Athame

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    The athame, a witch’s ceremonial knife, if the most important Witchcraft tool.

    safety warning: Everything you learned about knife safety applies to an athame. An athame is sharp and dangerous. Always practice knife safety with your athame. If you don’t know knife safety, learn knife safety before you handle or use an athame.

correspondences of an athame

    There is honest disagreement among Witches as to which element the athame corresponds with. Some Witches believe that the athame corresponds to the element fire. Some Witches believe the athame corresponds with the element air (and the direction east). Experiment and see which works best for you personally, but honor the right for other Witches to honestly have a different choice.

    The athame is considered to be a phallic tool and therefore of masculine element and male energy.

    In many Witchcraft traditions the athame must have a black handle (white handled knives being reserved for cutting). If you don’t belong to a restrictive tradition, then you can have an athame with any color handle (although many Witches want an athame with a black handle anyway).

    It is your personal choice how decorative the handle is. ManyWitches personalize their athame handle with magick symbols, magick writing, and other decorations. Some Witches keep the athame handle plain so that non-Witches won’t realize there is anything special about it.

    You change an ordinary knife into an athame through a consecration ritual. This can be a newly purchased knife or a keepsake you’ve had for years. You might find great knives or daggers to use as an athame at swap meets, flea markets, antique stores, New Age festivals, or Renaissance faires.

purification of an athame

    If you purchase a used knife you will want to purify the knife of any bad karma or negative vibrations from previous unknown owners. One easy method is to expose the knife to direct sunlight for at least one hour a day for the full cycle of the moon, usually starting at Full Moon or New Moon. This can be by placing the knife inside a window (to prevent possible theft). Other purification methods include water, alchohol, salt, crystals, and herbal smudgings.

    Some Witches believe that an athame should never be purchased, that either you must make your own tools or receive them as gifts. That probably worked fine in ancient times, but how many people know how to make their own knives nowadays?

    A gift athame is considered a great honor. The athame will have all the energy of years of use by the previous owner. That energy can help guide and empower your own magick, merging your magickal energy with the magickal energy of the Witch who gave the gift. Obviously you don’t cleanse out the previous energy from a gift athame (in this case, you want that energy to stay in the athame).

    Once the knife has been purified (you can skip this step if you or someone you know has owned the knife for years or if you purchase a new knife), you may have a consecration ceremony.

consecration of a sword

    Consecration: When you finish choosing or making an athame, you will want to dedicate it to magickal work. You may create your own little ceremony that dedicates the knife for sacred use and transforms it from an ordinary knife into an athame. The ritual should be short and simple: place the tool on the altar, cast a circle, and perform a shrt ritual to consecrate the tool.

    A brief ceremonial purification and cleansing of previous mundane uses migh involve mixing a small amount of salt and water in a chalice or bowl and then sprinkling the tool. This is just ceremonial purification. If the tool needs a complete purification, then this should be done before the consecration ritual.

    You will probably also want to recite a short poem about the knife being transformed into an athame. One, two, three, or four lines are plenty. It doesn’t have to rhyme unless you want it to. Some Witches directly speak to the new athame.

    Eileen Holland suggests the simple phrase “Knife, you are brought into this circle of transformation to be forever after my athame.”

    If you have a permanent altar, you might leave your athame on your altar for 24 hours after your ceremony before making use of your new athame. Any of the Sabbats or New Moon or Full Moon are particularly appropriate times to dedicate a new athame.

    Feel free to submit JPEGs of your personal athame. Indicate the materials, symbols, deity, Witchcraft tradition, or other special information that may help understand your athame.

naming athames

    In some traditions (especially Nordic, Teutonic, or Germanic) the athame is given a ceremonial name. Sometimes this ceremonial name is carved into the handle in runes or magick writing system. There are many examples of European knives and daggers inscribed with runic names by shamans of Odin. You may optionally invoke the name of Odin or any male deity to empower the consecration.

uses of an athame

    Uses: There are many uses for your athame:

    Casting the circle. Most WItches use their athame to point out (or mark) the borders when casting their circle. Some Witches use an athame for most circles, reserving wands for casting circles of special significance .

    Drawing lines. There are many rituals that call for drawing a line. Sometimes the athame marks an imaginary line in the air. Other times the athame actually draws a visible line in something material, such as dirt or salt. Sometimes a line is carved into an object (amulet, talisman, tool, etc.).

    Mixing. The athame is the most common tool when used for mixing salt and water or mixing potions. Pick up ingredients with the point of your athame. Proportions may be measured out on the tip of the blade. The tip of the athame may also be used for stirring.

    Charging. The athame may be used when consecrating, charging, or empowering amulets, talismans, or poppets.

    Setting limits. Often you will have a ritual where you are magickally setting limits of some kind. You can use the athame to ceremonially mark the limit.

    Making choices. Some traditions use the athame for making choices and carrying them out.

    Some Witches believe that the athame should only be used inside a circle, while other Witches believe that the athame can be used as an ordinary knife outside the circle. During the Burning Times, Witches had to hide their Witchcraft tools in plain sight (which is why every Witchcraft tool other than a sword looks like an ordinary kitchen utensil).

other

    You want to be careful about who else touches or handles your athame. Magickal tools are sensitive and will absorb the energy of anyone who touches them. Some Witches don’t let anyone else touch their athame. Some Witches will allow member of their coven, their family, and close friends to touch their athame.

    If someone touches your athame, you can smudge it with sage. Light a sage leaf on fire, then gently blow out the flame, leaving a bright red burning ember. Wave your athame through the sage smoke. This will cleanse out the energy from the unwanted touching without driving out all of the positive magickal energy you’ve built up in your athame (a complete purification would get rid of your magicakl energy as well). You can also sprinkle a small amount of salt and water, as described in the consecration ritual above.

    A knife that has been used as a weapon shouldn’t be used as an athame. If a knife has ever drawn blood, it must be purified before it can be consecrated as an athame. If you ever accidently cut yourself with your athame, you will want to smudge with sage, sprinkle with salt water, or otherwise symbollically purify it.

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updated March 9, 2005

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