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Taken from  A Grain Of Salt: An Eclectic approach To Witch Craft  by Wyn Summerhawk

The Athame, is the Black Handled Knife used to cut the necessary things for the circle such as the pentagrams in the quarters and the circle. It should be mentioned that the Athame, does not really need to be a black handled knife. It’s a common opinion that the Athame, should suit the person who uses it. One of its uses is to invoke things that are wanted, and banish things that are unwanted or un-needed in the circle. The Athame, is considered to be an extension of the users "self". This includes will, spirit, thought, emotion and manifestation as well. The Athame, is never used for cutting things like meat, thread, plants or anything else considered a solid object on this plane. It’s believed that use of this blade for self defense will make it null and void for any magickal use again. 
The written history of the Athame, as a magickal tool comes to us from the Lansdowne Manuscript dated 1202 and the Sloane Manuscript dated 1307. These manuscripts were great magickal works and this information was evidently known and practiced well before these manuscripts were written. These are considered to be the only survivors of the Witch and book burnings of the inquisitions. The material contained in these manuscripts is Quabalistic in nature. In the book, The Key of Solomon, L.W. de Laurence’s 1914 translation of the manuscripts states that the Black Handled Knife " for making the Circle wherewith to strike terror and fear into the Spirits. It should be made on the day of Mercury, the Hour of Saturn, tempered ‘thrice’ by fire and dipped into the blood of a black cat and juice of hemlock." This is not something we would want to do with an Athame today (those poor cats!). 

In Israel Regardie's book, The Golden Dawn, published in 1989, the method of "making" the “Air Dagger” is a very long ceremonial ritual. The Air Dagger is considered to be the equivalent of the Witches Athame. This is where so many get confused as to what direction the Athame should correspond to. The Athame may be used as an Air Dagger, but it’s not necessarily an Air Dagger. Considering the age of the manuscripts that deLaurence translated and the initial printing of The Golden Dawn, in 1937, there was a change of attitude as to the Athame, i.e., no more blood used in consecration. Further history shows Greek vases with women commanding Spirits with a short bladed knife. The Clavicle of Solomon, (from The Lesser Key of Solomon, or Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis, the Clavicula Salomonis,) published in 1572, mentions the knife as an “Arthana” of which Athame may be a subverted form of the word. For more information on the history of the Athame, one may read The A.B.C.'s of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente

The Athame, is nothing like it used to be. It’s the considered opinion of many of us that the Athame, is associated with the Center, and of the other four quarters as well, not just the East (or South). The Athame, is the controlling factor and extension of self in magick that leads us to that conclusion.

We consider the Athame, to be a tool of center, of self, of evocation and banishing. The Athame, is the tool wielded of one’s own will, thoughts, emotions and intuition over all of the Elements and over all. We use it to command the spirits that we evoke, invoke and banish. The moment one strikes a relationship with the blade is the beginning of its consecration. The concept of consecration is to embed the focus of the tool’s purpose in one’s own mind and in the very metal of the blade. Cleansing and clearing is the symbolic refinement of the blade. Binding makes the blade truly one’s own and extension of self in the center of the Universe. Charging is the energy from within the self, projected through the blade and outward in the direction of one’s intent.
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One Possible Consecration of the Athame ...

Required for the ritual:

  • The intended blade, wrapped in a black cloth (symbolically still un-mined metal)
  • Juice of pimpernel (in lieu of sacrifice) in a cup of water
  • A basin of water large enough to wash the blade with salt
  • Solomon’s seal incense
  • A feather
  • A needle and candle to sterilize, to take a drop of your own blood (optional)
  • Container of earth large enough to bury the blade
  • Brazier, Hibachi, or a torch and fuel to temper the blade (preferably a flame)
  • Lodestone or magnet

Beginning in the center of the consecrated alter in the center of a sacred space, (In the center of the Universe) three days before the new Moon

1. Take the intended blade out of the black cloth, as if mining the metal. Wash the blade as if washing new metal from the Earth (optional brushing as well). Thank the Earth for the metal.

2. Carry the blade to the East and smudge with the smoke of incense and the feather. Meditate upon the blade’s purpose. Consider its being an extension of the self with fine tuned intellectual, consciously driven process behind its use. Anoint the blade with oils from the skin rubbing it from haft to point, visualizing it being formed into the shape it should be in idea or design.

