Boline Knife: A Wiccan Ritual Tool

​If you have ever been a spectator of a witchcraft circle, you may have heard about the boline knife. If you have seen it, it is a crescent-shaped blade reminiscent of the agricultural sickle. Well, both these tools differ despite having curved, one-handed blades.

Originally called bolline, a boline is a ritual tool having a typical white handle and is reserved for cutting or carving inside the magical circle. It is one of the traditional Wiccan ritual tools. Boline knives are an integral part of the pagan rituals.

The Wiccan tradition is a modern form of paganism involving the practice of witchcraft and nature worship. Its followers use a couple of ritual knives. If you have been with a few of them, you may have heard about the popular ritual knives namely, athame (pronounced ah-thah-may) and boline.

A few practitioners use the athame only for rituals and magic work. It is just not reserved for cutting something physical. On the other hand, they use a separate knife for cutting physical stuff.

This is boline, which is commonly used for cutting herbs for spell magic, making symbols into candles and other tools, cutting magical ribbons and cords, and shaping a wand made from a tree branch. A boline is more practical but is considered equally scared as the athame.

Interestingly, it is the only witch’s tool that one can use outside of the ritual or sacred space. Today, it is made using stainless steel and is often linked to the element of fire although the specifics are laid down by the tradition you are initiated into, each with its distinct rules and rituals.

Design

Hand Scythe BOLINE ritual knife ceremonial White dagger
Hand Scythe BOLINE Knife

A boline knife is conventionally a white-handled tool that is single-bladed unlike the classic athame and is retained sharp for efficient cutting. The overall design is an homage to the unseen and the natural worlds along with the magical rituals that make a bond between them.

While the handle is white, the blade can be straight or in the shape of a crescent. The latter shape is attributed to the medieval impact on ceremonial magic and is useful for harvesting although being less applicable to carving and cutting.

The reason why this knife comes with a white handle is simple. It is to facilitate the practitioners to differentiate it from the athame, which is a typically black-handled knife.

The crescent-shaped blade is a sign of gardening practice as per the phases of the moon. Also spelled as bolline and boleen, this knife was originally used for harvesting herbs. At times, a kirfane, also known as a kerfan knife, is also used for the same purpose. However, both are different tools.

Significance

Although this knife is associated with agricultural and gardening tools across the globe, its Pagan significance links us to our ancestors who were a part of our land. Interestingly, apart from the witchcraft uses, boline was also used in fields to make hedges.

As it was used in the agricultural field, a boline, even today, represents the agricultural congregation of the recognized Wiccan ancestors of the 19th century who as farmers were facing threats from the Industrial Revolution. It also reminds us of the essential yields and good hedges that help in having good neighbors.

Unlike the double-bladed tool or the athame, the boline is treated as a tool, and not as a weapon. It is not used for combats or fights but is kept sacredly.

Above all, due to its connection with the harvest, a boline exemplifies cyclical death. It signifies the agrarian comprehension of death as required for life. It also signifies pruning, as a prerequisite for the overall health.

Analogous to the Grim Reaper’s scythe, a boline can represent death even though it has been used for retaining hedges for long. In this context, it represents the opening of the blockade to the land of the dead as well as preserving the barrier itself.

Modern Bolines

The modern bolines can have a double-edged curved scythe or a single-edged straight blade due to which they can be used as a gardening and harvesting tool. The style that you opt for is typically based on the ongoing tradition, personal liking, and/or purpose.

As a feasible blade, you can use a modern boline anytime and carry it for inside circle and outside tasks, although restricting it to the inside tasks is revered. Just as the magical tools, you should store the knife with reverence between use.

If you search on Google for Bline knives, the number of results it shows is less than those of athame. Still, just as the athame, it is easy to find some ornately carved and adorned bolines in online stores with a Wiccan focus. A simple one is easily obtainable from any store selling cutlery and kitchen supplies. It is also possible to repurpose an existing knife.

Here are a few boline knives we found on Amazon

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Bolines as Billhooks in Farming

In England, where the Wiccan tradition took birth, a boline has long been associated with several uses. This curved knife is undoubtedly a descendant of an agrarian cutting tool, which was used across the planet. However, not all curved tools for farming are the same.

In England, the custom of having different local versions of tools resulted in different types having the names of the settlements where they were forged. This is why tools of similar shape and purpose are available throughout the world.

Although the generic category of tools was termed billhooks, the latter ones belong to something larger. Yes, it encompasses many tools being used across the planet, including kukris, machetes, and parangs. Traditionally, even a boline is a billhook.

