Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Herbology: The Tools of Herbology

Herbology is the art of using herbs and their components for medicinal or magickal purposes. Herbology is also called herbalism or herbal medicine. For the modern herbalist, whether medicinal or magickal, there are many items and tools that can make the practice of herbology easier and more enjoyable.

The Mortar and Pestle and Its Place in Herbology

The mortar is a bowl-shaped object into which herbs to be ground or powdered are placed. The pestle is a long item, almost like a stick, that is used to grind the herbs against the mortar. If you also practice herbology for magickal and medicinal purposes, it is recommended that you have two of these: one for medicinal purposes, and one for magickal preparations. The reason here is simple — magickal preparations often contain items that should not be ingested.

Today, there are so many types of mortar and pestle available that the novice can be a little confused. Some common types of mortar and pestle are:
  • Wood — Even if you can find one of these, it is best to pass it by, since wood is porous and a breeding ground for bacteria;
  • Brass — These are nice, since they are not porous and are fairly cheap;
  • Marble — The only real problem with a marble mortar and pestle is the fact that it can chip and crack without anyone really noticing;
  • Glass — Though difficult to find, their ease of use and quick cleanup makes these a worthwhile investment;
  • Ceramic — If you can’t find a glass mortar and pestle, ceramic is a good second choice, since it’s almost as easy to clean, especially if it’s white.
Some herbalists will use a coffee grinder in place of a mortar and pestle. This is perfectly acceptable, but observe the same rule as with the mortar and pestle — have two of them, if you’re interested in both the medicinal and the magickal.

The Use of Blades and Knives in Herbology

There are two kinds of blades that are in general use for practitioners of herbology. The first is called a hand sickle or boline. This is a tool for harvesting, and has a curved blade. The inside of this blade is sharpened for a clean cut. The boline is not a tool for whittling or general cutting, but is only used for harvesting, and so is only necessary for those people who grow and harvest their own herbs.

Any decent herbalist will have a working knife that is used solely for herbology. This knife is used for carving, chopping, whittling, and all other cutting that may need to be done, with the exception of harvesting. This knife should be a straight blade, and single-edged, so that it is possible to put weight on the blade without cutting yourself. The exact style of this working knife will vary according to personal preference.

Other Tools Used in Herbology

There are many other tools that are either useful or necessary to the practice of herbology. Some of these include:
  • Hammer — This might seem an odd item to keep in a kitchen or workroom, but it comes in handy when breaking up large chunks of herbs, especially ginger or orris root;
  • Mixing bowls — Only glass or ceramic should be used;
  • Eyedroppers — Glass with a rubber or plastic bulb are the best;
  • Scale — Invest in a high quality scale, as the lower-end scales aren’t accurate enough;
  • Measuring cups and spoons — Any type that cleans easily is appropriate;
  • Glass bottles and jars — for storage of herbs and herbal preparations;
  • Cheesecloth — good for straining herbal preparations, and also for adding herbs to bathwater without unnecessary mess;
  • Cotton bags — used to make sachets, for those interested in such things.
For the dedicated herbalist, the right tools are not only convenient, they are a necessity. Whether you choose to practice herbology for medicine or magick, ensuring that you have the right tools are your disposal will make it a more enjoyable experience.

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