Is becoming a witch something you’ve always been interested in? If so you have probably asked yourself about the witch’s tools. What are their uses? Well this post is going to explain one of the most important witches tools, the Athame or Ritual Knife/Dagger. Athame what does it mean and how can you implement this tool in your day to day witchy practices? I will explain everything from Consecrating your Athame and how to use in Ritual…. To the history of the term and how to choose the right Athame for you!
What is an Athame?
An Athame is a typically a small ceremonial blade, usually a double-edged blade that closely resembles a dagger. Also called “black-handled knife” by Gardnerian/Alexandrians. The Athame’s primary use is to channel and direct psychic energy. Athame’s are the main ritual implement along with the chalice, wand and the pentacle, that are used in ceremonial magic traditions. They are used to direct energy, draw boundaries and other sacred symbols. Also used when performing the symbolic Great Rite. Done by “charging” an association with the athame using the power of imagination under deep concentration. This tool of the ritual is used in Witchcraft, Wicca, Satanist and neopagan traditions alike.
How do you use an Athame/Dagger?
How to pronounce A*theim. Some people add an extra syllable of “eh” at the end.
One of the essential tools of witchcraft, the Athame is not used for cutting in the physical sense. Typically, they are used when casting circle at the beginning of a ritual. Done so by encircling the magical space in which the ritual is to be performed. Also used when closing out a ritual, and or summoning or banishing spirit entities. Once the ritual has come to an end the Athame is driven into a chalice of wine. The chalice symbolizes female energy. The Athame being a phallic symbol that corresponds to male deities and maleness in general. It represents divine masculinity while on the altar.
Athame’s are about 9 inches long and the hilt can be plain or inscribed with magical markings.
Other Common uses for Athames…
Charging: Directing energy to charge magical objects like amulets, talismans, or poppets, consecrating
Scrying: to find your true path or discover your heart’s true desire can be done in the reflective surface of the blade
Mixing: Athames are often used in mixing/measuring of spells, for example mixing salt and water, combining different items for a potion, measuring using the end of the blade.
Drawing lines: Either visible or magical lines carved into dirt, salt, or magical objects.
Calling the quarters: The Athame is used as a conductor to draw in the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water into your ritual space. This is done to pull from their energies and strengthen your magic.
Pendulums: A string wrapped around the handle of your blade, this allows you to use the tip of the Athame as a pendulum, answering yes or no questions.
Carving: Your athame can help you to infuse the carving of candles or other objects to be used in ritual with your magical intent.
History and Etymology:
The word Athame: Knife used in casting spells, was borrowed from the French Artave and derived from medieval Latin Artavas “small knife, penknife.” The original usage of the word Athame originates from British author Gerald Brosseau Garner, who wrote about it in his book Witchcraft Today. According to him, the athame is the most important ritual tool there is. Athame is Gardner’s own variation of Arthame. The origin of the tool goes back to arthame mentioned in the Middle Age grimoire the Key of Solomon. A form of the word found in Witchcraft, magic & Alchemy by J. Courtney Locke. Gerald Brosseau Gardner was instrumental in bringing the contemporary pagan religion of Wicca into the mainstream eye. He wrote some of its main religious texts and founded the tradition of Gardnerian Wicca.
Athames are normally made from metal. Some say the blade must be sharpened, some also say it must be double sided. But ultimately the choice is up to you, if you don’t agree with those metaphysical ideas. It is said if the athame draws blood, it is considered useless. This is thought because the blade works by enabling easier channeling of life energy (of which the 4 elements comprise). Blood from one’s veins is sourced in death energy (once outside the body), so blood on the blade can cause interference in spells.
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Athame as a Symbol and Meanings:
In many Occult religions the athame is aligned with the symbol of the element of fire. While others regard it as the symbol of the element of air.
Why is Athame considered the symbol of the element of fire?
People believe this on the basis knives are forged in fire. Also both knives and fire are agents of transformation. It is also thought to represent the vital essence of our souls.
For those on the other end who consider it to be a symbol of the element of air tend to draw their associations from the fact that athame is used in the air for directing energy.
The double edges of the blade represent the dual nature of the universe, example: good and evil, positive and negative, masculine and feminine, and projection, reception. It also symbolizes the dual nature of protection and attack, healing and destruction, and good or evil.
