Wands - Tools of Witchcraft

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Tools of Witchcraft

Harry Potter to the contrary, it is crucial to recall that a magic wand is but a tool. Magic power ultimately derives from the person who wields that tool. The wand serves to enhance and direct that power but never substitutes for it.

Wands rival brooms for the title of tool most associated with magic and witchcraft. It is important to note that, as with brooms, not every practitioner uses a wand. They are not a requirement of magical practice, merely among one of its most popular tools.

Wands represent male phallic power but are used by both male and female practitioners. Wizards use wands but so does the sorceress-goddess Circe. Female fairies are commonly depicted employing wands. The Maenads brandished Dionysus’ sacred wand, the thyrsus. The wand may put masculine power in the hands of a woman in the same manner that a broom or birch switch places feminine power in the hands of a man.

The wand may be understood as deriving from ancient sacred phallic images and is closely related to the staff. It may also be understood as deriving from the ancient feminine mysteries of the labrys (see page 696).

The wand may be understood as tapping into the power of trees. Different types of wood are believed to radiate different energies and thus suit different magical purposes.

A magic wand carved from apple wood, for instance, is believed especially beneficial for love magic, while a wand carved from yew, oleander or hemlock, poisonous plants all, enables necromancy. Some practitioners only use one wand; others collect different wands, using each for specific purposes.

Although less common than wooden wands, wands are also crafted from metal.

Wands specifically direct the power of humans: there’s a crucial reason why most children are taught early on that it’s rude to point. Pointing is a potent magical gesture, quite often used in spontaneous, hostile magic: the curse that just slips out of someone’s mouth is usually accompanied by a pointing finger directing hostile words in their intended direction. The wand may be understood as an extension and enhancement of that finger of power.

Wands may be ornamented with crystals, feathers, and amulets. They may be engraved with sigils, runes, hieroglyphs, Names of Power or magical inscriptions. As described in the Harry Potter novels, wands may be hollowed out and filled with a reed or some other material, however due to limitations of size, obviously less material can be placed within a wand than inside a staff.

In the German mythic epic The Song of the Nibelungs (Die Nibelungenlied), the dragon’s treasure hoard includes a tiny gold wand that enables its possessor to rule the world.

Don’t have a magic wand? Not to worry. Substitutions are easily made: an umbrella serves as a magic wand as does a cane, folding fan or flute. (And when in need, one’s finger really can substitute!) The crucial thing is to recall that once the instrument has been designated as a magic tool it must be treated as such: an umbrella magic wand is potentially no less sacred than a more conventional wand. If one expects it to behave magically, it must be treated with the respect and care due any magical tool.