Other Religions Paganism and Wicca Make an Athame Share Flipboard Email Print The athame is used for directing energy in rituals. Westend61 / Getty Images Paganism and Wicca Basics Rituals and Ceremonies Sabbats and Holidays Wicca Gods Herbalism Wicca Traditions Wicca Resources for Parents By Patti Wigington Paganism Expert B.A., History, Ohio University Patti Wigington is a pagan author, educator, and licensed clergy. She is the author of Daily Spellbook for the Good Witch, Wicca Practical Magic and The Daily Spell Journal. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Patti Wigington Updated July 05, 2019 The athame is used in many Wiccan and Pagan rituals as a tool for directing energy. It is often used in the process of casting a circle, and can be used in place of a wand. Typically, the athame is a double-edged dagger, and can be purchased or hand-made. The athame is not used for actual, physical cutting, but for symbolic cutting only. Did You Know? You can make an athame if you have access to a forge and some steel, but there are other methods as well.Your athame can be purchased and customized to meet your needs, if you're not comfortable forging your own.Use your athame for ceremonial cutting and directing energy, but not for physical cutting. History of the Athame in Wiccan Practice Jason Mankey, over at Patheos, says that the word athame is first mentioned in Witchcraft Today, published by Gerald Gardner in 1954. In the work, Gardner refers to the athame as a witches' knife, but doesn't give much information about how it's constructed, or the materials used in its creation. Gardner also points out that many magical tools come to people second-hand, because older tools gain power and energy. Mankey says, By the early 1980’s information about the athame was far more detailed. In 1979’s The Spiral Dance Starhawk links the athame to the element of Air... Most Traditional Witches have pretty solid expectations of just how an athame should look. In those types of circle the athame is usually a double sided blade with a black wooden handle. In some traditions of practice, there are guidelines as to the length of the blade, the material of the hilt, and so on. Although there's no standard blade length that's universally used, in general, it's a good idea to keep it shorter, if you'll be practicing in a tight circle. No one wants to ruin a ritual by stabbing their covenmates. Making Your Own Many Pagans today opt to make their own athames. Depending on how skilled you are with metalworking, this can be either a simple project or a complex one. There are a number of websites that offer instructions on how to make an athame, and they tend to vary in skill level. In his Complete Book of Witchcraft, author Raymond Buckland suggests the following method. He recommends getting a piece of untempered steel—available at many hardware stores—and cutting it to the shape of the desired blade. Another option is to purchase a steel file that is a few inches longer than the blade you want, and cutting it down to the preferred shape with a hacksaw. Heating the steel in a fire or brazier will soften it so that it is workable. For people who aren't sure about working with untempered steel, another option is to purchase a pre-made blade. These can be found at just about any weapons or knife vendor's website or store. Many people have bypassed this part of the process by finding an existing knife and knocking the handle off the tang, and then replacing it with a new handle. Use whichever method you choose for the blade, based on your skill level and the requirements of your tradition (in some Pagan groups, members are expected to make their athames entirely by hand). One trend that we've seen rising in popularity is the method of using an old railroad spike to create an athame. The result tends to be a bit more primitive and martial than the commercially produced athames you can buy at any Pagan shop, but it's beautiful in its simplicity. Also, there's the added bonus of making something old into something new. If you'd like to give this a shot, there's a great tutorial from Smithy101 at Instructables. When it comes to the handle, again, this is a matter of personal preference and the mandates of your tradition. In many traditional Wiccan covens, the athame must have a black handle. The easiest way to make a handle is from wood. Buckland recommends tracing the tang of the blade on two matching pieces of wood, and then chiseling out the space. The tang can then be placed between the two pieces, which are glued together to create the handle or hilt. After the glue has dried, sand or carve the wood into the shape you desire for the handle. To finish the handle, you can paint, carve or stain it. Some people choose to wrap the handle in leather, which gives it a nice rustic look. If you're artistic, paint designs or your name on it. Symbols or runes can be added with paint or a woodburning tool. Once you've finished your athame, it's a good idea to consecrate it like you would any magical tool before use. Athame Substitutes If you're not inclined to make your own athame—for whatever reason—and you haven't found one that you like, it's okay to use something else as a substitute. Many people do! It's perfectly acceptable to use a kitchen knife, letter opener, or even a clay modeling tool. However, if you're a purist, you'll want to make sure that it does have an edge on both sides of the blade. Also, whatever you opt to work with, use it only for magical purposes—don't put that kitchen knife back into the utensil drawer after you've finished with your spellwork or ritual! Sources Gruben, Michelle. “Let's Talk Athames! Choosing a Ritual Knife.” Grove and Grotto, www.groveandgrotto.com/blogs/articles/172179335-lets-talk-athames-choosing-a-ritual-knife.Hutton, Ronald. Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford Univ. Press, 2019.Mankey, Jason. “The Witch's Athame.” Llewellyn Worldwide, Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738746784.