The athame is a ceremonial, double-edged dagger, usually with a black handle and carved with demonic runes. It is used in demon-summoning rituals to draw blood or carve lines of magical force and is only for ritual use. The weapon loses its power if used in combat. It is one of the four elemental tools of the neo-pagan mundane religion Wicca; as such there are many false athame floating around. Warlocks can of course tell the difference on sight, but mundanes cannot. This can sometimes lead a mundane to accidentally possess a genuine athame, which is a great danger.
There is a legend told of the first seraph blade, which may or may not be true. The legend dates to the earliest days of the Iron Sisters, when they were few in number and the Adamant Citadel was merely a single adamas forge and a set of protective wards. In those days the paths from the mundane world to the volcanic plains of the Citadel were not as hidden and guarded as they are now, and it is said that a demon, a Dragon—for in those days Dragon demons were not almost extinct—found its way to the location of the Citadel. There was only a single Sister there working at the forge, and she was caught unawares and unarmed, having placed her faith in the impossibility of the Sisters’ forge being found by the enemy.
Laughing and threatening, the Dragon stepped through lava beds as though skipping across shallow streams. In terror, the Sister cast about her for a weapon, but all she had to hand were irregular jags of adamas, recently extracted from ore and waiting to be worked. She seized one and held it between her and the approaching Dragon like a pikeman preparing to receive a charge. Her hand trembled; she was afraid not for her own life but for the continued existence of the Iron Sisters: If the demons could travel here, surely they would overrun the Citadel soon enough.
Panic-stricken, she called out prayers to the forces of good. As the Dragon was upon her, she loudly abjured it in the name of Michael, the slayer of Sammael, general of the armies of Heaven. Promptly the adamas jag lit up, blue and brilliant with heavenly fire. The Sister’s hand burned where she clutched it, but with all her strength she thrust her makeshift lance and pierced the Dragon in the soft flesh under his jaw. She expected it to wound the Dragon and nothing more—but perhaps it would buy her enough time to flee.
Instead the adamas spear bored through the neck of the Dragon as if through paper, and around the spear burst flames of seraphic fire. The Dragon screamed and burned, and as the Sister watched, the demon staggered away from her, damaged in a way she had never seen a demon damaged before. Across the lava moat surrounding the Adamant Forge, the Dragon was overcome, fell to the ground, and burned for an hour.
The Sister fell to her knees in exhaustion and watched the Dragon’s carcass slowly fade from the world. She could then have rested—no one would have blamed her—but she was an Iron Sister, and by the time her fellow Sisters found her a few hours later, she had deduced the nature of the power she had uncovered and had drawn up on vellum the first blueprints for the seraph blade.
Iron Sisters: surprisingly badass.
Today seraph blades, or angel blades, are the fundamental weapon in Shadowhunter combat. They are as clear as glass, usually double-edged, and normally about two feet in length. Being adamas, they are incredibly finely honed and are capable of holding their edge indefinitely. They are thus potent weapons against any foe. Their true power, however, is revealed when they are named—when a Shadowhunter holds them and invokes the name of an angel. The spirit of that angel is said to then inhabit the blade for a time, and the weapon will glow brightly with heavenly fire, like the flaming sword of the angel who guards the Garden of Eden.
This heavenly fire is very potent against demons. Most demons can heal themselves from mundane injuries in our world fairly quickly, just as werewolves and vampires can. We Mark our mundane weapons (see sections below) to make them more potent, but even so, the best we can do with them is damage demons enough that they must retreat to lick their wounds, as it were. Only the seraph blade can permanently damage a demon, so that it must withdraw for more significant and lengthy healing or must return to the Void to repair itself.
After a time the power of an activated seraph blade will be exhausted, and it will need to be refreshed by the Iron Sisters in order to be used again. Depleted seraph blades can be brought to the weapons room of your local Institute for regular recycling.
Iron Sisters also badass at recycling!