3. Carry the blade to the South. Heat the blade briefly in the brazier and temper in the cup with juice of pimpernel three times. Don’t allow the blade to become too hot as it could de-temper the metal and make it fragile. Meditate on the forging of the metal as per the design, thinking it “made as mine” (A drop of blood from one’s own finger or oil from one’s skin intensifies this concept at this time) then chant:

Blade of steel I conjure thee,

To ban all things as named by me,

And as my words, SO MOTE IT BE!

(Say it until it sticks.)

4. Carry the blade to the West. Bathe the blade lovingly in the basin of water and anoint with own bodily fluids such as a tear or saliva. Meditate upon the emotional bond one chooses to build with the blade.

5. Carry the blade to the North. Rub the blade gently from the point to haft with the magnet or lodestone chanting

Blade of steel I conjure thee,

To ban all things as named by me,

And as my words, SO MOTE IT BE!

(Say it until it sticks.)

Ceremoniously, bury the blade in the earth filled basin (or in the ground outside if you have a secure place,) to rest as dead to be reborn seven days later. Protect a metal knife in waterproof material, and put one of those little silica packs in to make a dry environment. Speaking over the new grave something like (it is recommended it be one’s own poem),

Thee of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth

Made as mine,

My will through thee,

Mastering all Elements,

My Servant be.

6. Seven days later, recast the circle around the undisturbed blade in its basin of earth. This would be a good time to have a name ready for the “newborn” Athame

7. Carry the Athame to each quarter. Introduce it to the Guardians by the name that has been chosen.

8. The name of the blade, one’s own name and/or words of power in secret symbols of one’s own choice can now be embedded, painted, etched, or engraved upon the blade and handle as one chooses.

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Making Your Athame
Written By Raymond Buckland from his book, Complete Book of Witchcraft

If you can't buy a suitable piece of steel, use an old file or chisel and work with that. Whatever steel you have, it is going to be hard so your first job will be to soften it for working. Heat the steel till it is a dull red. If you have no other way of doing it, lay it on the burner of a gas or electric stove. You may have to leave it there, with the control turned fully on, for several hours but it will eventually heat up to a dull red. Once it has reached that color, turn off the heat and let it cool down naturally. That's all there is to it. It will now be softened and easier to work.
Figure 3.1 Mark on the metal, with a pencil, the shape you want it to be (see figure 3.1). With a power handsaw (if you have one), or a simple hacksaw, cut out the profile and file off any rough edges Then start shaping the blade for sharpness. A grinding wheel could come in handy here, though you can work with rough and smooth files. The blade is going to be double-edged, so you are aiming for a diamond shaped cross-section (see figure 3.2). Finish off the blade with 2 grades of wet and dry paper.
Now your blade will need to be hardened and tempered. Heat it up again, this time until it is red hot. Then take hold of it with a pair of pliers and plunge it into a bowl of tepid (not cold, or the blade will crack) water or oil. Allow it to cool off then clean it with wet and dry paper.
Figure 3.1
Figure 3.2 Figure 3.3 and 3.4
Next, to temper it, reheat the blade to a dull red. Again, plunge it, point downwards, into tepid water or oil, moving it up and down in the liquid. Clean it with wet and dry paper, then heat it again. Watch the blade carefully this time as it changes color. It will go to a bright, light, straw color, then to a medium straw color. Immediately plunge the blade into the water and let it cool off (don't let it get past the straw color; it would go to blue, then purple and green.) Watch the point as that will change color first, At the first sign of "blueing" on the point, plunge the blade into the water. NOTE: The colors appear quickly. Keep the point the farthest from the heat.

Once the blade is cold take it outside and plunge it into the ground a couple of times. Now you have moved the blade through the Air, Heated it with Fire, Plunged it into Water, and Showed it to the Earth.

For the handle, take 2 pieces of wood. Draw around the tang (the handle part of the blade) on each of the pieces of wood. (see figure 3.3 and 3.4). Then chisel out the marked sections, each one to ~21 the thickness of the tang. When finished, the 2 pieces of wood should lay together perfectly with the tang inserted between them. When you are satisfied they fit well, slightly roughen the inside wood and then spread a good epoxy resin glue all over. Put the tang in place, press the 2 wooden handle halves together and clamp. When clamping, put on the pressure slowly so as to give a better "spread" to the glue. Leave clamped for at least 3 days.

When removed from the clamp, draw a profile of the handle you want on the wood and start cutting/carving it to shape.

Some traditions call for certain signs to be carved on the handle. Even if your does not, you may wish to add some decoration. I would certainly recommend at least putting your Craft Name or monogram on it. You might also like to etch something on the blade, this isn't difficult to do.
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