An athame (pronounced: ath-uh-may) is a ritual blade used in the modern Witchcraft tradition. The term “Athame” comes from the ancient tome, Grimoire: The Key of Solomon the King. In Wicca, it is usually a black-handled ritual knife with a double sided blade. Its purpose is strictly symbolic and, as such, the blade is usually straight and dull. The athame is reserved for ritual use only and the act of cutting herbs, rope/cord, or carving runes or symbols, is usually performed with a separate knife known as a boline, often having a white handle and sharp blade.
While the athame has come to represent the Element of Fire among practitioners of Wicca and several other Witchcraft traditions, practitioners of Ceremonial/Ritual Magick & followers of the Western Mystery Traditions including the Golden Dawn and others, still attribute the athame as well as the Ritual Sword, to the Element of Air (this corresponds with the attributions/correspondences of the various suits in the more traditional Tarot decks.
The Athame represents the male aspect of divinity and can be used to cast or ‘cut’ a circle during ritual as well as to direct energy in much the same way as a wand. Because of its phallic shape, it is often used in the symbolic version of the Great Rite, a celebration of the Union (mating/merging) of the God and Goddess that is believed by some to have created the Universe and all things within it. This ceremony involves dipping the blade of the Athame (representing the male sex organ) into the ceremonial Chalice or Cauldron (representing the womb of the Goddess), symbolizing the act of intercourse and paying honor to them on Beltane (May 1st). In ancient times, this would ensure healthy crops, fertile herds, and successful pregnancies and childbirth. In more modern times, this would ensure success in love and finance and lend strength and courage to our journey while offering our gratitude to the Divine for all our blessings.