Rustic DIY Mortar and Pestle

When we think of a mortar and pestle, the image of a bowl and round ended pestle come to mind. You can find them in any kitchen supply store, various shops, and online with relative ease. They can be made of materials ranging from carved wood, ceramic, glass, to various stones. It wasn’t always this way. In fact, some tribal cultures today don’t use the modern design. They still use the ancient methods of a large, flat stone and a smaller, more rounded stone to grind their grains and plant materials.

I’ve never owned a modern mortar and pestle. Instead, I have used the more rustic method. This style is free to obtain if you are willing to look while on a hike. Years ago, while living near a large stream, I found a thick, flat stone about the size of a dessert plate. It was smooth from the water current of the stream. There were also fist size river stones. One of the river stones, along with the flat stone would became my mortar and pestle.

I tested the strength of the rocks by hitting them together. I wanted stones that would not easily chip or crumble with impact. This would help insure that fine pieces of the stone would not mix into whatever items I were to grind on them. Once I knew they were both hard enough, I took them home.

To prepare the stones, I washed both thoroughly to remove any surface dirt from the stream bed. It also removed any chance of algae or other unwanted particles from remaining on the stones. Once clean and dry, they were ready for use.

Depending on the type of stone used, the flat stone can begin to develop a shallow depression or “bowl” appearance over the years from heavy use. In fact, many photos of early mortars show this. The constant grinding of dried grains into a meal of flour caused this. It wasn’t something that happened quickly, but over decades of use. Many of the oldest mortars were likely used for generations.

In my experience, there has been no measurable change in either stone. Each looks much like it did when I found them. They grind and mix as well as any modern set would do. I’ve thought about buying a modern version, but in all honesty, I doubt that it would get much use. My old one meets my needs.

I have thought about carving one from hardwood. To do this, I would take a piece of hardwood, about 5-6 inches thick, and the diameter I felt comfortable with. Using a carving chisel, dig out the bowl using shallow cuts. Gradually, slope the inside of the bowl until reaching the depth needed. Taking a lighter cut, remove any ridges in the bowl to smooth it out. Some wooden mortars are sanded smooth, but very fine texture left can help in the grinding process. Just smooth it out so the ridges cannot be seen. This will prevent any wood getting into your ground mixtures later. A short length of thick dowel with the sharp edges sanded smooth becomes the pestle. The wood can be “seasoned” with olive oil or other food grade oil and allowed to dry before use. This oil will seal the wood so that any juices from fresh plant material would absorb into the wood. Some may choose to use mineral oil for this, but make sure it is food safe if you plan to use it for herbs or spices you want to use in meal preps.

If you are lucky enough to have an old wooden dough bowl (sometimes called a trencher) that can become your mortar. They are well seasoned if you find an old one. The nice thing about the hardwood mortars is that you can use a river stone as a pestle with them as well.

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Hazards of a Pinterest Witch

Recently, I was asked a question that surprised me. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but it did take me off guard. The question was, “what is wrong with using spells found on Pinterest?” My first thought was, where do I start?

The ease with which we can gain information and ideas through the internet can be overwhelming. Everywhere you look, you can find nearly anything you seek where knowledge is concerned. The problem is that not everything you read is reliable.

I’ve found on Pinterest, for example, that there are pages of coorespondences and spells. Sigils are another easily found resource. To a new or inexperienced witch, these can seem like a treasure trove of ready-made items to incorporate into their Book of Shadows or their workings. Sadly, many do utilize these offerings. But should they?

This gal told me that she was happy to find all these resources on Pinterest because they saved her a lot of hours of study. I nearly choked. It took me a moment to find a response other than calling her a blooming idiot.

I challenge people all the time, even with information that I provide. Never take one person’s opinion as truth or the only way of doing things. If you learn something new, check for accuracy. Never take one person’s ideas as being the absolute truth. I few YouTube videos on the exact same topic can provide many variations. Each person seems to have their own spin on the knowledge that they share. The same goes for Pinterest and social media of any form.

