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Metal, Sigils & Blades in Magick.. Part 1 (Athame, Bolline & Tools)

So I've decided finally to write about the Magical Blades in Practice.

We can found many traces of the black handled knife (and others metalic blades & tools) in several occult traditions.. Solomonic, Hellenistic, Egyptian, Chaldean, and even Wiccan nowadays uses an Athame !

Modern wicca also uses the term "athame" to define the black knife. Gerald Gardner evidently adopted the instructions from French manuscripts, which read "arthane" or "arthame"; probably via Grillot de Givry's: Witchcraft, Magic and Alchemy (1931) and Clark Ashton Smith's story "The Master of the Crabs" (1947). JHP

THE KEY OF SOLOMON, BOOK II, edited by S. Liddell MacGregor Mathers. (Joseph H. Peterson, Copyright © 1999, 2004. All rights reserved).


 ...'In order to properly carry out the greatest and most important operations of the art, various instruments are necessary, as a knife with a white hilt, another with a black hilt, a short lance, wherewith to trace circles, characters, and other things'...

'The knife with the white hilt (see Figure 61) should be made in the day and hour of Mercury, when Mars is in the sign of the Ram or of the Scorpion. It should be dipped [*tempered] in the blood of a gosling and in the juice of the pimpernel [*pimpinella], the Moon being at her full or increasing in light. <Dip therein also> the white hilt, upon the which thou shalt have engraved the characters shown. Afterwards perfume it with the perfumes of the Art'.

Figure 61, from Ad. 10862, fol 121r.

Figure 61, from Aub24, fol 17r.

''With this knife thou mayest perform all the necessary operations of the art, except the circles. But if it seemeth unto thee too troublesome to make a similar knife, have one made in the same fashion; and thou shalt place it thrice in the fire until it becometh red-hot, and each time thou shalt immerse it in the aforesaid blood and juice, fasten thereunto the white hilt having engraved thereon the aforesaid characters, and upon the hilt [*blade] thou shalt write with the pen of art, commencing from the point and going towards the hilt, these names AGLA, ON, as shown in figure 61. Afterwards thou shalt perfume and sprinkle it, and shalt wrap it in a piece of silken cloth''.

''The names "AGLA, ON" should be written on the blade (lamella, not hilt), with the pen and ink of the art. Aub24 specifies wrapping with a red silk cloth. Mich. 276 gives the names as "Agla es Omega Jah Elyon Primaton finel Alphaes"; Wellcome 4668 p. 21: "Agla et Omega Iah, Helion, Primaton, Finiel, Alphanel"

''But as for the knife with the black hilt (see Figure 62) for making the circle, wherewith to strike terror and fear into the spirits, it should be made in the same manner, except that it should be done in the day and hour of Saturn, and dipped in the blood of a <black> cat and in the juice of hemlock, the characters and names5a shown in Figure 62 being written thereon, from the point towards the hilt. Which being completed, thou shalt wrap it in a black silk cloth''.

Figure 62, from Ad. 10862, fol. 122r.

Figure 62, from Aub24, fol. 17r.


Athame done by OMEGA ARTWORK.

From: 'The Key of Solomon the King' - S.L. MacGregor Mathers. (1999).

  Primaton on the knife in GKoS: פרימתון

''The quill knife or pen and the short lance (figure 63 or 64) are made in the same way, in the day and hour of Mercury, and they should be dipped in the blood of a magpie and the juice of the herb Mercury.Thou must make for them handles of white boxwood cut at a single stroke from the tree, at the rising of the Sun, with a new knife, or with any other convenient instrument. The characters shown should be traced thereon. Thou shalt perfume them according to the rules of art; and wrap them in silk cloth like the others''.

From: 'The Key of Knowledge' - (Clavicula Salomonis) Additional manuscript 36674. (Joseph H. Peterson, Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved).

