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Athame: An Ultimate Guide to Your First Ceremonial Blade

athame
athame guide

Having an athame is an essential part of any Wiccan toolset. They are used on altars, in fire spells, and many other rituals.

But there are so many variations. Which should you get and why?

This article will give you some guidance.

Click any of the images if you would like to get that particular ceremonial blade.

What Does Athame Mean?

An athame is often used in modern times to refer to any ceremonial/ritual dagger or knife.

Many people take a harder line on the definition and require that the blade be double-edged and the handle black.

These properties certainly reflect the symbolic uses of the athame, but I’ll take the looser view following the central philosophy of this site:

It’s almost always better to use a tool that speaks to you than trying to blindly follow tradition.

If strictly following tradition feels right to you, do it!

If you find a single-edged, red-handled dagger that sings with the right energy, get that one!

People tend to get too caught up in blindly following. This is a personal journey, and so is your athame.

I’m personally fond of Celtic and Druidic symbolism, and so I decided to forego the black handle for this one:

celtic athame

Pronunciation and Origin

It always comes up.

How do you actually pronounce athame?

This isn’t an easy question to answer. As with many borrowed words from other languages, there are more and less “original” pronunciations, and regional differences can affect which one is common.

Most dictionaries give the “international phonetic alphabet” pronunciation as:

  • “a” as in “about”
  • th” as in “thigh”
  • “o” as in “body”
  • “m” as in “my”

Some people add an extra syllable of “eh” at the end.

The origin of the tool goes back to arthame mentioned in the Middle Age grimoire the Key of Solomon.

Arthame in that manuscript came from the Latin artavus, which means “quill knife,” a knife for sharpening writing quills.

The modern form of the word has some gaps in its history. Some think it came from the Arabic al-dhame, for “arrow” or similarly, al-dhammé, for “bloodletter.”

This is part of what led to different interpretations and pronunciations.

It is even possible that Gerald Gardner invented the term in the ’50s. Several books on the revival of Wicca in modern days try to track these things down, but they often conflict due to the sparse amount of primary source material.

It would be impossible to go into these controversial topics in-depth here. If you want more information on this, the athame Wikipedia article is a great starting place, and I’d be foolish to try to recreate it here.

Physical Properties

There are a lot of things to consider when getting an athame. This section will go through the many options to help you decide what is right for you.

Think of the following sections as window shopping. Try to think about what fits your particular path.

What Should it Be Made Of?

As I pointed out above, the most traditional athames are double-edged blades made of iron and a black handle made of wood.

But these options are quite limiting as athames are made from practically everything imaginable.

You might want to consider what the primary uses will be. You could even consider having multiple ones to serve different purposes.

If you will use it mostly to draw a circle of protection, consider symbols of protection. This could mean a white handle and obsidian blade.

If you will use it mostly for channeling fire energy, you could use a jasper handle with a steel blade.

The possibilities are endless. When you think about the uses, just search out materials that are naturally associated with those things.

How Big Should it Be?

Some people put a lot of emphasis on the feel of the athame. They think you should pick it up and test whether it fits your hand and feels good.

This is something you can do if you feel strongly about it, but I personally don’t think it’s all that important. Since you aren’t using an athame for cutting, things like “slipping” and “grip” don’t matter very much.

You’ll mostly be holding it for a few moments and nothing more. Sometimes it is merely symbolic on your altar.

Now, the size and shape do say a lot symbolically, so I think that is an important consideration.

Long, thin athames represent something closer to a wand. This would be a good choice for someone looking to use it in air, divination, and protection spells.

Short, wide athames represent power and strength. I’d recommend something on this end of the spectrum if you’d like to use it in fire, love, or sex spells.

Again, this is all personal preference, and you can do the exact opposite with success.

Go with whatever athame speaks to you.

Blade Types

There are a ton of different types of blades to consider.

The classic choice is to go with a straight, double-edged blade of iron or steel.

But remember, an athame should pretty much never be used for cutting. This means the blade itself doesn’t have to be made from a material that is good is at cutting.

Most people do stick with metals, but you can get experimental depending on your purpose and find gem blades.

You could go with a curved blade if the symbolism of the moon is important for your style of magick (the one below is technically a boline).

boline curved athame

Another variant is to have symbols or runes inscribed directly onto the blade or handle. These will be more difficult to find pre-made. You’ll either have to do this yourself or order it specifically.

inscribed athame

How to Consecrate an Athame

When you get your athame, it isn’t ready to go out of the box. You’ll want to consecrate it before your first use in a ritual or spell.