When someone shares a spell, for example, they are telling you what works for them. Admittedly, some have me rolling my eyes or wanting to smack them upside their head asking, “what are you thinking?” One topic I see a lot currently is a recipe for hot foot powder. Hot foot powder is a mixture made and used by practitioners of hoodoo. It is designed to banish someone from your life who is causing trouble. It would seem that each person who makes it likes to add ingredients that are not in the traditional recipe. Many ingredients make no sense at all. Though they call their blend Hot Foot Powder, they have changed it so much that it is no longer the authentic version. It has been morphed into something else altogether.

Before adopting someone else’s ideas, always research it for yourself. Do reputable resources back up the information you found? It would be a waste of your time and resources to make a spell “recipe” only to find it ineffective or possibly counter-productive to your workings. Some share recipes that are actually closer to a very different, sometimes dangerous, spell.

In witchcraft, you must study. There are no shortcuts. Sadly, some choose to take the easy way out. They base their practice on the ideas of others without checking the accuracy first.

Using someone else’s ideas as a starting point isn’t a bad thing. Using their ideas blindly is the issue. Ideas shared are based upon that individual’s experience. What works for them may not work for you. This is where doing your own research comes in. You need to understand the uses for each ingredient. How does it work when mixed with the other ingredients in the recipe? Do the ingredients make sense to you? Do they work together or do they work against each other? What reason is there for each ingredient to be added to the recipe? In spells that have a chant, does the wording really produce the effect you are working towards? Or are they just a nice rhyming verse written to sound good, but lacking the energy you need for your workings?

Sigils are especially problematic for me. A design given could have a very different meaning or purpose that what you require. Only the one who made the sigil knows what it’s true intended purpose is. They are the hardest to research as people can take the exact same words and make very different designs. The only standard in sigil making is the process. There are no sigils that are always effective no matter who is using them.

Coorespondences can vary in what they contain. Some have more information than others. Others may have errors in them. It is by researching the topic that you know what is accurate.

The idea of anyone looking at Pinterest as the “one stop shopping” resource for their practice is risky. The information is only as good as tbe study that went into it. Don’t set yourself up for trouble or failure by blindly following what you find. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Is the information you find on Pinterest and social media accurate? Does it resonate with truth? By finding the answers yourself, you can eliminate many problems in the future.

Cultural Appropriation in Witchcraft

Okay, this is a divergence from being a more tutorial blog, but after watching some videos involving cultural appropriation, I wanted to address my perspective. Some may agree, others will not, with what I say. This is just sharing my opinion.

It seems that more and more, some are choosing to adapt practices of other cultures into their craft practices. On the surface, one might ask, “what is wrong with that?” My view is a lot is wrong.

Cultural appropriation occurs when you adapt the practices of a cultural that is not your own. In example, if you are not Native American, but begin using Native American spirituality into your own practice.

If we were yo be honest, unless you are being mentored or have come from a family tradition of a particular path, you can possibly be guilty of following the spiritual practices of a culture that is not your own. If you have no pagan or withcraft history in your family, but choose that path, then certainly you are adopting a spirituality path that isn’t of your ancestry. This isn’t always a bad thing. I say that with caution though.

The bad side of appropriation occurs when you take a living tradition, such as voodoo, and without going through the proper steps of gaining a mentor or being initiated into it, and suddenly incorporate aspects of voodoo into your path.

Here’s an example. Let’s say that you follow a Wiccan path. You hear about some god or goddess in the voodoo path that interests you. Or hear of a method of working with a voodoo diety that sounds interesting. If you incorporate that into your Wiccan path, you are appropriating that culture. Or if you read a book or two about voodoo and decide you want to practice it without going through initiation and training, that is also appropriation.

Watching YouTube videos, you see this quite often. It is though some people are like magpies. A magpie is a bird, similar to a crow. They like to gather shiny objects to take back to their nesting area. They gather bits and pieces without regard. It is sort of like going to a buffet restaurant and choosing only certain foods. Some in the pagan community do this with spiritual practices. Many do it under the label of being eclectic. Eclectic path followers generally do not stick with the practices of one specific path. They glean ideas and practices from several paths and blend them together.

