Or do they?
Thanks to many years of reading fantasy fiction, I’ve always thought that witches need a special knife in their toolkit, an Athame – a magical blade for channeling and directing psychic energy.
But one of the interesting things I learned while researching, is that the word itself only came to be in common use about 100 years ago with the age of the “golden dawn” and when Gerald Gardner wrote the books that launched Wicca as a religion.
A few athame facts:
- it often has a steel double-edged blade,
- with a black handle which may be inscribed with symbols,
- the word probably derives from Latin “artavus” (a knife for sharpening quills back before pens were invented)
- it’s mainly used in rituals and to direct energy and focus,
- it’s one of the four elemental tools of modern Wicca (the other three are a pentacle, wand and chalice)
- it’s often used to cast circles by tracing their circumference in the air, to consecrate objects and banish negative energies.
- newly acquired athames should be consecrated to their owner, and never touched by another person!
The Internet is full of discussion among people who identify themselves as traditional witches and people who practice the Wiccan religion. Apparently witches of old used very little in the way of tools for rites or magical practice. Traditional witches today, believe that the main tools a witch needs, are her mind and her ability to visualise her intent.
Traditional witches tend to practice their craft alone, and rarely go in for public or group ritual practice. Whereas ritual practice, belonging to a coven, and the use of lovingly crafted and consecrated tools is very much part of the Wiccan religion.
Meagan is cast within the traditional definition. The Goddess she worships is mother nature, she is very much a solo practitioner, she accepts accountability and the consequences of all her actions. She doesn’t believe in good and bad magic, nor even good and bad intent really. It’s complicated.
Meagan’s father loved working in his smithy – as a break from managing his large estate, and the responsibility of being the local witch – and he loved making gifts for his wife and daughter. One of the things he made for his daughter Meagan, is a carved athame.
Meagan receives her knife just before raising a spirit for the first time. And she connects to it from the moment she holds it:
For most of the journey, a magnificent yellow moon lit the way. Hanging like an amber pendant from the clear sky, its magic wove an intense cowl around my head. I took out my new athame and traced my fingertips across the raven and wolf playing under a hanging moon carved into the hilt. It whispered to me. I never had anything so beautiful of my own before.
I felt justified in taking a little poetic license, and gave my traditional witch a rather modern tool of the trade. Today, regardless of the history, a traditional witch might also believe in the Wiccan religion; and a believer of Wicca could choose to practice witchcraft. The lines don’t need to be set in concrete, after all, the world is multi-coloured, not black and white.