Saturday, July 28, 2012

All About the Magical Wand: the quintessential tool of magicians, fairies, witches, and all manner of other magical folk

 Free illustrated pdf booklet History & insight on the
magical wand and inspiration for making your own

Why is the magical wand the quintessential tool of magicians, fairies, witches, and all manner of other magical folk? Why and how would you make a wand of your own? Find out. 

The wand is the quintessential tool associated with the magical worker or occultist. It also is an important ritual tool in Western magic and mysticism. Not Harry Potter swish-n-flick (even though that is great too!). But real magic by real people in real history. --History that belongs to you and me!

My willow wand
Unlike the sword or dagger, which are aggressive magical weapons that cut through space and are traditionally used in banishing operations, the wand is used to command and move energy. As a ritual tool the wand represents the magical will and qualities such as command, heroism, determination, and efficiency.

The famed Victorian-era mage Aleister Crowley has said:

 “The Magick Wand is thus the principal weapon of the Magus; and the ‘name’ of that wand is the Magical Oath.”

A Little History
Just as dinosaurs are thought to have shrunk into birds and small reptiles over the course of evolution, the wand may be a mini-version of the staff or scepter. The staff or scepter is a stylized version of weapons such as the club and pike. The person who held the staff or scepter in ancient communities was the one who held the power.[1]

The wand or staff also may be related to mysticism related to snakes. 

The snake may have been equated with the magical staff and used in fake "miracle working" feats by ancient spiritual teachers.[1] When a snake handler presses on a snake’s head in a certain way, the snake is temporarily paralyzed  so that it takes the form of a staff or a pole. When the “staff” is flung onto the ground, the snake  revives and appears to be a snake again. Such an event is described in the Book of Exodus (7:8-13):

Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, “If Pharaoh says to you, ‘Produce some marvel,’ you must say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down in front of Pharaoh and let it turn into a serpent. To Pharaoh Moses and Aaron went and did as Yahweh commanded. Aaron threw down his staff in front of Pharaoh and the court, and it turned into a serpent.  Then the Pharaoh called for his sages and sorcerers and with their witchcraft, the magicians of Egypt did the same. Each threw his staff down and these turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up the staffs of the magicians.”

Aaron was Moses’ brother and apparently held political or magical power because Moses often is depicted telling him to use his staff to make magical catastrophic events occur. As in stories in the New Testament, the magical actions of the protagonists aren’t considered to be “magic” but acts of God, whereas the exact same actions performed by the enemy/rivals/nonbelievers are labeled “witchcraft.”

A similar scenario occurs in the New Testament Book of Acts in which stories of confrontations between Peter and magoi (mages), are related.[1-4 Like the story of Aaron and the Pharaoh’s wizards, the magic performed by Peter is considered to be a miraculous sign of God, but the magic of Simon and other magi are painted as misguided and diabolical.

Fresco of Jesus raising Lazarus from Dead
And so some controversy exists about whether early Christians thought of Christ as a kind of magician. A third-century fresco discovered in the catacombs of the St. Callisto Chapel in Rome shows Jesus holding a wand in his right hand while raising Lazarus from the dead. In another example from that era, a gold glass plate from the Fourth Century, now housed in the Vatican Library, shows Jesus using a magic wand to raise Lazarus from the dead. In a series of images on Christian sarcophagi dated to the 4th and 5th century, Jesus is depicted using a wand to resurrect Lazarus, turn water to wine, multiply loaves and fish, and heal the widow’s son.[1-4]

The staff/wand also may have had its origins in the staff of Asclepius, Greek god of healing  It is a single serpent encircling a cypress branch—a reference to a certain benign, tree-climbing snake that was common in the Mediterranean.

 The staff represents the power of knowledge and healing and came to be confused with the caduceus of Hermes. Rather than the art of medicine, the caduceus of Hermes represents the balance and union of opposing or complementary forces and the self- mastery that is achieved by the person who can unite opposites.

Witchy Wands

Circe by John William Waterhouse
The first literary reference to a wand, which appears in the Odyssey, does not associate it with male power or sorcery. The wand is wielded by a woman--the sorceress Circe.

 Circe was associated with the goddesses Diana and Hecate, which in turn were later associated with the Fate (pronounced like fa-tay)—Italian fairies.

Italian fairytales were the first place that fairies appear in literature.[5] They are depicted holding wands, equating them with the sorceress Circe. They were the counterpart to more threatening ideas of female power, which also were related to Diana and Hecate--the mythical witch.

 The fairies depicted in Italian fairy lore were different from those in Northern European tradition. Italian fairies were full-sized, elegant, goddess-like women who  protected and performed favors for those mortals  they took a liking to.[5]

They evolved from the idea of the Fates (Roman/latin, Parcae; Greek, Moirae; Teutonic, Norns), who spun, wove, and cut the thread of life. 

