When it comes to witchcraft, there are a number of essential ritual tools. And one of the most important of these is the athame knife. also known as the witch’s blade. Some of the other important magical tools include the wand, the chalice, and pentacle.
When you set up an altar, you’ll usually place most of these on it, along perhaps with candles, incense, and other items. But, while most of those remain on the altar while you do your work, you’ll use your athame actively throughout. Here’s your guide to what an athame is and when you should use it.
What Is an Athame?
The athame dagger is, traditionally, a black-handled, double-edged blade used for directing energy in ritual. In Gardnerian witchcraft, it represents the element of fire. For other traditions, it represents the element of air. In most, however, it represents masculine energy.
Athame — pronounced Aah-thuh-may — is the combination of the French arthame from the grimoire the Key of Solomon, which means “knife used in casting spells.” It comes from someone miscopying the Medieval Latin artavus, meaning “small knife.”
The blades can be made from everything from lightweight metal to Damascus steel and hilts are usually made from plastic, bone, metal, wood, or leather. You can carve symbols into it, such as astrological or elemental glyphs, or you can leave it as is.
They range in length, weight, and quality, but once consecrated, they’re all equally effective. It’s more a matter of finding one that feels right to you versus buying the most expensive one out there. This is your magical practice, not “how can I keep up with the Stephens.” You’ll find some athames below to give you a sense of what’s available.
You might find you want two athames, a longer one for solitary work and a shorter one for group work. This is personal preference.
What Do You Use the Athame For?
1. Casting a Circle of Protection
If you are casting a circle of protection for your ritual work, you’ll want to use your athame. Walk in a clockwise fashion around your space with the blade pointed toward where you visualize yourself creating the edge of the circle. As you do, use the athame knife to energetically draw the circle’s outline in blue flame. If the space you’re in doesn’t permit blades, use your wand.
2. Invoking the Pentagram (and Banishing It)
After you cast the circle of protection, part of the preparation for your ritual work might include calling the quarters (or corners). Calling the quarters involves summoning the element or protective spirit that represents that element, and drawing an invoking pentagram for that element. When you close the quarter, you’ll do the banishing pentagram.
Invoking and banishing the pentagram will help you understand why the knife has a double blade. If it didn’t, you’d either have to flip the knife around in your hand as you draw, or you’d be drawing with the dull side.
3. Consecrating Items
You can use your athame to consecrate various items, including those that you use as part of your ritual. For instance, it can be used to purify water and incense for your altar.
What Should You Not Use the Athame For?
Everything else. Don’t use the athame to cut and eat food, carve candles, or harvest herbs.
The blade is meant solely for directing magical energy and after consecrating it, should be used only for this. If you need a tool for cutting food after ritual, doing candle magic, or gathering flowers and herbs, use your boline.
Also, once you’ve consecrated your athame, don’t let others use it.
Where Can I Get an Athame?
Personally, I prefer to get my tools at local shops or from craftspeople on Etsy. You could also make your own if you’re skilled in forging or know someone who is. Here are some Athames from Etsy I thought were cool.
1. Damascus Witch Blade
Everything the Troll Cunning Forge makes is gorgeous and the blades are made to order. This athame has a Damascus steel blade, an ebony handle and a bronze guard.
2. Double Edged Steel Athame
This coal-forged knife 15.25″ knife forged by Odin’s Own Bladeworks has a blade made of hardened high-carbon steel and a walnut handle.
3. Damascus Dagger With Wooden Handle
This dirk-style dagger has a stunning steel blade and an easy to hold walnut handle. If you’re looking for a heavier athame, this one is 12″ and weighs one pound.
4. Athame with Crystals
This athame by the World of Elias has a metal blade and a handle made from chrysophrase, carnelian, and rhodonite.
5. Bat Wing Athame
6. Mistletoe Athame
I’m not sure if this is a true athame, as I can’t tell if it is double bladed, but the floral design on the blade and the mistletoe handle made it feel unique enough to include.
7. Heavy Steel Athame
Though just over 10″ long, this twisted steel ceremonial blade weighs one pound.