The ritual knife, like the wand, is a tool that directs energy in ritual, and may also be used to draw the circle before ritual and close the circle afterwards.
However, it is more of an energy manipulator or commander, due to its sharp edges, and therefore isn’t generally used to invoke deities, as this would be considered forceful, rather than collaborative, in terms of working with divine energy.
The athame is also used to draw magical symbols, such as the pentagram, in the air to lend power to ritual and spellwork, and is often employed in rituals that banish and, or release negative energies or influences.
This tool is associated with the God, and the element of Fire, as it is an agent that causes change. The knife is traditionally sharp on both sides, with a black handle which is said to store a small amount of the magical energy raised in rituals for later use.
The blade is not generally very long—the length of one’s hand, or shorter, is considered ideal.
Some Witches purchase special daggers to serve as their athame, while others will consecrate an ordinary kitchen knife for the purpose.
It’s considered unwise to use a knife that has been used to cut animal flesh, though any negative energies lingering from such use can be ritually cleansed before “converting” the knife into an athame.
Some Witches choose to enhance their energetic relationship with their knife by engraving magical symbols into the handle.
Depending on the tradition, the athame may do double duty as an actual cutting and engraving tool. It may be used to cut herbs, shape anew wand from the branch of a tree or carve magical symbols into a candle for ritual use.
However, many Witches prefer to use a second, white-handled knife, sometimes called a boline, for these purposes, keeping the athame for ritual use only.