An Athame or Athamé is a ceremonial dagger, with a double-edged blade and it often has a black handle - it is one of several magical tools used in neopagan religions and various Witchcraft traditions. It is variously pronounced /ˈæθəmeɪ/ or /əˈθeɪmiː/. A black-handled knife called an arthame appears in certain versions of the Key of Solomon, a grimoire originating in the Middle Ages.
The athame is mentioned in the writings of Gerald Gardner in the 1950s, who claimed to have been initiated into a surviving tradition of Witchcraft, the New Forest Coven. The athame was their most important ritual tool, with many uses, but was not to be used for actual physical cutting.
There has been speculation that Gardner's interest and expertise in antique swords and knives, and in particular the magical kris knives of Malaysia and Indonesia, may have contributed to the tool's central importance in modern Wicca.
An athame can take many forms. It frequently has a double-edged blade with a sharp point, and a handle which is often black. The handle may be inscribed with particular symbols dictated by the tradition. Janet and Stewart Farrar in A Witches' Bible suggest that the point of an athame be dulled so as to prevent un-intended physical harm during ritual use.
In eclectic forms of Witchcraft the handle decorations range from astrological glyphs to runes, the symbols being chosen by the owner. Many fantasy-themed athames are also available from medieval and neopagan supply shops.
The athame's primary use is to direct energy; if things such as herbs or cords need to be cut, another knife called a boline - a white-handled knife - is used. An exception is the "kitchen witchcraft" philosophy, which actively encourages the use of magical tools for mundane purposes to increase the witch's familiarity with them.
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