The athame (pronounced a-tha-me) is probably the most important tool of any for a Wiccan or Witch and certainly the most sacred tool in a collection. Traditionally, it’s a black handled, double edged dagger, usually no more than about 12 inches long and often has runes, Craft related or personal symbols engraved or burnt into the wooden handle. The athame is a ritual tool only so while the blade edges can be sharp, the tip should be dulled so no unintentional accidents mar ritual practice. It’s never used to cut anything and instead is used to mark out the spirit circle during the circle casting rite or cut open a doorway to let someone in and out of the sacred circle area. It has a masculine energy and corresponds to either air or fire depending on the Wiccan tradition in which the owner operates.
Gerald Gardner, the father of modern Wicca, was a recognised expert on the Malay Kris or Kerris which is a ritual, double edged blade, said to have magical powers and used by people from Thailand through Indonesia and Malaysia. It’s been suggested that Gardner realised that knives such as the Kris could bring additional strength to magical work and thus he added it as the primary tool for Wiccan practitioners.
While there are loads of athames available for purchase on line and in shops (Oak and Mistletoe usually have them for sale too), you can also make your own or even modify a purchased one to instil within it your own personality and energy. Here’s some instructions for making an athame using a blank knife blade.
What you’ll need
A knife blade blank (available from knife making outlets)
Handle blanks with pommel and guard (available from knife making outlets)
How to do it
Clean the tang (the extension of the knife blade that will slide into the handle) so it is free from oil and dirt. Ensure the handle blank slides securely over the tang. If the hole where the tang slides into is too thin, drill it out a little wider but be careful not to drill it wider than the tang aperture.
Slide the guard over the tang so that it sits against the top edge of the blade. Glue the guard to the blade top with epoxy. Smear some epoxy glue along the tang and thread a little down the tang hole of the handle. Slide the handle onto the tang till it fits snugly against the guard and screw the pommel straight onto the protruding tang tip. Wipe away any excess epoxy glue and leave the knife and handle to settle and the epoxy glue to harden for three days.
Now sand back the handle till it is smooth and carve or burn in any symbols required. Gently sand it back again to remove any rough edges around the carving, make sure the handle is dust and grease free and apply three coats of clear varnish.
Decorate the blade or handle with crystals leather or any other additions as required.
Personalising a Pre-bought Tool
There are a number of ways you can personalise a pre-made knife and turn it into a prize athame. The easiest way is to buy a simply knife that you feel fits the bill and that you feel comfortable with and add things to it to make it more individual. Buying a knife with a wooden handle will give you much more flexibility and wood is more easily modified than a bone or plastic handle. If the blade has only one edge, that’s not a problem either because you can always file another edge onto it.
For instance you can glue small, polished crystals to the blade guard, to the top of the blade or to the handle. Covering the handle with leather or leather strips gives it a much more tailor made look and will make it easier to hold as well.
You can even engrave symbols onto the blade with an engraving tool and whilst this is tricky, the results can be outstanding. Clamp the knife so it will not move during the engraving process. Stick some clear sticky tape along the blade and mark out with a pen the design. The sticky tape will help to stop the engraving tool from slipping but won’t stop the tool from leaving the desired mark. Keep the design simple and try and avoid too many straight lines. A mistake is easier to see on a straight line than a curved one! Using a Dremel or similar engraving tool follow your pen lines. Go slowly and carefully and take breaks to check the design is going according to plan. When you’re finished, removed the sticky tape, clean the blade with nail polisher remover and then polish it.
If you want to do just a little more than decorate an existing knife but don’t want to go all the way of building your own knife, there is a step in the middle you can take by changing the handle. Find a knife you feel comfortable with and remove the handle. Some handles are held on with a pommel at the top, some riveted on, some screwed on and some glued. Whatever way the handle is attached, remove it gently.
Either model a new handle using the old handle as an example of buy a handle blank from a knife making outlet. Reattach the new handle with the pommel, screws or glue to strengthen and hold it firm and then decorate as above.
Points to note
While there are many places you can buy knife blanks or even ready-made athames, both in shops and over the internet, in many states and countries, double edged blades are illegal and can’t be imported. Before you buy any blade blank or athame from the internet, make check your local laws to find out if you can import the product.