An athame is a Witch’s personal, magical knife, traditionally double-bladed with a black hilt, and fashioned of steel or iron. The blade may be magnetized or inscribed with runs or sigils. Magical knives were said to be used by witches in the middle Ages.
The athame is associated with the element of fire (in some traditions, with air). In some traditions, it is interchangeable with the sword.
According to the Gardnerian tradition, the athame is used only for ritual purposes, such as casting and releasing circles and to control summoned spirits, and never for cutting. Other traditions call for using the knife to cast and cut in the belief that its power increases with use.
An athame is presented to a new witch on the evening of her initiation.
In some rituals, the athame takes on phallic symbolism; it is plunged into a chalice filled with juice or wine, signifying the union of male and female forces .
Among some hereditary Witches in England, metal is never used in ritual tools because it interferes with energy in the earth. Athame blades are therefore made of flint.
Some Witches use a white-hilted knife for cutting and inscribing. knives are never used for sacrifices, which are not condoned.