'A knife is required in this art, therefore make it be made with a handle of iron which is pure, and let it be tempered in goose blood in the day of Mercury [Wednesday], in the increase of the Moon. After it be finished, say ten masses to be said over it, and write upon the handle thereof with the needle aforesaid these signs which follow':

'The Key of Knowledge' - (Clavicula Salomonis) Additional manuscript 36674.

'Then perfume it as hereafter is appointed, and note that the circle be made with such a knife, this day lay it up in silken cloths until thou wilt work, and cut nothing with this knife, but only all things belonging to this art'.

'All other instruments of iron whatsoever they be, let them be made on the day, and hour of Mercury, and write upon them these signs following':

The forme and shape of ye knife, wth wordes, and carectes [sic].

'The Key of Knowledge' - (Clavicula Salomonis) Additional manuscript 36674.
'Also, see to the swords wherewithal you will work, that they be clean, and write upon them as followeth: lamec, Theah, Aniles, Theophilos, Def, Beth ladomay, El, Ja, Jah, Emanuel, Saday, Emnanal, sum qui sum, Agla, ALPHA & OMEGA. Write this with the ink aforesaid, and smoke them with the odours, and say this conjuration':

'I conjure thee by the names, Abraham, Abraho, Tetragrammaton, which is to say, Aglane, that thou hurt me not in work. I conjure thee by pure, Stimulaton, and by these unspeakable names of Almighty God, which are: Egyrion, Osystron, Enona, Aula, by Asyn and by Manalo, Emanuel, Sabaoth, Adonay, primus, nouissimus, vnigenitus, Via, Vita, Manus, hono, primogenitus, finis, Sapientia, virtus, a. Caput, verbum, gloria, splendor, lux, Sol, Imago, Mors, Janua, Petra, Lapis, Angulus, Sponsus, pastor, propheta, Sacerdos, Athanatos, Ysyon, Pantacraton, Jesus, Halleluia; by these names, and all other names; I conjure you, that you have no power to hurt me'. Which done, let him keep it as before is said.

'Besides this there must be made another knife in the day and hour of Mercury, tempered with the juice of pimpernel, and the bloode of a goose, upon the which you shall cause three masses to be said. Also, you must perfume it and sprinkle it with water as is aforesaid, with which knife, all thinges necessary must be cut. Note also that before any of these things be consecrated, that they be virgins, that is, such as were never used in work or labour'.

From: 'Key of Solomon' - Folger Shakespeare Library.

Key of Solomon - Folger Shakespeare Library.

From: Ms Sloane 3847. 'The Clavicle of Solomon, revealed by Ptolomy the Grecian'.

'It is necessary in operations of artes or experiments to have swordes and knifes and other Instruments of the which circles may be made, and other necessary operations, Let him make a knife, of the forme following, of Iron andamco. With a white haft of Ivory yt is tempered in the bloud of a goose and the Joyce [juice] of pimpernell, and let it be made one Mercury day & his howre in the augment of ye Luna and fullfill from the first howre to ye 13th howre, and when he is made, cause to be songe over him x. masses. And write over (?) cinabrig conjured upon his hast, eyther with a needle or a poyntell of Iron, of such as followeth, of a needle, with this figure':

Ms Sloane 3847.

...'and fumigate him with fumigations as followeth, with such a knife as the circles should be made with, if it be greevous for you to make such a knife, finde some knife of the foresaid fashion, with a haft all white or all blacke, and write upon manicu~ or haft the foresaid wordes, after the mañer aforesaid of that knife, and upon the plate begiñinge from the poynt, write with encausto conjured, Alpha et omega, agla, Ja, el, ou, premeumaton, syrnel, afrnel, and cause to be sayd over this knife, 3 masses, one of the holy ghost and 2 of our Lady and fumigate him, with the fumigations followinge, and blesse him with water as followeth, conjuring sayinge, in nomine patris filii et S. Sancti Amen, and put him in a silke cloth, of such as followeth, until ye will worke, and of that knife let the circles of artes be made, and with that knife, let things necessary to the artes or experiments be cut, likewise let Artanus be made, but they neede not to be put in any operation, Let other Instruments of Iron, or staves, or rodds excersised in artes or experiments be consecrated, on that mañer, if they be Instrumts Let them be made one Mercury dayes and his howre as it is said of ye knife, and Arthano, and let these that followeth be written upon them:

Ms Sloane 3847.

