal Supplies Anyway?
Don’t get me wrong: these items can help greatly in the right situations and you may wish to use them to deepen your connection to spirit. All of this is fine. And if you want all the stuff, then get it and use it. I’m just asking you to be honest with yourself about what you need and how much of it you need. Ultimately, this is up to you to decide. And I want you to know how little you need in the abstract to get started. Buy and use whatever you want.
And as you progress, there are helpful things to get like black mirrors for scrying and statues of deities you work with regularly because they can be very helpful as you can evoke the spirit into them as a vessel–but this is a topic for another day…
Do You Really Need An Altar? Can It Be Portable?
Altars are one of those things that seem like a need to have object. And they are nice because all your magickal stuff is in one place, your statues have a place to live, you can easily leave offerings, etc. etc.
But the fact of the matter is that most of us don’t really have a whole room to dedicate to magick. I know, it sucks; however, we have to be honest with ourselves: an altar either needs a specific place in our homes or needs to be built and broken down for each ritual. If you are lucky enough to have a room you can always leave an altar up in and practice magick in undisturbed, great! Then, you just need a wooden table or part of a desk or wherever you’re going to leave it setup and maybe an altar cloth.
If not, or if you need to hide your practice from intolerant parents or roommates, then, you’ll need something small that can be setup each time you practice. Sometimes I use an altar, but when I do, I have to use a portable one because I practice magick in the second bedroom/office I share with my atheist girlfriend and our business. She doesn’t care if I practice, but she’s also not so keen on giving me a ton of space for it in our cramped little apartment…
The Best Way To Make A Portable Altar
So, I have a neat foldable table from India a friend gave me years ago that I use for that purpose when I really need it (e.g. initiation rites or special rituals). But you could pretty easily use something like the little wooden table to the right of this paragraph. However, if you practice daily like I do, it gets really cumbersome to spend 5-10 minutes setting it up, then another 5-10 minutes breaking it down again. Especially if you live in an apartment where every thing you do can be heard by your neighbors and you practice at night–like I do.
Honestly, all you need an altar for is a space to focus on during ritual. You can do the same thing with some paper sigils on the ground in that direction or just by directing your attention in that direction. So, do you really need an altar? Only if you want one.
Bill Duvendack On Making An Altar
If you’d like to know a lot about the hows and whys of making an altar, a teacher of mine, Bill Duvendack, has a very informative video on the topic. Check it out:
Where To Get Candles On The Cheap
Candles get expensive real quick especially if you buy them from an occult store or at an arts and craft store like Joann’s or Hobby Lobby. Though it feels sacrilegious or blasphemous to grab them from a very Christian company, they’re also like $5-15 a piece! There are much cheaper places to get candles.
Keep in mind that the size of the candle doesn’t really matter other than that larger candles often burn for longer periods of time. Sometimes, however, their wicks end in the middle of the candle.
Thrift stores often have old and new, partially used or unused candles. You’ll have to make your own decision about whether or not to use used candles, but this is a viable option. Be careful though as you’ll often spend just as much on them there as you would buying new ones. You really need to be on your game to grab them on the cheap. However, depending on the area you’re in, you may find packs of them at a Goodwill Outlet store. In my area, the outlet often has packs of 4-10 for $1.99.
Dollar Stores For Candles and Occult Merchandise
First, a dollar store. Just keep in mind that the quality of dollar store candles varies wildly. Sometimes, some candles in the same box will burn more quickly than the others. But when you get four for a dollar, it’s kind of a moot point.
You can get lots of your occult merch here if you’re willing to make some compromises or get things that are almost right. Candle holders, or things to sit candles on so they don’t melt onto the floor, for instance are often very cheap here.
Ethnic Stores Or Grocery Stores
Many grocery stores, but especially those that cater to immigrants like bigger carnicerias (i.e. those that aren’t just a butcher shop) or that carry foreign items often have great prices on candles. But most grocery stores have them, particularly in the Mexican or Hispanic sections. They are often saint candles, but most have very tall candles in glass without saints on them for $1-3. Great buy. The Kosher section often has white candles very cheaply as well. They’re generally made with religious practice in mind, if the energy and intent put into your materials matters to you. And sometimes, you can even find them dedicated to Santa Muerte–this really depends on the local climate and time of year (August through November), however. I buy candles from these sections often–especially black candles, which are notoriously hard to find–especially for $2 like this candle I have.
