How to Make a Wizard’s Staff

In my last post, I outlined the differences between Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced magical tools, with an eye to how we can create them. Now, I would like to delve a little into an actual process for making them, and describe how to make a Wizard’s staff.

To recap, both Basic and Intermediate tools and are aligned with single purposes. For each Basic tool, that purpose is defined magically. One example might be a magical charm to bring “good luck.” Other examples would include the primary magical tools of the Western Occult Tradition, like the air dagger and the earth pentacle. Each of these Basic tools has a purpose that is directly magical.

By contrast, Intermediate tools have a single purpose that is defined in everyday-world terms. Good examples of these tools are talismans and amulets.(1) Where the purpose of the air dagger is to connect the magician to qualities of air, a talisman’s purpose might be “to help me find a new job.” That job exists in the everyday world and is not narrowly magically defined. This means that the creation of the talisman is relatively complex.

"Old Man with a Walking Stick" by Davied Teniers the Younger, via Wikimedia Commons
“Old Man with a Walking Stick” by Davied Teniers the Younger, via Wikimedia Commons

Advanced tools are not limited to one purpose. We build them by creating multiple less-complex enchantments into one tool, for the purpose of creating synergies and deeper effects.

In this way, making Advanced tools is a bit like cooking. Just as with baking a cake, you have the option to either follow a recipe or understand all of the components and interactions on a very deep level.

When it come to being practical, the best way to understand the process is practice. The best way to practice is to follow a recipe, to build not just confidence, but also real-world experience. To extend the metaphor, just like in cooking, making these Advanced tools can be a bit hit-or-miss when you are developing something new.

 

Making Basic Tools

Making a Basic tool can be done in three steps. We can think of these steps as cleansing, empowering, and imprinting. These steps do not need to be accomplished separately, but it is important that they all be done.(2)

Even before we reach the point of enchantment, the practitioner must procure an object that has the more-or-less correct shape and appearance. Sometimes the exact nature of the item is dictated by tradition; other times we are on our own to make the best determination we can.

Cleansing has been described in a million other places. My personal preference (assuming the item can withstand it) is to start with mild soap and water to remove any physical dirt, oils, and stains. Next, I use salt or salt water. The method for doing this can be variable. For instance, if I am cleansing a polished gemstone, I might just pass it through salt water. If cleansing a container, I find a small dish of salt left inside for a day or so to be effective.

Empowering the item means first empowering yourself. Bring in your power and authority. Perform the LBRP; cast a magic circle; call upon your allies or gods.(3) Do whatever it takes to both bring your awareness to your own spirit and inflate that spirit so that your spirit is as full and complete as it gets. Then take up the tool or lay hands on it; let your spirit rush into the tool. Now the tool is yours for certain, and it is time to move to the next step.

Fire Pit (c)2009 Polly Peterson, used with permission
Fire Pit (c)2009 Polly Peterson, used with permission

Imprinting the tool with its purpose is the last step. The simplest way to do so it to use the tool for its intended purpose. For example, if you are making a fire wand, then you might use it to perform the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram with each the Fire-banishing and Fire-invoking pentagrams.

This direct approach for imprinting is not always practical. Having awakened the spirit of the object, you might just explain to it what you need and welcome it into your world. What is happening here is a dual imprinting. You are creating an internal anchor and an external one. To follow with the example, creating the fire wand will connect you more fully to the element of fire and its properties. However, it will also create that same connection within the wand itself. It is not one or the other, but both.

 

Making Intermediate Tools

The process for making an Intermediate tool, like an amulet or talisman, is similar to the one above. There are, however, a couple of differences. Both the empowering and imprinting stages need to be done with a focus on the tool’s purpose.

When empowering yourself, allies or gods that you call upon should be ones amenable to your goal. It is best to keep in mind is that “energy” – by which I mean spiritual potential to create change – is never value-free. It is not neutral. If we bring spiritual power into the world through, for example, Kwan Yin, it cannot be freely transformed to power a curse.

The other major difference is in the imprinting stage. Where the Basic tool is designed with exactly one magical purpose in mind, the Intermediate tool contains more than one. One mundane purpose is always made up of multiple magical purposes. It is important to consider this.

Thus, an amulet of protection from violence might call upon all four Classical elements used in Western magic. Each one might be called upon for a specific property, found in a table of correspondences.

Earth to create stability, so that you are not overwhelmed by fear. Water to beckon the emotional sensitivity so you are warned away from dangerous people. Air to bring warning by “psychic” means, so you know the unknowable. Fire to call down the inspiration and intuition, so you choose the safe path.

