The athame knife is a ritual dagger that is used by Wiccans and Neo Pagans in rituals and spells as an extension of their body.
The athame in Wicca is traditionally a male principal, or a male symbol representing the reproductive organ of the Horned God who impregnated the Goddess Gia to give birth to the Earth and nature.
The athame knife is traditionally either black handled or wooden handled, with the blade made of steel.
Wood is often used in an athame blade because of it's representation of Nature and the Earth. A tree was either sacrificed or already dead, and the wood was recycled into the athame so that it may be continued to give life and energies once again, almost like a symbolic rebirth.
It is not exactly clear as to why the black handle became a traditional, though many texts and historic references point back to King Solomon who was said to use a black handle knife in his rituals and spells. This black handled blade then became a symbol and a staple to the athame since Solomon was revered as one of the greatest wizards to ever have lived in real life folk lore.
Whatever handle blade you decide to use or choose for your athame, it is always best to use steel for the blade. Iron is not considered a good metal for an athame because traditionally this metal is soft and weak when put under heat and will melt. Since fire is such a strong symbolic element within Wicca and Paganism, many rituals call for it and often times, the athame needs to be plunged into a fire and must with stand the heat. For this reason stainless steel or steel in general is the best material for the blade itself to be used.
Athame knives are NOT meant to be used as a weapon in Wicca. These sacred tools are meant for rituals and spells only, never to be raised as a weapon even for self defense. Athames are an extension of yourself and are to be used almost like a carpenter would his hammer or saw.
It is very common within the Wicca tradition for an athame to "find" it's owner. This means that the individual who would like to own or use an athame must not actively seek it out. Rather, the blade is supposed to find the individual. Almost as if when you actively seek out love and you never find it, but when you are not looking you suddenly come across the person of your dreams.
It is often believed that athames pick up a mind of their own. That often they become "alive" and almost have their own personality. This seems to be true, or at least, there have been many strange and unexplained occurrences with athames.
There have been accounts from their owners that they simply disapear without a trace for hours or sometimes days only to return right where the owner left it later on, safe and sound and without damage.
Some people insist that they placed their athames in a storage box at night and when they awaken the blade was resting besides them on their beds or night stand right next to them.
If an athame was given to you as a gift you should cherish that blade and be sure to give your thanks to the individual who gave it to you. Athames who have been in someone's possions and used extensively for rituals and spells not only pick up energies of their past owner that are retained within the blade, but they retain the energies they were used for(such as protection, love, prosperity spells and rituals etc.)
If your athame is brand new and has never been used then it is "dormant" or basically it has yet to be given life. The more you use it, the more you place your energies and will into this ritual tool, the more and more this blade will take on a life of its own. You HAVE to respect your athame for if you do not and you misuse it, much like a dog who has been abused so many times it snaps, the athame will cut you.
The more these sacred objects are mistreated and abused the more likely that are to become a source for negative energies. The blade will suddenly become a vessel for these dark forces and they will begin to leech off your energies like a vampire and will backfire the rituals and spells you use the athame in.
Much like a gun, it is not the gun that is evil or intends to do harm, it is the individual who wields it. The same can be said to any ritual tool you use, especially your athame blade.
To prevent this, ensure you treat your blade with respect and dignity. A good way to ensure such respect would be to offer the athame knife as an offering each night before you go to sleep or every morning when you awaken to one of the gods or goddesses you worship and pray to. Say a prayer as you are knelt down, with your head down looking at the ground and the blade held out in both hands, palms up in front of you. After the prayer lay the blade down on your altar and keep it there until you are ready to use it once more.
You can use your athame for practically any ritual or spell you perform. However, if you are just breaking into Wicca and would like some example rituals as to how you can use your athame here are a few examples.
The first ritual that you can use your athame for would be in a protection ritual. Cast and open your circle as you would any ritual and set up all your other tools(incense, candles, gemstones, etc.) when this is completed, sit cross legged in the center of your circle and begin to meditate. Since this is a ritual on protection, imagine energies begin to build up inside of you that will keep you safe from negative influences and forces. These white light energies completely surround you, imagine these energies being channeled from your core and outwards so that it surrounds your entire body in a shield.
Perform this meditation for as long as possible, and when you feel you ready pick up your athame by the hilt and hold it firmly. Stand up and while standing, hold your athame out in front of you and begin to imagine this protection energy being channeled into the athame from your body, through the hilt, and into the blade.
Imagine in your mind's eye that the blade is glowing in a white protective light, and when you feel that you have charged the blade, take the athame and begin to trace in the air in front of you a symbol of a pentacle. As you are doing this, try to imagine the pentacle forming in white light as you trace the design with the athame.
Once you have finished tracing your pentacle, stand before it and imagine the light getting brighter and brighter until it is blinding. When you reach this point, just through the pentacle and imagine it's protective white energies merging with your own to strengthen the shield that you had previously put around you.
Another example for a ritual with your athame would be a love ritual. It is very similar to the above example, only instead of imagining white protective energies surrounding you, you would imagine pink colored energy flowing through you and your body. Imagine a sense of love, peace, and harmony and that you DESERVE love, and love will find you.
Instead of tracing a pentacle, you would trace a heart in the air with your athame and then picture that energy as the same pinkish rose color. Step through the heart as you would the pentacle.
Again, these are just some example rituals you can perform. Rituals and spells when created by you are limitless in the possibilities you can do with them. These rituals will work and they are quite powerful when you put all your energies into it.
Cleansing your athame is quite simple and easy. The best way to cleanse your athame would be to light up some sage incense or even better, a sage smudge stick and then wave and turn over the blade several times through the smoke. Sage purifys and cleanses and is perfect for this task as your athame will not get damaged.
Another method would be to simply rinse your athame with some clean water. Get some bottled water, pour some onto a cloth, and then wipe down the blade and hilt as best you can. Be sure to dry it off when you are finished. Usually salt is mixed with water to cleanses other ritual tools however salt water can corrod and rust the blade and you do NOT want this. Keep salt away from your athame.
If you would like to view various different athames you can do so here: http://moonslightmagic.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=9_15
Moon's Light Magic also has an information blog about ritual tools, wicca, witchcraft, the occult, paranormal, and divination where you can learn everything you need to know on these subjects: