Friday, January 20, 2012

Safety and Pointy Bits.

Sometimes bloodletting is required. It's not something every person will have to do, or even consider doing, but sometimes the spirits take it without asking - we've all had an knife that bites, or a boline that gouges. For a very long time I operated in circles where bloodletting was a normal, and rather routine (even blase) part of the proceedings. I've been around it enough to see the sacred, profane and pornographic sides of it.

So here's an entry on handling "Sharps". Not just in the sense of bloodletting, but in the whole of one's "juju stuff". ATTENTION: This is not medical, nor legal, advice. Go to a doctor or a lawyer for that.

Some Quick Terminology
"Sterile" -  Means that the item was sterilized, and packed in sterile conditions. It is removed from the sterile packing and used immediately, and is thus "Sterile". Sterile are the conditions used for surgery.
"Sterilized" - Means that an item was sterilized, but stored in clean (not sterile) conditions until the time of use. This does not mean it is sterile at the time of use.
"Sanitized" - Means that an item was cleaned with a disinfectant and is fairly "clean". It is NOT Sterile, nor sterilized.
About Bleach, Heat, Lubricants and Oils.
Every single one of these things can encapsulate bacteria, protecting them from sanitizing and sterilizing. 
Do not rely on a quick wipe-down with bleach, and if you regularly oil your blade - SCRUB it regularly too.

Clean Everything, and Do It Often.
Even if it's a tool only one person touches, even if it's a tool strictly dedicated to a single purpose and is kept wrapped and put away. If it is sharp enough to cut, it needs to be regularly cleaned so that when it does (and it will, sometime) it does not give you a horrific infection.

For General Sharps:
Wash in lukewarm, soapy, water. Scrub thoroughly to remove physical debris, and put non-heat-sensitive items in a hot bath to remove wax drips, oil , or other items. Rinse in cold water, and soak in a bleach solution for five minutes (two cups of bleach to one gallon of water).  Rinse again, and dry THOROUGHLY. The items are now Sanitized and ready to be stored or used - for general "sharps" that aren't SUPER sharp or generally used for bloodwork on living things, this is satisfactory enough.

If your knife has a wooden handle, I suggest slapping a cheap, non-lubricated/non-spermicidal condom on the handle and rubber banding it. I've done it, and it neatly prevents water from getting to the handle, which can damage handles over time. Remember: No glove, no love.

For Knives and Blades That Intentionally Cut:
Wooden-handled items are iffy. If they can be dis-assembled, the blade fully sterilized, and re-assembled - bully. But if they cannot... problems can arise.  Some bacteria can form endospores which cannot be killed (and can be encapsulated by disinfectants) without the use of high temps and pressure.

If something is tightly sheathed, the use in ritual may preclude cleaning it immediately. If you insert a dirty blade into a sheath, and later clean the blade - how will you clean the sheath? Re-insertion into the sheath will contaminate the blade.

Communal Bloodletting.
For any situation that involves two or more people, I strongly urge the purchase of sterile lancets and scalpels. It's really in the best interests of all parties.


  1. Great tips. There's a lot on here I hadn't considered before. Luckily, I don't usually do bloodletting, so I haven't gotten into any trouble.

  2. Thanks for the post

    nominating you for the versatile blogger award

  3. I'm curious about the actual procedures of bloodletting--where to poke or cut, how much to safely take, how to catch it. I'll be acquiring some runes soon and was advised to blood them, and I'm not sure stabbing myself in the fingers with lancets that many times will be entirely feasible. Could you advise?

    Also, I'm aware of the need for sharps containers for lancets, etc. How does one dispose discreetly of the sharps container? I was advised to drop it off at my doctor's office, but they know I'm not diabetic, and I'd like to avoid awkward questions.

    1. You really wont need a lot of blood, the runes aren't expected to be bathed in it. Most of the magik comes from the difficulty involved with deliberately piercing your skin, a needle prick is ideal and traditional. If you really want a drop of blood for every rune then perhaps you should think about doing them one at a time over a course of moons, allowing fingers to heal and giving you time to meditate on and dedicate each one individually, to develop a relationship with the rune in hermetic fashion. Hermetic as in style of magik not as in sealed.

    2. HK, where I live, sharps, including syringes, can be disposed of in the garbage if the sharps are placed in a puncture resistant container such as a 2 liter PET pop bottle, with a tight fitting or taped lid and labeled "SHARPS, DO NOT RECYCLE." However, in the major city near here, they can't be disposed of in that manner. Check your local health department for regulations in your area, or ask a pharmacist - they should know.

  4. @HK - I cannot, for legal reasons, suggest that any person do such things. However, I believe a lot of diabetics test on their arms.

    In the sanguine vampire community, very thin, shallow, scrapes are often made on the upper arm, even more toward the shoulder. These tend to heal up quickly. Some chose the collarbone, but this is prone to severe scarring, IME.

    As always, anyone who does chose to puncture their skin needs to apply an antibacterial ointment after.

    Sharps containers... eh... not sure on that one. If you know someone who is diabetic, or otherwise dependent upon a medication that requires a syringe they can probably inform you better than I could.

  5. I used to have that Ankh in the photo. It couldnt cut bread :-)

  6. Quite. The pewter alchemy gothic one is dull-as. I've seen a custom-made silver and steel one that more closely resembled the original from The Hunger.
    It could cut leather.

  7. @HK: I have been told by experienced nurses that the edge of your finger - that is, the tougher, calloused area on either side of your nail - is the least painful area to prick, and is less likely to leave a noticeable mark. (Such has been my experience.) Gently squeezing the finger will produce a drop of blood at a time. (ie, You can get more than one drop from a single poke.) In my totally unofficial and hypothetical opinion, I don't think it would be necessary to use more than a drop for each rune stave.