Cretan knife: A weapon of honor and gallantry

The Crete dagger or Cretan daggers are traditional knives made in Crete. These blades are unique to this island and are an intrinsic part of the culture. The daggers have several uses for the wearer. They have served for personal self-defense, been used in war and even in sorcerer’s spells and wedding ceremonies.

Cretan daggers are steel bladed, one-edged straight knifes with very sharp, thin points. Ancient cretan daggers were double-edged and very ornate.

Modern blades are more practical. The handle of the dagger is called the “manika.” Daggers are made with three common types of manikas, the bird’s beak, the V-shape, and the classic style of ancient cretan daggers. Manikas are only made from animal horn, white bone or ivory. Cretan daggers are sheathed in highly decorated metal sheath of silver or gold.

History

The earliest examples of Cretan-like daggers were made in 1500 BC in Mycenaean Greece. Later, some of the best examples of cretan daggers appeared during the peak of the Minoan civilization. The highest quality daggers made for nobility were manufactured on Crete. The daggers became a major part of cretan culture and have been continually manufactured ever since.

In the 18th century the typical dagger style solidified into its elongated, dart-like shape. By the mid-19th century over-sized, almost purely decorative daggers grew in popularity. These daggers doubled as sabers. Modern daggers are much smaller, twelve and a half to fifteen inches in length, at about half the length of the 19th sabers.

Uses

Cretan daggers have many uses throughout Crete’s history. Writings from the 14th century indicate that the daggers were used for military purposes in the revolution of the Psaromilingos. Even later, these daggers were worn and used by soldiers in battles right up to World War II.

The dagger was also used to indicate a woman had a betrothed or husband. Traditionally, a man presented his fiance with a small silver dagger, which she wore tucked into her sash at balls and celebrations. It could also be worn daily in case she needed it for self-defense. A small black hilted dagger is also used in the wedding ceremony during rituals intended to keep bad spirits away.

Small black-handled cretan daggers were used by sorceror’s on the island in their magic rituals and spells. Commonly, the sorcerers drew a circle around themselves with the daggers for protection when dealing with demons and other spirits.

Manufacturing Process

Cretan daggers are hand made by silver and metal smiths. The blades are hammered and formed from several layers of thin silver sheet metal. This metal is layered and rolled up using wires to secure it into place.

Silversmiths hammer at the metal with wooden mallets and hammers to pound it together. Wire metal fittings are placed over the blade to form it into the appropriate shape as it’s being hit. The wires are removed. The smith finishes pounding it into the traditional shape. The blade is sharpened and then polished to a high sheen.

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