Talking Point: The Athame

Witch's athame with bog oak hilt (picture by NanLT)

The athame, or ritual knife, is one tool used by many witches and Pagans when creating spells and performing rituals. By tradition the athame’s hilt is black and the blade is kept dull and, depending upon the traditions you follow, can represent either the element of air or the element of fire.

Athame can be pronounced AH-thu-may (ah as in father, th as in thing), or A-thu-may (a as is fast). I generally pronounce it Nife.

In rituals that I lead, the athame represents the element of Air. I use it for forming the ritual circle, and taking down the circle afterwards.

Some use the athame as well for creating doorways in the ritual circle, a place where people can enter and leave the circle without breaking the integrity of the circle.

I don’t do this because I create the circle as a flexible thing. When someone moves away from the ritual circle, it extends with them. Okay, I’ve not tested this flexibility to extremes, but certainly someone can move the length of a room away and back again and still feel the energetic heat generated within the circle.

This particular ritual knife, pictured here, is the one I use in shamanic healing work when doing cord cutting. Another reason for keeping its blade honed.

I am also of the opinion that a dull knife is a dangerous knife. My athame has a sharpened edge. It is a constant reminder for me that this is a tool, and not a toy. Mind you I don’t keep the athame as sharp as I do the knives I use in the kitchen. This is because I use those for cutting more often. Any of those knives though could in a pinch substitute for the ritual knife I keep on the altar.

If I didn’t have access to any knives at all, I could use my pointed finger. Or, paraphrase the words of my favourite witch, Mistress Weatherwax, I could use an apple corer.

This is because the athame is a tool. Nice to have, but not necessary. That’s right, I can do ritual and cast spells without an athame. And so can you.

Do you use an athame for ritual or spell work? Disagree with me? Use it differently? Share your views in the comments.


(Play nice, and I reserve the right to delete any comment I think is being rude or judgemental)


Thursday Talking Point, week 3

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2 thoughts on “Talking Point: The Athame

  1. It’s been interesting for me because in Blue Star (as you probably know), one is not supposed to have an athame until they are initiated. But I’ve had my athame since I was twelve and it called to me at a little festival in the highlands of Scotland. Our coven is also very small right now, and the SO is the only initiated one in the bunch of us, so when our neophyte does ritual, she uses mine (which I’ve given her permission to do). But, I had never worked with people who hadn’t worked with an athame as a tool, and it really struck me how they don’t understand how much that athame is an exstension of me, or, my SO’s is an extension of him. I’ve been using it for nearly fifteen years now and it is an extremely personal tool. I had to sit her down and have a long discussion about what my personal athame means to me and how she needed to treat it. When I was taught about an athame, I was told that you never pick up an athame that belongs to someone else without permission, if only as a issue of respect, no matter how else you use it for your particular ritual.

    (My best friend uses the straight razor that her grandmother used in her sewing, I’ve always been completely jealous of that amazing extension of her family’s tools through the generations!)

  2. Pingback: Thursday’s Talking Point – The Element of Air | Writings of a Pagan Witch

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