Ritual Tools: The Athame

There are many tools used in modern Occultism for the execution of Religious Ceremonies and/or for practicing Witchcraft.  One such tool is the “athame”, which at first glance appears to be simply a knife but has much deeper roots in Tradition. By definition, an athame or athamé is a ceremonial blade used as a magical tool when executing traditional Witchcraft ceremonies. This elemental tool is widely used among many Neopagan Religions including Wicca, Thelemia, and Laveyan Satanism but the use of a double-edged silver dagger made from crude metal with a black handle can be traced to much older theologies. The grimoire known as the Key of Solomon mentions such a blade calling it an “arthame” The use of the tool was popularized by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the early 1900’s and then later adopted into more modern Neopagan practices. Gerald Gardner, who was also known as Scire and is often credited as the “Father of Wicca”, considered this elemental tool the most important artifact in the practice and execution of Witchcraft.

The athame (or arthame) is one of the four Elemental Tools used in modern occultism, representing the Element of Fire in most traditions. The remaining Elements of Air, Earth, and Water are traditionally represented by the Wand, Pentacle, and Cup (or Chalice) respectively. Certain traditions hold that the Athame and the Wand are elementally reversed so that the Wand represents the element of Fire and the Athame represents the element of Air. In either case, touching another person’s athame without the express consent of the owner is considered taboo by most traditional disciplines as it invades that person’s personal space and violates the bond that has been created between the athame and its wielder.

The special properties that differentiate an athame from any other kind of ritual knife can vary greatly from one coven to another coven and from one practice to the next. In accordance with the Wiccan Rede’s prohibition on causing harm, many Wiccans will blunt the edges of their ritual knives so as to avoid accidentally cutting flesh or otherwise inflicting injury to themselves or to others. Likewise, it is believed that when tracing a pentagram or other symbol in the air the “cutting edge” should always face in the direction the blade is moving. This is much easier to accomplish with a double-edged blade because it removes the need for the wielder to twist their wrist when the tool changes direction.  Try drawing a Pentagram in the air with a single sided blade while always keeping the sharp edge pointed in the direction the blade is moving and you will quickly see what I mean.  Likewise, the color of the handle and the ferrous iron content of the blade has different requirements according to different traditions. The Fae, for example, are said to be greatly offended by the mere presence of iron, so it is generally considered best to use a blade made of stone, bronze, silver, or other non-ferrous material such as crystal, precious metals, stone, or even plastic when performing rituals that involve the Faerie Folk.  Other traditions are less restrictive and allow for sharpened metal blades that can be used for inscribing candles, chopping herbs, cutting cords, or, in some extreme ceremonies, for drawing blood. There are as many different styles and materials used for athames as there are Religions and rituals that use them.

Many traditions hold that an athame should be consecrated and bound to the wielder prior to its use. This process banishes any lingering energy from previous owners and creates a metaphysical bond between the blade and the new owner. One such ritual can be performed as follows:

Light a candle and some incense. Hold the athame in front of you while facing North. Pass it over a bowl of salt while reciting:

Powers of the North,
Guardians of the Earth,
I consecrate this blade of steel,
and charge it with your energies.
I purify it this night and make this tool sacred.

Now, turn to your right, facing East and pass the blade through the smoke of the incense while saying:

Powers of the East,
Guardians of the Air,
I consecrate this blade of steel
and charge it with your energies.
I purify it this night and make this tool sacred.

Now turn to the South, pass the knife over the flame of the candle and repeat the process, saying:

Powers of the South,
Guardians of Fire,
I consecrate this blade of steel
and charge it with your energies.
I purify it this night and make this tool sacred.

Next, Face the West, passing your athame over a cup of water, and say:

Powers of the West,
Guardians of Water,
I consecrate this blade of steel
and charge it with your energies.
I purify it this night and make this tool sacred.

Finally, face your altar, hold the athame to the sky, and recite:

I charge this wand in the name of Old Ones,
the Ancients, the Sun and the Moon and the Stars.
By the powers of the Earth, of Air, of Fire and of Water
I banish the energies of any previous owners,
and make it new and fresh.
I consecrate this blade,
and it is mine.

Regardless of the details of its construction or the specific function for which it is intended to be used, any magical tool should be well paired to the Witch who will wield it. It should feel comfortable in the hand and should serve the intent of both the wielder and the ritual for which it is being used. Carving sigils into a candle with a dull blade or trying to mince herbs with a stone can be a distraction from the ritual itself and can also be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.

No matter what your specific need you can check out the vast selection of consecrated and cleansed ritual blades (and other altar tools) offered at MydnytBlu.com where you will be sure to find the perfect items to match your style, tradition, and intention. 

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published