From: Hermann Gollancz - 'Sepher Maphteah Shelomo' (Book of the Key of Solomon) (1914).

From: Paul Huson - 'Mastering Witchcraft' (Guide Pratique de la Sorcellerie) (1970).

Modern Athame by Omega Artwork.

From: 'Clavis or Key to the Magic of Solomon' - Joseph H. Peterson, Copyright ©. All rights reserved.
Ibis Press.

Below: Comparison Sources:  The Secret Grimoire of Turiel  / De Nigromanica Ms Sloane 3885 / Additional 36674 / Discovery of Witchcraft (1584).


Another version of the Greater Key of Solomon (MS. 1203) gives very different instructions:


'It is necessary to have a new sword approximately like the one shown in the diagram, and having washed it with wine in which you have added a little blood from a dove which has been killed on a Monday at six o'clock in the morning (which is about the hour of sunrise), after having wiped it with very clean linens, you must wait for a Tuesday at six o'clock in the morning. Then take it in your hand and will say these words with much attention':

"Aglo, On, Pentagrammaton, On, Athanatos, Agraton, Tela, Tutus, Tamon. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, cast your eyes upon your servant (N.) who wishes to battle on your behalf. Grant that your angels may assist me and that they do not abandon me in my enterprises, and through you, O Theos, Athanatos, Agios, Agios, Agios, Agios, Agios, Alpha & Omega, the Cassiel Angels, Sachiel, Samaël, Anaël, Raphaël, Michaël, and Gabriel come and grant me support in all my operations, that they never abandon me, and by the power of the art which you revealed to my father, grant that they are faithful and obedient to me through your name Tetragrammaton, Amen".

"Afterwards, engrave on the sword, or have engraved, with the burin of the Art, in the same hour (six AM) the characters and words shown hereafter. Afterwards, cast incense which has been blessed as will be shown later, and say the oration "Aglo, On," etc. shown above, after which you must put it in its scabbard and save it until needed".


''As one cannot do without a dagger in the operations, you will have someone prepare one of very fine steel; whose handle will be of the same nature, which you will wash as you did in preparing the sword, and having wiped it you must set it up by the point on a small pedestal of boxwood. And over it you should say the oration:

'Aglo, On, Pentagrammaton &c', and afterwards, as on the sword, you shall have engraved or engrave yourself the following characters:

'The aforementioned characters being engraved, you will incense them and say this oration':

"Hel, ya, yac, va, adonai, cados, cados, Aborel, Elhoim, [F adds: Agla, Agiel, Asel Sadon, Esul Eloha Elhoim,] yeny, del, agios, agios, agios, Rararel, Rararel, Rararel. O Lord, God Almighty who has created all things, do not forsake your servant (N.) who addresses his humble prayers to you, so that it pleases you to bless, purify, and sanctify this knife so that it is a worthy and proper one to carry out my operations. Grant also that your holy angels come to be present in this my operation. O most powerful Lord, remember my father to whom you granted the knowledge of all things; grant that by the virtue of his teachings, this knife may become pure, and is pleasant to you, through your name Tetragrammaton".

'Afterwards you must have engraved, or engrave yourself, at the same hour, as explained above, the following name and characters':

'The aforesaid characters being engraved, you will incense them saying the same oration, Hel, Ya, etc.
Then you will wrap them with a piece of new red taffeta, for use when needed'.


