What is a witches athame

What is an Athame? And Why it is the Most Important Tool in Witchcraft.

A Witches athame (pronounced A-thuh-may) an athame is a double-edged ritual knife that is used in witchcraft is a frequently used tool, and one of the many tools used in witchcraft. Mainly used to cast circles by Witches but can also be used in ritual witchcraft & as a ceremonial blade in other Wiccan traditions as well as Neo-Pagan groups, Thelemia, and Laveyan Satanism traditions. It typically has a black handle. The special properties of an athame ritual knife can and will vary greatly from one coven/Witch/practitioner to the next.

It was popularized by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (in the early 1900’s). Gerald Gardner (the Father of modern day Wicca) considered this magickal tool to be the most important object in the practice of Witchcraft. He also stated that sometimes it is good to receive magickal tools (such as a gifted, hand-me-down athame) as these tools that come to people second-hand, hold much more power and energy because of how old they tend to be.

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What is an Athame?

An athame is a black handled, double edge knife. It is consider both an air or fire magickal tool by practitioners of magick (depending on individual background & teachings). You can wear the athame in a sheath and when placed on your altar, it is put on the east side.

NOTE: The word ‘athame’ is thought to have originated from the Latin word ‘artavus’ which is a quill knife mentioned in the old manuscripts of ‘The Key of Solomon’ which is a very a popular grimoire from the medieval times. 

What is an athame used for?

A Witch uses an athame (a double-edged ritual knife) during a ritual or spell work for ceremonial cutting and directing energy, to cut through nonphysical energies. When you are working on releasing personal things in the quest to become our greater selves, the athame helps you to cut through the lies we tell ourselves. The athame can also cuts through the vast amount of misinformation that the world bombards us with! The athame can cut through illusion to get to truth.

Things you can use the athame for:

  • For cutting unwanted energetic ties
  • Drawing symbols in the air
  • Drawing the sacred circle before ritual
  • Closing a sacred circle after ritual

Things not to use your athame for:

  • Cutting anything in the physical world

NOTE: The Fae are said to be Massively offended by the presence of iron, so it is generally best to use a blade made of silver, stone, bronze, precious metals, crystal or any other material when performing a ritual that involve the Faeries.

Is an athame considered an air or fire tool?

This is actually a question that is frequently debated as it depends on what type of Witch/practitioner you are. The athame is associated with two elements, the Fire  element and the Air element. Which element you lean towards will depend on which tradition perspective you take and practice in (Wicca: Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic, Norse, Seax, Druidic, Celtic, Eclectic, Solitary). The Gardnerian tradition holds that the athame is air but if you are an eclectic practitioner (or a Witch who doesn’t follow any set tradition) you can simply go with the association that makes intuitive sense to you.

Those of you who associate the athame with Air because of it’s sharpness and therefore it’s association with intellect and imagination (which is the domain of Air) and the athames ability to direct energy through its movements in the air. Through my research the Air association in the most authentic association many Wiccans adopt.

But what about the Fire aspect?

On the flip side of Air, we have our other fellow practitioners of magick who lean towards the side of Fire. To them, the athame represents this element (more so than Air) because in practice, it is the most masculine tool in our magickal tool box. They see the athame as “the” tool of sexual Will, not to mention that the manufacturing of the blade is conducted within fire. The athame can literally be thrusted into fire and will not be destroyed; this is why some say the athame contains the element of fire within and therefore an tool of transformation. The athame’s masculine and assertive qualities make it the prefect powerful representation of the God.

ACTIVITY: Why not take some time to mediate on this air vs fire debate and figure out which element feel right to you?

How long should an athame be?

In some traditions of practice, there are guidelines as to the length of the blade and the materials etc. Although there isn’t a standard blade length, it is a good recommendation to keep the blade shorter. This way if you happen to be working within close quarters, you can avoid stabbing a fellow Witch or wall (whichever the case maybe!). Also, a long knife can be be more difficult to use (meaning more dangerous) and it can be more problematic to travel with and store correctly.

NOTE: Your athame doesn’t necessarily have to be very sharp because traditionally you don’t use it to cut anything in the physical world.

What should my athame look like?

Honestly, your own personal athame can look however you want it to look. There are some traditions that follow certain guides to the color of the handle for example but if your doing your own thing this has no bearing. The reason I mention the handle is because it is said that the handle of an athame stores a small amount of the magical energy raised in ritual every time. This magickal energy is then used later in magickal workings such as spellwork or charging other tools. An athame can as beautiful or as plain as you like. You can carve magical symbols into it, or imbed semi precious stones and crystals.

Can I use something as a substitute?

Yes, this is perfectly ok to do this. Some people choose to use a letter opener or a double-sided kitchen knife. Feel free to inscribe your own symbols into the handle or even attach things such as ribbon, stones, crystals etc.

NOTE: If you choose to use a substitute you must only use it from that point onwards for magical purposes. Do not put it back in the draw. It is now a consecrated magickal tool that belongs with the rest of your tools in your magick box.

How should I get an athame for personal use?

The best way is to make it yourself of course, like with all magickal workings, if you make it yourself you are putting your own magick into it which will help you in your witchcraft. If your lucky enough to have a metaphysical shop close by you can call in and see what selection of athames they have and see which one calls out to you. A Pagan festival is another good location if you have the opportunity to attend one.

NOTE: When you see an athame that you like, take a few moments with the knife. Hold it, how does it feel in your hand? Pick up a few and see which one feels the best, When you do find the right one you will know it.

The internet is another great way to source an athame however, the only draw back to this is that you can’t feel the athame before you buy so you won’t be able to sense it’s energy. But don’t worry too much about this because one you get your athame you are going to consecrate it anyway. The process of consecration banishes any lingering energy from the previous owners or creator and ,creates a metaphysical bond between you and the athame. Once you have done this it should feel comfortable in your hand. It is now ready to serve the intent of you and the ritual you are using it for.

NOTE: Orthodox Wiccan’s never use the athame for anything other that ritual workings, but some, especially eclectic or newer tradition Witches make a few exceptions by using their athame to cut a branch from a tree and shape it into a new wand, or to carve magical symbols into a candle for ritual use (although there are other tools designed for this -called a boline) or to prepare magickal herbs for spellwork or magickal food recipes in the kitchen.

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