Note that the seraph blade is a viable but drastically overpowered weapon in a fight against a mundane. Downworlders are harmed by them in much the same manner as demons, but mundane flesh pierced by a seraph blade will burst into flame and may consume the mundane entirely. The Clave has officially deemed this “awesome.”
Shadowhunters will not be so burned by seraph blades, given our angelic blood, but even so, activated blades can severely burn the wielder’s hands, and you should not touch a seraph blade until you have been Marked with the rune of Angelic Power. (Typically this is placed either at the base of the throat or on the inside of each wrist.) A Shadowhunter who has been stabbed by a seraph blade will not burst into flames, but it should be remembered that seraph blades are still blades and can kill a Shadowhunter by more terrestrial means, like any other sword or dagger.
By the way, most Shadowhunters think we have to name seraph blades just because Jonathan Shadowhunter thought it was important to make everyone memorize a lot of angel names. That guy was hard-core.
It does mean you rule at Angel Trivial Pursuit.
Also Angel Scrabble.
You’ll find weapons made of all kinds of materials in your local Institute, chosen for their magical properties.
Adamas is the heavenly metal granted to the Shadowhunters for our use by the Angel Raziel. The metal is silver-white and translucent, and glows slightly (although this glow may not be visible in broad daylight). It generally feels smooth to the touch, like glass but notably warmer and heavier. It is the hardest substance the Nephilim know of, and cannot be worked by mundane means. The Iron Sisters use seraphic Marks unknown to non-Sisters to shape the metal; to craft weapons and steles from it, the Sisters use forges that take their fire from the heart of a volcano.
This element is toxic to faeries. You will often encounter the term “cold iron” in reference to the fey; this is just regular iron. The term “cold iron” refers to the fact that it is cold to the touch, which was at one time believed to be associated with its magical properties. Iron takes enchantment and blessing very well. It’s generally believed that it is the large quantity of iron in human blood that causes its affinity for enchantment. It is especially worth mentioning that meteoric iron, the nickel-iron alloy that makes up many meteors, is a particularly good conductor of magical energy.
This type of iron alloy is usually not toxic to faeries. It is the purity of iron that grants its power over the fey. Steel does, however, hold a sharpened edge very well, and thus the Shadowhunter will normally spend a large amount of time training with steel weaponry to learn how to put one of those sharpened edges through a demon.
Silver is a metal with which all Nephilim are intimately familiar. Using a weapon made of silver is one of the only ways to permanently injure a werewolf, who will heal from a wound made by any other material. The element is toxic to vampires and causes them to experience pain, headaches, nausea, and so on, though it will not kill them. Silver is a potent conductor of magical energies, behind only gold and adamas, and as a result the fey also use a large amount of it in both their arms and armor, and also in their decorative arts. Shadowhunters have the unenviable task of learning to wield both steel and silver weapons, which differ noticeably in weight, and the Shadowhunter must in fact learn to switch between them quickly.
This metal is poisonous to demons. It is also an excellent conductor of magical energies, although it is rarely used to make weapons or tools, since in its pure form it is one of the most soft and pliant metals. Interestingly, it has both strongly positive and strongly negative associations in religious ritual. On the one hand its rarity, resistance to corrosion, and beauty has caused it to be used to symbolize high esteem, power, and the light of Heaven. On the other hand its expense and rarity has made it a symbol of greed and of the profanity of material wealth, as opposed to the sacredness of spiritual wealth. Thus, one will find gold used in sacred and powerful religious decorations and also in some of the darkest of demonic rituals.
Electrum is an alloy of gold and silver that can be found naturally in the earth. It has been known and used since the time of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Its lack of purity means that it is rarely used in specific rituals, but it is considered a good conductor of magic. It combines the mystical abilities of both silver and gold, in lesser strength than either pure metal but at significantly less expense than pure gold and without some of the disadvantages.
This element is used mostly as an intensifier for other materials. It is thought to help bring the abilities of other metals into better alignment with the wielder, and thus is often used decoratively, or to form hilts or handles of silver weapons, for instance.
