Today’s staff is either chosen in accordance with your height, or by how it feels when used as a walking stick. Where some Witches perfer a shorter staff, others like the extended length. Of all the wooden tools, the staff is often seen as a symbol of honor and authority, and is normally decorated with magical symbols, talismans, bells, amulets, and trinkets given as gifts to the bearer tied with leather strips or sturdy cord and other unusual magickal bits that relate to its owner. In a group environment the staff of the high priest or high priestess may have symbols that relate to how many covens they have under their direction and how many members they have initiated. Like the wand and the rod, the staff is used to direct magickal current, often out-of-doors, but also used indoors if space permits. In more shamanic groups, the staff has replaced the sword. A staff carved with knobs and topped with a wooden replica of a human skull is specifically used at Samhain to honor the dead, or in other rituals where ancestors play a pivotal role: a duo derivation from Canadian Indians tribes and Haitian Voudou traditions, through ancient Celts did put the heads of their enemies on poles to capture their power and honor their valor. Obviously the Witches of today don’t carry reconstructionism that far.
Sacred and magickal trees are found in the religions and mythology of almost every culture. Trees form the link between earth and sky, because they have their roots in soil and their branches in the air and were originally regarded an a creative form of the Earth Mother.
In early forms of religion, people believed that trees were themselves deities, a belief that gradually gave way to the idea that the spirits of deities or nature essences lived within the tree. In Japan, temples have been built around sacred trees for more than two thousand years. Here it is believed the Mononoke, the magickal life force, is concentrated in trees and rocks. The Japanese Cryptomeria and the evergreen sakaki trees are especially rich in this force and are often used for building sacred shrines. The tree itself is incorporated into the central pillar so the indwelling power of the nature deity might bless the site.
In parts of Sweden until quite recently, a guardian tree, often elm, ash or lime, was planted close to farms or small settlements and it was forbidden to take even a leaf from this tree. Pregnant women used to embrace the tree to ensure an easy delivery.
Trees have also been associated from Africa to Eastern Europe with the spirits of fertility, who regulated rain, sunshine and good harvests. In Germany and France, in some agricultural areas, a large leafy branch or even a whole tree, decorated with corn ears or the last corn sheaf, adorns the last wagon of the harvest. It was traditionally set on the roof of the farmhouse or barn for a year to ensure future good harvests.
In India, sacred trees are still visited in order to ask for blessings, especially for fertility, from the indwelling spirit or deity; food and flowers are left at the tree shrine and offering ribbons are tied to the tree.
The Celtic Druids worshipped not in temples, but in groves of trees. These natural sites may have predated the Celts by thousands of years; and still in Wales, Brittany and Cornwall the trees are hung with ribbons, trinkets and petitions for healing and blessings.