"Please, Mr. Postman" (c)2011 Polly Peterson, used with permission
“Please, Mr. Postman” (c)2011 Polly Peterson, used with permission

Each of these can be called on either in one ritual or separate rituals. All can be bound, layered, and harmonized into the amulet.(4) And it in in this way that we learn to harmonize disparate energies.

 

The Wizard’s Staff as an Advanced Tool

The magical staff can be a powerful tool, and yet it has fallen out of favor. I suppose this is completely understandable for three very mundane reasons: convenience, complexity, and culture. President’s Roosevelt’s foreign policy aside, a big stick is awkward to carry around. Also, staves are hard to make properly. And lastly, walking sticks have become a sign of age and infirmity – and we live in a culture that would rather deny age than value it.

TV Tropes is wrong; the wizard’s staff is not just a big magic wand under the “bigger is better” rule. Or at least it doesn’t need to be.(5)

Nonetheless, a full-on mage’s staff is an Advanced tool. It is not powerful simply because it is big. The staff is something qualitatively different.

Even at a cultural level, the staff is far more than a big wand. While it might have started as a simple walking stick, the staff has become an emblem of the wizard in Western culture. It represents age and worldliness, which are stand-ins for wisdom and knowledge.

As a mundane tool, the staff no longer has the practicality it once did. Once upon a time, most people traveled on foot and on uneven and uncertain roads. Now, at least where I live in the heart of suburbia, we hop in cars and zip wherever we need. But still the image remains, of an old, bearded man of wisdom leaning thoughtfully on a walking stick.

Making a true wizard’s staff is both delicate and complicated. Where Basic tools contain only one magical “address” and Intermediate tools contain only one “purpose” – the staff, like the advanced practitioner, is connected to multiple worlds and able to be turned to any purpose.

 

How to Select Your Staff

In the most mundane sense, a staff is a large stick or even metal rod. It might have some decoration, but doesn’t need to. It is important to remember that, as with all things in magic, aesthetics count. Form and function should be as carefully wedded as possible.

I will be the first to admit that my own sense of aesthetics is rather minimalist and my artistic talent virtually nil. For that reason, my own staff is simply a five foot long, inch thick oak staff picked up from a martial arts store. But when it comes to your own staff, the sky is the limit.

“Soria Moria” by Theodor Kittelsen. From WikiMedia.
“Soria Moria” by Theodor Kittelsen. From WikiMedia.

When it comes to a staff’s length, thickness, and material, I come down firmly in the middle between symbolism and practicality. Sometimes, it is a matter of using the materials at hand. Other times, aesthetics will rule the day. The only way to know what will work for you, individually, is practice.

Whether you decide to use decorations or other accouterments to define the different parts of the staff, it is important to understand that the staff itself needs to be broken up (at least in your mind) into three different parts. There is the head, the foot, and the body.

 

How to Enchant A Staff of Power

There are four different spells that need to be not just cast, but layered into the staff itself.(6) The order this should happen in is, in the end, going to be a bit of trial and error (and probably some divination). What matters is that all four are properly laid and eventually harmonized.

One way to build this magical staff is to enchant the three separate parts of it as three simple tools, and and then bind it all together with the same techniques we might use to build a talisman. What makes it different from a charm or talisman is that it is not designed for one purpose, magical or mundane.

A practitioner, fully developed, is a bridge between earth and sky, sky and earth. As below, so above; and as above, so below. The mage’s staff is the same. It is bound not to some purpose, but to the practitioner’s will.

First, the staff itself should be connected to the practitioner. It is easiest to connect yourself to this item, which will become a bridge between earth and sky, before making the other connections. This will mean enchanting the body of the staff so that it is yours.

Generally, in the Western tradition, most people would start with the head of the staff, with the heavens, first. The reason for this is actually that most people, in and of themselves, are more aligned with the Earth.

That might seem counter-intuitive, but since much of magical practice comes down to attempting to balance and integrate forces that are habitually out of balance, it is just the way it goes. And that is why, in some cases, it might be necessary to reverse the order of these. Divination is your friend.

The head of the staff should be aligned to the heavens. For you and your magical work, this could mean any number of things. It could be the blazing will of God, or the subtle forces studied in astrology, the slopes of Olympus, your eighth chakra, or simply the power of the sky realms. However you connect “up” is exactly what you would want to enchant into the head of the staff.