Demon-metal is a noble metal (that is, one resistant to corrosion) that is believed to originate in the Void, and cannot be found naturally in our universe. It is black in appearance but is believed to be transparent and glowing with black demonic power. It is something like the demonic equivalent of adamas in that it creates wounds that cannot be easily healed by seraphic Marks and require much more involved medical attention. You will find it sometimes used to forge weapons or armor wielded or worn by demons themselves. It is incredibly rare to find it in the hands of Downworlders or humans.
The European rowan tree has long been known to have magically protective properties. It has been used in Europe to ward off malevolent spirits and enchantments for thousands of years. These properties, along with the tree’s density and strength, have made it a common choice for the staves of druids and other priests, and it is commonly used in the construction of Institutes and for arrows wielded by Nephilim.
The wood of Yggdrasil, the world-tree of Norse mythology, is believed to be the source of the so-called Mead of Poetry, the mythological beverage that would magically transform the drinker into a scholar. It has properties similar to that of rowan but is notably easier to work. It is also often used in a similar way to iron—it is believed to have a similar affinity with humans. (Norse mythology also cites it as the wood from which the first human was created.)
The oak tree is often considered the “most mundane” of woods, and from this very fact it draws its power. It has great strength and hardness and is therefore frequently the material of choice for wooden weapons. Stakes for vampire slaying, for instance, are traditionally crafted out of oak, which is believed to help guide the wielder’s hand to the source of demonic magic, in order to eliminate it.
Jace is considered the most awesome material to make a Shadowhunter out of.
I am both grossed out and confused.
* * *
HOLY WATER Batman!
You probably already know of holy water. In fact the use of water as a weapon against evil is well-explored in myths and legends. Water is the substance that, more than any other, defines and sustains life in our world. It can be made, with the application of ritual, to take into itself something of the angelic, to become not merely the water of life but holy water. Holy water has proved to be a useful weapon against demonic powers: It is severely toxic to demons and also to vampires. It can be used to flush out the beginnings of vampire infection, to save someone who has ingested vampire blood. (See the Bestiaire Part II, Chapter 4, for more details.) Faeries, on the other hand, can stand its presence and its touch but will be made severely weakened and ill if they can be fooled into drinking it. (Interestingly, werewolves are not affected by holy water at all, just as they are not at all negatively affected by other mundane religious objects.)
That actually is interesting! Ask Luke about.
Many mundane religions include this notion of seraphically aligned water, and it is from the mundanes’ holy men and women that the Nephilim acquire the majority of our holy water. As part of our relationships with mundane religions, we maintain connections with monastic orders across the globe. One of these orders’ responsibilities is to bless water and other objects for the Nephilim. The orders connected to the Nephilim tend to be among the more secretive monastic orders, often those sworn to silence, and the relationships are often kept up by Silent Brothers and Iron Sisters.
How we collect, store, and distribute all this holy water to the Institutes and to Idris is a fascinating hydrodynamic engineering problem that will not be gone into in this text. Those who are interested in more depth are encouraged to visit the Silent City, where the research Brothers there will be more than happy to supply you with the multivolume handwritten tomes they have created specifying the processes, for perusal at your leisure.
No need to be sarcastic, Codex.
I think that’s sincere, actually.
ARMOR AND OTHER TOOLS
Black for hunting through the night
For death and mourning the color’s white
Gold for a bride in her wedding gown
And red to call enchantment down.
White silk when our bodies burn,
Blue banners when the lost return.
Flame for the birth of a Nephilim,
And to wash away our sins.
Gray for knowledge best untold,
Bone for those who don’t grow old.
Saffron lights the victory march,
Green will mend our broken hearts.
Silver for the demon towers,
And bronze to summon wicked powers.
—Old Nephilim children’s rhyme
One’s first set of Shadowhunter gear is, for most Shadowhunters, an important moment in their training—the time when they begin to first look like other Shadowhunters. When you wear gear, you become part of a tradition joining Shadowhunters across hundreds of years; our gear has remained basically unchanged since modern textile methods came into being.