Athame: Using the dagger of magick & Authority
What is an Athame? How and why is it used? How to obtain and maintain an Athame? Since an Athame is one of the most important tools in magick, the answers to these questions shall be the subject of this article.
Witches and mages have several tools or “magical aids” under their repertoire — wands, chalices, cups, cencer, lamps, swords, mirrors, crystal balls etc. The idea behind having such a wide range of different tools is that each act as a different “psychological placeholder” to encapsulate different aspects of magick.
The wand for example, is the most general tool used to encapsulate the “will” in rituals. Once the psyche is programmed to associate certain actions done with the wand to more elaborate rituals, it effectively acts as a “shorthand”. This also works with evocations. A crystal ball on the other hand, is used to project divinatory contents of the psyche.
In a similar fashion, a ritual sword or dagger (Athame) is used to establish authority, dominance and protection in magick. This is often done by “charging” an association with the athame using the power of imagination under deep concentration. This will be covered in the subsequent sections.
In many traditional practices, an Athame would have a black handle and would be inscribed with various glyphs, elements, sigils etc. This is completely subjective, and what color the handle would be and what would be inscribed on it, should be based on your personal preference and for what purpose you would be using the particular Athame for.
The athame shouldn't be confused with “boline” which has a completely different purpose and is often used for alchemical work such as chopping herbs and preparing ritual ingredients.
Where is an Athame used?
An Athame, has a similar function to that of the sword, trigent etc. It is a symbol of authority, dominance and protection in magick.
An Athame is often associated with the fire element and represents the masculine principle. In various symbolisms, myths and epics around the world, a heroic figure with a “flaming sword” is often described as the banisher of evil. From the myth of the Archangel Michael slaying the dragon to the more modern fictional works like Game of Thrones, the hero who redeems the world carries a flaming sword.
Indeed, this could be a jungian style archetype embedded deep in our psyche, from when the earliest hominids likely defended themselves from dangerous and overwhelmingly powerful wild animals using fire, often kindled on primitive weapons. However, the line of separation between the objective and the subjective is quite arbitrary and each effectively “contains” the other.
How this may have translated effects into the world of magick, and more, is covered and can be extrapolated from our article on idol worship which goes into alchemical thinking, and should be read by those who are interested in going down the rabbit hole.
Over here, we shall simply keep in mind that even from the biological point of view, the reality that we see is nothing but a function of our neurological mechanism, and that our neurological mechanism is contained within the same reality. Think of the ouroboros, the snake that goes on biting its own tail.
With this in mind, it is possible to see how the “flaming sword” or an Athame, which is associated with the fire element in our psyche can have specific effects on reality via the deep psyche and magick, via synchronicity.
An Athame is used for the following purposes:
Evocation of lower spirits
“Lower spirits” from one perspective, can be seen as the magickal and/or astral equivalent of the outwardly manifesting dangerous animal predators that the early hominids sought constant protection from (unless of course, mastery over communicating with them is achieved. Think of the “Lion man” for example).
Fire almost always scared the beasts away, and weapons were most likely kindled with fire.
No system of magick is complete without the knowledge of the evocation of lower spirits should the need arise.
There are plenty of ways to work with the lower forces such as demons, but the most commonly used method is to exercise dominance and authority over them and an Athame is often used for this purpose. An evocation of a Goetic demon is one such example.
One must remember such an act is to be done by the will of a higher authority and a higher deity or power is often invoked onto the human vessel.
The pitfalls of relying on the power of an uncultivated ego alone to assert domination over the lower spirits (however charged the athame maybe) are many.
This is of course, can become redundant if there is a communion with these forces directly but this also involves the invocation and will of a higher deity.
Sorcerers also use an Athame to unethically bind down human spirits to do their bidding, and often pay a hefty price in the end, but that is a subject for another day. Those interested in spirit work should read our article on summoning spirits.
Protection from lower spirits, negative influences and magickal attacks
Whilst doing certain types of ritual or spirit cleansing work, various spirits may try to intervene with your work either by physically ruining it or by psychically messing you up. This can often be avoided by wielding a well charged Athame throughout the process.
Negative influences and magickal attacks through sleep can also be redirected away using an Athame. This is done by tying one end of the handle of the athame onto a thread or a wire and the other end to the foot of your bed, so that the tip of the blade points to the ground, essentially redirecting the negative psychical effects away from you.
Used correctly, an Athame infused with ethereal fire can be a powerful tool of defence — one that drives away and burns almost every type of astral beast. The most effective way of course, would be to invoke the power of the deity whilst wielding the athame, rather than simply relying on the will of the uncultivated ego. Why this is effective is discussed in the article on idol worship.
