I sometimes find it really hard to harness restraint when it comes to magickal tools. While I do enjoy simple spellwork, I also relish in ceremony. As such, I have quite the collection of implements and aids to use at my discretion, including several athames.
I was thinking about this recently when it dawned on me to write a series on magickal tool care. After all, outside of knowing about the instruments and their uses, all practitioners should know how to care for them. With this notion, we will start with the athame.
Where does the word athame come from? From the Latin for ‘quill knife’, artavus is seen often throughout the earliest Key of Solomon manuscripts. Other translations for the term equates to ‘a small knife used for sharpening the pens of scribes’.
Throughout history, scholars have argued over the word’s roots. While artavus is seen in medieval Latin, it’s not common and therefore wasn’t translated in a few Italian and French texts. Because of this, artavus became muddled, resulting in interpretations like artavo, artanus, arthany, arthana, and arthame.
WHAT IS AN ATHAME?
atha·me | \ ˈa-thə-ˌmā
a usually black-handled, double-edged dagger that is used in some neo-pagan and Wiccan ritualsFrom Merriam-Webster
While I don’t prescribe to the exclusion of other paths aside from neo-pagan and Wiccan for the use of athames, the general description is correct.
Athames are often called ritual knives, although they are not used like typical knives for physically cutting things. And while they are sometimes used interchangeably with wands for casting circles and demarking sacred spaces, that’s really where the parallel ends.
Wands are used to move and direct energies. Athames petition and invoke energies and can banish them, too. We can think of the double-edged blade of an athame as a form of protection, much like a sword protects that who wields it. An athame can be used during spellwork and rituals to block negative energies while positive powers are allowed to flow.
WHAT DOES AN ATHAME LOOK LIKE?
Put plainly, athames look like knives. The definition above claims the handles are usually black. The belief behind black handles stems from the notion that the color black has the ability to suck in negativity and discharge it. While that may be true, modern day athames vary, including what they are made of, how they’re designed, color schemes, engravings, and more.
They commonly have a dull, double-edged blade. Some practitioners subscribe to the idea that the double-edged blade equates to actions and words having the ability to cut both ways. It is also important to note that athames are not required to have double blades, but are sought after by practitioners who believe in this idea.
HOW TO CHOOSE AN ATHAME FOR YOUR PRACTICE
Like everything else in magick and witchcraft, tools are very intimate to the practitioner. What works for one witch might not work for another. As such, choosing an athame is a very personal matter. It is important to note that if you follow a tradition that mandates a specific kind of athame, it’s best to stick to it. However, if you are a solitary practitioner or follow a path without requirements, then it is best to listen to your intuition.
Shopping in person is preferred as it allows you to hold different ones to feel their weight, notice length, and to see how they feel when you move your hand around. If you are unable to shop in person for an athame, seek out sites with reputable reviews, lots of pictures, and a detailed description with measurements and dimensions.
HOW TO CLEANSE YOUR ATHAME
The term ‘cleanse’ refers both to the physical care as well as the energetic cleansing of your athame. Depending on what your ritual knife is made of will determine the best way to physically clean it. A few things to consider is its ability to withstand water, soap, and salt as you don’t want the blade to corrode or the handle to become damaged.
It is imperative to energetically cleanse your athame as well. Before it became yours, it has seen countless hands and most likely absorbed massive amounts of unwanted energies. By cleansing the athame, you zero out all energies and make space for your specific intentions.
CHARGING YOUR ATHAME
Charging is when a practitioner fills an object with a specific kind of energy. Also known as programming or enchanting, you can charge both spaces and objects with your chosen intention. In this case, it’s like filling your athame with purpose.
How you charge your athame is up to you. Depending on the makeup of your tool, you can use things like moonlight, sunlight, crystals, visualization, vocal charging, fire (be cautious!) or meditation to charge your athame. The important thing is to focus your intent and concentrate it into your tool. Pay attention to your intuition as it will alert you when charging is complete.
A NOTE ON CHARGING
Over time, objects that we imbue with specific intentions eventually lose energy. But how do you know WHEN to charge after the initial act?
- Any time you cleanse an object or tool it needs to be charged
- When energies feel “off”
- When you wish to reprogram an object or space with a different energy/intent/purpose
- When a tool begins to feel stagnant or stale or stops responding to your energy
HOW TO STORE YOUR ATHAME
It’s important to honor our tools, especially when we rely on them for ceremony and ritual work. Choosing a spot on your altar or setting your space explicitly in conjunction with your beliefs is a great way to show respect for the tools used to realize your desires.
This can look like a special stand, a sheath or scabbard, a designated pillow, etc. Choose something that aligns with you as a practitioner and feels right for your particular athame.
So there you have it, Witches! Do you use an athame in your practice? What is it made of? Do you have more than one? Let me know in the comments and until next time, Bright Blessings and Happy Casting!