You don’t know where it has been or what types of energies have latched onto it. Consecration is the process of purifying a magical tool.

As with all things, this is up to you. It’s possible you’ll find your athame at a respective shop, and it has accumulated a lot of powerful and positive energy from the items and people around it.

So, maybe you don’t want to disturb this energy. Use your best judgment. I personally consecrate all my tools for safety.

The Consecration

Place the athame on your altar, and make sure you have one symbol of each element present in the correct direction (salt at the top for North, a candle at the bottom for fire, etc).

You can start by purifying the space with a scent, incense, or sage smudge stick.

Now take a deep breath and visualize the purifying energy. Your visualization should be specific and clear. Use whatever you think of as a strong purifying symbol.

I imagine the athame being wrapped in a glowing white cloth. You could even physically do this.

Chant

Now let that energy out and lift the knife from the altar. Say:

Northern Earth
I draw your power
Purify and consecrate
Within this hour

Eastern Air
I draw upon the breeze
Purify and consecrate
This tool with ease

Southern Fire
I draw upon your force
Purify and consecrate
In a matter of course


Western Water
I draw upon the rapids
Purify and consecrate
May the elements be added

Each element is called upon
To sanctify this blade
The blessed powers beyond
Infuse the tool to be made

The consecration is done. Thank the elements for donating their energy. You are ready to use it for a ritual now!

How to Use

It’s important to note that the athame is often associated with the element of fire (see my post on fire spells here).

The main use is ritualistic in nature. It can be used in fire elemental spells as a channeling tool or it can serve a more ceremonial/ritual purpose, such as drawing a circle of protection or ringing a bell.

Athames are traditionally not used for cutting things. Most dull the edges and points of their knives so as to not cause unintentional harm during a ritual, spell, or ceremony.

But others firmly believe that sharpness is an important symbolic component. There is probably an equal split, so do whichever you prefer.

I prefer the dulling because goodness knows, I can be quite clumsy sometimes.

Knives used for cutting serve a different purpose and often aren’t considered athames.

Athames are used roughly the same way any tool is used in Wicca, and it will depend on the ritual, incantation, or spell.

Browse this site some more for ideas.

Where Can I Buy Athames?

Athames should be readily available at your local Wiccan, Pagan, Occult, or New Age store.

But honestly, your best bet is to search around the internet. You’ll find all sorts of unique daggers and blades. It’s just not possible for a store to have the selection you can find online.

Amazon certainly has a lot, including the most basic ones for cheap:

standard wiccan athame

Check the price here.

But people have created such magnificent one-of-a-kind ritual knives and put them up on Etsy or even specialty stores like 13moons.

I highly recommend reading some reviews of a seller first, though, if you go the online route.

There are a lot of scams out there on the internet, and just because an athame costs a lot, doesn’t mean it is of high quality.

On the other hand, take reviews with a grain of salt. There are some terrible people out there who want to tank the sales of anyone dealing in Wiccan supplies merely out of hatred.

The worst that happens is you end up with a low-quality athame, but since you aren’t using it for cutting, this isn’t a terrible thing.

I have no affiliation with the site, but I can vouch for Laurie Cabot’s Official Witch Shoppe when it comes to athames.

How to Make One

Let’s now discuss an important and overlooked possibility. Most people think they must buy an athame, but if you really want the most powerful and personal tool, you could make your own.

This is far beyond the scope of this article, but there are tons of great resources out there for doing this if you’re interested.

People have crafted very simple methods to make one out of a butter knife and hot glue:

Other people go to the extreme of full-on metalworking with un-tempered steel.

Yet other people take a middle ground of purchasing a finished blade and then working metal and handle into your liking.

You can choose whatever level of craft and skill works for you.

I’ve never actually made my own, but I’m considering it in the near future. All the tools I’ve made myself end up being my most used and effective ones.

There’s something to the idea that handmade tools take on your personal energy.

Final Remarks

To wrap up this article, I want to remind you to be very careful. Knives and athames can be dangerous, and they can also be illegal.

Check your local laws if you go into a public space, such as a state forest or park, to do the ritual, incantation, or spell.

Many local ordinances do not allow the open carry of knives on public land.