In the Wiccan tradition one of the key tools is the black-handled knife, also known as the athame. The athame is unique amongst the tools in being symbolic of the individual witch, and as such is also referred to as “the real witch’s weapon”. The athame is used for the casting of the magick circle, for invocations (e.g. the guardians of the watchtowers) and for consecrations (e.g. salt and water; cakes & wine; other ritual tools). It is never used for cutting physical objects, but might be used to cut doorways into the magick circle or for other such magickal uses.
Before we consider the probable origins of the athame and its use in the Wiccan tradition, we will also for a moment ponder on a modern tendency, found amongst some practitioners to use a blunt bladed athame, mentioned by Stewart and Janet Farrar in their book The Witches Way. The athame represents the will of the practitioner. Thus to have a blunted athame, representing your will, is also to have a blunted (or unfocused) will, which symbolically could represent being ineffective in directing your intent. The athame is used in a similar way to the sword, which is said to be used in the Wiccan tradition to command and direct both spirits and power. A deliberately blunted weapon on a symbolic level simply would not be able to command the same level of power for this use.
Many people have assumed that the use of knives in the Wiccan tradition comes from Gardner’s exposure to the use of kris knives whilst living in Malaysia. In fact Gardner was so fascinated with these knives, which are also used for ceremonial purposes, that he wrote an entire book about them entitled Kris and Other Malay Weapons, first published in 1939. The assumption is that Gardner introduced the use of the athame because of his interest in the kris, but there are however clues which clearly demonstrate that this was not the case.
Firstly the waved (lok) shape of the blade itself is not one commonly used in Wiccan circles, where the blade is usually double edged and straight. Then the kris has a long history of use as a weapon of physical self defence, whilst the athame in the Wiccan tradition should never be used to draw blood.
Lots of myths do however exist around the kris as a magickal weapon with supernatural powers. In one such story a man commanded his kris dagger to shapeshift into a venomous snake which bit a beautiful girl putting her into a coma; she was then saved by the antidote he possessed and they lived happily ever after. This story accounts for the shape of the blade, as it is said that craftsmen took their inspiration from the story and set to work creating the blade in the shape of a small snake with an extremely sharp bite. Other magickal powers were ascribed to these knives too, including the power to turn the owner invisible, to protect the owners from a surprise attack and even the ability to fly long distances at night to attack and kill the enemies of the owner.
Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ https://amzn.to/3Ay4HJr. Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.