Following the traditions of a “dead” culture is different. Wicca is an example of this. Wiccans that I know choose to work with the goddess Hekate (sometimes spelled Hecate) as their diety. They have an alter honoring her and petition her in their workings. By definition, following Hecate as a deity is a dead tradition as you cannot trace a culture back from today to when she was followed in history without any gaps of time. Wicca is actually a more modern path as it was started in the late 1940’s, from my understanding. Prior to that, Wicca wasn’t a spiritual practice. Wicca was originated from a British civil servant named Gerald Brousseau Gardner. Hekate is an ancient Greek goddess of Hellenic origins. She was no longer a key goddess worshipped at the time, as she had been in ancient Greece. There was no clear lineage of followers of Hekate that could be traced. The tradition of following Hekate was, for all intents and purposes, a dead religion. In this instance, the negative aspects of cultural appropriation are nonexistant.

Cultural appropriation that is harmful comes about when it is done to a living religion or spiritual practice. These are ones that have been around for centuries without a large time gap of non-practice. Buddism is a living religion. If someone with no connection to it suddenly decided to worship Budda without being taught or being a part of the Buddism religious culture, it would be wrong in my eyes.

One of the major issues is that many who decide to adopt specific ideas or ideals of a different culture is that often they do it without really learning about the religion they are appropriating from. They choose one specific thing in that religion that appeals to them and add it into what they already are following in their path. In essense, their own path becomes a mismatch of several cultures over time.

Some may ask, “what harm comes from that?” Well, the short answer is that the one who is appropriating bits and pieces of a different culture is cheapening the traditional culture they highjack the bits from. It is highly offensive to Native Americans, for example, when pagans or New Agers adopt bits of their heritage/traditions. One huge example of this is when New Agers decided that they wanted to adopt the Native American medicine wheel into their practice. The medicine wheel is sacred to Native Americans and has deep meaning to them. It is unique to their culture. Yet, there are many outside that culture who have adopted it into their beliefs without really learning what it’s significance is. I have seen some pagans take the medicine wheel and it’s design in the Native American format and add to it the elements (air, water, earth, and fire) to it in a distinctly pagan design.

I cannot fully blame only pagans and those following witchcraft for this however. At the advent of Catholism, when the church was trying to convert pagans to their religion, they were adapting pagan celebrations as well. They understood that pagans wouldn’t easily give up their festivals and celebrations. This is why many religious holidays happen to fall on or near the date of a pagan festival. In example, Samhain is near All Saints Day.

Cultural appropriation has been around a long time. This doesn’t make it right. My feelings on it are that people should take great care and be respectful. Leave living religions that are not part of your heritage out of your practices. Stop treating all religions as a buffet that you can pick and choose appealing bits and pieces from. Show respect for the cultures of others. Most especially, do not assimilate into your practice something you haven’t thoroughly researched. If hit isn’t worth your time to fully research, then you should rethink the idea of adapting it into your own practice.

DIY Pendulum and Board

One of my favorite tools to make and use is a pendulum. The creativity and personalization in crafting your own can give it special meaning to you as well. Some keep it very simple, but you can adorn your pendulum any way you wish. Below are some ideas on ways to make one for yourself.

First, a pendulum has 2 basic parts. A stone, crystal, or other small object and a length of cord or chain. The length of the cord is up to you, but I usually make mine about 10 inches in length. The goal is to have enough chain to allow your pendulum to swing freely.

Polymer clay: Condition your polymer clay, kneading it until pliable. I pinch off enough to make an approximately 1/2″ diameter “snake” that is about 1″ in length. I shape the clay into a cone with a slightly rounded point. A sharp point could break off in time. Into the cone, I inset an eye pin from the jewelry supply section of the craft store. The eye pin is cut about 1/4″ from the round eye. Carefully center the pin as you insert it into the wide end of the clay cone. Bake the clay as directed on the package. Once baked and cooled, you can attach the chain.

