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A Witch's Guide to Dorm-Friendly Spellwork

How to Keep Your Practice Going While You're Away at School

By MissieKatjiePublished 6 years ago 5 min read

The college years are a magical time for many young adults: first time away from home, first time working under their own schedule, first time looking after their own finances... and, for young pagans, first time being able to practice openly.

Most dorms have very strict rules on use of our most common tools: no open flames, no smoke, limited use of various appliances. If you don't have the privacy of a lockable door for your room, then you also have to consider what you do and don't want getting found (or what you can afford to replace if something goes missing).

What are your options?

No Open Flames: Try Battery-Operated Candles

Dorms don't tend to allow open flames because it's an obvious fire hazard, and they want to cut down on the number of ways students can accidentally set the building on fire.

Serious mode: it's an insurance thing.

The way around this is with battery-operated candles, which can be obtained very, very cheaply from dollar stores. They're usually powered by a watch battery, and the most common sizes are tealight and votive. Pillar-size candles are available, though usually they're more expensive. I've only seen them in stores like Giant Tiger and Wal-Mart.

Purists will protest the use of battery-operated candles as being somehow wrong. Part of being a witch or a modern pagan is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances—sometimes, those circumstances include "picking the right tools for the job even if they're not what you'd normally use."

So if you're hesitant, I'm giving you permission. You're welcome.

No smoke or smoking? Try Oils & Electric Diffusers

The thing that devastated me the most in college was that I couldn't burn incense.

I love that stuff. I have so much of it. I have a stash, okay?

Electric diffusers can be found at several different stores, though you may be better off ordering from Amazon. There are so many different types at a variety of price points and most dorms allow you to receive mail and packages.

Whether you use fragrance oils—which are cheaper, can be found at a dollar store, and are purely for the scent—or essential oils is up to you and depends upon what your needs are (and your budget). Just don't use fragrance oils for making things like skincare products or anything you might ingest.

You will have to make sure that your dorm-mates are okay with scents. Some people are allergic to perfumes, and certain types of smelly things can trigger headaches and migraines. Synthetic scents can do that to me, while I've known people who didn't do so well with essential oils. Your mileage may vary.

Companies like Yankee Candle sell scented wax bars that can be melted in a battery-operated or electric wax warmer. If you have the ability to store them, this is another good alternative.

No private bedroom? Improvise Your Tools

Most people aren't going to steal your ritual tools.

With that said, you can't always trust everybody, and if you've purchased specialty tools (or the overly-pricey stuff that many new age shops stock) you don't really want to risk them going missing.

Various and sundry items can be purchased from thrift stores and adapted to ritual work. All sorts of small plates and bowls for offerings, cheap cups and glasses, silverware, interesting statues and containers, as well as cheap crafting materials and other miscellany are for sale at these places. Thrift stores are literally a treasure trove of neat stuff.

Most of my ritual tools have been from Value Village.

Dollar stores are also good places to find things you can adapt to your practice: incense, candles, containers, little baggies for making all sorts of charms, bottles (witches love bottles), even some food items are readily available and usually very low-cost.

Remember: there is absolutely no need for expensive tools and ritual items. Anybody that tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

Try Pocket Altars

You sometimes see them on Etsy, or in various how-tos, and they come in many forms. A small container of some kind with some spell or ritual components, or other focus items so you can practice on-the-go. They can allow you to keep your religious activities fairly quiet and are easy to stash away somewhere.

This sort of idea works for portable altar set-ups of any size, mind you. I've seen wood boxes from the dollar store decorated to honour a specific deity, and with all the items needed for a simple ritual. I've seen shoeboxes. I've seen small candy containers, too. What you use and how you use it is a personal decision, but if you need some help, common items include:

  • A pocket knife to serve as an athame, for cutting herbs, or any other reason you may need a sharp object in ritual
  • Mini candles or a tea-light (traditional or battery)
  • Incense cones or mini sticks
  • Small tumbled stones
  • Jewelry charms that represent elements, gods, goddesses, important concepts, etc.
  • Little bits of nature to represent the elements, gods, goddesses, the time of year, etc. Examples: dried flowers, rosehips, maple keys, acorns, shells, river stones, dried herbs
  • A lighter for lighting incense or candles (or matches, if you're like me and can't work a lighter to save your life)
  • A small wand, which can easily be made from a found branch on the fly if you don't want to use a knife to direct power, or crystal points
  • Something to put burning incense on (candle holder, small disc incense holder, sea shell, etc.)
  • Small objects that mean something to you and your practice

Wing it or check out one of these portable altar tutorials: here and here!

One More Thing!

This is a really, really important and probably weird part of your life. You're going to have moments where you'll doubt yourself, your practice, your path, and why you're at school.

This is natural. Entering post-secondary education is a really, really challenging time. It's a sort of transition period, a transformation as you learn more about yourself.

So, before I leave you to do your thing and go forth into the world of learning, I want you to know something.

Questioning yourself and your path is not a sign of weakness, it's not a threatening thing. It's necessary for growth.

I guarantee you'll run into things that will make you question what you're doing. You'll meet new people, you'll (hopefully) meet some kindred spirits, you'll be exposed to ideas that you may never have considered.

Don't be afraid to learn, and don't be afraid to follow your gut. Your gut is almost always right.

Now go forth and learn!

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About the Creator


Loves Star Trek, cats, tallships, lost expeditions, and macabre things. Adult with ADHD. Wrangles vintage graphics into digital products and sells vintage stuff. Knows many things, finds it difficult to apply them.

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  • Naveed 2 months ago

    College is a transformative time, both academically and spiritually. Embrace the learning experiences and trust yourself as you navigate this unique journey.

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