Buy Candles In Bulk
If you’re going to practice regularly, you’re going to burn through candles pretty quick–literally. You can buy candles in pretty good bulk online for a pretty cheap price. This box of 40 candles specifically for magick will run you far less than the $2-10 a piece your local occult store will sell them for (no hate: they gotta make a profit). Check the current price on Amazon here.
Scrying Mirrors And How To Make Your Own Black Mirror
If you’ve got the money for it, a black obsidian scrying mirror like this eight inch one (click here to check the price on Amazon) is a pretty worthwhile investment as you’ll likely use it rather often if you get into demonic magick; however, you’ll probably want a pretty large one because the larger it is (within reason), the easier it’ll be to scry in. And the larger it is, the more expensive it is…
The Picture Frame Magick Mirror
But you can pretty easily make your own black scrying mirror with a picture frame and some black spray paint. Your convenient local dollar store or discount store will likely have a frame for a few bucks. [The diploma size is good.] You can also grab picture frames rather cheaply from thrift stores. There’s a section for them with a lot of them in most thrift stores. All you need to do is (carefully) take out the glass and spray paint it with high gloss black paint (in a well-ventilated area like outside).
Only the high gloss will be shiny enough, so make sure it’s high gloss. To make the coat even, start on the outside of the glass and spray evenly across in a smooth, fluid motion to the other side. Go back and forth like that until the whole piece of glass is covered. Two coats will probably suffice (let it dry in between–check can for drying time). If you do multiple coats, you’ll get a thicker, uneven level of paint like mine, but it’s unnecessary. I think that makes the scrying easier, but some would disagree. It’s hard to see in the picture, especially because it has gotten a ton of wax on it from being in a box with candles. You’ll want to put it on some cardboard or (a lot of) newspaper first so that you don’t get black paint on the ground.
Ironically, most of the times I have success with scrying with it, the entity I’m working with tells me to blow out the candles.
Magick Mirrors Can Actually Just Be Any Reflective Surface
You can also use any mirror or reflective surface for scrying. Many people scry into bowls of water or bathroom mirrors. And the first place I learned to scry was on my iMac screen with the computer turned off after watching The Magick of Solomon on DVD. In it, they discuss how to scry by looking into your own face and waiting for it to distort into a demonic form as you call the spirits of the Goetia. While at this point I’d disagree with that method, it’s pretty effective for just getting the phenomenon to happen. [And if you use your iMac screen for scrying, you’ll probably want to make sure the computer is off as some say demonic energy will wreak havoc on electronics. I believe my old TV died prematurely from absorbing some of it, but it could have been because of other reasons… Safety with expensive things is never a bad idea.]
Other Ways To Save Money
I’ve already covered a ton of ways you can save money on occult materials, but if you’re really looking to practice magick frugally, then here are a few more suggestions…
Use Items Around Your House
As I mentioned earlier, use things you have around your home or things you pickup cheaply. My current censer was given to us by a friend who thought I’d like it. I melted it working with Amaymon (still living dangerously with those fire evocations), but I mostly use it for incense. When I need to recite prayers or incantations a certain number of times
Think Frugal With Supplies
A little can go a long way with occult supplies…
Best Type of Incense For Magick
Go for resin based incenses because a little goes a long way. The resin incenses last a lot longer than sticks or cones and they’re more pure so you don’t get as much junk in them like sawdust or wood. [This can help with allergies and dust.] It’s just dragon’s blood or copal or whatever. Resin incenses also last a lot longer than powdered incense, but those are sometimes resin-based. You can also buy resin incenses in bulk or get sampler packs online. These are usually pretty decently priced at local occult stores, however. Also, check out Chinese medicine shops for herbs and things like incense. The employees are often very knowledgable about herbs there.
Best Incense Coals For Magick
While there are a wide variety of coals you can use, I suggest you buy the large coals and break them into pieces as frankly you’re just going to have to extinguish most full sized coals after the ritual anyway. I buy these ones from Three Kings Brand and break them into eight pieces (this box of 200 coals will last you a long time). This does mean you have to be a little more careful with where you put the incense, but the powdery stuff at the bottom is actually much easier to use on the smaller chunks of coal. If you are using incense as the base for evocation itself (I mostly do blood magick anymore), then you may wish to use half or a whole coal to get enough incense smoke in the air. Either way, this box is quite the steal as most stores sell a package of 10 for $3-7.
I hope this article gave you many helpful hints on how to practice magick frugally. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments. I will update this article if I think of anything else, but I think I covered the bases pretty well without discussing how to make everything yourself. You can of course make your own wand, athame, or candles, but these processes are little more complicated than I can cover here.