The wand. The Magick Wand! People may mock the Broom, misinterpret the Knife or accidentally use the Cauldron as an ashtray, but the Wand, even before Harry Potter, can only be understood as a magical tool.
I make and even sometimes use wands. It is something of a specialty for me, and here I will share my understandings with you. I learned these things by reading them in books, listening to trees, interpreting the growth of vines, and by working directly with the god Mercury.
The Wand is a tool of Air. The Wand is a tool of Fire.Which tradition do you subscribe to? The confusion between the use of knife and wand for fire or air is a problem for many practitioners, especially if their tradition calls the wand an air elemental and they read Tarot cards, which calls the wand a fire element! I made my acquaintance with wands before I did with Tarot, so it was easy for me: Wands are Air. Branches waving in the Wind. Wind, Wand, possibly even cognates. Words and Will Winding through the Wand. Thoughts and ideas directed to make manifest. The teacher’s pointing stick, the conductor’s wand. Of course, the wood burns! And many other arguments, but my main point must be: the elemental association of fire/air wand/knife is mutable and the practical applications of the tools partake of either or both elements. Nuff said!
Wands are usually made of metal or wood, and often topped and sometimes bottomed with stones. The wood or metal conducts the magical energy, and the stone point is to direct or radiate the energy. If a bottom stone is used, it is to absorb or ground energy in the hand before it is transmitted up into the wand itself. Although the wand is primarily used to transmit energy, words, or will from the practitioner towards the goal to manifested, sometimes the wand can be used to receive or summon energy or deities, and in this case a grounding stone is especially functional, and top stones can be selected to enhance this capacity.
The energy transmitted from a wand can be of two natures: directional or radiating. The type of wood or metal influences the propensity to direct or radiate, but the top stone and the will of the practitioner is more important. Directional energy travels very far and is used primarily for directing will into the universe. Radiant energy is more localized in effect, resembling the glow around a candle flame, and is used primarily for healing (the caduceus) or altering the energetic natures of objects, as in blessing and empowering a crystal ball or talisman.
If you read a magic book it will tell you that you must make your own wand. If you are a good craftsperson, this is probably true. If you are not a craftsperson, this is probably false.
If you follow the instructions from a magic book for making your own wand, there are some things they tell you to do which will hamper or impede the usefulness of your wand. First, many will tell you to be sure to harvest your wand at the proper pruning times of the year, so that you don’t hurt the tree. While as an avid environmentalist I agree with not hurting trees, harvesting at any time of the year hurts just a little bit whether you call it pruning or not. For the best energy potential, especially directional energy transmission, harvest your wood during the active growing phase of the tree or bush and the branch you are harvesting. You want to maximize the upward/outward motion in your wand, and that is happening most during the active growing seasons in your area.
Some books will tell you to gather virgin wood, of one year or less growth, but I don’t always find this new wood big enough to harvest, nor do I find older wood less conductive. They also say that your wand should be as big around as your middle finger and measure from the tip of your middle finger to your elbow, but I use this as just an old guideline, preferring to harvest the wood at lengths that maximize the transmission of energy (e.g., between joints or taking advantage of knots where energy can be gathered from the hand, etc.).
Wood for wands is harvested during the waxing phase of the moon on Wednesdays. I only harvest on the first Wednesday of the new moon, to maximize that fresh, upwardly oriented energy. Fashioning the wands is done on either the first or second Wednesday. Why Wednesdays? Wednesday is ruled by the planet and god Mercury (Hermes), the messenger god who is a god of the air element. Mercury rules the creation of magical tools in general, and the wand especially, since his symbol is the caduceus, the healing wand. Mercury favors creative disciplines of words and the intelligent and exalted execution of will power, obviously corresponding to the functions of the wand. Because of Mercury’s benevolent influence, Wednesdays in the waxing moon have become “Wandsdays” to this wand worker. I recently found corroboration with this tradition in the Key of Solomon, although there is no explanation of the correspondence between wands and Wednesdays.
The ceremony of harvesting is to in some way ask permission from the tree or bush or vine, to in some way cast a circle about the tree, to explain to the tree what your intention is, to knock three times on the branch selected (to advise the tree or deva or hamadryad to vacate said branch), to cut as quickly and cleanly as possible, and to give thanks and some offering. It is traditional to gift the tree with some of your saliva applied to the cut, so as to offer some of your own vital energy in exchange for the wood, and if the tree is especially rare or sacred, a blood offering is appropriate. I also often leave a dime, especially if there are elves or faery presences in the vicinity. Everyone gets a cut!
The magic books will tell you to peel or shave the bark from your wand. Lots of people do this, especially if they want to carve, burn, or paint and polish their wand. I prefer to leave the bark on, because the tissue in a branch which has the most directional energy, the most conductivity, is the phloem and xylem, just under the bark. This is the sugar, nutrient and water transport tissue, and if you peel off the bark of your wand, you have peeled off this very conductive tissue. I also like the wilder look of a wand with the bark still on, and it helps me remember what species of tree I received the wood from.
Once harvested, the wand wood needs to dry out for at least one month before fashioning. During this period I try to not let the wood touch the Earth, so as to preserve the upward energy in the wood and not “ground” it out. I also take care to store it in such a way that I will remember which end of the wood was “up” so I don’t make an upside-down wand!
