The athame is a very important tool in the spell casting and ritual performing of witchcraft, yet it is one of the most historically misunderstood items. Horror stories and tales of evil have been told for centuries, and the athame has been thought by many to be the tool used to sacrifice something or, in the most gruesome of stories, someone by a cult of crazed follower of some dark version of witchcraft. The reality is that the athame may be used to cut herbs or string, maybe even to carve symbols in candles, but never to spill blood or take a life.
The blade is a double-edged dagger that is used during ritual to command or direct and manipulate power that is raised within the circle. It traditionally has a black handle for the purpose of absorbing negative energy that may present itself during spell work or ritual.
The blade is double - edged to remind the user of the two sides of everything. One edge is meant to represent Life and positive, the other Death and negative, to remind all that we are the master of our own destiny. The user chooses if to practice positively or negatively. Remember balance is important in witchcraft, and the balance of positive and negative is one of the most important.
There are those traditions that say the athame should have only one edge, not be double – edged. Choosing a one edged or double -edged athame is a decision that must be made by the witch.
The blade is usually about 6 to 8 inches in length. This is the length of most dagger blades, so looking for this size is fairly easy. The length really does not matter, but remember the knife needs to able to be used with ease in ritual, the bigger the knife the harder it is to use in a confined space.
The main purpose of the athame is to provide protection for the witch and gain the support of the directions, elements, and the deities, so the ritual will go well. The athame has a few secondary jobs as well:
1. The athame attracts energy to the circle The athame a powerful tool that is able to “put on a beacon” and suck energy to it. This energy then can be harnessed by the witch and used in the casting of the spell or in completion of the ritual.
2. Invokes deities during ritual The athame draws the deities to the circle that is being cast. The invitation by the witch as the circle is being cast is to get the attention of the deities, and the athame is a place for them to place power and guide the ritual.
3. Banishes negative energies and other entities from the circle while it is being used The athame deals with those things that may damage or interfere with the outcome of the ritual or spell.
4. Sometimes used to cast circles instead of the wand This practice is mostly done when the ritual or spell is one of protection or banishment, two of the strengths of the athame.
The athame is often doing two jobs at once. It calls those things that are positive to the circle, while it is protecting and banishing what is negative. It is working with complete opposites at the same time. That is important to remember and think about when using the athame and calling on it for its powers and abilities. The better a witch understands its capabilities the more effective and positive use they will get out of the athame and their other tools.
The athame is used during ritual to: Cast the circle Open the circle if needed Invoke the god and goddess Symbolize male energies Direct magickal energy to a specific place or in a specific direction
The athame has associations with the following among the many Trads of witchcraft:
Gender: Male, phallic, used to represent the God
If planning to use the athame in public ceremonies make sure the local city, county, and state laws allow for that to occur. Some laws forbid any knife to be seen or used in public, no matter what capacity it is being used in. Be informed and educated about law, the court system and police expect people to know the law and will not make exceptions for religious freedoms unless permits and permissions have been approved.
There are many possible ways to pronounce the word athame. Here are the prominent three pronunciations I have come across time and time again in my exploration of the athame in witchcraft:
a’ - tha – may
ATH – um – may