The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Tools of Witchcraft
Also sometimes spelled Athalmé, the athamé (pronounce a-tham-ay or ath-may) is a ritual knife. The origin of the name is unknown. It is usually, although not exclusively, black-handled with a double-edged steel blade. Whether it is sharp or dull is irrelevant as the athamé is not used as a cutting tool and is never used to draw blood. Symbols, such as runes or sigils, may be engraved or painted onto the handle.
The athamé, as with other metal blades, radiates male energy. Some identify swords and knives with the air element, others with fire. (The process of forging metal is complex and involves all the elements.)
Although the use of ritual knives, daggers or swords is common to very many traditions, the name athamé is almost exclusively Wiccan or Wiccan-influenced. It is among the standard tools of Wicca.
The athamé is used to cast ritual circles
The athamé is used to direct magical energy
Some traditions incorporate an athamé into the creation of Holy Water
Athamés are used for invocations and banishing rituals
Some traditions magnetize the blade by repeatedly, rhythmically stroking the blade from base to tip with a lodestone or magnet.
Black-handled knives have a long magical history. Their modern use derives from Celtic tradition but is reinforced by Ceremonial Magic. The athamé probably derives from the black-handled knives of Irish fairy-lore. In the eleventh century, the scholar Rashi (1040—1105) stated that a black-handled knife is required when invoking the “Princes of the Thumbnail,” the divinatory spirits evoked by scrying.
See also Bolline.