The Four Hallows of Witchcraft – Air & the Sword of Truth

     We place a blade in the east quadrant of our altar to represent the element of air.  Some witch’s use a wand as their air element tool with the blade being placed in the south, and my own tradition, that of the Temple of Witchcraft, places fire instead of air in the east quadrant.  Correspondences will differ between traditions and from witch to witch.  The blade in this instance is symbolic of the mind and communication.  Like the sky, our minds can be calm and tranquil at times while being cloudy at others.  When we seek to learn and expand our knowledge, we connect and engage with the realm of air. Knowledge is mobile like the wind; it blows from one person to another.  The learning process should not become stagnant, but be a continuous journey.  When we speak of intellect, we say things like, “She’s sharp”, or “She’s a dull one”, as one might refer to a blade.  The element of air is used in communication as the use of breath and vibration through speech.  We listen through vibrations in the air as well.  Consider the delivery of quick and precise communication, we “cut to the chase” or “come to the point”, both are references to sharp, pointy objects.  Someone with a quick wit may be said to have a “sharp tongue” and we may say that his words have “cut” or “stabbed” us.  We work with the blade to store and focus air energy and we work with the element of air for clarity and understanding on all levels.  Most witches do not use their ritual knife for cutting physical objects, but reserve it for energetic cutting like releasing bindings or cutting a doorway in the ritual circle.  Physical cutting, herb harvesting, or carving is sometimes done with the white handled, curved blade of a boline.  I personally have no qualms about using my athame for cutting, though I do have a smaller knife I use for carving candles.  Some witches use the blade in focusing energy to cast the circle and the blade is also used in rituals to channel energy.  When Drawing Down the Moon, one pulls goddess energy from the moon into the blade and then into themselves.  The blade is also used in the Great Rite to join the creative god energy (the blade) with that of the goddess (the chalice) in a ritualized dramatization of divine intercourse.

Wire Wrapped Athame w/ Pentacle Sheath

     The most common blades used on a witch’s altar are the athame (a black handled double edged dagger) or a sword.  Both tools are used for storing and directing energy.  The black handled blade is the traditional tool, black to absorb energy and double edged as a reminder that the use of one’s power or knowledge can cut both ways.  I know a number of witches that simply work with a dagger they find appealing or a small blade that called to them in some other fashion.  The athame is small and precise while the sword may be considered stronger, but with less precision.  

     The quest for your Sword of Truth will lead you on a winding path of personal exploration and understanding.  The Tuatha Dé Danann’s Claíomh Solais or Blade of Light was said to belong to their first King, Nuada.  Legend states that much like absolute truth, no one was able to escape the sword once it was unsheathed.  The blade is symbolic of the divine truth – not that personal truth we hold about our political views, personal preferences, or social expectations, but the eternal and universal truth about the whole of life and creation.  We know that truth can be both subjective and absolute.  We have our own personal truths which may not be the same as those of our neighbors, friends, or family, but there also exists absolute truths that stand the test of time and even the fiercest investigations.  We work to keep our egos in check and to distinguish the subjective from the absolute.  When we are unable to recognize our own personal truths from absolute, we become closed minded and fanatical by attempting to force our beliefs on others or alienating people whose beliefs differ from our own.  We search, claim, and wield our Sword of Truth through careful introspection and work in our craft and we place our Sword of Truth in the east on our altar as a reminder to always seek knowledge and truth.