The word athame is believed to be a fairly recent addition to the Witches vocabulary having first appeared in the novel by Gerald Gardner titled. High Magic’s Aid in 1949.
Someone who knows a thing or two about this type of ceremonial tool is Jason Mankey. As a practising Wiccan of over twenty years he has worked extensively with this magickal implement.
In his book The Witch’s Athane – the third in a series of books about tools for Witches and Pagans ceremonial use by Llewellyn books, he explains that Gardener, often recognized as the father of the modern Witchcraft movement, probably appropriated the word athame from classical sources such as The Key of Solomon or the 1927 book The Mysteries and Secrets of Magic.
Knives in Ritual and Religion
The knife has been specifically associated with spiritual and religious practice as far back as twelve to fifteen years thousand years BC. In fact, archeology has shown that flint knives were extensively used way back in the period of Pre-dynistic Egypt.
In his book Mankey reveals the key element to the athame – one that singles it out as being distinctly different from working knives, which us that they are traditionally double-edged. Given that the athame is used in a practical form to manipulate the energy of air it follows that a blade that is double-edged offers no resistance to the flow of energy along one of its edges.
Most athames are naturally thought of as being made from metal but as Mankey points out whilst this is its traditional form athames are sometimes used that have been made from wood, bone or rarer minerals such as jade, obsidian hematite, quartz crystal or marble.
Other ancient forms of ritual knives that have been found dating back to fifteen thousand years ago are made from bone and antler.
In contract, those Wiches today who seek to conceal their occult interests a variety of other forms of athames have been employed; such as Swiss Army knives, letter openers and plastic eating knoves.
Personalizing Your Athame
Mankey is, like so many in the Wiccan movement, of the belief that all magickal impliments are best being personalized through the process of self-construcrion. This results in a unique bond between the user and his or her magickal tool.
The athame is judged no differently and in The Witches Athame Mankey offers specific advice to enable the reader to learn how to create their own athame from basic materials.
Here he advises the reader on how to obtain the core parts to the athame; including its blade, handle and hilt. He also explains how the knife can be decorated using specific symbols and glyphs -even going so far in offering advice on inscibing it with a rune or magical motto.
Preparing for Ritual
With the athame constructed the next part of the process revolves around its cleansing and consecration for ritual use. Mankey explains why it is important to choose the deity that you wish to dedicate your new tool to as well as determine the right time, according to the phase of the Moon, in which to carry it out. In this he offers a number if rites that can be followed in charging up the handcrafted instrument.
In the second part of his book Mankey concentrates upon the practical uses that the athame can be put to. This includes uses as diverse as using it in the kitchen to consecrate the preparation and cooking of food as well as for cleansing the home of negative energies – both inside and out.
Further practical exercises follow with an explanation on using the athame in divination, ritual and spellwork: proving that of all the magical implements available to the modern Witch the athame is perhaps the most interesting as well as the most versatile.
Our Review of ‘The Witch’s Athame’ by Jason Mankey
As someone who recently was privileged to be able to examine and handle a number of Gerald Gardner’s own hand-crafted athames I can categorically endorse the belief that when he seeded the term and the concept into modern Witchcraft he presented the world of occultism with a powerful and impressive instrument – if it is constructed properly.
The Witches Wand is, I feel, a book that absolutely makes the process simple and fun to do. Furthermore the author’s many years of practised work with the instrument has resulted in a handbook on practical occultism that few Witches and magickians should be without.
Complete with delightful illustrations, personal contributions to the subject from fellow Wiccans, this is a guide that stretches the effects of athame work into new areas without losing sight of the tool’s essential basic qualities and traditional associations.
The Witch’s Athame is one of the best and mist efficacious publications on Pagan practice. It is a joy to read from first page through to last.