One of the casualties of the anti-Wicca fad currently sweeping the occult world (or at least, the vocal members of it) seems to be knowledge and use of magical tools, their history, and importance. I've pointed out previously that many of the people I've come across who declared themselves "traditional witches" didn't seem to actually know much about Witchcraft; all they knew was that they didn't want to be "Wiccan" and so went about making up something as far from Wicca as you could get. With this rather strange goal in mind, the use of time-tested tools as wands, crystals, and symbols has been attacked by these people as being "New Age" or "something Wicca made up," though of course, this couldn't be farther from the truth. Likewise, I've also seen people claim they "just grabbed a stick from the ground" which they "threw in the garbage" when they were done using it as a wand, because after all, it's "just a tool" like a screwdriver. But is this really the case?
In short, no. At no time, and in no magical tradition that I know of, are magical tools treated in such a manner, nor are they considered simply something lifeless that you could use and then discard. Far from being a "New Age" fad, the idea that the implements wielded by the Witch, magician, or shaman were sacred, magical objects is incredibly, incredibly old. Wands, thousands of years old, have been recovered from the burial sites of ancient Witches or shamans, wands that were obviously made with great care (in one case, out of elaborately shaped metal) and which were carried as a sign of the bearer's position and magical powers. Moses carried a magical rod which enabled him to work miracles, or so the Bible claims. The magical textbooks of the Middle Ages are full of references to complex procedures needed to make the wizard's ceremonial items, and who can forget the old tales of Circe turning Odysseus's men into pigs using her wand? In every culture, at every time, the tools of the Witch have been treated with great care and reverence, and in some cases were even feared. There is a story of a male Witch who carried a Blackthorn rod, which he used (supposedly) to curse those who angered him. When he was caught and burned, the rod was burned with him, so greatly did the people fear its powers.
The use of pentacles, magical altars, knives, and other ritual regalia is not something "new" nor is it something that originated from Wicca. Indeed, Wicca drew upon Ceremonial Magic, which is very old indeed, in crafting the rituals and tools of the Wiccan Witch. In what is called "Traditional Witchcraft" (which is not nearly so different from Wicca and some would claim) it is clear that, though often-times simpler than the tools used by the (usually wealthy) magician, village Witches made us of a variety of items such as the wand, the cauldron, the broom, the knife, and others. Again, many of these items were crafted by hand and were treasured by their owners. Far from throwing "any old stick" in the garbage when done, Witches would seek out special trees that were held to contain great power, such as the Hazel, the Rowan, or the already-mentioned Blackthorn. They understood, too, that the more something was used, the more power it retained, and it seems clear that certain special items were passed down from person to person over the years.
While it is true that a tool by itself will not work magic, it is not true that the tool has no inherent virtue. It seems unfortunate to me that so much magical wisdom and history are being ignored as part of the anti-Wicca backlash. Indeed, a lot of what I'm seeing passed off as "Traditional Witchcraft" would be closer, in fact, to "Something I Made Up Off The Top of My Head, As Long As It's Not Wicca." If none of the magical laws and traditions mattered, they would not have survived as long as they have, and there is no reason to re-write the book when the one already written is more than sufficient.
If you carefully choose your tools, and either make them yourself or have them made for you by a skilled craftsperson, and then treat them as the sacred items they are, they will give you a lifetime of power and can only gain in strength and potency. They act as a bridge between you and the unseen world, and can focus your energy (and add their own) above and beyond what you might accomplish alone. If, however, you grab "any old stick" from the ground and then throw it away after use, you're sending out a message that your Craft, quite literally, is garbage and that you don't have the dedication to spend the time and effort needed. Also, you miss out on the thousands of years of tree lore available to us, and on the chance to form a relationshipwith the various spirits present in Nature and Her her creations.