THE WAND OF THE WIZARD
Several thousand years ago, the ancient Druids of Great Britain carried wands, usually made from a hazel or mistletoe branch, with a pine cone attached on one end in honor of Dionysus, the god of the vine or trees. This wand was later called the Priapic wand, named after Priapus, the Roman god of procreation. Priapus was often equated with Pan, the nature deity of Greece. He protected the orchards, gardens, fields and flocks.
Early Christians looked upon Christ as a kind of magician, and all his older pictures show him wielding a magic wand. For instance, a 3rd Century fresco discovered in the catacombs of the St. Callisto Chapel, shows Jesus holding a magic wand in his right hand while raising Lazarus from the dead. In another example, shown below, Jesus is again shown using a magic wand to raise Lazarus from the dead, as represented on a gold glass plate from the Fourth Century, now housed in the Vatican Library. Elsewhere, an old Christian coffin depicted Christ using a wand to turn water into wine at a marriage feast in Cana.
During the Middle Ages, the use of the wand hit a fork in the road – one using the wand as a conjuring instrument, and the other using wands and staffs as religious ceremonial ritual tools. Ceremonial magicians with their wands were often pictured on tarot cards.
In ritual magic, the purpose of the wand was to extend the will and add strength to the power of the magician. To complicate matters, many ceremonial magicians used several different wands – each corresponding with a particular force and/or end use. Some used four wands : on the end of the first was attached a piece of flint, which represented Earth; on the end of the second was attached a seashell, which represented Water; on the end of the third was attached a feather, which represented Air; and on the end of the fourth were attached a few pieces of red & yellow cloth, representing fire.
The ceremonial magic group “The Golden Dawn” used many different wands: for example, the lotus wand was white on one end and black on the other with all the bands of color in the rainbow, in their correct order, in between, and at the end of the wand was attached an imitation lotus flower; a second wand, called the fire wand, was a red & yellow painted wood dowel with a steel core, one end magnetized.
“Common” ritual magicians used only one wand. It was traditionally made of hazel, about 20″ long and cut at sunrise with a white-handled magic knife. Pointed steel caps were sometimes fitted on the two ends and magnetized with a lodestone. Gold ink or paint was sometimes used to inscribe appropriate symbols or lettering on the wand. The wand was then ritually purified and consecrated. Other magicians painted their wands 1/2 black and 1/2 white, then painted magical words or designs on each half, and finished by placing magnets on each end (north at the black end and south at the white end). Still others placed crystals at one or both ends.
Many Native American magicians (Shamans) used wands in their rituals. To them, the wand was the tool of the element Air and was used to produce many beneficial effects. The wood was usually lightweight and light colored. Different kinds of wands were cut from special sacred trees, usually yew, hazel, hawthorne, willow and birch. Many others could be used; the kind of tree cut depended upon the wand’s end use. For example, birch wands were used in weddings, while willow wands were used in death rites. Shamans sometimes decorated their wands with feathers and/or crystals.
In early Chinese writings, there are references to wands, and Taoist spiritual masters were always represented carrying wands. Some Hindu magicians use a small seven-ring stick as a wand. Manjusri, the Buddhist God of Wisdom, held a variation of the seven-ringed wand.
Sometimes “magic wands” were used to find or “divine” specialized objects, such as water, oil, gold or silver. This was known as the art of “dowsing.” Divining rods were either straight, bent or V-shaped. They could be used either individually or in pairs. They were usually made of either wood or metal.
© Joe Lantiere, 2001