Crystal or stone: At the jewelry section of the craft store, you can find crystal or genstone pendants. These are the easiest in that they already have a wire loop at the top for attaching a chain. If you are more adventurous though, you can use thin wire to wrap a crystal or gemstone to make your own. I begin with 2 lengths of thin wire about 16″ long each. Find the center of the wires. I lay the part of the crystal/gemstone that will be the bottom of my pendulun next to the center. This shows me where my first twist in the wires should be. Taking the 2 wires, twist them together twice at the point just to the side of the crystal. Open the wires at the center where the crystal will be placed. Center the bottom of the crystal between the wires and then twist the wires on the opposite side of the crystal, leaving a bit of the crystal below the wire. Now comes the fun part! Separate the wires. You will have 2 wire ends on each side of the crystal. Bring the wire end closest to you on each side of the crystal up to meet part way up from the crystal’s side. Twist them together. Turn the project over and repeat on the back side. Continue the process, alternating the twists so that one set falls on the sides, the next on the front/back until you reach the top. At the top edge of the crystal, twist all 4 wire ends together, caging the crystal inside. Continue twisting the wire until you have a length long enough to form a loop for attaching to your chain. Trim off and excess and make your loop, adding the end of your chain before closing the loop.

Using a favorite charm: Another simple method is to take a favorite charm of small pendant or large bead to use as your pendulum. These are simply added to your chain.

Finishing: I like to add a bead or small charm to the opposite end of my chain from the pendulum. While not necessary, it gives it a finished look as well as making it easier to hold. Place your bead onto an eye pin, trimming off the excess before forming a loop. Attach to the chain.

Pendulum Boards are made in a variety of ways. A beginner’s board could look similar to a mariner’s compass design. North/south are labels with YES. East/west are NO. Northwest/southeast are labeled DON’T KNOW. Southwest/northeast are labeled MAYBE or NOT NOW. A search on Google images for pendulum boards provides a lot of layouts to choose from, depending on your need.

Printable: By far, the easiest board is made by using one of the printable boards found through a Google search. You can print them onto paper, cardstock, or fabric.

Woodburning: Draw your design onto a wooden plaque with a pencil. Using a woodburning tool, trace the design. Once done, you can stain the wood to give it a finished look.

Painting: Lightly sketch the design on to wood in pencil. Using a fine tip brush or paint pen, trace over the pencil lines. Once dry, seal with a clear coat sealer.

Embroidery: Using fabric chalk, draw the design on a piece of fabric. Velvet is a favorite of mine. Using a bright gold or silver embroidery thread, stitch the design. You can finish the piece by either sewing a hem along all edges or cut a second piece of fabric the same size and sewing them together. If I use a heavy velvet fabric, I just use the one layer of fabric, fold the edge 1/4″ to the back and sew it using a blanket stitch to give it a nice edge.

Leather/Faux Leather: For a totally different look, use leather paints to make your design.

No matter which way you choose to make your pendulum and board, it will be uniquely your own. I have more than one board. One is a simple compass style design, the other is more elaborate. Which one I use depends on what I am needing to get the answers that I seek.

Be creative. Use what inspires you. There are no hard, fast rules on what makes a pendilum or board. It should should be customized to your needs.

Teaching the Next Generation

There are so many videos of people sharing their craft and practice on YouTube. It is good to see. Especially the truly informative videos that give solid information. The advent of modern technology is a boon to those who are learning. One area that remains untouched, for the most part, is sharing our practice and knowledge with the next generation. How are we teaching our children or grandchildren?

Often, when I am working in my garden or on a walk in the woods, I have a child with me. As I check the plants or harvest, I talk to them about the plants. What kind they are, what parts I use, when are they ready to harvest, and what I use them for, etc. It is a very relaxed approach. A child’s natural curiosity leads most of the teaching.

When making poppets, a young girl often gets excited at learning how to make herself a doll. It becomes a fun activity for us both. Of course, being that she is making a doll to play with, we take it further by showing her how to use scraps of cloth to make clothes without too much sewing. The skill of poppet making is still learned however. Just taught in a way that peaks the child’s interest.

