Bright Blessings, Witches! Next up in the Magickal Tool Care Series is the mortar and pestle. In this post we’ll go over the etymology, different materials they’re made from, how to choose one for your practice, care instructions, and more! Let’s dive in.
“bowl for pounding, vessel in which substances are beaten to powder by means of a pestle,” c. 1200, from Old French mortier “bowl; builder’s mortar” and directly from Latin mortarium “bowl for mixing or pounding,” also used of the material prepared in it, a word of unknown origin as it is impossible now to determine which sense was original. Watkins says probably from PIE root *mer- “to rub away, harm;” de Vaan finds this plausible. Late Old English had mortere, from the same Latin source, which might also be a source of the modern word. German Mörser also is from Latin.SOURCE
“club-shaped instrument used for pounding and breaking materials in a mortar,” mid-14c. pestel, (as a surname late 13c.), from Old French pestel and directly from Latin pistillum (Medieval Latin pestellum) “pounder, pestle,” related to pinsere “to pound,” from PIE *pis-to-, suffixed form of root *peis- “to crush” (source also of Sanskrit pinasti “pounds, crushes,” pistah “anything ground, meal,” Greek ptissein “to winnow,” Old Church Slavonic pišo, pichati “to push, thrust, strike,” pišenica “wheat,” Russian pseno “millet”).
WHAT IS A MORTAR AND PESTLE?
“Mortar and pestle is a set of two simple tools used from the Stone Age to the present day to prepare ingredients or substances by crushing and grinding them into a fine paste or powder in the kitchen, laboratory, and pharmacy. The mortar (/ˈmɔːrtər/) is characteristically a bowl, typically made of hard wood, metal, ceramic, or hard stone such as granite. The pestle (/ˈpɛsəl/, also US: /ˈpɛstəl/) is a blunt, club-shaped object. The substance to be ground, which may be wet or dry, is placed in the mortar where the pestle is pounded, pressed, and rotated into the substance until the desired texture is achieved.”SOURCE
WHAT DOES A MORTAR AND PESTLE LOOK LIKE?
The mortar typically looks like a bowl and a pedastal combined. The pestle typically looks like a small baseball bat or club.
WHAT IS A MORTAR AND PESTLE USED FOR IN WITCHCRAFT?
A mortar and pestle is a set of tools used in tandem to grind and blend botanicals – both fresh and dried – for the purpose of magickal work.
It is best practice to have two sets: one for items that are edible and one for those that are not. This allows you to create ingestible goods for your magickal practice while permitting the safe use of toxic ingredients in other workings.
HOW TO CHOOSE A MORTAR AND PESTLE FOR YOUR PRACTICE
I give the same advice for all magickal tools – which you see a pattern of if you are a frequent reader:
Tools are very intimate to the practitioner. What works for one mystic may not work for another. As such, picking out a mortar and pestles is a very personal matter.
When you are shopping, in-person perusal is preferred as it allows you to use all of your senses. Touching tools that you could use in the future is important as it gives you the chance to feel a connection, if there’s any there. Being able to visualize yourself using the item in your practice is a surefire way to choosing the best one for you.
If in-person shopping is not ideal, luckily we live in the age of the Internet. Take your time and do some comparison shopping. Seek out reputable sites that have social proof, reviews, lots of pictures, and detailed descriptions with dimensions and measurements.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF MORTAR AND PESTLES
Mortar and pestles can be made of many different materials:
- Cast Iron
- Stainless Steel
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR MORTAR AND PESTLE
What your mortar and pestle is made of directly determines how you care for it. The following is a brief rundown of different care instructions according to material.
-Cast iron mortar and pestles can be taken care of in the same way that cast iron cauldrons are. I suggest you read THIS POST which details cast iron care instructions.
-Granite mortar and pestles need to be rinsed with water after use as soon as possible. This is to minimize stains which granite is prone to. Once rinsed, wash in warm water with mild unscented soap. Rinse once more in warm water to remove any soap residue. To prevent water stains, dry completely with a clean cloth.
-Wash glass mortar and pestles in warm, mild soapy water. Dry completely with a clean cloth.
-A ceramic mortar and pestle should not be cleaned with soap due to its porous nature. Simply rinse it out and allow it to drip dry.
-Follow the above ceramic cleaning instructions for porcelain mortar and pestles.
-Wood mortar and pestles should not be submerged in water. Instead, use a damp sponge and add two to three drops of mild liquid soap. Use the sponge to remove all traces of residue from the mortar and pestle. Quickly rinse the tools with warm water and dry completely with a clean cloth.
-A stainless mortar and pestle only requires a thorough rinse with warm water to prepare it for next use.
-Marble mortar and pestles need to be wiped of any residue with a clean paper towel. Stained surfaces can be treated with a paper towel soaked in white vinegar or lemon juice, being sure not to allow the acid to sit on the stain. Rub a cloth or sponge with mild dish soap gently all over both tools. Rinse in warm water until all traces of soap is gone. Dry the marble thoroughly with a clean cloth
CHARGING YOUR MORTAR AND PESTLE
Charging is when a practitioner fills an object with a specific kind of energy. Also known as enchanting or programming, you can charge both objects and spaces with your chosen intention. In this case, it’s like filling your mortar and pestle with purpose.
How you charge your mortar and pestle is up to you. Depending on the material your tools are made of, you can use techniques involving crystals, visualization, vocal charging, moonlight, sunlight, fire (be cautious!) or meditation to charge your mortar and pestle. The most important facet of charging is your intent – you want to concentrate it into your tools. Pay attention to your intuition as it will let you know when charging is finished.
A NOTE ON CHARGING
Over time, objects that we imbue with specific intentions eventually lose energy. But how do you know WHEN to charge after the initial act?
- Any time you cleanse an object or tool it needs to be charged
- When energies feel “off”
- When you wish to reprogram an object or space with a different energy/intent/purpose
- When a tool begins to feel stagnant or stale or stops responding to your energy
HOW TO STORE YOUR MORTAR AND PESTLE
It’s important to honor our tools, especially when we rely on them for ceremony and ritual work. Choosing a spot on your altar is a great way to show respect for the tools used to realize your desires.
Mortar and pestles can be heavy. As such, storing yours on your altar or a low shelf can make it easier to pull out when you need it. You also want to keep yours where it won’t be hit, cracked, or chipped.
Another day, another tool! Do you have a mortar and pestle? What is made of? Let me know in the comments! As always, Bright Blessings and Happy Crafting!