1083 – Athame

Physical description:
Small slim athame, with handle of bone (or similar) coloured black with white engraved symbols. Curving brass crosspiece.
Museum classification:
Modern Witchcraft
Size:
200 x 50 x 13 mm
Information:

The symbols are based on Mathers' edition of 'The Key of Solomon', which includes symbols to be inscribed on the magical knife. Particularly interesting is the symbol that resembles eight spokes. In some editions of 'The Key of Solomon' the spokes have large dots on the ends; however, in the manuscript Mathers took the illustration from, British Library Additional 10862 (written in Latin and Italian, and c.17th century), the spokes end in semi-circles or crescents.

A Polish visitor to the Museum has pointed out that - particularly on this knife, where the spokes end with short lines at right-angles to the spokes - the symbol resembles the ancient Slavic symbol the Kolovrat. 'Kolovrat' means 'rotating circle' or 'spinning wheel', and is generally regarded as a symbol of the sun, although other interpretations claim it is a symbol of the cycle of life. It is often associated with the Slavic solar deity Svarog (see the website http://meettheslavs.com/swastika-kolovrat-deconstructing-prejudices/) A similar symbol is associated with the Mesopotamian solar deity Shamash - a four-pointed star-like shape with four groups of wavy lines between the points, sometimes enclosed within a circle (see http://hollowplanet.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/rays-of-shamash.html). Sometimes this seems to have been simplified into eight spokes without the circle (see http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sunrise/49-99-0/mi-wtst.htm), or elaborated into an 8-pointed star-like shape with another eight groups of wavy lines between (http://www.lessingimages.com/viewimage.asp?i=08021415+&cr=51&cl=1).

An eight-pointed star or an eight-petalled flower (or a stylised image resembling both) is a symbol of the Cosmos in Central Asia, often used on rugs and other forms of folk art (see 'From Shamanism to Sufism' by Razia Sultanova).

Another visitor to the Museum remarked that the Vegvisir (aka Icelandic Compass) is also very similar to the eight-spoked talismans of British magic. It is a talisman believed to ensure that a traveller will be able to find their way to their destination even through bad weather. It appears in the 19th century Huld Manuscript (https://handrit.is/en/manuscript/imaging/is/IB04-0383#page/26v++(56+of+68)/mode/2up) but is no doubt much earlier. It is currently (May 2017) very popular as a tattoo - perhaps used in a symbolic rather than literal sense.

See also the Key of Solomon Talisman, object no. 1593, and the Sarmatian solar amulet, object no. 3691.

Resource:
Object
Materials:
Steel, brass, bone

The symbols are based on Mathers' edition of 'The Key of Solomon', which includes symbols to be inscribed on the magical knife. Particularly interesting is the symbol that resembles eight spokes. In some editions of 'The Key of Solomon' the spokes have large dots on the ends; however, in the manuscript Mathers took the illustration from, British Library Additional 10862 (written in Latin and Italian, and c.17th century), the spokes end in semi-circles or crescents.

A Polish visitor to the Museum has pointed out that - particularly on this knife, where the spokes end with short lines at right-angles to the spokes - the symbol resembles the ancient Slavic symbol the Kolovrat. 'Kolovrat' means 'rotating circle' or 'spinning wheel', and is generally regarded as a symbol of the sun, although other interpretations claim it is a symbol of the cycle of life. It is often associated with the Slavic solar deity Svarog (see the website http://meettheslavs.com/swastika-kolovrat-deconstructing-prejudices/) A similar symbol is associated with the Mesopotamian solar deity Shamash - a four-pointed star-like shape with four groups of wavy lines between the points, sometimes enclosed within a circle (see http://hollowplanet.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/rays-of-shamash.html). Sometimes this seems to have been simplified into eight spokes without the circle (see http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sunrise/49-99-0/mi-wtst.htm), or elaborated into an 8-pointed star-like shape with another eight groups of wavy lines between (http://www.lessingimages.com/viewimage.asp?i=08021415+&cr=51&cl=1).

An eight-pointed star or an eight-petalled flower (or a stylised image resembling both) is a symbol of the Cosmos in Central Asia, often used on rugs and other forms of folk art (see 'From Shamanism to Sufism' by Razia Sultanova).

Another visitor to the Museum remarked that the Vegvisir (aka Icelandic Compass) is also very similar to the eight-spoked talismans of British magic. It is a talisman believed to ensure that a traveller will be able to find their way to their destination even through bad weather. It appears in the 19th century Huld Manuscript (https://handrit.is/en/manuscript/imaging/is/IB04-0383#page/26v++(56+of+68)/mode/2up) but is no doubt much earlier. It is currently (May 2017) very popular as a tattoo - perhaps used in a symbolic rather than literal sense.

See also the Key of Solomon Talisman, object no. 1593, and the Sarmatian solar amulet, object no. 3691.