I use only copper or silver wire to attach stones to a wand. I developed this technique in order to avoid using glue. At first this was just an aesthetic choice. Glue just seemed all wrong, it felt tacky, cheap, and like it was cheating, shortcutting. Now I know that the metaphysical properties of glue are also antithesis to the function of the wand. Glue is by its nature unstructured, nondirectional stuff. It is sticky and attaches, all properties you want to avoid in a tool used for directing and releasing organized energy! So I use wire to “cage” my crystals, and coils of wire attach the stones to the wood by dynamic tension alone. Dynamic tension holds and transmits energy while adding to its structure and integrity. Mercury told me so!
Whatever your construction or finishing technique, if you use spirals of wire, or carved or painted spirals to decorate it, and I highly recommend doing so, your spirals should always spiral up in a clockwise direction! Again, at first this was aesthetic; it just seemed right, but just recently I noticed corroboration in nature: vines that spiral almost always spiral up clockwise, and even many trees spiral like this to give themselves spring-like strength and flexibility in their trunks and branches. Counterclockwise is a downward spiral (water going down the drain) and is used for receiving and absorbing. So the clockwise up and out spiral on the wand helps energy flow in either direction. I am writing from the northern hemisphere. My guess is that for wood and wands in the southern hemisphere you would go counterclockwise up, but look to the vines and trees to make sure.
The next discussion needed regards selection of species of wood and stones. There are many good references for this information, like Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Melody’s Love Is In the Earth, and Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Gems, Mineral and Metals. I use all three of these references, but for native trees not in reference books I must use my own knowledge of their natural and metaphysical properties. For example, while Willow, Mulberry and Ash all grow in my bioregion and are known to be excellent wand woods, Rowan is often mentioned as a favored wood, but it does not grow here. What is the native analog? I have several tests for good wand species. First, fruiting and nut-bearing species are excellent candidates, especially if favored by wildlife for food. These plants have chosen livelihoods of giving to make their way in the world, and they give of their wood and energy freely, without resentment or attachment. In general, denser woods conduct better. In general, species that produce naked seeds or pods without fruits are poor wand woods. This includes almost all legumes and conifers, which actually conduct too much energy to be good wands.
There are of course exceptions to these rules, and the different tree species favor different people, so the final test is what I call energy twiddling. Using your strong hand (right if your are right-handed), point the wand or stick into the palm of your receiving hand, and twiddle the wand tip at the center of your palm, about two inches away. There is a very sensitive energy organ right in the center of your palm which transmits and receives energy, and if your wand works well, you will feel a tingling or tickling sensation coming from the wand tip. Practice this one – it has many non-wand applications.
Copper (and silver, if you can afford it) are also often used for wands. I like to use copper tubing, in which case I sand the copper to resemble wood grains, stroking from bottom to top either straight or spiraling upwards.
The bottomstone (which I consider an optional feature) of a wand absorbs energy and will from the practitioner before it is passed into the wood or copper. In general, darker stones are best for this. Avoid metallic stones which gather but do not release energy readily, such as hematite. I find that bloodstone, black glass, obsidian, onyx, or brown jaspers are good bottomstones. Sedimentary stones like sandstone or limestone mute energy and are poor choices for bottomstones or topstones.
Topstones gather and organize energy before directing or radiating it into the environment.Many people use natural quartz crystals, but I usually use tumbled polished stones. Glass (or natural glasses like obsidian) must be cut, have broken edges, or be knapped into shape or it can only radiate gently. In general, natural crystals or faceted cut chipped stones, clear or translucent stones or those with striations or chatoyancy or cat’s-eye or tiger’s-eye patterns direct well, and rounded, tumbled, opaque, blue, green or iridescent stones radiate, but these properties can usually be modulated by the will of the practitioner.
Here is a great way of choosing ready-made wands or the materials for constructing them: Sheer aesthetic! Does it look cool, go with the clothes you wear or match the color you dye your hair? I highly recommend this technique. Magical properties are strongly corroborated to beauty and aesthetics, and if you dye your hair red or bleach it blond, or wear blue all the time, there is a magical power that you are choosing for a reason whether you know it or not.
For consecration of a wand I recommend against using the Earth or Water elements, and in favor of any ritual that reinforces the upward, outward and spiraling directions. Do it on a Wednesday in the waxing moon, preferably just before the full moon. It is helpful to use a gravitational body, as in the sun or moon, to help draw energy up and out, through you and your wand as a part of your consecration, which is your first use of your wand. Be well grounded and allow the energy to be pulled up from the center of the Earth, move through your body, spiral clockwise up through and around you wand, and pausing momentarily in the topstone, then releasing upward, being drawn out naturally.
As you perform this potentiating ritual, you can say, “An it harm none, may this Wand well work my Will. So mote it be.” From here on out this would be the binding and enabling command for your wand.
The more energy you run through your wand, the clearer it stays, and the more energy it can run. A wand that has been resting for a while can always benefit from a potentiation “tune-up” before being applied to a magical task.
May Mercury bless and guide you, your wand, your words, your will and your way.