Mortar and Pestle - Tools of Witchcraft

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Mortar and Pestle
Tools of Witchcraft

Mortars and pestles are ancient, primal tools used for grinding. The modern mortar and pestle is now most commonly used to grind herbs, whether for cooking, healing or spell-casting, but it was once also used to prepare flax for spinning.

More sophisticated grinding tools such as food processors have largely replaced the mortar and pestle for the purposes of cooking, but for magical purposes the mortar and pestle is irreplaceable for two reasons:

Image The manual act of grinding puts one literally in touch with the spell-casting materials: by simultaneously concentrating on one’s desired goal, visualizing its accomplishment, one is able to insert one’s intentions and desires into a spell in a way that merely pressing a button will not afford you.

Image The act of grinding with the mortar and pestle metaphorically reproduces sexual intercourse. What is a magic spell after all but an act of magical creation, the birth of a new reality or new outcome? Mimicking the literal, physical process further empowers the spell as well as imbuing it with sacred male and female energies.

If one lacks a mortar and pestle, it is preferable to substitute manual methods for grinding materials rather than automated ones. Place the material between folded wax paper and use a rolling pin or hammer as a pulverizing tool.

Mortars and pestles come in all sizes, from huge to miniscule, and are crafted from various materials: stone, terracotta, glass, brass, and marble. The molcajete, the traditional Mexican variant on the mortar and pestle, is created from volcanic rock.

Mortars and pestles were once visualized as witches’ transportation devices, perhaps a subtle reference to the use of psychoactive herbs in witches’ flying ointments.

The ointments would likely have been prepared using mortars and pestles.

Image Baba Yaga flies in a mortar and uses the pestle as her steering device.

Image Witches and goddesses, according to various legends, convert mortars into boats and travel across the sea in them.

Image Witches were sometimes envisioned riding pestles like others ride brooms.