Crystals and stones are equally fun. I have a dragon bowl filled with various stones and crystals. Kids naturally seem to be drawn to it, taking out the stones and crystals to look at them or play with them. I bought these specifically for that purpose. As they play with them, there are always questions about what they are. I use those moments to share what I have learned. The amount that I share depends on the child’s age and level of interest.

Mixing incense is fun for kids, especially the girls. I have some that I make simply for enjoyment, not necessarily for spells. I let kids help make them. Often, I have small netting bags around. The girls fill them with some of the incense and put them in their dresser drawers to give their clothes the scent. For boys, we make a more woodsy scented mixture that they seem to prefer. They also keep them in their dresser drawers.

If a child shows interest in moon phases, we do some type of craft that shows the various phases of the moon. A really fun one for kids that you can easily find online is using oreo cookies to make the moon phases. Kids love that one because after making them, they can eat the cookies.

Older kids seem to enjoy learning to dip candles. Often, when a birthday is approaching, we make birthday candles for the cake using the recipient’s favorite colors. For younger children, teaching them to roll sheets of beeswax into a candle is fun and easy. It is also safe since there is no hot wax to deal with.

Have a youngster interested in the Harry Potter books or movies? Use found items, such as a twig, some wire or embroidery floss, and a stone or crystal to teach them to make a wand.

A child who loves to draw can be taught to make sigils. To them, it is fun to see what designs can be made. Because there are no magical intentions put into them, it is safe. Later, they can be taught the magical aspects when they are old enough to be responsible.

One child loves journaling, so I taught her to bind her own book. It is hard bound and one of her most prized possessions. She has made more since then to give as gifts or for herself.

One of the favorite times to teach is around the festive celebrations. Yule, for example, is a lot of fun. Each year, we make ornaments to display. We make the ornaments from natural materials. We also make incense for the season and fill circles of netting with some incense to make sachets to hang on the tree.

Teaching your craft to the younger generation doesn’t have to be hard. Meet them where their interest or natural curiosity leads. You will find that they enjoy it. Think outside of the box. They are only getting the basic foundation of knowledge and skills at that point. Later on, when they begin asking questions about magical properties and such, you can build on the foundation you have laid.

Simple DIY Poppet

So, what does a cookie cutter have to do with a poppet? I use the cookie cutter as a pattern to make them. Making a poppet for magic can be fun. I use whatever scrap materials that I have on hand.

To make the poppet, trace two dolls using the cookie cutter as a template or pattern. On one, you can add eyes with paint, marker, a sewn on beads, or just make two X’s in place of eyes. Stack the dolls together and handstitch around them, leaving a small opening to stuff it. I use anything from cotton balls to scraps of fabric to fill the doll and give it shape. Then, continue sewing the doll together to close the opening.

That’s it! You have a quick and easy poppet.

Another method is to use straw or raffia. Grab several strands from a hank of raffia and fold in half three times. Using another piece of raffia, tie each end, about 1/2″ – 1″ from each end. This will form the arms. Set aside. Grab several more strands, enough to make a small bundle, and fold them in half twice. Tie a scrap of raffia about 1-2″ from the fold to form the head. Open up the fold and center the arms into the fold. Tie a piece of raffia under the arms to hold them in place. Next, separate the raffia below the arms to form legs. Tie each leg about 1″ from the botton to form the feet. Voila! Another easy poppet! This doll can be used for any gender, but if you want to make a poppet specifically for a female, just omit the step for the legs. Then the poppet looks like it is wearing a long skirt.

Not Witchy Enough

It is late. Actually nearing the “witching hour” time of evening. My windows are open, letting in the cool breeze and the sounds of the nighttime serenade of crickets. In the air is the scent of honeysuckle coming from the wild patch growing along the fenceline. I’ve been watching videos tonight on YouTube and have to give my views on something that is prevalent in the videos. It seems that there are some who believe that a true witch practices witchcraft every day. Some go as far as saying that a true witch does spell work every day and if you don’t then you are fake.

