Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Druid's Wand

Ran into a great post on wands and magic over at Rune Soup; Adventures Beyond Chaos Magic and that reminded me that I haven't posted this article on the meaning of the Wand outside of an elemental system. So, here it is...

There is no symbol more central to the ancient image of the Druid than the wand or scepter. While wands bear a big load of cultural baggage, it is useful for our work to set all that aside in favor of a more archaic understanding. Multiple tales and traditions refer to rods, wands and staves borne by wizards, rulers, heralds and bards. In the Nine Moons work the Wand is a central tool of the Druid’s Work, and we will approach it in several ways.

The Wand as Prayer Stick
There are many examples of the use of rods or bundles of rods as ritual implements that represent or enable prayer or invocation. Bundles of rods are held by priests in Persian rites and were carried in Roman ceremony. Greek custom used single rods or wands in the hand of the priest at the altar, and that seems to be the case in the North as well, where stories describe Druids as bearing wands of various sacred woods.
Your own Slat Draoi (Druid’s wand) is the tool by which you send a voice into the Otherworld. While you can surely invoke with your voice and power alone the Wand acts as an amplifier and a torch that makes your call stronger. To raise the wand to call to the Gods is to participate in a ritual gesture as old as our ancestors’ ways.

The Wand as Tool of the Heaven Power
In this system of ritual magic the Cauldron of Blessing is the tool and vehicle of the Underworld Power while the Druid’s wand is the tool and vehicle of the Power of the heavens. We make the Vessel of Blessing first, just as Chaos precedes Cosmos in the World Order. Of course we should not limit these cross-functional tools to being mere signs of the powers. Both partake in both the Fire and Water. The Cauldron alone is a powerful tool for practical magic, in which you have already combined the Fire and Water to make talismans and blessings. Combined with the complementary power of the Wand the two become a balanced system that puts the powers of the Cosmos in the Druid’s hands.
One of the core symbolic associations of the Wand is the Thunderbolt of the heavens. The Sanskrit vajra, the Hellenic double-trident lightening-bolt, the Celtic Gae Bolga (Lightening-spear) all tie the divine scepter into the shining, swift power of the sky.
This wielding of the Fire of the Sky underlies the other two primary IE symbolic contexts of the Wand. As a tool of invocation the Wand is a beacon of light and a spark of kindling. As a scepter of authority the Wand bears all the power of the ritual Sacred Fire itself.

The Wand as Scepter
The most clear ancient meaning for rods, wands and staves is as symbols of personal, societal and sacred authority. At every level of ancient society the rod is the badge of power. The symbol of the wand is cross-cultural and, apparently, archetypal, appearing in both high mythic tales and more folkloric sources.
The Magician’s God is described as carrying a wand or ‘branch’. Math ap Mathonwy uses his wand first to transform Gwydion and Gilvaethwy into beasts and then to test Arianrhod’s virginity. Manannan macLir bears the Silver Branch that leads the way to the Otherworld. Of course Hermes famously bears his ritual scepter, the caduceus
On the human level the wand staff or scepter is a central symbol of authority. Some say that its history stretches back into stone ages, when artisans made shaped and drilled stone heads for maces – some of which were almost certainly ceremonial, if also usable as weapons. The scepter of the king is a stylized mace, but in the smaller realms of Gaelic tribal kingship a simple white wand was frequently the king’s emblem. In the same way the king’s authority was carried by his herald in the form of a ‘peeled white hazel wand’. Druids are constantly described with wands. We are safe in assuming that social and legal authority, as well as spiritual power, was conveyed by the wand.
This should lead us to pause, and consider what it means to take up this authority in ourselves, and how it is we think it might be ours to wield. First we must set aside any concern over seeming presumptuous - it is the magician’s presumption, the focused will, which characterizes this personal spiritual path. From there we take up our power as Druids and magicians in several ways:
• Doing the Work. In the last months of the Nine Moons work you have consistently lit the Fire and made offerings to the Spirits, invoked the Gods and brought the power into the world. This work in itself demonstrates that you have authority, the authority of skill, of effort, of experience. To reach this point in the work, as you hallow the Wand, means that you have regularly been a Druid of the Fire.
• The Sacred Fire. In making and working a Druidic Grove we light and bless our sacrifical Fire, a key center of our ritual acts. In Gaelic lore one of the primary uses of ritual fire is to claim a piece of land for ownership by an individual or clan. In the same way when a Druid lights a ritual fire, we claim the immediate ground for our personal authority and control. The Wand is, itself, the presence of the Heaven’s Light, just as is the Fire and so when the Druid bears the wand we bear that same claim of authority, right where we stand, and wield it in hand.
• The Da Fein. To the degree that we know and act with the authority of the Divine in Us, so we act with the power of a god – however minor that god may be. In this way we act as heralds and agents of the Da Fein, and bear its authority in our wand. Thus while the God in Us may serve us, we surely serve it, as well.

Grasping the World Tree
In taking up the Wand, you are choosing to grasp the World Tree itself. More than any other personal tool the Wand connects with the Deeps and Heights, and offers the chance to rise to the occasion of the power it offers. The Druid’s Wand is a beacon of the Sky Power and a root of the Underworld Power, though which we send our call to the Otherworld and by which we display our authority among the spirits.


Gordon said...

Awesome post. And thanks for the kind words.

'World tree' imagery is probably where I'll be focussing most during 'Operation: Wand'

Auberon Draenen Wen said...

Great post.

How do you feel about people using wands they purchased?

IanC said...

As with any magical tool there is a big advantage to making the object yourself. However not everyone has the handicraft skills to create something esthetically pleasing, and esthetics also count, imo.
I think Gordon's post had it right - a tool needs 'story'. Wherever you get the wand it should be somehow connected with the work - made by Pagans, bought at a Pagan event, etc. Just heading to the local witchy shop and buying something might be doable, but then you'd want to make sure the consecration rite was juicy, to provide some story.
Me, I have a solid preference for wooden wands, though I know that international lore gives many examples of metal ones as well. At least wood is easier to work (for me, anyway).

Auberon Draenen Wen said...

This is good to know got my wand picked out and wanna get a hold of it.

I need to see if the ADF COoR and be adapted to give me something nice and juicy for the consecration.

The Druid King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Druid King said...

Much thanks Ian for as always a well written piece on our Druidic lore and real tools of Great Air.

The Druid King said...

Art not air.