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The Athame

by Wyn Summerhawk L.C.W. PhD. & Talisman Winterhawk L.C.W. U.L.C. PhD.

The Athame is the Black Handled Knife use to cut the necessary things for the circle such as the pentagrams in the quarters and the circle. It should be mentioned herein that the Athame need not be a black handled knife. It is the opinion of the authors that it suit the person who uses it. It is also used to invoke and banish things that are unwanted or needed in the circle. It is considered to be an extension of the users "self". This includes will, spirit, thought, emotion and manifestation as well. It should be mentioned here that the Athame is never used for cutting things like meat, thread, plants or anything else considered a solid object on this plane. (Use of this blade for self defense will make it null and void for any magickal use again.)

The written history of the Athame as a magickal tool comes to us from the Lansdowne Manuscript dated 1202 and the Sloane Manuscript dated 1307. Before we go further it must be stated that the manuscripts above were great magickal works and this information was evidently known and practiced well before these manuscripts were written. These are considered to be the only survivors of the book and Witch burnings of the inquisitions. The material contained in these manuscripts is Quabalistic in nature. In the book The Key Of Solomon, L.W.deLaurence's 1914 translation of the manuscripts states that the Black Handled Knife,"...is for making the Circle wherewith to strike terror and fear into the Spirits. It should be made on the day of Mercury, the Hour of Saturn, tempered "thrice" by fire and dipped into the blood of a black cat and juice of hemlock." Not something I want to do with my Athame today.

In Israel Regardie's book, "The Golden Dawn", 1984 the method of "making" the Air Dagger is a very long ceremonial ritual. The Air Dagger is considered to be the equivalent of the Wiccan Athame. This is where so many get confused as to what direction the Athame should correspond to. The Athame my be used as an Air Dagger but it is NOT an Air Dagger. Considering the age of the manuscripts that deLaurence translated and the initial printing of "The Golden Dawn" in 1937 there was a change of attitude as to the Athame, i.e., no more blood used in consecration. Further history shows a Greek vases with women commanding Spirits with a short bladed knife. "The Clavicle Of Solomon" published 1572, mentions the knife as a "Arthana" which Athame may be a subverted form of the word. For more information on the history of the Athame I would suggest reading The A.B.C.'s of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente.

The Athame is nothing like it used to be . It is the considered opinion that the Athame is of the Center and of the other four quarters as well, not just the East. It is the controlling factor and extension of Self in magick that leads us to that conclusion. We consider the Athame to be a tool of center, of self, of evocation and banishing. The Athame is the tool wielded of one's own will, thoughts, emotions, and intuition, over all of the Elements and over ALL. We use it to command, even, the spirits that we evoke, invoke, and banish. The moment one strikes a relationship with the blade is the beginning of it's consecration. The purpose of consecration is to embedd in one's own mind and in the very metal of the blade, the focus of it's purpose. Cleansing a clearing is the symbolic refinement of the blade. Binding makes the blade truly one's own, and extension of self in the center of the Universe. Charging is the energy from within the self projected through the blade and outward in the direction of ones intent.

The consecration of the Athame...

Required for the ritual:
  • The intended blade wrapped in a black cloth (symbolically still unmined metal)
  • Juice of pimpernell (in lieu of sacrifice) in a cup of water
  • A basin of water large enough to wash the blade with salt
  • Solomon's Seal incense
  • A feather
  • A needle and candle to sterilize, to take a drop of own blood (optional)
  • Container of earth large enough to bury the blade
  • Brazier, Hibachi, or a torch and fuel to temper the blade (preferably a flame)
  • Lodestone or magnet

Beginning in the center of the consecrated alter in the center of a sacred space (In the center of the Universe) three days before the new Moon;

1. Take the intended blade out of the black cloth as if mining the metal. Wash the blade as if washing new metal from the Earth (optional brushing as well). Thank the Earth for the metal.

2. Carry the blade to the East and smudge with smoke of incense and the feather. Meditate upon the blade's purpose-extension of self with fine tuned intellectual process behind it's use, consciously driven. Anoint the blade with oils from the skin rubbing it from haft to point, visualizing it being formed into the shape it should be in idea or design.

3. Carry the blade to the South. Heat in the brazier and temper in the cup with juice of pimpernell three times. Meditating on the forging of the metal as per the design, thinking it made as "mine" (A drop of blood from one's own finger intensifies this concept at this time) then chant:

Blade of steel I conjure thee,

To ban all things as named by me,
And as my words, SO MOTE IT BE.
Say it until it sticks.

4. Carry the blade to the West. Bathe the blade lovingly in the basin of water and anoint with own bodily fluids such as a tear, or saliva. Meditate upon the emotional bond one chooses to build with the blade.

5. Carry to the North. Rub the blade gently from the point to haft with the magnet or lodestone chanting:

Blade of steel I conjure thee,

To attract all things as named by me,
And as my words, SO MOTE IT BE.
Say it until it sticks.

Ceremoniously bury the blade in the earth filled basin to rest as dead to be reborn seven days later. Speaking over the new grave something like (it is suggested it be one's own poem):

Thee of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth

Made as mine,
My will through thee,
Mastering all Elements,
My Servant

6. Seven days later recast the circle around the undisturbed blade in it's basin of earth. This would be a good time to have a name ready for the 'newborn' Athame.

7. Carry the Athame to each quarter. Introduce it to the Guardians by the name that has been chosen.

8. The name of the blade, one's own name, and/or words of power in secret symbols of one's own choice can now be embedded, painted, or engraved upon blade and handle as one chooses.

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