history of wands


eclectic Wiccan
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Novelty OH USA
I thought I'd start up a new thread on magickal wands and their history since it came up in another thread on another topic.

The question was raised whether there was any evidence that wands were used by witches prior to Gerald Gardner, who got started in British witchcraft in the mid to late 1930s. There is a lot of evidence that wands were used by ceremonial magickians (plenty of references exist in old grimoires like the Key of Solomon, for instance.)

I did a bit of searching to see what I could find. Most of my searching took place on the great website http://www.sacred-texts.com as they have a pretty comprehensive collection of public domain occult and religious texts there covering a wide variety of cultures. When I did my search I just used their search feature and checked out links that came up that pointed to documents that were older than Gardner's time. That meant I didn't bother looking at anything that is clearly a modern text, including most of the contents of the site's online Book of Shadows.

I didn't do a huge amount of research because I ran out of time. The overall thing seemed to be that wands were clearly associated with gods, Druids, and fairies in particular. There were also references to stereotypical witch-like characters using wands although they weren't necessarily identified in the texts as witches. Wands seem to be largely described as tools for causing transformations although sometimes they're used for other things like locating items.

Since there is a frequent connection made in the British Isles between fairies and witches (see Evans-Wentz's "The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries" for instance,) and also because witches are often attributed with the power to transform others, it doesn't surprise me that people would assume the connection between witches and wands.

Here are a few of the specific references:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/eft/eft38.htm is a link to an 1890 retelling of an English folktale, "Kate Crackernuts," that mentions fairies using wands to perform magick. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cft/cft19.htm is another one from 1892 that describes a lame old cunning-man who uses a magick wand.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/ame/pow/pow015.htm is a link to an English translation of the classic pow-wow manual published in 1820 by John George Hoffman that explains how to make a wand for locating things like buried valuables (water, precious metals) -- it's basically instructing how to make an use a dowsing rod but is clearly meant to be practical and doesn't come across as being much like standard ceremonial magick. Pow-wow is a name for the folk magick practices used by mostly German immigrants to the US, mistakenly called "Pennsylvania Dutch" because the English speaking public didn't differentiate between the word Deutch (German) and Dutch. The lost Dutchman's mine in Arizona was another case of the Deutch/Dutch confusion.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/agjc/agjc19.htm links to "The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ" published in 1920 (which was before Gardner's start in Wicca) that talks about magickal wands in a Christian context. While not witchcraft specifically, it's a good indication that wands were not necessarily considered to be strictly ceremonial magick tools.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/idr/idr12.htm is a section from a book published in 1894 on the subject of druidism. It talks about magick wands of course.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/ffcc/ffcc260.htm is a section that talks about wands being used by fairies, gods, and druids. It's from Evans-Wentz's 1911 classic, "The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries."

http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/homer/ody/ody09.htm is an English translation of Homer's "Odyssey" printed in 1900, that describes Circe as using a wand to perform magickal transformations.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/fq/fq59.htm is a section from Spencer's "The Faerie Queene" written in 1596 that mentions the fairy queen using a wand.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/odd/odd08.htm is from 1868. It's an English retelling of some folktales from India. There's an interesting sections where an old hag-woman who is clearly magickal uses a wand that the protagonist steals.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/vao/vao01.htm is from 1932 (again, supposedly before Gardner's introduction to English witchcraft) and talks about a woman who practices Voudou using a wand and incantations to paralyze a group of soldiers.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/mcft/mcft01.htm is a retelling of the "children of Llyr" story, this one published in 1894. It's a classic tale of a wicked stepmother who hates her stepchildren and turns them into swans by the use of a magick wand.

I'm sure there are lots more that might be even more significant. I'd love to hear about what others have found, what others think!
What an excellent post with lots of links and history! I had only considered the different types of wands before, and the qualitites related to each. I am having a discussion with someone about the Aquarian Gospels right now, I will have to ask them what they think.
Wands are also staffs when staffs are stretched out in a wand-like way.
Many religions use wands when "staffs" and "verges" are included. Moses stretched his staff out to part the sea, for example. The Pope carries a "wand" in processionals.
Wands are not just for fairies and witches, you see.
Water dousing is still practised today using a forked wand.