I have owned three athames in my life — or more precisely two athames plus a new knife that may well become one.
There is a story in here of changing Craft practice.
Actually, the first athame was simply my wooden-handled Mora hunting knife, not in the photo.Those wooden (birch?) handle models are long gone, replaced with synthetics. Mora knives still give good value for the price. I cleaned the first deer that I ever killed with it, and it still rides in one of my daypacks.
1 — Then one February 28th in my mid-twenties, I went rabbit hunting on the Pike National Forest west of my home in Manitou Springs, Colorado. I know it was February 28th because that is the last day of the season, and I wanted to get out one more time.
As I recall, I saw no rabbits, but while walking through the woods I found an antler-handled knife.Made in Spain by Muela. Of course I picked it up. Of course (being a relatively new Pagan) I thought it was a sign. Some god or daemon had given me a ritual knife — terrific!
I walked on — and then I found a cup — an aluminum cup of the kind that come with campware cooking sets.
“This is too much!” I thought. “Where is the pentacle?” (No need to ask about a wand; I was in the forest, after all.)
No pentacle appeared, but I felt somehow honored all the same. The gods or simply the universe had tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You’re in.”
That knife was my athame for several years, and I will still use it sometimes; otherwise, since it takes an edge, it makes a good “white-handled knife.”
2 — But a new teacher entered my life, and he had different ideas about how magic worked. He and some engineer buddies postulated that maybe magical energies were on the electromagnetic spectrum . . . somewhere. They experimented with psionic “machines” that were said to amplify mental energies, psychic healing, fields of protection, and so on.
He suggested removing all ferrous metal from the ritual circle, and — if you were indoors — turning off the electric power for the duration.
So I had to replace the stainless steel (inox) athame. The high priest of my coven (a different person) found me a piece of very hard bronze. I took it to the HP of another coven, who was also an SCA fighter and an armorer — I would put his articulated steel gauntlets, for example, up against any from the 14th or 15th centuries.
He ground and polished this bronze billet into a full-tang leaf-shaped blade. The crystal in the hilt was my addition — it might help, who knows?
I made some other changes in my practice, becoming more aware of bodily energy flows. And I just liked the idea of bronze. Ah, the Bronze Age. Thuban was the North Star, and those were Shining Times.
Ritual. Long memories,
houses built on poles,
mountains, glaciers, trading parties
of tattooed men and women, faience beads,
packs filled with poppies, tin, and amber
threading through a pass.
Hammered bronze knives. Helen,
mixing her potions,
the blue Aegean stretching
like a storyteller’s breath.
Maybe that was not what my teacher had in mind, but it is where I drifted.
3 — Last year at Yule M. gave me a flint knife. I know where she bought it, at a trade fair in Taos, New MexicoWhere, coincidentally, I am writing this blog post, and it was made just down the road by Charlie Acuña of The Stone Edge (say it). For three months it has been sitting on my desk while I think about it.
But where has my practice been heading? More and more to the local level. I have written a little about paying attention to Tlaloc, our regional god of the hydrological cycle, for example. I’ve been working with volunteer crews to clear fallen logs and other debris from Hardscrabble Creek, before the run-off from a large burn scar upstream causes flooding in our communities, which gives me plenty of time to think about the spirit of the creek while adjusting the saw chain tension.
Am I moving backwards from the Bronze Age now? It’s all just dreams and talking to the plants and animals. Doing certain feral things. Letting so much fall away.