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Wexler

Symbolism of the ritual knife

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Hello, all!

 

I'm doing some research in to the history and symbolism of the athame. While I'm having great fun learning about how the history of it evolved, I'm really curious as to what everyone here thinks of the symbolism.

 

Now, the athame is "supposed" to be double-edged with a black hilt. What I'm trying to figure out is, why should it be double-edged? I can see my way around why it 'should' have a black handle, but I don't believe I've ever seen a resource fairly arguing why an athame should be sharp on both sides, especially if a ritual athame should never be used in a "physical" manner.

 

Any thoughts?

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You'll find a lot of us (probably a majority) don't use an athame. We use a knife. Paring, steak, carving, hunting (which is generally double-edged) ... whatever suits the particular purpose.

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No clue. I never used a knife until a blacksmith friend of mine started making iron knives out of discarded railroad spikes salvaged from the train tracks I grew up next to. So, mine doesn't meet any of the criteria you listed and I'd never call it an 'athame' lol.

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I did have a knife... now I have a saw, sandpaper and a pair of scissors (easier to use and clean, and the saw blades are replaceable when they dull). I'm not certain, but I'm guessing the "athame" or knife may be better known in more ceremonial types of crafting?

 

M :-D

Edited by Michele
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I have a pair of scissor, dose that count?

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Crazy neighbor has a machete. I'm a big fan of using whatever I have around the house that suits the purpose.

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The original use of blades in ceremonial magic was for coercion of spirits. Hell if I know what people actually use them for now, that that sort of magic isn't so much en vogue.

 

Honestly, if I need a knife I head for my handy dandy set in the knife block.

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I have not used one or ever plan on using one because it is a ritual, cerimonial tool. Anyway this is what I know about them. They are not supposed to be used for cutting and too never draw blood. The metal radiates male energy (supposedly) and they are identified with with air or fire. The athame is exclusively wiccan from what I have read. Don't know if this was helpful, I don't know why it's double edged either.

 

Kera

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I have not used one or ever plan on using one because it is a ritual, cerimonial tool. Anyway this is what I know about them. They are not supposed to be used for cutting and too never draw blood. The metal radiates male energy (supposedly) and they are identified with with air or fire. The athame is exclusively wiccan from what I have read. Don't know if this was helpful, I don't know why it's double edged either.

 

Kera

 

This blood thing always surprises me. I do use a lot of ceremony in my workings but I use my ceremonial knife for drawing blood, smearing blood, directing blood flow. I like blood, I work with it a lot. I've never worked out why some witches refuse to allow blood anywhere near their tools. Granted, a lot of them are Wiccans, but I've seen the same belief in the odd Trad Witch as well. As a general principle I don't understand it, if I want to connect with an implement that I am using for the direction of my will, surely strengthening it with my own life force can only be of benefit. Each to their own I suppose.

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The athame is a Wiccan "tool". Gerald Gardner borrowed a number of his ritual tools from The Key of Solomon grimoire.

 

To add insult to injury, he plagiarized the sigils on the black-handled knife depicted in this grimoire.

 

Gardner had several precedents for concentrating on a ritual knife as a primary tool. When he was employed on rubber plantations he came across "spirit women". These women had incredible powers, and a knife was all they needed to perform their magic.

 

Gardner had intended to establish an OTO encampment in England. He was an initiate of the OTO but had little response. He met some "witches" in a Hertfordshire nudist colony, and decided to reinvent (sorry, resurrect) the Witch Cult.

 

Poor Doreen Valiente vainly claimed that witches hadn't borrowed the knife sigils from ceremonial magicians. This was before Doreen recognized how deceitful Gardner had been.

 

Doreen removed most of the Crowley influence from the BoS and virtually re-wrote it. It is fair to say that she wrote 80% of the present Gardner BoS.

 

As an OTO aficionado, Gardner summoned and controlled spirits with a ritual knife in the time-honoured manner.

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I am clumsy, so anytime I use a knife, blood is sure to follow.

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... I've never worked out why some witches refuse to allow blood anywhere near their tools. Granted, a lot of them are Wiccans, but I've seen the same belief in the odd Trad Witch as well...

 

I'd also look at that "taglocks" thread. I don't know why the "no blood" thing was introduced into Wicca, but depending on the workings there are some workings I would NOT want my blood to get into... perhaps it all stemmed from a misinterpretation of that? I don't know...

