The wand is emblematic of magick practically the world over. From the archetypal Wizards staff to the forearm length wands more commonly used by today’s Pagan practitioners of many paths, they are associated with magickal folk and their skills. Early illustrations show both wands and staffs being used by shamans and priests, with a slight preference for the staff. Staffs literally became ‘staffs of office associated with more ceremonial practices, and some religions, while wands were more 0ften used by practitioners who worked more informally under an umbrella system such as ‘Strega’ and ‘Cunning Man or Woman’.
The only time most Pagans would have used a magickal staff would be if they were leaders of a coven, or as part of a major ritual with lots of people, such as one of the Solstice rituals or Beltaine. In the latter case some of the ritual organisers would use the staff as a signalling tool, much as the leaders of some of the worlds military bands do today, to indicate what to do and when to do it.
Today whether to use a staff, wand, or both, is more a matter of personal choice. I have several wands, but only one staff. My staff is used for outdoor rituals, particularly if I have to travel through woodland or areas of soft ground to get to the site of the ritual. It also has Theban, Malachiem, and Ogham magickal script burnt into it in addtion to symbols that have meaning to me personally. Concentrating on the sight or feel of them helps me enter the appropriate mindset to begin magick or celebration depending on the nature of the ritual.
My wands include a beautiful copper and gemstone one with a crystal point on one end and a small scrying crystal on the other, a laser pointer, and a former ebony draper’s ruler. Each has its’ own use in magick and ritual. As a general rule the copper and gemstone one I only use at home, while the others are robust enough to be taken out and about
The wand’s role in magick is as an energy condenser channelling the users personal, and evoked energy, into the spell being performed or the item being charged. Usually the wand is thought to represent the Element of Fire, but in some systems its thought of as the Element of Air. This has caused great confusion because of the apparent duality of these systems. The reason is that some systems – particularly of Ritual Magick – use a six Element system rather than the usual four Element one.
This is based on the Kabbalistic associations best expressed in the Tarot. Each of the courts cards has an association with two elements rather than just one. For example in Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot Knight of Wands = Fire of Fire, Queen of Wands = Water of Fire, Prince of Wands = Air of Fire, and Princess of wands = Earth of Fire. This approach expands the Tarot to six suits from the traditional four, with Air wands and Fire Wands, plus the same for Swords. Using these associations in Magick explains how the wand can be associated with Air or Fire depending on the style of magick practiced, or the result sought.
However, for most people the wands are associated with the Fire Element, both in the Tarot and in magick. As with all modern day magick a great deal of research and development has gone into wands over the last century. At the turn of the 20th century one of the ‘big secrets’ of magick was the insertion of a length of magnetised wire through the centre of the wand when the practitioner reached a particular level of understanding or grade. Like the magnetised blade of the Athame it facilitated energy transfer and projection. Frequently the rod itself was painted a vivid red with four yellow bands, and the end was cone-shaped with yellow Hebraic ‘Yod’ symbols alternating with the same symbol (meaning ‘hand’) in red in between them.
In Paganism and Traditional Craft these complex trappings were less common. Wands were cut from particular trees at special times of the year, depending on the spiritual system being followed. Sometimes an iron rod would be used instead of a wand, a Wizard in the antiques trade mentioned at a Moot once “They turn up at auction more often than you might think. Usually described as ‘fire irons’ or ‘ornamental pokers’” He frequently bought them as they usually had elementals/thoughtforms attached to them that could cause problems for any potential new owners. He then passed them on to appropriate people or groups, or cleansed them with consecrated water and sold them on.
In the 1970’s the Chaos Magick movement began to bring theoretical physics and aspects of psychology, along with a strenuous application of the scientific method to all facets of magick. One of their discoveries was that hollow wands made out of alternating organic and inorganic layers would absorb and project bioelectrical energy/Chi better than most ‘traditional’ wands. This was shown by holding the left, or receptive, hand, in front of the end of the wand and seeing which end caused the sensation of a cool breeze. That was the projective end and either marked with a symbol or a crystal point.
They also began to make wands and staffs that used inset semi-precious stones contacting the magnetic wire to form circuits tuning the bio-energy for particular uses or spells. Usually by cutting the item in two lengthways and inlaying the wire one side with spirals where the inlayed stones were going to be placed. Holes are drilled into the other sides corresponding with the spirals and the stones inlaid, then both pieces are glued back together. The wood was sanded, filled, and painted or varnished and the wand or staff was ready for use.
Personally this seems to be a case of the tool becoming more important than the user. The elemental tools are meant to be symbolic bridges to the mental and spiritual realm rather than complex tools that you can’t commune with the Devine or practice magick without. The amount of energy you put into a tool increases it’s importance and effectiveness up to a point, but the real power comes from within and, with the right focus and intent, a simple wooden wand will give as good results as the most expensive or complex manufactured one.