The Magician’s Wand, Part 1


The magic wand is the instrument and symbol of the magician’s power. As author Henry Hay once wrote: “The touch of the wand for the… purpose of causing a magical transformation assists… in leading the audience to believe that such a transformation did take place at that particular moment.”

The magician should always have a wand to define his character to the audience. The wand is associated with a magician as much as the hammer is to the carpenter, the scalpel is to the physician and the chisel is to the sculptor, i.e. they are all instruments of their trade.

But why do magicians use wands? And why are they black with white tips? Were they always this size, shape and color? And who were the first to use a magic wand? And for what purpose?

To find the roots of this magical tool, it was necessary for me to dig deep into the history of magic, religion and civilization itself… where one of man’s first tools for survival was an ancestor of the modern magician’s wand.

The information that follows is the result of that search.


In the oldest accounts, the magic wand is mentioned repeatedly. It was used as an instrument by means of which supernatural effects could be produced. Anyone who possessed a wand had command over all the secrets of nature.

I believe the wand should be classified into two types:

  1. the staff, cane or walking stick (36″ to 72″)
  2. the traditional wand (12″ to 15″).

The cane or club was probably the first regular weapon man ever used to defend himself or kill animals for food. Early man also used rocks, but because of their weight, they were too heavy to carry on one’s person. Wooden clubs were easily carried, an aid in walking and an extension of one’s arm (and reach). They were easily decorated (by painting, carving, etc.) with symbols of magic, social standing or a particular tribal name. And, if needed, one end could be easily lit on fire to be used as a torch to light their way home.

Each early man may have had several clubs of different sizes, shapes and usages. The “social” club (no pun intended) may have been decorated and used only for special social occasions. Eventually the priesthood had their own clubs, some of which became smaller in size for practical ceremonial purposes (as wands to be kept on the altar), while others remained as long religiously decorated staffs (to be used in large or outdoor rituals or celebrations).

The warrior-kings kept their clubs battle-ready, and these weapons became a symbol of their physical power. They were also known as “battle maces.” One mighty ancient warrior’s club still known today is the Norse god Thor’s battle club or magic hammer. His magic hammer’s name was “MJOLNIR,” and it had the power of creating thunder and lightning.

As tribal wars ended, kings kept their battle clubs, but with the invention of the sword as a weapon, battle clubs or maces were rarely used. Their “social” clubs were being increasingly used, some being decorated with family crests, gold, silver and gemstones as a symbol of their wealth and ruling status. These clubs became smaller and became known as “scepters.” In the form of the scepter, the wand was considered the emblem of unquestioned power. The moment the royal scepter was placed into the monarch’s right hand (during his coronation), he was endowed with kingly authority and power.

© Joe Lantiere, 2001

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