What is a boline knife?
The boline is a sickle-shaped, white-handled knife, traditionally used for the preparation of materials used in magical practices. It has been widely incorporated into the modern witchcraft movement, and appears in many witchy social media photos. But where did this knife originate? I stumbled upon it while reading the ancient grimoire, The Three Magical Books of Solomon.
There is a chapter that describes the various instruments that are essential to the operations of magic, and how to craft these tools. Knife, sword, sickle, dagger, wand, many of which have been adopted by modern witches. It's interesting that that this tool came from a grimoire that is mainly about conjuring, controlling, and commanding spirits (evil and benevolent), demons, and angels. Like much Renaissance era magic, it is heavy with Christian influences.
Creating Our Knives
The Three Magical Books of Solomon is fascinating reading for anyone who is interested in the history of magic and how it has evolved. But some of the directions aren't exactly applicable to modern practices. I've had to adapt the creation of our tools to align with our ethics. For example, the book says
...the Sickle, [is] made...in the day and hour of Mercury, and [it] should be dipped in the blood of a magpie and the juice of the herb Mercury. Thou must make for them handles of white boxwood cut at a single stroke from the tree, at the rising of the Sun, with a new knife...The characters shown should be traced thereon. Thou shalt perfume them according to the rules of Art; and wrap them in silk cloth...
Even if I had access to a magpie, I certainly wouldn't use its blood to dip my knives in, I don't care how magical it would make them! I love magpies (and all animals)! They're clever, funny and mischievous. This intelligence is likely why their blood was chosen for this purpose. It is the essence of Mercury. Mercury is associated with speed, intellect, and trickster gods, and also The Magician in tarot.
We do use the astrological directions. Wednesday is the day of Mercury. The hour is easy to determine by using a planetary hours calculator. Depending on the design of the knife, we may create them on the day and hour of Saturn or the Moon.
Whenever possible we use other white or light colored wood or other found materials. The wood is usually from fallen branches or from necessary tree trimming. Other times we use found deer bones or antlers. There are so many deer in our area that it is easy to find sheds, and bones from animals that have died naturally.
Inscriptions are another doable feature. Depending on the knife, I inscribe them as shown in the figures, other times I inscribe them with planetary characters.
For the blades we either temper or forge steel, depending on the design. Our forged blades are created from reclaimed steel. We try to be environmentally conscious whenever possible.
How do you use a boline?
The grimoire doesn't specifically say what the sickle is used for, so we can only make educated guesses. I would infer from its shape that it was probably used to harvest plant material to be used in suffumigation, anointing, etc. Thus, it was a magical tool used for practical purposes, rather than rituals.
Use in Modern Practices
In modern practices the boline is mainly used for cutting herbs and flowers. Additionally it can be used to cut chords, both literal and figurative, such as cutting garden twine, or symbolically severing the things that no longer serve us. Personally I love it for these uses. I handcraft incense to use in magical workings and sometimes using herbs from my garden. I wanted a magical tool for harvesting these sacred plants. I loved the sickle in the book and asked my husband, who is a knife smith, to make me one. The rest is history!
Choosing a Boline
How do you plan to use your knife?
For cutting plant material, it's important to look at the blade material and how the handle is secured to the blade. We use forged or tempered steel for all our knives because it's strongest. Our handles are secured with both epoxy and pins. Pins add lateral strength. Epoxy alone won't give the knife the same security. It's these extra details that add value and insure your boline will serve you for many years to come.
We are the original creators of the crescent moon design and we always ship them out sharpened to ensure you can use them immediately. ,Other shops have started creating imitations. Sometimes they don't come sharpened. Be aware that it's very difficult to get that initial sharp edge on the curved crescent blades, even with professional knife smithing tools. Sometimes the crescent moon blades are cast in softer metals. These often have beautiful designs on the blade, but will not have the strength of forged or tempered steel.
If you just need something as altar piece and don't plan on using it for cutting, you can choose whichever knife is most visually appealing to you!
We release small collections of one-of-a-kind knives seasonally. Each knife is crafted in our home shop in Iowa City, IA. They sell out quickly, so sign up for our newsletter below to get early access when we add them to the shop!