Recently I asked people if they thought components such as herbs or candles were necessary to work magic. This question was prompted by reading some of Draja Mickaharic's work. He offers a variety of spells in his various books and all of them inevitably have some physical component. The responses I got mostly agreed with my own perspective, in that they weren't absolutely necessary to work magic, but sometimes using them was more useful than not using them, and just as importantly, it was good to be able to improvise, up to and including not using the usual tools. All seemed to agree that the various tools aided in the focus and concentration needed for working with magic. However all the responses did get me thinking about whether or not the tools defined the practice of the magician. One person offered a quote that the tools don't make the blacksmith, but rather the blacksmith makes the tools, and in thinking about and applying that perspective to magical work, the same principle applies. The magician makes the tools, and what that ultimately means is that the magician decides what tool is significant and why and most importantly s/he realizes that what empowers the tool is not anything necessarily inherent to the tool, so much as the meaning and connection that the tool represents. One person pointed out that as he worked with a specific type of tool, it helped him align with the energies he was seeking to connect with, and consequently brought about changes within himself that aligned with the forces he was working with. Another person shared an example of how using tools allowed a member of her family to connect with spiritual entities that in turn helped him heal the person sharing the example.
To some extent tools do define the practice in terms of what they enable or allow a person to do, but first they are defined by the person, specifically in terms of the actual function they serve in order to focus the person and/or represent a connection with something else that can help them. This recognition however is useful on an improvisational level, because it allows the magician to adapt an item in his/her immediate environment into a tool for use in magical work. Chaos magicians have demonstrated that principle a number of times, as has anyone else that had to improvise on the fly in order to pull off a magical ritual. In the end, our tools can be as flexible as ourselves, provided we have the right mindset when using them.