I recently finished playing the DLC for Shadow of Mordor. In one of the DLC's you get to play as the Elf Lord Celebrimbor, who according to the mythology of Lord of the Rings, forged the rings of power, and helped Sauron forge his Ring. Celebrimbor gets the Ring of Power at one point and is able to use it for a time., but eventually loses it when it leaves him. Playing the game got me to thinking about objects of power and how such objects might take on their own personality. According to LOTR lore, Sauron invests a significant amount of his own power into the ring, which ultimately leads to his downfall when the ring is destroyed, but in thinking about how the Ring is treated in the books and in Shadows of Mordor, I began thinking that the ring is its own entity.
The reason I think of the ring as its own entity is because of how it seeks to protect itself. It may find various people to wield it, but inevitably it leaves those people when their value is used up. According to the mythology, the ring is trying to get back to Sauron, but nonetheless I think in giving so much power over to the Ring, what Sauron also gave it was its own identity, desire, etc. And you might wonder what all this conjecture has to do with magic, here's my take: Investing a lot of your own power, personality, etc., into an object is a mistake that will come back to bite you, because it becomes its own being.
In another pop culture mythology, Once Upon a Time, Rumpelstiltskin, is the Dark One because he possesses a dagger that transfers the power to him, after he kills the previous dark one. Whoever holds the dagger can control the dark one or become the next dark one, but there is nothing about the person that indicates that they inherently have the power. Instead the power resides in the dagger, which makes me think that the dagger is ultimately its own being, perhaps the original dark one transformed into a dagger. But regardless of that you see a similar lesson in this mythology, namely that the power residing in the object, as opposed to the person, makes the person vulnerable.
Back when I started practicing magic, I had necklaces, rings, and a variety of tools that I used for magic, but something I learned along the way is that the power in those tools is at least partially derived from what people put into those tools. What that means is that you invest part of yourself in a given tool. You might think of it in terms of the meaning you derive from working with the tool, or something else to that effect. There might be something inherent to the tool, but a lot of what makes a tool useful in magical work is the meaning you put into it, the relationship you create with it. And by extension some of that can be taken and applied to yourself. William G. Gray talks about doing just that by recognizing what a magical tool represents and bringing it into yourself to make it part of who you are as a magician.
I think tools can be useful, but it is wise to consider what you invest in a tool and ask yourself if that's really where you want your magic to go or where you'll find it. You might discover that the best investment you could make involves recognizing and working with the magic within you. It's always part of you...and with that said, knowing wen to use a tool can also be as important as knowing not to overly rely upon it.
Shauna Aura Knight and I were recently interviewed on Green Egg Radio about the Pagan Leadership anthology Immanion Press is publishing and Pagan Leadership.
I was also interviewed on the Pagan Variety Show about Inner Alchemy and internal work (you'll need to go in about an hour, in order to listen to that interview).