How do you know what Athame to choose? When it comes to choosing your athame, you should always choose the one that resonates with you most. Unless you belong to a tradition that would require you to choose a specified type. How does the dagger feel in your hands? Take note of the weight and size. All is important as you will notice every time you pick up your ritual knife. Athames are designed around many different cultures and backgrounds, so choose one that will inspire your magic!
How to make your own?
This wouldn’t be my first choice of action but there are people who choose to go this route. In the case that your one of the people interested in taking this line of action, I will insert a video below detailing how to do so.
Cleaning and Care Instructions:
Depending on what type of Athame you have you may need to spot clean or oil it. Although most of the time you can get away with a good wash. Be mindful of where you will be keeping your athame. Will it be resting on an altar? Do you have a sheath for it? As mentioned earlier your athame has probably had many owners or been handled by many different people, so you will want to cleanse it of the old energies and rededicate the athame for your own uses. The athame will need to be recharged every 6 months to a year.
How to Purify and Cleanse your used Athame
First you must cleanse the entire Athame with moon water or salt
Secondly you place in sunlight for an hour every day for an entire moon cycle
After purifying you will want to consecrate before your first use in ritual or spell. You don’t know where it has been of what type of energy has latched on to it.
How to Consecrate your Athame and what you will need:
-Bowl of sea salt
-Bowl of purified water
-Cast a circle
-Arrange elements on your altar
-North/Earth: Sea Salt
-West/Water: Purified Water
-Light Incense & Candle
-Start at the north & go around clockwise
-Hold the ritual tool to be consecrated over each element and recite a blessing
-After reciting each elemental blessing say I consecrate this object. “May it enhance and purify all it touches!”
***Never touch another person’s athame!
Where Can I Buy Athames?
You can look around town for your local pagan or occult store, but will more than likely have better luck online using amazon, etsy or ebay for starters. Ill leave a few of my favorites linked below and you can get an idea where to start looking
Common Questions related to Athames…
No, Wands and Athames are not used for the same purpose and I will explain why. The difference between the 2 is the difference between invoking and evoking. Invocation is to take into oneself from outside. Evocation is to generate internally and send outward. Wands are used for invocation. Calling upon deity or spirits of some form or holding in ones hand while speaking an invocation or petition in ritual. Athames on the other hand are used for evocation. Commanding and manipulating energy, specifically life energy via the elements, also consecrating tools or spaces (casting circle).
Which is better Crystal Athames or Metal Athames?
Firstly, what material a practitioner uses in a blade often depends on the aim of the working or beings involved. That being said… iron is a magical material! Moreover, one of the main functions of an iron/steel athame is to cut through the aether. Cutting astral ties or boundaries, it is also used in the control of astral forces such as… forming a circle as a boundary between the realms.
Steel blades are useful for all around many sorts of magical workings. Silver and crystal are attention getters on many planes and Obsidian and Flint make for nice tools. A dark obsidian blade can serve as a dark mirror for divination. If using crystals make sure to research the ones in which you are interested as all have different meanings and uses which may or may not apply to the main function of an athame.
There is some debate about the validity of athames made from materials other than metal. Those who support use of alternative metals do so because most spirits will react adversely to irons and its tempered form of steel. Particularly for those who work with elemental spirits who have a toxic relationship with iron and steel.
Ultimately it is up to you which feels right.
What is the difference between Athame and Boline the bladed tools of the pagan world?
The athame is not to be confused with “boline” which has a completely different purpose and is often used for alchemical work such as chopping herbs and preparing ritual ingredients .Boline is a practical use knife also kept by a witch. It has a metal blade with a sharpe edge and can be used both inside and outside the magical circle. If a spell needs cutting or shaping of any sort, this is the instrument to be used. Boline blades come one of two ways, single edged straight blade, or a double-edged curved scythe blade. Through history the boline knife has a white handle usually made from antle, bone or wood. It is quite easy to distinguish from the Athame which has the black handle.
I hope this article has been helpful and informative if you are interested in learn about or are looking to own your own Ritual Dagger!
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Books about Athame’s to check out!
- The Witch’s Athame: The Craft, Lore & Magick of Ritual Blades by Jason Mankey
- Wiccan Altar by Lisa Spell