Before the Christian era in what is now the United Kingdom, there existed pagan beliefs based upon nature and the cosmos. Since the beginning of the 20th century there has been something of a revival in the old beliefs, much of which has out of necessity been reinvented or rediscovered.
As people have become more aware of environmental issues and the interconnection of all life on Earth, the nature based beliefs of our forebears have proven to be both attractive and spiritually uplifting. One of these new belief systems steeped in the lore of the ancient past is Wicca.
Wicca has many rituals and ceremonies and many items that aid the practice of the Craft. One of the most important of these essential items is called an Athame.
Athame is a knife used in pagan ritual, which in most traditions is never
used for any kind of cutting purpose. It is a powerful channeling medium
imbued with elemental energy and used to open a protective circle and to
draw the pentagram. It is an absolutely fundamental piece of kit for the
is also a very personal possession and is never loaned to another. It
channels the owner’s essence during ritual and ceremony and as such, will not
function in a stranger’s hand. It may even be damaged by that unfamiliar
touch, once it has been through the process of
‘elementing’ and bonding to a particular individual.
The Athame is usually a knife, dagger or dirk with a steel blade and will always have a black handle. As with all material possessions there is a wide spectrum of price and quality, ranging from possibly £20 to well over £150. Around £50 will buy something that looks and feels good, cheap knives with plastic handles are tacky and do not channel energy well.
Some people have them made to order and customized to
their specification. They can also have a copper or bronze blade but that
is relatively rare. Some traditions believe that an Athame must contain
no metal and the blade will be manufactured from alternative natural
products such as bone, wood, flint or slate.
recognize that the Athame is a knife and goes back to the
ancient past of our ancestors, who first learned to extract the raw
materials of metal from the earth and fashion them into strong tools and
weapons. The first knives were not only for cutting and fashioning during
times of peace, but were also a defensive tool in time of war that could
inflict mortal harm upon another. All things upon the earth exist in light
and dark, and the dark side of the Athame is that it was once used by our
ancient kin in the practice of appeasing the gods by human sacrifice. It
channeled the life force of the sacrifice to the gods in order to ensure
their favour and blessing upon the people.
original makers of metal implements, tools, weapons and jewellery were
seen by our ancestors almost as magicians, they carried a distinctive aura
of power and mystery about them. They were muscle-bound masters of the element of
fire, and from the blacksmiths flames a knife was born from the earth. It
was pure and unsullied and only the hand of man would know if it would be
used for good or evil. This is a universal sense of awe that touched the
human psyche, from the tribes of Europe to the tribes of Africa. The
Buganda people of Uganda still hold a special ceremony surrounding the art
of metalworking and the blacksmiths who forge the finished products.
A knife should always be respected as a potentially lethal weapon, and treated accordingly. It should also be cherished for the long echo of history that is embedded within its cold blade. In the modern world the utility of the knife has all too often been perverted and used for destructive ends, by those with a penchant for violent criminality. It is I believe, a direct result of a loss of spirituality, direction, connection, morality and self belief in the modern world.
Below is a ritual used by one path of Wiccans in respect of the consecration of an Athame. The process turns a knife into a ritual tool that is unique and individual to its owner.
first acquired the Athame is simply a knife like any other. It is yet to
awaken and become something more than a knife. It has to be imprinted with the forces of nature and empowered by
the process of ‘elementing’. The method described below is known to me
but may not be applicable to other traditions or paths. Paganism and
indeed any religion, is a frequently eclectic mix of traditions, rituals
and ceremonies, but each path leads to the same ultimate destination and
to the same enigmatic mystery beyond the physical death of the body.
new Athame is stored in a tranquil darkness for at least a week, until the time of a full moon
that will appear in a sky not obscured by cloud. At the sunrise of that
day, the knife is placed on a special wooden stand outside so that it may
bathe in the rays of the sun. This is to allow the cold metal of the knife
to be warmed through by the life-giving rays of the sun that will imbue it
stellar energy. We are all the stuff of stars and were born of the cosmos
by the unseen hand that exists beyond death.
As day becomes night, it will then cool and bathe in the cold reflected light of the full moon. This allows it to absorb the radiant energy of the moon that has such an effect upon the Earth in terms of tides, fertility and the very core of the human mind itself. It is no coincidence that the moon plays such an important role in myth and legend and can energize ones very soul at the deepest level.
The most energy rich time to element an Athame is on the occasion of a blue moon. These happen rarely hence the common expression, 'once in a blue moon', which means something that seldom comes to pass. In 2012 the blue moon is on 31st August, there will not be another one until July 2015.
Athame has already been exposed to fire and water in the process of its
birth, however, passing it through the flames of a Samhain bonfire and
dipping it into the waters of a sacred pool, spring, stream or river will
enhance its elemental power. Passing the knife through the bonfire on the
31st October, when the realms of the living and the dead are
barely separated, imbues it with the ability to become a portal between
the two worlds and exist in each simultaneously. Dipping the knife in
sacred water sources bonds the knife more firmly to our physical being. We
all consist mostly water, and existed as water beings when life first sprang
forth on Earth and began to colonize the world we know today.
Born from the earth, the energy of the Athame will be made all the stronger if it is pushed into the earth on a ley line, even better if that ley line intersects with another. Ley lines are channels for the energy of the Earth that run arrow straight through ancient sites across the country.
There is controversy about the validity of ley lines and even of their
actual existence. However, they have been likened by some to the Chinese
concept of Feng Shui which has been around for an awfully long time.
Earthing the Athame will certainly not do it any harm, so long as it is
properly cleansed afterwards.
Earthing the Athame will certainly not do it any harm, so long as it is properly cleansed afterwards.
these enhancement processes should be performed whilst expressing an
applicable incantation, to smooth the absorption of the various forces of
nature. A fully elemented Athame will be a potent connection to the Earth
and the disembodied ethereal realms that exist beyond our knowledge and
from the absolutely vital initial elementing by exposing the Athame to
sunlight and moonlight, the other empowering enhancements and incantations
can be undertaken when time and circumstance allow. Each added element
will enhance the power and effectiveness of the Athame and bind you closer
©Copyright - James of Glencarr