At this point, I’m starting to feel like I acquire ritual tools the way some women acquire shoes, and this is something I have mixed emotions about. The 2005 me was very adamant that a witch should hold off on acquiring a tool until he or she found the right tool, and then they should hang onto it for life. The 2015 me still feels that way, but seems to be crying out “bring on the stuff!” in a horrendous case of hypocrisy. Since I began journaling here (almost 7 years ago!), I went from eschewing the use of blades to using a modified butter knife as an athame. Then I acquired Candle once I realized the energy wasn’t quite jiving and that I should treat myself to a “grown up blade”. I was so pleased with Candle, I acquired a boline, Crooked, soon thereafter from the same smith. Of course, using a curved knife makes most things short of cutting plants rather difficult, so I bought a paring knife with a light handle, Olive, to use as my white-handled knife. And now, I’ve cycled through to another set.
I began looking to replace my athame, Candle, because it is not a traditional blade and I am starting to investigate inter-coven work, and there are plenty of Gardnerians who strongly hold that athame’s should be sharp, ferrous, double-edged, black-hilted daggers with magical sigils carved into the handle. My dull, copper, single-edged Candle hardly meets that mark, though it does have a lovely black handle. Interestingly, the adherence to these standards seem fairly new to the community. There’s evidence that, at least in 1970s America, making your blade by hand was far more important than the materials the blade was made from, and a fair number of witches ran around with athames they’d made by cutting craft-store copper sheeting into blade shape. Going back further, there’s evidence that witches who worked with Gardner used single-edged blades for their athames (though there’s less evidence they used those blades while they worked with Gardner). One thing that has been consistent, though, is that there is a strong preference for sharp blades in the community.
When I began pondering inter-coven work, I thought long and hard about what to do about my athame. I considered sharpening Candle for the sake of community appeasement, but ultimately I love Candle just the way it is and couldn’t bring myself to do it. With far more sadness than I would have thought myself capable of, I decided to get another knife and make it my primary athame. I rationalized this decision by telling myself this wasn’t close redundancy. After all, you can’t use a ferrous blade to work with the fey and nature spirits (though a wand does just as well), and I would be able to use Candle at public gatherings where I wouldn’t be able to use a sharp knife. So I went shopping.
I tried contacting local bladesmiths and pagan smiths, but I wasn’t able to make anything work. Many of the smiths I knew were scaling down their operations and not taking custom work, and much of their stock was a bit too embellished for my tastes. Others had a wait list that numbered in years to order completion. Consequently, I found myself researching out new sources. During an Etsy binge, I happened across Poshland Knives, which also operates their own site. They are a dealer based out of London, but with prices like theirs, I knew they were having the blades made in Pakistan (which was confirmed when I received a custom knife). I wasn’t overly thrilled with the prospect of going global for my blades, and knife-heads commonly put down the quality that comes out of Pakistan, but I sincerely doubted I would actually put my athame to any stress tests, so I decided to take the risk and ordered one of their stock blades. When it arrived, I quite fell in love with it. The rosewood handle is a little lighter than pictured above–the first picture is more true to life. A knife aficionado friend of mind pointed out the blade has a slight lean to it, but even he said the quality far surpassed what he was anticipating. After working with the new athame in circle, I decided I wanted to work with Poshland again to create a complementary white-handled knife.
This customization experience is really what endeared me to Poshland, because they very much messed up my order and were very kind about correcting it. The gentleman who runs it, Uzzy, is not a native English speaker, and he read my customization request very literally. I had requested only one deviation from their standard BC 61-40 knife, and that was to replace their colored bone handle with white bone or horn. Uzzy did not realize that an adjective can modify all nouns that follow it, so I received a horn handled knife, bull horn to be precise, and bull horn is naturally black. Once the misunderstanding was cleared up, Uzzy graciously offered me a discount on a new knife and I sold the mistake to my knife aficionado friend. Truthfully, I rather like the black knife more. As you can see, its handle is slightly thinner, which makes it easier for me to grip and use. It is also significantly lighter and actually balances, and I’m partial to its damascene patterning. If only it were white! I should not complain; the knife I ended up with is still a very pretty knife, and it gets the job done quite admirably. The 4.5 inch blade is long enough and wide enough to tackle larger jobs, but small enough to carve candles without a problem. And I very much appreciate how my white-handled knife and my athame look like they belong together without being exactly matched.
If you happen to be in the market for magical blades, you could do worse than Poshland. They do good work at incredibly reasonable prices for the quality, and customization is easy provided you are very careful in your descriptions! It’s also surprisingly inexpensive: customization on my white handled knife was only £10 (about $15) more than the price of the standard knife. They will also do completely custom blades, though pricing would definitely be commensurate.