Key of Magic

May 23, 2014

I’ve always thought that witchcraft is the best path for spiritual materialists, because we get to play with so many toys (only we call them tools). I have assembled most of the common implements of magic such as broom, cauldron, crystal ball, wand, athame, white handled knife, girdle, sword, chalice, pentacle necklace, and holey stone. I have materials to make a scrying mirror and staff, but have never gotten around to it. Still, I think the typical discussion of witch tools has some glaring omissions. One important tool seldom mentioned is the comb. Another is the distaff. At one point I speculated that our magical arsenal should be updated to include the key, such an important part of everyday life and filled with so much spiritual symbolism. Naturally when I began to research the subject I found that actual keys, as well as symbolic ones, have long held an important place in Pagan magic.

Boar head key
Boar head key
The earliest locking mechanisms date back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and it is speculated that they were originally contrived to guard the treasures in the temples. It was not until the Roman Empire that anything resembling the modern key arrived. There are two important deities that are often pictured holding keys: the Roman god Janus and the continental Celtic triple goddess The Matrones. Barbara Walker writes in The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects:

Keys had so many occult connotations that medieval magicians made great use of real keys as magic tools whenever any sort of opening, releasing, or letting go was wanted. Iron keys were buried with the dead in Ionia, to unlock the gates of the underworld. Germans kept a key in a baby’s cradle so the fairies would not be able to seize and kidnap the child.

Key with image of goddess Minerva.
Key with image of Roman goddess Minerva.
I often use keys in my magical practice. I prefer a blank key that you can get at a hardware or hobby craft store, though I have cleaned and recycled a few. That way it’s not holding old vibrations and not fitted for a specific lock. Charge it like you would any other magical tool. You already know how to use it.


Bourg, Rain. “History of Keys.” Historical Keys.

Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. New York: Checkmark Books, 2008.

Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.

Ianuaria, Celtic Goddess of Music

May 2, 2014

The Turtle Dove. Painting by Sophie Gengembre Anderson 1823-1903.
The Turtle Dove. Painting by Sophie Gengembre Anderson 1823-1903.

Her name sounds like “January,” and this Celtic goddess may well have been syncretized with the Roman god Janus after whom the month is named. Her shrine was located near Beire-le-Chatel in Burgundy, France.

Richard Stillwell notes that the sanctuary’s “Walls were razed,” which is another way of saying that the Christians were particularly thorough in their destruction of this temple complex. From the multiple pieces of statues among the rubble, it looks like many deities were worshiped, and that the walls were erected to partition outdoor shrines.

There are two intact inscriptions, one to Ianauria and another to the Matrones. Ianauria’s dedication depicts a curly-haired child playing the pipes. Votive offerings to a Celtic equivalent of the Roman god Mars were often statues of children holding doves. The Celtic Mars deity is unrelated to the martial aspect of Roman Mars, and could possibly be related to Mars as a nurturing bird deity. See my earlier article on Mars as the Roman woodpecker god.

There were at least four large doves at the Beire-le-Chatel complex. The Celts, like the people in the pre-Indo-European cultures they assimilated, were primarily animal worshipers, with anthropomorphism of animal deities a by-product of Greco-Roman influence. Continental Celts probably worshiped a dove deity that became romanized as Mars or a feminine version of Janus. Since Turtledoves are usually conceptualized in pairs, it’s interesting that the god Mars is the father of twins and Janus has two faces. Note from the video below that the simple turr turr turr of the Turtledove would be easy to replicate on even a primitive flute.


Green, Miranda. Animals in Celtic Life and Myth. London: Routledge, 1992.

Stillwell, Richard. The Princeton Encylopedia of Classical Sites. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976. Accessed at