Understanding this purpose will allow you to consider what decorations might go at the top of the staff. My only clear suggestion is that you make the symbolism as clean as possible. Throwing a whole bunch of different symbols for the sky together just to “see what sticks” is probably a terrible idea. Discernment is key, and the head of this staff should be built as if it were a simple tool – capturing just one magical “address.”

The foot of the staff should be aligned to the Earth. Just as the head touches the sky above, the foot should touch the land beneath.

The foot of the staff gets harmonized with the land and with the whole spirit of the earth. The body of the staff, from somewhere in the middle, is then enspelled so that the two, heaven and earth, become one.

In other words, the process is to create three different magical tools, each in a different part of the staff, and then create a fourth spell that will begin to harmonize them. What is key to remember is that this is not a talisman with some singular purpose.

 

The Purpose of the Wizard’s Staff

A wizard’s staff is complex. On the one hand, it will function as a conduit between potentialities in the universe. That means that the stress of bending (or straightening) the world will not rest solely on your shoulders. When I say that a Wizard’s staff is used for support, I mean that in every way possible.

But the staff itself will also serve as an anchor. If you lose focus, get distracted, or are beset by the troubles of this world, taking hold of it will remind your own spirit to be that bridge between earth and sky.

Where a talisman is made to attract one thing, or an amulet is made to repel another, a wizard’s staff is made solely for the purpose of growing as a practitioner.

 


(1) Amulets and talismans are both Intermediate tools. Sometimes people use the words interchangeably, but there is a difference. Colloquially, a talisman is used to attract something, and an amulet is for keeping something away.

(2) I can imagine situations where you would not wants to do all the steps. Anyone who is proficient in making tools, so well as to understand why each step is important, should feel free to experiment with variations. This is where real learning will happen.

(3) When I suggest calling on your gods or allies, I mean those with whom you have some kind of relationship. It is unimportant for this purpose what you believe the nature of the gods or spirits is. On the other hand, if you want to develop a relationship with some entity, you might create a focus for doing so. This would, by these standards, be a specific kind of Basic tool: the holy symbol.

(4) Yes, such a ritual could be used to cast the same binding directly on yourself, or on someone else. There are some advantages to a tool, however. Patterned amulets and talismans can be shared, or even sold. They can also be worn only when you need them.

(5) When it comes to ideas around magic, Wikipedia is not always the best barometer of what people believe. Wikipedia is mostly written from an agnostic and/or atheist perspective. As this is generally the high-status intellectual position in Western culture, the resource has made an editorial decision to use that approach.

This brings us to TV Tropes, which (as it provides insight into the stories that make up our culture) at least allows people to entertain such ideas as “what is the nature of a magic staff?” Yes, TV Tropes is about fiction. But if we use it carefully it can also give us a window into what people believe, or at least are willing to entertain.

(6) A word of fair warning. There is a reason that this is an Advanced tool, though anyone could certainly get started on making one. Like the creation of the four elemental tools, each phase of this process will not only harmonize the staff with the proper place, but also require that the practitioner properly harmonize with it as well.

About Christopher Drysdale
Christopher Drysdale is an animist, martial artist, shamanic practitioner, healer, psychopomp, and meditation teacher. He’s been pagan for more than 30 years, has a master’s degree in anthropology, and thinks “making the world a better place” is a pretty good idea. He makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can read more about the author here.
"The hardest door we ever must struggle to open is our home's door.The hardest bite ..."

Three Essentials of Daily Practice
"My magic blog, yes, focuses on magic. Thanks for reading. I'll leave the woodworking to ..."

How to Make a Wizard’s Staff
"The article doesn't really talk about "How to make a wizard's staff." A lot about ..."

How to Make a Wizard’s Staff
"I think the name "animal wisdom" is a little misleading, it is actually all about ..."

The Other Side of the Hedge: ..."

Browse Our Archives



What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Boniface Wolfsong

    The article doesn’t really talk about “How to make a wizard’s staff.” A
    lot about cleansing, enchanting, symbolism, power, etc., but nothing
    about how to select the right wood, how to treat it so it doesn’t crack
    during the drying process, how to straighten it, if it is slightly
    crooked, and so on. I make staffs and shillelaghs. I’ll tell you this,
    you’ll never get to the magickal part of staff making, if the wood keeps
    cracking on you, and making it useless. The author’s suggestion is to go and buy
    a martial arts staff; laughable. You should re-title your article to reflect its actual content.

  • My magic blog, yes, focuses on magic. Thanks for reading. I’ll leave the woodworking to you, since I have all the artistic talent of a febrile boy scout: all eagerness and no talent.