Pretty much everything in the natural or mundane world has a real or symbolic use or meaning in the magickal world as well. Metals are no exception.
Magickal History of Iron
First, know that to our ancestors and the ancients, iron was often considered a gift from the gods, as the first iron used by humans to make items was actually taken from meteorites that landed on Earth. The ancients did not know that the Earth actually contains a LOT of iron.
Because of that, iron was, at one time, actually more valuable than other metals we consider precious, such as gold or silver.
Iron was used fairly regularly in craftmanship, but it is difficult to know exactly when it came into regular use in human civilization, as it rusts and corrodes much more easily than other metals we typically find in archeological sites, and is, therefore, often hard to find in ancient artifacts.
The earliest records of the use of iron by humans date to about 5000 B.C., but it wasn’t until the beginning of the aptly named ‘Iron Age’ that iron deposits were discovered and humans learned how to smelt it, and it became far more cost-effective to use in weaponry and other goods, around 1300 B.C.
Magickal or Spiritual Associations of Iron
Now that you know that little bit of history, especially pertaining to iron’s supposed divine origins, it may make more sense why you see or read about tools or items made of iron used in rituals, given its precious meaning and limited availability in antiquity.
- considered to be of divine origin by the Egyptians
- Lodestone, a naturally occurring oxide of iron, is magnetic, aiding sailors as a compass before compasses were invented
- its magnetic properties can be used in magick to ‘attract’ what you want
- because iron is responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood (as part of the ‘heme’ molecule), it is critical for human life, and an integral symbol of our life force, blood
- iron is also considered to be the ‘life force’ of the Earth, due to how much iron is buried in our planet, and its magnetic effects on all life on the planet
- iron is said to be magickal in part because it can withstand both an extremely hot fire and freezing cold
- horseshoes made of iron were used by hanging on one’s door to repel unwanted ghosts and evil spirits (but also thought to repel witches; its more likely that the iron was used to repel curses or the evil eye)
- iron was (and still is sometimes) used in iron bars around cemeteries and prisons to ‘contain’ the ghosts and spirits of the inhabitants (or in the case of prisons, previous living inhabitants)
- It is also thought that iron bars and gates keep ‘negative’ or ‘bad’ energy contained within a space
- because of its aforementioned protective properties, iron boxes, or even cauldrons, have been used in magickal practices to contain dark, negative, or malevolent energies
- its commonly said that fairies do not like iron, or are repelled by it, but because of the large amount of naturally occurring iron found in the earth, its more likely that fairies are actually repelled by iron that has been corrupted by man (steel, or any of the other amalgams or composites we typically use)
So, while iron certainly has some magickal symbolism, it is also considered a desirable material from which to make magickal tools, such as blades/athames, dishes, implements, cauldrons, and other containers.