In England, an equivalent tool in the generic category is referred to as the billhook, which stands for a cleaver. This billhook has a history of agricultural, garden pruning, and hedge maintenance uses. Due to several billhook variations per region in the nation, these knives were taken care of by the local makers and smiths.

The adaptation was such that some believe that it is possible to find out the town wherein a billhook was forged just by looking at its shape. This trend continued until the second half of the 20th century until centralized production came into action.

Applications of a Boline Knife

10" Druidic Boline with Leather Sheath
Druidic Boline

Today, a boline is used as the utility blade. Although still used for harvesting herbs by a few, the tool is more often used for a variety of cutting and carving tasks. These tasks include cutting branches to make wands, carving symbols on besoms or anything else, trimming a besom’s shaft, preparing flowers for the altar, and cutting cords for cord magic. This is because of the sharp edge that the curved blade offers.

Apart from carving wood for making other tools, this knife is also useful for shaping wooden tools. Often, this knife is dedicated to a deity or its purpose in a special ritual although it is not mandatory.

In Kitchen Witchcraft, which is a type of witchcraft in which the magical items tend to replace the mundane ones, there is hardly or little need for a boline as a distinct tool from the athame. It encourages using magical tools for mundane tasks such as cooking. A few rituals such as those of Robert Cochrane use only a single knife for practical as well as ritual purposes.

The boline is in use by several other contemporary witchcraft forms including Eclectic Wicca.  In the Eclectic Wicca tradition, the followers or practitioners have different opinions as to whether the boline is only for utilitarian use or is genuinely a magical tool.

Some Wiccan traditions believe that any knife with a history of usage for cutting animal flesh cannot be considered apt for acting as a boline. However, this varies as per the practitioner’s personal choice. If your knife passes through a careful and proper energy cleansing, it is less likely to matter the purpose for which that knife was used previously.

BolineVs Athame

Goddess Athame
Goddess Athame

The athame is an ancient and robust witch’s tool that is strictly used in rituals for directing spiritual energy. Originally, it was a double-edged dagger with a black handle. However, later, people started preferring natural materials due to which it was made using wood or bone.

On the other hand, a boline ordinally was a single-edged tool with a white handle. However, just as the athame, you will find it having handles made using wood or bone. Similarly, it also possible to have an athame having a white handle.

The most critical feature of the athame is its natural feel or grasp. In several traditions, it denotes the element of fire, while in some, it signifies the element of air. However, a boline strictly represents the fire.

Just like any other ritual tool, the athame is considered a personal magical tool. This means you as a buyer may want to be careful while buying it. For example, you would ensure that it fits comfortably in your hand. This applies to boline too.

Today, several kitchen witches go for the white boline and black athame paring knives offered as one pack in most stores.

Different Names

The tool that we now know as the boline was initially known as the white-hilted or the white-handled knife. In Gardnerian Book of Shadows written by Gerald Gardner, the author refers to this tool more as the white-handled knife than the white-hilted knife. The word boline is not to be found anywhere here.

Both boline and white-handled tools are believed to be the objects from the Key of Solomon, which is a book of spells from King Solomon. It is a medieval grimoire and acts as one of the preserved sources for the current Wicca. However, for many people, both these tools are not the same.

They believe that both were conflated at some point in time due to which the white-handled knife is now misleadingly known as the boline.

The term boline comes from the bolino, a term present in an Italian script of the Key of Solomon. This Italian word is a variant of the bulino, an Italian word meaning burin, which is the original boline.

The boline is also believed to be conflated with a sickle due to which the former features a curved sickle-like blade. This conflation was the brainchild of an unknown influential Wiccan who was inflicted by The Book of Ceremonial Magic of Arthur Edward Waite of the early 20th century.

In this book, the author conflates the boline with the sickle. The genuine Key of Solomon manuscript did not specify the word sickle but an Italian decoder misinterpreted artavus, the unknown Latin word as a sickle.

Boline is also spelled as boleen, a term that was unintentionally given by a Wiccan having the craft name Wren. As she did not know how to spell it, she wrote boleen in a post of the year 2000 on WitchVox, a popular Wiccan website. From here, the boleen spelling spread quite quickly.

Today, it is often used by those who are unaware of Wicca and, consequently, are unfamiliar with the right spelling. It is not that clear when the name, boline, was initially used. However, it is assumed that this spelling gained popularity from a Wikipedia post.

Conclusion

A boline knife is a ritual tool of the Wiccan tradition, which is used in magical circles. It is the only Wiccan ritual tool that is used outside the witchcraft circles. It is used in farming, making hedges, pruning gardens, and carving symbols on tools, and making wooden tools.