How did the mass marketing of Wicca turn the heirloom hand forged athame into consumer junk? Most commonly associated with Wicca and Witchcraft, the athame or athamé has a rich and diverse cultural heritage. By a similar name, it can be found described as the “arthame” in Key of Solomon, a grimoire dating to the renaissance. By different names, the athame can be found as the Sikh’s kirpan and the phurba of the Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Bön, and Indian Vedic traditions.
In younger Western traditions, after its discussion in the Key of Solomon we see it’s use described as a tool for banishing within the Hermetic order of the Golden Dawn. Later, the athame was described by Gerald Gardner as having a great many uses, but none involving actual cutting. Although Western traditions tended to associate the athame with air, Gardener associated the athame with fire. Gardner also put a greater emphases on the athame than did other traditions. As Gardner is often considered the father of Wicca and modern witchcraft, that emphasis continues. Or does it?
If you search the terms “hand forged athame” or “handmade athame“, the search results will typically include a wide range of absolute junk. Typically those claiming to be a “hand forged athame” are not forged at all. Those listed as “hand made athames” are usually mass produced in sweat shops. If there is an emphasis on the athame, one must wonder why the quality of most athames ranks up there with the McWicca in a box kits. If a person puts an emphasis on the importance of their athame, it will not have been mass produced in a sweat shop and sold for a $9.95 on Ebay,
I recall Gerald Gardner said he received his athame when initiated by the New Forest coven. Alex Sanders certainly included the gifting of the athame to initiates. As the Gardenarian and Alexandrian traditions were the dominant varieties of Wicca when Llewellyn Worldwide publishing decided to market Wicca in the United States, the tradition of gifting athames to initiates fell aside out of necessity.
Raymond Bucklands Complete Book of Witchcraft recommended making ones own athame. But the included instructions were not only minimal, they simply would not produce anything but a knife like object. I spoke to Mr. Buckland about this. As I suspected, he had never made a knife in his life. Per Mr. Buckland, Gerald Gardner had presented Raymond Buckland an athame when he initiated him. AS Mr. Buckland was creating a new tradition, one where self initiation was possible, the gifting of the athame had to be replaced. By the time of Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner it was.
In his book Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner, Scott Cunning said nothing about the hand forged athame. He said nothing about the handmade athame. Instead, he advised buying a knife you are drawn to and then personalizing it. As most readers knew nothing about knives and lived in a world of wild consumerism, the transformation was complete. The heirloom hand forged athame was all but replaced by mass produced junk