'It is necessary to make a penknife, which will not serve for any other purpose except for cutting the [pen] quill which you will need in the operation. The blade must be of very pure and fine steel. With regard to the handle, it is not important what it is made of, provided it is new, and having washed and wiped it well, it must be placed on a table covered with a white tablecloth. And after having sprinkled and perfumed it, say the following oration with much attention':

"Agiel, Asiel, Sadon, Paliel, Alma, Mammiel, Dilaton, Kaday, Catilua, Utanzaral, Zalphi, Carsali, Saffua [F:Faffua], Hictimi, On, Agla, Agios, Agios, Hamon, Yoth, Luphat, Ciel, Miel, Miel. [F reads: Luphat, Miel, Ciel, Miel, Ciel, Miel.] God of Moses, God of Israel, Great God, do not forget your servant (N.) but condescend to bless this instrument prepared for your honor, by your great power which you revealed to my Father, and by all the angels which you revealed the names of to him, and by your name which is mighty, Tetragrammaton".

Note: Compare French Ms 25314 to Lansdowne MS. 1203.

'After that you will engrave or have engraved on it these characters: On one side the holy names, and on the other side the seal. And having encensed them again, say once more the oration "Agiel, Asiel, Sadon" etc. After that, wrap the aforementioned penknife in a piece of taffeta of various colors, and properly preserve it for use when needed'.


The Burin or Graver is useful for engraving or incising characters. In the day and hour either of Mars or of Venus thou shalt engrave thereon the characters shown,

and having sprinkled and censed it thou shalt repeat over it the following Prayer:

"ASOPHIEL, ASOPHIEL, ASOPHIEL, PENTAGRAMMATON ATHANATOS, EHEIEH ASHER EHEIEH, QADOSCH, QADOSCH, QADOSCH QADOSCH [Both mss. read, “…Athanatos, Eye, Eye, Eye, Kellon, Kelloi, Kelli; O God Eternal, and my Father, bless this Instrument prepared in Thine honour, so that it may only serve for a good use and end, for Thy Glory. Amen".

Having again perfumed, thou shalt put it aside for use. The Needle may be consecrated in the same way.

Another version of the GKoS; another method depicted..

From: 'The Key of Solomon the King' (Clavicula Salomonis).

Edited and Translated by S. Liddell MacGregor Mathers for the British Museum 1889.
Revised and Edited by Joseph H. Peterson : Edited and Typeset by Sarah Kane French
Copyright © 1999, 2004, 2005. All rights reserved.

Ritual implements, from Ad. 10862, fol. 124v: (From top to bottom:) sword (ensis), white knife (gladius albus), black knife (gladius niger), penknife (arctavus), pen (stylus), small lance or spear (lanceola), staff (bacillus), wand (virga).

Ritual implements, from Zecorbeni (Zekerboni/Secorbeni/Zecorbeni..) manuscript Ad. 10862, fol. 164v: (From top left to bottom right:) bolino (bolino), white knife (cortel bianco), black knife (cortel nero), sickle (artauo), small lance or spear (lanceola), staff (bastone), pen (stillo), wand (verga), swords of the art (Spada dell' Arte), needle (aco).

Now, what's about the so-calling Bolline (Boline) or White Handled Knife ?

Many of the bolines advertised in on-line "magick shops" have a characteristic crescent shape, and are described as being for harvesting herbs. This crescent shape is reminiscent of the sickle described in the Key of  Solomon, (one of the sources for modern Wicca). Confusingly, an Italian version of the Key of Solomon has a hook-shaped knife called an Artauo (a possible root for athame) and a straight, needle-shaped blade called a bolino. When the name "boline" was first used to describe the crescent-shaped blade is not clear.

In The Book of Ceremonial Magic published by Arthur Edward Waite in 1911, Waite references a number of early works on magic which mention the bolline or sickle, saying Among the necessary properties mentioned by the Book of  True Black Magic are the sword, the staff, the rod, the lancet, the arctrave or hook, the bolline or sickle, the needle, the poniard, a white-handled knife and another knife, with a black handle, used to describe the circle. The most important to make is that called the bolline..."

From: ''The Key of Solomon the King' - S.L. MacGregor Mathers. (1999).

From: Omega Artwork:


BNF - Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal.
Joseph H. Peternson -Twilit Grotto /
Paul Huson - Mastering Witchcraft /