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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in athame

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The People of the Knife

How do you say “athame” in Old Witch?

“Athame”—the standard modern name for the witch's ritual knife—is a word of French origin, from Old French atamer, “to cut.”

(Variously pronounced across contemporary Witchdom, around here the word rhymes with “Hathaway.”)

As such, mythically speaking, it will have entered the vocabulary of English-speaking witchery along with the Norman Craft at some point after 1066.

So what did the Hwicce—the original Anglo-Saxon Tribe of Witches—call their ritual knives?

The dialect of Old English spoken by the Hwicce distinguished between two kinds of knife: cníf (K'NEEF), ancestral to modern “knife,” and seax, defined variously as a knife, hip-knife, short sword, dirk, or dagger.

Deriving ultimately from a proto-Indo-European root meaning “to cut”—the same root also gave rise to “scythe,” “saw,” and “sedge” (originally “sword”)—seax is also said to have given rise to the ethnonym Saxon as well: the “People of the Knife.”

Although seax fell out of general usage, it has survived to modern times with specific application as a name for a “slater's ax” used to cut (and pierce) roof-slates: variously sax, saxe, or zax.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Cutting the Cord

At sundown on the eve of her coming-of-age, the grandmothers tied the girl to her mother with a red cord.

One end of the cord, nine ells long, they had bound, with much hilarity, around young Linden's waist; the other (not without a few tears) around her mother's.

And now the women were come, with the red-dyed eggs and the red-wrapped gifts, and so the rites began.

The secret rites of the Women's Side, by which a girl becomes a woman, may not be told; nor could I tell them, I who am of the Men's Side.

But this much I can tell, for it is known to all.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
White Handle

It's part of the ABCs of modern witchcraft: Athame-Boline-Cup.

Boline (also bolline, bolleen): a nice, mysterious, witchy word. Where I come from, it rhymes with "so mean," but maybe in your valley they say it differently.

White-hilted, to the athame's black. For practical, instead of ritual work. That's how I learned it. Different valleys, different ways.

In a sense, it's a case of mistaken identity.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I’m new to Wicca, and everyone says I should get a special knife called an “athuhmee” or something like that. Do I have to have one to be a Wiccan? Knives are kind of intimidating.

An athame is a knife used in Wiccan ritual. The name is usually pronounced “A-thuh-may” or “a-THAW-me,” but there’s ongoing squabbling about the “correct” way to say it, so bringing it up at a Wiccan dinner party is a great way to start a lively argument if the conversation has gone stale. Traditionally the athame has a double-edged blade and a black handle—more like a dagger than a hunting or utility knife. However, modern athames are made of a wide variety of materials, and some have only a single-edge blade.

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The People of the Black-Handled Knife: A Folk-tale of the Latter-Day Hwicce

They say that back in the dawn of days, She of the Moon conceived a desire to divide This from That.

She went to the stag and said, "Stag, give me your antler, that I may divide This from That."

The stag gave her his antler, and from this she made a knife. But when she went to divide This from That, lo! the knife broke in her hand. 

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