(I wrote this article for AXIS MUNDI, Vol 3 Issue 1 – Autumn, March 2010)
I decided to make myself a small wand – a ritual tool to represent the element of Air – using a stick from one of the large Angophora trees in the bush across the road from my house. Many people associate Wands with Fire and Swords with Air. However, the elemental correspondences I use for both ritual tools and the Tarot associate Wands with east and the element of Air, and Swords with north and the element of Fire. This makes more sense to me than the opposite since Wands are primarily a mental ritual tool and Swords are an energy or action tool.
I selected four suitable sticks from the ground at the base of a tree then took them home to start stripping the bark and make my final choice of which one to use. As it turned out, the first stick I had picked up was actually the easiest to strip back and tidy up, so it was ‘the one’. The overall length of the stick is about 30cm. This is quite a bit shorter than the ‘elbow to tip of middle finger’ measurement traditionally used to determine the length of a wand, but better suited to fit in my bag of ritual tools I take to SOL gatherings. I prepared the stick with a knife and sandpaper, removing the very rough bits, then looked at it for a while hoping for inspiration to come on how to decorate it. The small end of the stick looked a bit like a dog snout so I decided to work with that idea. At first I thought I’d rather turn it into a dragon but the more I whittled away at the wood the more dog-like it became so, ‘Dog’ it was.
Although Dog is my totem animal it seemed a little odd at first to be associating Dog with my wand and the element of Air, but after comparing the two I realized it was not such a stretch of the imagination after all. Dog as a totem animal is usually associated with attributes such as guidance, teaching, protection, loyalty, vigilance and intelligence. These attributes do actually tie in quite well with some of the many correspondences associated with Air. For example: the focus of Air is intellect – dogs are very intelligent and also relate well to other qualities of Air such as reasoning and communication. The senses associated with Air are smell, hearing and voice; we all know that the senses of smell and hearing are especially well developed in dogs (allowing them to be so vigilant) and their voice (barking) is one of their many methods of communication, although ‘vocal’ dogs are not always appreciated in a suburban environment.
I painted the ‘dog end’ of the stick to look like my Border Collie, Shelby. ‘He’ needed ears so I searched through a packet of polished gemstone chips until I found two suitably shaped black pieces (possibly onyx, obsidian or tourmaline) and glued them to either side of the wand/dog’s head. The head is only about 1 cm wide by 2.5 cm long so I found it a bit difficult to achieve the detail I wanted. At the edge of the black paint I painted a band of yellow to represent air and then added some yellow ribbon and some hair that Shelby kindly donated (he has plenty to spare!) which I thought was far more appropriate than adding feathers to the wand. After all, his hair has a very ‘airy’ quality about it, being very fluffy, almost ‘feathery’ looking. He also likes to ‘fly’ by jumping high into the air to catch tennis balls, and he loves to run around the yard barking at the wind and storms. Some people have even called him air-headed but I know my baby boy is really quite brilliant!
After I’d added the ‘dog feathers’ (which I made by tying the cut end of each small bunch of hair with cotton thread and then dipping it in glue and attaching the ribbon and ‘silver’ bead while the glue was still wet) I wound copper wire around the wand (copper and silver are often associated with Air) and then applied some clear lacquer. The ‘Shelby stick’, as my family were calling it, was ritually cleansed and consecrated and, voila! …my new wand was born.
And here’s a few more photos that didn’t appear in the Axis Mundi…