The Athame

When one thinks of religious ceremony, vestments, incense, chalices and other trappings come to mind.  Generally these things are not required for religious observance, but their presence contributes to an atmosphere of ritual, which is important to focus of mind, and generally has strong symbolic meaning.

The athame, a double-edged blade, is a tool for directing and raising energies.  It is used by most Wiccans for ceremonial and ritual practice.  The athame was introduced by Gerald B. Garner in the 1950’s.  It was Gardner who is largely responsible for creating modern Neo-pagan witchcraft and the athame is one of his most distinctive contributions to modern magical practice.
The blade of the athame is usually dulled, and double-edged.  Some say that the handle of the athame must be black, and though there may be some small advantage to this, if a Wiccan practitioner doesn’t like a blade with a black handle, it is believed that that slight advantage is lost.  Since black does absorb power, some of the energy directed with the blade is absorbed into the handle.  However, this amount is so small as to be lost unless there is a strong connection to the athame being used.  So instead of choosing an athame because of the color of the handle, the choice should be based upon personal preference.  The blade itself as well as the handle can be made of any material desired.
The athame is never used for cutting things like meat, thread, plants or anything else considered a solid object on this plane.  It is normally used to cast the circle at the beginning of rituals, thus establishing the magical space within which rituals are performed.   It is used to invoke things that are wanted, and banish things that are unwanted or un-needed in the circle.  It is considered to be an extension of the user’s “self”.  This includes will, spirit, thought, emotion and manifestation as well.
It is believed that use of this blade for self defense will make it null and void for any magical use again.  As a masculine principle, it is often used in combination with the chalice, as feminine principle, evoking the act of procreation.  This is a symbol of universal creativity – the Great Rite in Wiccan rituals.
In Wicca, the Great Rite is a form of sex magic that includes either ritual sexual intercourse or else a ritual symbolic representation of sexual intercourse. Most often it is performed by the High Priest and High Priestess, but other participants can be elected to perform the Rite.
In the symbolic version, the High Priest plunges the athame (the male symbol) into a cup or chalice (the female symbol) which is filled with wine and is held by the High Priestess.  The Great Rite symbolizes creation in the union of the Maiden Goddess with the Lover God, and thus is also known as a fertility rite.
There are rituals of consecration for a newly acquired athame, be it new, or acquired from another person.  When purchasing a knife for this purpose, it is considered important never to haggle over the price.
The moment one strikes a relationship with the blade is the beginning of its consecration.  The concept of consecration is to embed the focus of the tool’s purpose in one’s own mind and in the very metal of the blade.  Cleansing and clearing is the symbolic refinement of the blade.  Binding makes the blade one’s own and an extension of self.  Charging is the energy from within the self, projected through the blade and outward in the direction of one’s intent.
There are a number of steps in the consecration of one’s athame.

It should be wrapped in a black cloth that symbolizes a still un-mined metal.  Three days before the New Moon, in the center of a consecrated alter in the center of a sacred space,

Take the intended blade out of the black cloth, as if mining the metal.  Wash the blade as if washing the new metal from the Earth and thank the Earth for the metal.

Carry the blade to the East and smudge with the smoke of incense and a feather.  Meditate upon the blade’s purpose – an extension of the self with fine tuned intellectual, consciously driven process behind its use.  Anoint the blade with oils from the skin, rubbing it from haft to point.

Carry the blade to the South.  Heat the blade briefly in a flame and temper in a cup with juice of pimpernel (an herb of the primrose family) three times.   Meditate on the forging of the metal thinking it “made as mine” then chant:

Blade of steel I conjure thee,
To ban all things as named by me,
And as my words, So Mote It Be!

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

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

Blade of steel I conjure thee,
To ban all things as named by me,
And as my words, So Mote It Be!

Ceremoniously bury the blade in an earth filled basin or in the ground outside to rest as dead to be reborn seven days later.  (Protect a metal knife in waterproof material if setting it outside).  Speak over the new grave:

Thee of Air, Fire, Water and Earth
Made as mine,
My will through thee,
Mastering all Elements,
My Servant be.

Seven days later, recast the circle around the undisturbed blade in its basin or in the earth.  Carry the athame to each quarter and introduce it to the Universe by the name you have chosen for the “newborn” athame.

The consecration ceremony completed, 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, etched or engraved upon the blade and handle as one chooses.  The athame is now ready to be used in the magical, mystical endeavors for which it was intended and since the athame is for “opening” and “closing,”

Blade of steel I ask of thee
To close this piece conceived by me
And as my words
So Mote It Be.

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