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April 22, 2004

word for the day: athame

A poster with a photo of a very attractive man wearing only a flower caught my eye. It was a ad for the San Francisco Gay Men's Open Wiccan Coven. They will be celebrating Beltane, and the small print said to "bring your athame or wand". Well I know what a wand is (ahem) but what's an athame? A couple of google searches later I knew that an athame (pronounced ATH-ah-may) is a ritual black-handled dagger used for casting spells, especially for drawing a pentagram. It is associated with the East, element of air, and the intellect.

Now I know. Posted by spot at April 22, 2004 12:57 PM

I hope your readers enjoy the attached article! PAGANS DECLARE WAR ON BAD PRONUNCIATION "Dictionary that Speaks" Provides Both Audio and Visual Feedback! Most witches, Wiccans, Druids, wizards, sorcerers and ceremonial magicians these days are pretty much self-taught, either through books, or on the internet. But on those occasions when they get together with others of their ilk, they are too frequently unsure of the pronunciations of words common to their crafts, sometimes leading to discomfort or embarrassment. In 2005, a small group of Massachusetts pagans came up with an idea for a free, online, pronunciation dictionary- a talking dictionary of occult and neopagan words. The technology was there, the bandwidth was available (although the special construction of the dictionary makes it usable on even relatively slow connections), and the need was there. According to Brother Aviaf, of the Pagan Talking Dictionary Project, there was nothing online like the dictionary they envisioned- just a few sites here and there, doing their best to help out on the web. Information was often contradictory. Frequently, incorrect information was repeated, confusing newcomers. The group figured if they could just "find a home" for their dictionary, that they could figure out the mechanics required to implement it. Then serendipity intervened. The Stone Pentacle offered to provide hosting and space for the dictionary, in return for the ever-popular "promotional consideration". The right recording equipment and technologies appeared as if, well, by magick. Burying themselves in the methods of linguists, the group researched pronunciations of Welsh, Celtic, Hebrew, Sanskrit and Egyptian (and many other) words. They became amateur etymologists, and semanticists. And they asked a lot of questions. They figured if they could work out an easy to use, easy to understand method of presenting unfamiliar pronunciations, that they could provide a fabulous service to the neopagan community. And after two years, thousands of lines of HTML, JavaScript, and PHP code later, they seem to have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The Pagan Talking Dictionary, on the web at (or just Google "Pagan Talking Dictionary") is the result of their efforts. The most unique feature of the dictionary is that when a user passes their mouse-pointer over a syllable in a word, the syllable actually seems to 'swell-up' as its pronounced. The result is a foolproof mechanism for learning to pronounce even the most complex words. This unusual, “Dictionary that Speaks” can only be truly appreciated by trying it out for yourself. Oh, and be sure to have a happy Halloween, or as the Wiccans say, “Samhain” (pronounced SOW-when!) Posted by: Brother Aviaf at October 9, 2007 05:08 PM
In most branches of traditional Wicca, the athame is associated with the element of fire, while the wand is associated with the element of fire. One reason is that swords are forged in fire, while wands (usually made of wood, from tree branches) are formed in air. /// =========================================================== /// Additionally, most Wiccan covens are not gay. Wicca does not deny or condemn gay sexuality at all; we believe that we each have the right to pursue and to find love and pleasure in our own way, and however that happens is all well and good, providing that it harms no one. However, Wiccan theology is duotheistic, centered on a Moon Goddess and a Horned God, who are regarded primarily as divine lovers. (Although sometimes other pagan gods may be honored in addition to our main two deities.) The God and Goddess join together in passionate love and sexual union, a sacred Mystery that serves to create and evolve the cosmos. /// ========================================================== /// Like Tantric Hinduism, there are obvious heterosexual overtones to the religion of Wicca in its traditional form. Both in the theology and also in the liturgy and the ritual practice, Wicca is based on the sexual polarity of yin and yang, male and female, masculine and feminine. These two primal powers, or opposing poles of divinity, are in turn facets of a greater impersonal Unity similar to the Tao. Or the Goddess and the God may be regarded as the soul and the spirit of Nature Itself. Out of that complementary polar opposition of male and female, which rejoins and recombines in sacred sexual union, the vast diversity of everything else in creation is born. /// ===========================================================/// The central sacred act of traditional Wicca is when the priest lowers the athame (ritual dagger) into the chalice or cup held by the priestess, to bless the wine. There is obvious sexual symbolism in that, because that is the symbolic Great Rite or tConjunctio Oppositorum. That refers to the sacred sexual union of opposites -- male and female, and it is similar to the ancient alchemical idea of the magical wedding of the sun and moon. It's a ritual act that reminds us of the greater magic of the cosmos, the primordial act of creation. /// ======================================================== /// The athame/dagger represents fire, which is associated with the sun, and hence with the Horned God and all things masculine. The cup/chalice represents water, which is associated with the moon, and hence with the Goddess and all things feminine. The primordial union of these two primal powers brings forth all the magic of creation. (Wicca views magic -- and the Gods Themselves -- as natural, not supernatural.) /// ======================================================== /// As for the pronunciation, most witches say "ath-AH-may" but that is something that varies, and if we ever get to the point of nitpicking such trivial matters then may the Gods forgive us. One of the strengths of Wicca as a pagan religion is in its ability to fuse an underlying unity at its root with a great diversity in its branches and leaves and blossoms. Some things (such as the Gods, and how we conceive of Them) are at the very heart and core of the religion, hence essential and not optional. Other things -- such as the color of a wand or how to pronounce words like "athame" -- are not essential, but instead are open to much variation and personal preference and individual creativity. We take our wisdom and our inspiration from Nature Itself, which rejoices in all manner of diversity. /// ========================================================== /// [One more thing: you really need to include some way for people to include paragraph breaks in the comments. I've divided it up as best I can, but a simple line break would be so much neater.] Posted by: Dee at November 10, 2007 03:29 AM
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