Casting a circle
Casting or drawing a circle for ritualistic purposes is often done with the help of a ritual blade and serves a similar purpose — to drive away potential negative influences away from the the ritual.
Since the athame is psychically associated with the fire element, it is akin to drawing a circle of fire, past which no dangerous creatures of the night shall pass. The circle is then purified with the other three basic elements also, with incense (air), salt-water (water) and earth (salt). A pentagram is then drawn at each quarter to invoke the elemental guardians.
The athame is also then used in combination with the chalice (by dipping it), which represents the water and feminine principle to symbolise the union between the male and female principles (the Shiva-Shakti), completing the symbolic invocation of the union between the subjective and the objective, dissolving duality into union. This sets the stage for the divine will to manifest itself for the subsequent magickal work.
Athame's use in blood magick and sacrifices
- In “blood” magick, the witch or mage offers up their own blood in a ritual setting. This is often done to charge a sigil, or as an offering to the deity. This can be seen as a symbol of “sacrificing” one's impurities to the deity or “God” during the act of magick, merging one's ego with that of the higher spirit, to make the manifestation of the will come true.
- Although it is unlikely that any of us are going to perform such an act today, it is to be mentioned that in olden days, animal sacrifices were also performed, and specially charged ritual daggers or Athames were often used for this purpose. The animal thus sacrificed was to be elevated into a higher state of consciousness in it's next life.
Where and how to get an Athame?
An Athame can be self-made or bought off any store. It doesn't really have to be anything fancy, but the closer it resonates with the purpose it serves to your psyche, the better. Some of our favorite picks are given below:
Often different Athames are used to serve different purposes — one for evocation, one for general protection and another for casting circles. Custom made Athames with sigils etc. inscribed on the handle and blade can be seen as a bonus, but it is not necessary.
The athame can be single or double edged — drawing sigils and inscriptions in the air is done with the pointed end.
How to charge an Athame?
When you first get yourself an Athame off the market, or even make it yourself, you need to “consecrate” or charge it. This is often done with a ritual, and different traditions have different ways of going about this. What is more important is the psychic association that one makes with the athame to make it an effective ritual tool, following the consecration.
Here is a way to charge an Athame after you get it, to infuse it with energy and to associate with your body as the vessel to wield it.
Required items: Athame, Chalice, rose water, 5 candles representing the five elements (preferably in red, blue, green, black and white colors), sigil or statue of your preferred deity, incense appropriate to the deity, powdered charcoal or black powder.
Preparation: Draw a pentagram on the floor with powdered charcoal or black powder and place the sigil/statue of your preferred deity such that it faces west (you will be facing east during the ritual). The candles are to be placed in front of this sigil/statue and the chalice in front of that, which will be filled with rose water. Preferred time for the ritual is after sunset on a Tuesday (day of Mars, which is the ruling planet for war, authority and power).
Sit in front the chalice, and light the candles and incense. Wield the athame on your right hand and meditate on your chosen deity whilst chanting the appropriate mantra if applicable and call forth on him or her to take over your body.
Dip the Athame in the chalice filled with rose water, take it out and point it skyward whilst visualizing the fiery power of the authority of the manifestation of the divine in whatever form they take, to transfer onto the athame. Let this state sink into the ritual for a while.
Stand up and hold the athame so that it touches your chest (still pointing upwards). Walk around the pentagram five times, chanting the mantra for the five elements (or pancha Bhootas), which are also the beej (root) mantras for the Chakras. Each mantra is chanted in each rotation (Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam, Ham).
Go back and stand in front of the deity, point the tip of the athame at each point of the body's Chakras whilst chanting it's appropriate beej mantra of each.
Sit down, point the tip of the athame at the flame of each candle whilst chanting the mantra of the five element once again, and then raise the athame towards the sky, meditating on the power of the divine. This symbolises the merging of the energy of the deity with chakra energies of the individual, whilst associating the athame as the medium of authority.
In Closing: Important considerations for taking care of an Athame
An Athame is a powerful ritual tool that can channel the "authority" energy of the psyche once it is associated with it, and it is my hope that this article has been informative in giving you all the tools necessary to tap into its power.
In closing, I'd like to mention a few considerations that you may want to take into account:
While purchasing an athame, pick what most resonates and stands out to you, do not think or haggle over the price.
An athame, once consecrated by a person is to be used by that person alone because of the deep psychical association one makes with it. The athame becomes an extension of your own magickal authority and power. If another mage/witch is to use it, it had to be reconsecrated/recharged.
The athame is not to be used for any other purpose, other than for what it is designated for.
The athame is to be recharged and re-associated once every 6 months to a year, especially if it remains unused for rituals for a long time.