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Tools: Magik Staff

General History
A magik staff has many names; a spirit staff, a walking stick, a travelers weapon, a weary wanderers companion. It has been used as a carved record of ones long journey, a symbol of authority, a support for an exhausted traveler and a weapon. It's an extension of one's own arms and reach; as a pole to vault over creeks, or My very first staff came from a fallen branch of a tall crape myrtle tree. I was 12 years old and only had my Mom's yarn at my disposal. a deep ditch. Travelers used the staff to carry their traveling packs over one shoulder, or heavy loads across both their shoulders. It's been used to defend against attack, or even to gain an upper hand in a battle.
In the Orient, many peasants were band from possessing weapons. But developed methods and learned how to use their common every day tools in lethal ways for both protection and battle. The staff is one of these many weapons and is used in various forms of martial arts.
In ancient Egypt, the staff can be seen in the hands of various royals, and politicians. Many hieroglyphs depict people of importance walking with a thin staff. Some topped with additional symbology to define the importance of the person or the office that person held within Pharaohs realm. It's also a symbol of authority to Pharaoh. And can be found in his hand with a decorative head piece. Often a symbol representing an Egyptian God, such as Isis.
There are many Biblical references to the staff as well. The mostly commonly known of these is the staff given to Moses to rule over the snakes and desert. Later used in Pharaohs palace to swallow up the snakes of Egypt, laid upon the Nile to curse the waters and to part the sea so that Israel could escape Pharaoh's chariots. The staff with hook on the top is often associated with the shepherd, and the 'every-man' or children of God. Again showing how a headpiece can define the position of the bearer.
Keeping a record of events in the carvings of a staff can be traced to the ancient Norsemen. Carving runes to tell a story or tale along it's shaft was a practical and common practice amongst these travelers. This Native American Shamans Staff, is decorated with hawk feathers, a deer antler and bear skin. It was also used to "skor" numerical information for the length of a measurement, a journey or trade. This method actually carried into modern day and we use it to keep 'score' during a game. This method of carving isn't unique to the Norse however.
Celtic Shamans used a staff as both a symbol of authority, leadership and as a tool for spiritual journey. Often carved with mystical symbols, Celtic runes, or animals. These were the Shamans tool to help guide the path of his/her workings as well as the clan they administered too.
Druids used carvings as a method to record stories of the Gods, the history of Ireland and mythical tales of beasts and magik.
Native American Shamans also used their staves to record tales. We might think of a totem pole as a large example; but the same type of totem carvings can be found in smaller versions too. From tall walking sticks to smaller talking sticks. These were used to record a journey or a great battle.
In all of these various cultures, a staff is often decorated as well as carved. Topped with the antlers of a deer, decorated with leather, feathers and/or stones or beads. The staff is unique to it's owner and their position in the world. Giving special meaning to that person's life and their usage of the staff.
Today you can find many different types of staves. From spiritual usages to simple walking sticks of a hiker. Some Craft traditions require a person to be initiated as a priest/priestess before creating or possessing a staff. Other traditions see the staff as a tool used upon one's journey into the spiritual world or as a tool to help guide your steps along the spiritual path. Personally I think if you want a staff and feel connected to this kind of tool; then make or find yourself one.My pride and joy. This is my Shaman's Staff. Decorated with pheasant fethers, leather, beads, shells and a crystal.
Making Your Own Staff
It's important to note that you don't have to make your own staff. You can easily find a woodcarver who has created some beautiful works of art and purchase one. Take it home and decorate it as you desire. I have both home made staves and purchased ones. My most favorite was purchased and decorated by me at home. So in some way's it's a combination of both.
A staff is typically made from wood. Depending on what energies you want to associate with your staff will depend on which wood you choose. There have many different types to choose from. Oak and Ash are the most commonly used on the pagan paths. Because of their spiritual reference to these two trees. But white pine, maple and apple are also popular choices. You might review the Tree Associations page for more information to help you decide.
But consider some other interesting alternatives. An Osage Orange tree (found around the US), is a beautiful light colored wood that gets darker as it ages, until it turns black. Crape Myrtle is a lovely white and very hard wood, and makes a wonderful staff material.
Sometimes the best way to choose a staff is to take a long walk through the woods and ask the GreatSpirits to guide you to the staff that's meant for you. Be it fallen from a tree; a branch off a living tree, or a young tree just starting it's growth. In either case; make sure you ask permission from the tree to have this gift; and thank the tree spirit and your guides for giving itself or part of itself to you. If you choose a stick that has fallen; make sure it's not rotten or infested with bugs.
Take your staff home and clean it up. Decide if you're going to peal off the bark or leave it natural. Set it aside for about 30 to 60 days in a dry place. A shed or in the corner of the garage are often good places. Lay it or hang it flat; don't stand it on one end. You want it to dry out evening.
My husband's magikal staff. White pine, topped with a hawk; his spiritual totem.
After it's dry, the hard part begins. What are you going to do with it? You can carve one end as a head piece. You can take it to a wood crafter and ask them to carve a head piece like the one pictured here on the left. You can carve runes into the sides. You can decorate the staff with feathers or fur, leather, silk ribbons, yarn, beads, and just about anything else you find an association with. You can brand or burn runes or personal sigils in the shaft as well.
If you use a metal or stones to decorate your wand, make sure you understand the properties of that item on the wand. Just like wood, metals and stones have their own magikal traits as well. You might review the Stone Energy page for more information to help you decide which crystals or stones might work best for your intent.
Or you can even just leave it plain in it's natural beauty. Nothing wrong with nature, or being minimal. The two staves pictured here (the wolf and the hawk) belong to my husband and myself. I decorated the wolf with leather, feathers, beads and shells consistent with a Celtic Shaman's view. Where as my husband decided to leave his staff plain and simple. So it's really up to you which way you decide to go.
Many people like to cleanse their staff before they work on it. Others perform a ritual and bring the staff into a circle before any carving or decorating is done. These two methods allow you to clear the energy of the staff from sitting around outside, in the garage or store. And to add or imprint your own energies upon the wood. It's also a chance to have your guides and the Gods/Goddesses come to work with you in the creation or decoration of the staff.
These methods are by no means set in stone. You can work on the wood and decorations and then take the staff into circle for clearing and cleansings. No matter which way you chose; the last thing you should do before actually using your staff is a consecration ritual. You want to imprint your desired use for this tool upon all the elements of the tool.
For instance, if this is to be used as your guide on the spiritual path of knowledge and experiences; and your staff has an animal headpiece; you might ask the GreatSpirits to give spiritual sight to your wolves eyes; or your hawks vision so that they might guide your steps upon your spiritual journey. When you take your staff out; you can imagine the gaze of your animal helping you to see the direction you should take, and the decisions you have to make.
Additional Reading
Magikal Tools
Tool Symbology
Clearing, Cleansing & Protecting Your Energies
Cleansing & Consecration for an object or space

Source: 1, c3, c4, c8, c13, s1, s2, s4, s5, s6, s7, s11, s14, m1, m5, m18, m23