Whereas the wand of the male magician or mystic represented masculine will, leadership, and potency, that of the female magician represented the power to weave and ensnare. Rather than a scepter or weapon, the wand of the witch or fairy may have derived from the distaff--a antique tool used to spin thread.

The flipside of the wand-wielding fairy is the mythological witch. Rather than a wand, the witch was depicted with a bifurcated branch—that is, a bune wand, which is a rough distaff—or else a broom.  

 Brooms were not only a kind of wand used for symbolic space clearing but also magical objects for fertility. Jumping the broom, thus, was—and continues to be—part of the marriage rite within folk culture. There is also evidence that brooms handles were used in provocative ways for trippy shamanic adventures involving flying ointment [6]. . . .

 Learn more . . . .

Free pdf download

Selected references

1. Joe Lantiere. The Magician’s Wand Parts 1-4.
2. Michael D. Bailey. Magic and Superstition in Europe A Concise History from Antiquity to the Present. NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2007.
3. Lee M. Jefferson. The Staff of Jesus in Early Christian Art. Religion and the Arts. 2010;14:221-25.
4. William Storage and Laura Maish. Christ the Magician. A survey of ancient Christian sarcophagus imagery.
5. Raffaella Benvenuto. Italian Fairies Fate, Folletti, and Other Creatures of Legend. Journal of Mythic Arts. 2006.
6. John Mann. Murder, Magic, and Medicine. New York: Oxford University Press. 2000.

Excerpt from Chapter  VI The Pyr Sacra Empowerment  in La Maga A Story about Sorcerers and Magi

Leonard knew nothing was askew in the house—only he was, but as he had told his father, whatever it was, it wasn’t “bad.”

 He found Victor. He was the head of his father’s personal cadre of staff-bearers—his bodyguards. He lived with a wife and a pack of boxers on the property in a nice-sized stone cottage apart from the nestling of cottages in which the household help lived. He was a husky man with a strong but calming demeanor who approached his role as a chief attendant to the Consul with unwavering and ungrudging solemnity and faithfulness. Leonard found him at home, where he was propped on a sofa, watching a movie, and savoring pretzels and oatmeal stout while his wife was gardening in the moonlight.

He and Leonard and the canine guard skulked around. The dogs sniffed here and there, but neither the dogs nor that staff-bearer were willing to descend into the dungeon of de Lux senior’s tower.

 It was gloomy, with a single low-volt lighting fixture with which to illumine the shelves housing artifacts, worts, potions and props, organic materials, and metal plates and parchments of wicked sigils and defensive glyphs. The room had a well and a pit with a flue that took fumes of burned things through a tunnel in the ground to the outside away from the house. Nothing unusual seemed to be there.

 In the ground floor studio, Leonard found the big staff. His father didn’t tote it around in the way too many magical persons did their own staffs. The man could summon it through the ethers and into his grip on demand. The talent was fast becoming a lost art, primarily because persons weren’t as martial these days as in the past. (Schools didn’t allocate much time to perfecting the practice, and instead of staffs, more and more younger persons were carrying wands, which were more easily concealed and portable.)

Wands and staffs typically had a wood core, generally oak, yew, holly, ash, rowan, cherry, or willow. They all had specific magical properties. Oak was commanding; yew bridged the here and hereafter; holly drew on the energies of the element of fire as ash did those of water; rowan was mercurial, cherry good for love magic, and willow for moon magic and healing.

The wood would be sheathed in a full coat or lattice of metals: iron, silver, platinum, gold, copper, bronze, nickel, etc. and studded with special stones. The staff that Leonard’s father had asked him to retrieve was made of oak and hawthorn sheathed in a serpentine design of iron and tin, spotted with chips of black and red stones. An onyx finial of the sea-goat Capricornus—the zodiacal sign under which Leo de Lux had been born—was mounted on a jewel-crusted girdle of platinum on the top of the staff.

Oak for majesty, hawthorn for the power of lightning, onyx for smiting magical attacks, and the metals of Mars and Jupiter. Capricorn: the sea-goat; the southern gate of the sun; the Babylonian Ea, god of wisdom; Grecian Aegipan, restorer of Zeus’ might in defeating the Titans; saturnine, mercurial, and spanning the heights to the depths. This staff was a martial and lethal weapon but not because it made a good cudgel.

Victor jumped back when Leonard grasped the staff. The dogs barked and whimpered.

 “What are you going to do with that, Lenny?” the man nervously asked.

 “My dad told me to get it,” Leonard replied, “to protect myself, I think.”

 “Watch where you point it, son,” Victor cautioned. “Are you in some kind of trouble?”

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