This opinion that they spout is silly.. Not everyone does spell work every day. It doesn’t mean that they are fake. It only means that they don’t feel a need to cast a spell. There is much more to witchcraft than spell casting. The following is a glimpse of part of what I do. First, let me say that I see witchcraft as not being a religion, but a lifestyle. There is much that it involves.

Studying is a huge part of witchcraft. Learning how to use herbs, for example, not only for magic but also as remedies is important. What properties, but magical and medicinal, do they have? What parts of the plant do you use for which purpose? Do you use the roots, stems, flowers, seeds, or a sap from them? Is there a difference in potency if you use dried vs fresh? Which plants are good companions vs ones that cancel each other out? What plants make good oils? Which ones are better for incense or as a tea? How do you make a tinture from plants and when is that better than making infused oil? Do you have any allergies? Which plants contain the allergins that affect you? If you follow the practice of using herbs according to their elemental classification, do you know which ones are fire vs air? What about the plants or herbs that are associated with specific gods or goddesses? That is just the tip of the iceberg in what is studied.

Growing or harvesing (this includes gleaning) your herbs and plants is another part of witchcraft for me. In planting, you need to know what plants grow well together and what ones are best grown away from each other. Small, compact plants, in example, would be lost or choked out by a plant that spreads out. Depending on the plant, some require watering more often than others. Plant a low water plant, such as a white sage, next to a water loving plant like rosemary and one of them will suffer. Either the low water plant will get too much water or the water loving plant will not get enough. What amount of sunlight do they need? Do they need full sun or partial shade? When harvesting, what parts do you need? How much do you take from the plant? What time in the growing season is best for harvesting? Some plants should be harvested in spring, while others in the summer or autumn. Plants like white sage are best harvested in spring. You just take a bit of the plant, so as not to shock the plant and kill it. When harvesting white sage, I only pick the outer stems of new growth, but take less than 50% of the new stems so that the plant can continue to grow larger. If drying the plants, what methods are best for each one?

If you make infused oils, what is the shelf life? It is also important to know this for tintures as well. Which carrier oils work best? How long should you steep the infused oil before it is ready to use? One note that many don’t know is that you don’t steep fresh herbs when making oils. Use dried ones as this prevents the oil from going bad due to the fresh herbs decaying in the oil.

Some days, I spend time making my tools. This could be candles, poppets, or any other item that I need. As I have said before in previous posts, I like to make my own instead of buying my tools. Currently, I am designing an alter cloth to embroider with the design symbols that I want. I am also making myself a new sling-type bag for when I am gleaning. I am making small, 6″x 6″ drawstring bags from a sheer fabric to use for the gleanings. As I find the plants, I will have a separate little bag to keep each plant type in.

I practice meditation each day. Not only does it relax me, but it is great for communicating with the spirits. Sometimes, a meditation can turn into an astro travel experience. I love those times. The more practice you get, the easier it becomes. Sometimes, astro travel happens easily and quickly. Other times, it takes more work. Each experience is a learning opportunity.

Some days, I work on my journal or grimoire. I don’t write in both everyday, but I try to at least 3-4 times a week. Often, I alternate, writing in one on one day and the other the next. The journal especially gives me an opportunity to reflect on what I am learning or experiencing.

I don’t make all of my candles, but some times I need to restock my special candles. These are ones that have the dried or ground herbs mixed into the wax so that the candles are infused with them. For example, instead of “dressing” a candle for a banishing spell by adding the dried herbs or oil to the outside of the candle, I mix the herbs into the melted wax so the herbs are throughout the candle.

Some days, I simply restock my incense supply. I spend an afternoon filling jars with various blends of my most often used incense. This is something that I especially do for my alter.

All of these things are a part of my lifestyle. All are a part of my craft. None involve spell casting, yet I would defy anyone who called me a fake witch simply because I wasn’t witchy enoigh for their opinions. I am married, have kids, a small home business, as well as the usual daily life tasks that everyone has. It is unrealistic to believe that a true witch is “stirring his/her cauldron” every moment of the day.

Witchcraft is a lifestyle for me. It can be compartmentalized. It is who and what I am. I practice the way that fits me. It is up to each individual to find how witchcraft fits their own life.