 

M

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This blood thing always surprises me. I do use a lot of ceremony in my workings but I use my ceremonial knife for drawing blood, smearing blood, directing blood flow. I like blood, I work with it a lot. I've never worked out why some witches refuse to allow blood anywhere near their tools. Granted, a lot of them are Wiccans, but I've seen the same belief in the odd Trad Witch as well. As a general principle I don't understand it, if I want to connect with an implement that I am using for the direction of my will, surely strengthening it with my own life force can only be of benefit. Each to their own I suppose.

Which is probably why you are a traditional witch and not wiccan with all of their rules. :)

 

Kera

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Apparently the athame derives from the black-handled knives of Irish fairy-lore and Celtic tradition. I think it's the handle that is the most important part of the knife, and that is the part where most of the history of it comes in.

 

Kera

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I tend to find with a lot (if not all) wiccan "rules" - such as this where a witch must have an athame and the athame must be double bladed, etc - that no one really knows the full "why" behind the rule. Not that there isn't one, I'm sure there must me...or at least I'd hope there was once a reason lol! But that in asking any wiccan you will get either a generalised answer that doesn't actually answer the question, or a vague reply that also doesn't answer it, or more than one answer which makes them more like guesses.

 

So, I had assumed (and perhaps I read somewhere) that the athame was double edged for symetry, as it's used to focus energy and that lets it flow more freely. This isn't my belief, I will add, as I don't use an athame (although I own one from my early wiccan days...but it's still in the box, unused). In my craft, any knife from the kitchen is used for whatever purpose deemed fit. I don't use a knife to focus energy in the way I think an athame is used.

 

But...I'm not really the best source about athames, as I don't use one. I'm not sure how much merrit is in the assumption I made over the double edged blade, but it was the only reason I could think of that kind of seemed to fit. I'd be interested to know if you ever do find out the answer to why they have a double edge, Wexler, purely because I hate having unknowns that *should* have an answer lol!

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My closest guess so far as to "why" they are supposed to be double-edged is due to an older witchcraft book that incorrectly translated the ritual tools from the Key of Solomon. I think the author either described the "athame" as double-edged, or specified it should be double-edged. I'm having trouble finding a copy of the book, so I can't verify. I think that someone somewhere just drew a picture of a knife, someone else called it the athame, and everyone else decided that this special athame knife was very important and must be specifically crafted as per "tradition".

 

I'm so glad I avoided doing any real research when I was looking in to Wicca, I would have been so disallusioned.

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I have an idea. How about we stop talking about wicca shit on the Trad witchcraft forum?

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I agree with you, Jevne.

 

However, Kera instanced the black-handled knives of Irish fairy-lore and Celtic tradition.

 

Gerald Gardner pretended to have Scottish ancestors. He often wore a kilt and had the skene dhu in a sock.

 

The skene dhu was traditionally a doubled-edged knife! It was worn partly hidden in a sock or boot. It had a black handle!

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I keep forgetting that once the wiccans touch something, it makes it distasteful to discuss. That's what I get for asking questions about something's history without totally knowing it's history first, eh?

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I have an idea. How about we stop talking about wicca shit on the Trad witchcraft forum?

I have to say Jevne, you really make me laugh! I was thinking about what you posted before, about the time travel, while I was baggin my groceries and I started to giggle, like out loud a bit. I really got such a kick out of that comment. I never do shit like that! Thanks for putting a smile on my face today.

 

Kera

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It's not in the associations of ceremonial magic or in books. It's in the Lore of your path.

M

Edited by Michele
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I have an idea. How about we stop talking about wicca shit on the Trad witchcraft forum?

 

Quoted for EMPHASIS!!

 

 

I keep forgetting that once the wiccans touch something, it makes it distasteful to discuss. That's what I get for asking questions about something's history without totally knowing it's history first, eh?

 

We're disinclined to discuss such things, due to the fact that we mostly don't care, and really don't know. We're not wiccan. Pisses a lot of us off, however, that wicca keeps borrowing from actual witchcraft, applies a bunch of bullshit, and then try to call it 'traditional.'

 

To edit: This is my black-handled knife:

 

It chops, it slices! It has beheaded live animals, and chopped frozen snake heads. But mostly, I use it for carrots. The trad witch way: I make it work for me :cool_witch:

 

aZ7tApA.jpg

Edited by Aurelian
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