It’s All In The Wrist – Some Wand Basics
Author: Bronwen Forbes
After the athame, the most popular – and misunderstood – ritual tool is the wand. Aside from the “is the wand a tool of the East or a tool of the South?” debate I covered in my Witchvox article on athame basics, there seem to still be quite a few unanswered questions about the wand and its use including: Is it better to make or buy a wand? How long should my wand be? What should I make my wand out of? When should I use the wand in ritual, as opposed to using the athame? How do I charge my wand and make it ready to use?
Is it better to make or buy a wand? In general, it is always better to make a ritual tool than buy it. Obviously, unless you have a forge and the training to make your own blade from scratch, it’s better to buy an athame rather than make it. Plus, wands made by other people can be *expensive.*
I remember a few years back with wands made of wood that had a natural spiral twist to it from growing with a wild grape vine wrapped around it were being sold for about $60. If the seller added a shell or crystal at the tip, the naturally spiral wands were closer to $70. I remember talking to a friend who was Pagan and also participated in “Host Your Own Murder Mystery” events. She had just returned from a murder mystery convention and was telling me about the weird stuff that the attendees bought to make their weekend events more realistic (fake blood and cap guns were only the tip of the iceberg) – and how much they paid for it.
I said, “Yes, but Pagans have been known to pay $70 for a stick!” She laughed, but she also had to agree with me.
How long should my wand be? Traditionally, your wand should be exactly the length from the inside of your elbow to the tip of your middle finger. No more, no less, and *never* “trim” your already-made wand to fit in the fancy storage box your sweetie gave you for Yule (seriously, I know someone this happened to) . However, it’s been my experience that if two people are working partners and only one of them has a wand, the other can generally use the wand even if it’s traditionally the “wrong” length.
What should I make my wand out of? Wands can be pretty easy to make. All you need is a short, cured wooden branch, or, if you want to go fancy, find your own “stick” that has wild grapevine growing around it. Take home, strip the bark off, and polish.
I had a student once who wanted more than anything to be a music conductor. Her wand was, in fact, a conductor’s baton. I thought it was perfect for her. I’ve also known people who have used bones from their totem animals (deer bones work very well, if you can get them) rather than wood. They seemed to work well, too.
My husband has a lovely wand he “recycled” from a red maple tree that needed to be cut down in his mother’s front yard a few years ago. To give him an even closer connection with his wand, he and his father were the ones that planted the tree in the first place. If I ever have a wand, it will probably be made of oak, holly or apple – my favorite trees. A quick note to the Harry Potter fans: no, it will not have a phoenix feather in the middle of it!
You can decorate your wand with shells, crystals, feathers, paint, carve runes into it – whatever makes it more “yours.” However, I would reference the excellent article Lupa posted here on Witchvox about the legal use of animal parts for ritual items before adding feathers or bits of fur to the end, or even making the wand out of bone as mentioned above. The last thing you want is to take your wand to a public space to use for a community ritual and have it confiscated by the police or park rangers because you’ve put a feather on it that, legally, you’re not allowed to have.
When should I use the wand in ritual, as opposed to using the athame? You can, generally, use the wand for anything you’d use the athame for –casting the circle, saluting the quarters, etc. If you believe the wand is the tool of the East, use it any time you need extra “air” energy – when you’re doing a ritual to help you study more effectively for an exam, for instance, or when beginning a new job.
If you believe the wand is the tool of the South, use it any time you need extra “fire” energy – if you’ve been feeling physically run down lately, or you’ve got some old life baggage you want to burn away. If your wand is made of wood, I’d definitely refrain from placing it in a combustible situation – using it to consecrate a burning candle, or poking your incense charcoal to get the burnt ash off the surface and expose the glowing coal within, for instance. Use your athame or boline for those – and save yourself the pain and embarrassment of setting your wand on fire!
How do I charge my wand and make it ready to use? I keep my wand tucked away with the rest of my altar tools (I have a small child and many pets. Ritual tools are safely stored in a special cabinet) . To charge it, I waited for a particularly windy day (yes, I am definitely of the belief that wands are the tool of East/Air) and took my wand outside for a few hours so it could absorb the wind. I also did this as close to sunrise as possible to add the dawn/new beginnings energy to the tool. I still do this periodically if I haven’t used it in ritual for a while – just in case.
Whether your wand is something you make yourself or a gift from a dear friend, cherish it and use it well!