weapon of offense and defense in personal combat, consisting of a blade with a sharp point and one or two cutting edges, set in a hilt with a handle protected by a metal case or cross guard. The sword may have developed from the dagger at the beginning of the Bronze Age. It was not, however, until the more durable iron sword was introduced in the early Iron Age that the sword became an effective weapon. Greek and Roman swords were very short, with pointed ends, and had two cutting edges. Medieval knights used two types of swords: a short sword with a pointed end that was used with one hand and a heavy two-handed sword with a rounded end. During the Middle Ages the best blades were those made by the Arabs in Damascus and Toledo. Swords were widely used in the Middle East and E Asia as well as in Europe. The scimitar, used by the Persians and Arabs, is a curved steel sword. One of the best known of the East Asian swords is the Japanese samurai
sword, consisting of a curved single-edged tempered steel blade set in a long handle. As a highly personal weapon the sword attained symbolic importance; surrendering one's sword became a token of submission, and the custom of taking an officer's sword away from him and breaking the blade when he was dismissed from the service in disgrace arose because a sword is the mark of an officer and a gentleman. During the Crusades and later, the sword, because of its shape, frequently was used to symbolize the Cross. The sword is now obsolete as a weapon and is carried in some military units for decorative purposes in times of peace. Special types of swords are the rapier, the épée, and the saber. See fencing
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Sword (religion, spiritualism, and occult)
One of the coven tools in Wicca, a sword is used to mark the ritual Circle. The Priest or Priestess walks around the line marked on the ground and points the tip of the sword at it, directing energy into that line. This is the first stage of consecrating the Circle; the second and third stages involve sprinkling it with consecrated salted water and censing it with the fumes of incense.
The coven has only one sword, since it is only used in a coven situation. It is not necessary, therefore, for every Witch to own a sword. However, the sword may be used in lieu of a magic wand for directing power when working magic. This, again, is done in a coven situation with the coven leader wielding the sword.
At the start of many initiations, the officiating priest points the sword at the neophyte when asking if he or she really does wish to become a Witch. Sometimes the words, "For 'tis better to run on my sword and perish than to make the attempt with fear in thy heart," are addressed to the initiate.
The sword used in the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca has a brass cross-hilt that comprises two crescent moons back-to-back. The pommel is circular with a pentagram engraved on each side. Many other Wiccan swords also follow this design.
The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.
a thrust and slash weapon for close combat. It consists of a blade (usually straight and sharp on both sides) and a hilt with a crosspiece and a pommel.
The forerunners of the sword were blades consisting of bone bases into which flint pieces were inserted; such blades from the Neolithic have been found in the region of Lake Baikal. The bronze sword was common in Mesopotamia, the Transcaucasus, and Western Europe from the mid-second millennium B.C. The most ancient metal swords were divided into thrusting and slashing swords. In the last third of the second millennium B.C., combined thrusting-slashing swords appeared. The iron swords of the beginning of the first millennium B.C. were similar in form to the bronze swords. In the first half of the first millennium B.C., long iron swords (sometimes with bronze hilts) were used in Europe, the Transcaucasus, and the Middle East. A short sword called an akinak was common among the Scythians. Long slashing swords were used in Europe in the second half of the first millennium B.C. by infantry and heavy cavalry. The ancient Romans (third century B.C.-third century A.D.) had a short broadsword called a gladius for infantry combat and a long slashing sword called a spatha for cavalry combat. In Rus’ the most ancient swords date from the ninth century and existed until the 16th century, at which time they were superseded by the saber. In the 13th century the first Russian thrust swords appeared.
During a special study of the swords preserved in Soviet national museums it was found that many of them have different marks indicating their place of manufacture. In particular, the signatures of Western European artisans have been found, as well as the Russian inscription Liudota KovaV on a sword from the late tenth century. A sword was usually a weapon of the nobility and among many peoples served as a symbol of authority.
REFERENCESKirpichnikov, A. N. Drevne-russkoe oruzhie, issue 1: “Mechi i sabli, IX-XIII vv.” Moscow-Leningrad, 1966. (Arkheologiia SSSR: Svod arkheologicheskikh istochnikov, issue EI-36[a].)
Bonnet, H. Die Waffen der Volker des alten Orients. Leipzig, 1926.
Seitz, H. Blankwaffen, vol. 1. Braunschweig . (BibliothekfurKunst und Antiquitdtenfreunde, vol. 4.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
instrument of decapitation of early saints. [Christian Symbolism: Appleton, 14]
sabre of Turpin. [Fr. Lit.: The Song of Roland]
of Frithjof; blazed in war, gleamed dimly in peace. [Norse Myth.: LLEI, I: 323]
made by sorceress for killing Orlando. [Ital. Lit.: Orlando Furioso, Benét, 75]
mighty sword belonging to Siegfried. [Ger. Lit.: Nibelungenlied]
Colada El Cid’s
sabre. [Fr. Lit.: The Song of Roland]
two-hilted, solid gold sword. [Span. Lit.: Song of the Cid]
sword of sword hung by a single hair over his head. [Rom. Lit.: Brewer Handbook, 257]
Orlando’s unbreakable sword. [Ital. Lit.: Morgante Maggiore, Brewer Handbook, 309]
enchanted sword; extracting it from stone won him crown. [Br. Lit.: Le Morte d’Arthur]
the “Answerer”; Lug’s mighty blade could pierce any armor. [Irish Myth.: Leach, 415]
belonged to Sigmund; broken by Odin. [Norse Lit.: Volsung Saga]
Valdabrun’s sabre. [Fr. Lit.: The Song of Roland]
Oliver’s trusty sabre. [Fr. Lit.: The Song of Roland]
Charlemagne’s sword; buried with him. [Fr. Lit.: Brewer Dictionary, 594]
Grandoyne’s sabre. [Fr. Lit.: The Song of Roland]
Doolin of Mayence’s remarkably sharp sword. [Fr. Lit.: Wheeler, 241]
magic sword lent by Wittich to Siegfried. [Norse. Myth.: Wheeler, 244]
Arthur’s all-powerful sword, made by Merlin. [Br. Lit.: Faerie Queene]
Bevis’s sword. [Br. Lit.: Bevis of Hampton]
Ganelon’s sabre. [Fr. Lit.: The Song of Roland]
Sigmund’s promised sword, found in ash tree; later, Siegfried’s. [Ger. Opera: Wagner, Valkyrie, Westerman, 236]
sabre of the pagan, Baligant. [Fr. Lit.: The Song of Roland]
Alberich’s gift to Otwit; frighteningly fine-edged. [Norse Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 936]
Braggadocio’s big, bloody glaive. [Br. Lit.: Faerie Queene]
Sword of Justice
Malquiant’s sabre. [Fr. Lit.: The Song of Roland]
held by the personification of Justice. [Rom. Trad.: Jobes II, 898]
dazzling, golden-hilted sword of the Cid. [Span. Lit.: Song of the Cid]
sword of Ali, Muhammad’s son. [Islamic Legend: Brewer Handbook, 1066]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.