19 Jul 2009

Choosing a Magic Wand

The magic wand is an extremely important tool for many practitioners of magic, and widespread throughout almost all magical traditions, but how do you go about choosing the one that’s right for you? Well firstly, remember that although its use is practically universal, if you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of using one then don’t bother! If you feel you don't need one then you probably don't need one, so there's very little point buying one! The purpose of a wand is as a focussing device or pointer, to direct energy to the place you want it to go, either directly, by pointing towards the actual geographical location or metaphorically, as you send your shot of thought-power out into the general universe. Basically it’s a prop; it helps set the scene and create the right atmosphere and acts as an aid to your visualization and concentration, but just because many people find it useful and some even indispensable doesn’t mean that it’s absolutely necessary!

For many people an important consideration will be how much it will cost, and there is no easy way to decide how much to spend. The craftsmen and women who make these items are entitled to charge a fair price for their time, effort, expertise, and materials, although there are a few who see the supply of magical tools as a way of giving something back to the pagan community, of using what they have and what they can do to help other seekers follow their own paths. It probably depends on whether or not they depend on the income from their craft to pay the rent and put food on the table, or if they have a “proper job” and make magical tools in their spare time. Either way, if you want something that’s well out of your financial reach it’s always better just to forget about it and move on. More expensive doesn’t mean better or more effective, and the novice especially would be well advised to choose plainer, cheaper options, at least until they’ve tried several different materials and decided on the one or ones they prefer.

A wand can be made out of any material at all in theory; however they tend to fall into three categories, wood, metal or stone. Which you choose is entirely up to you, a matter of personal preference, as is whether you prefer your wand to be very plain or incredibly ornate, close to its natural state or highly decorated. Many people believe that a wand will find it's rightful owner, so if you find yourself constantly coming back to one that on the face of it just isn't your style don't be surprised, the wand you work best with is not necessarily the one you fall in love with the look of! However, in order to make the job of choosing a little easier, take a few decisions at this stage to narrow the field somewhat. It may help to make a list, but be prepared to be flexible! For instance, do you want it to be entirely made by hand, or would you tolerate a small amount of machine use, such as the use of an electric lathe in wood turning or an electric soldering iron for metal work? Roughly what kind of size and shape do you feel comfortable with? (You can at least have a few "dummy runs" with this one!) It doesn’t really matter whether you prefer the look and feel of a perfectly straight wand, or something curved, spiral or as jagged as a lightning bolt, as long as you can visualise your energy flowing through it. Energy (or magic) has no physical form and isn’t hampered or impeded by going round corners or through small gaps. Many believe that this energy travels through space and time in a kind of spiral vortex anyway, and I’m quite sure it’s capable of finding its own form regardless of what shape you try to make it! Equally, the size of your wand is not important to it's effectiveness, so it's entirely up to you whether you use one that could double as a staff, or one you can hide in your pocket. Each type has its strengths and limitations in use, not to mention the physical differences of weight, practical size, toughness, etc. Obviously it wouldn’t be sensible to have a delicate, slender crystal wand, however beautiful it is, if you do your rituals on a concrete floor and have a tendency to drop things! By the same token, not many people would relish the thought of clutching an uncovered metal wand while working out on an exposed hillside on a cold and windy night! Your wand should be comfortable to hold so it doesn’t make your muscles ache; should not get either hot, sweaty and slippery, or so cold your fingers freeze; have no very sharp or rough edges to catch on you or your clothing; should not be too heavy to hold in your outstretched hand for a little while; should not be so long as to be a hazard if you work in a confined space; and it’s probably a good idea if it could withstand being dropped occasionally! Many people don’t associate practical decision making with the choice of magical tools, and while it’s perfectly OK just to fall in love with a particular item, being sensible is always a good idea. Imagine where you will be using your wand, where you will keep it when not in use, and how you will carry it, and try to be practical in your choice. Then it’s time to listen to your inner voice, and most people find them selves drawn to one material, or even a specific type of wood, metal, crystal or whatever. Try to hold different kinds of metal to see how they feel to you, if you handle various crystals one is bound to become your favourite, and make the effort to touch trees or wood of as many different varieties as you can. Small tumbled crystals are cheap and easy to come by, most wood workers would be happy to let you have a few small samples of various woods so you can get the feel of them, metal may be more difficult, but the water pipes in your house are probably copper, and you may well own jewellery in gold, silver or pewter. You can research the various magical properties; most things have correspondences drawn from accepted wisdom, and traditional uses. They also have their own guardian angels, ruling elements, significant day of the week, planetary ruler, colour, gender; the list is almost endless, and easily researched on the internet. Some of these correspondences are the same in most of the lists, but some differ dramatically. It is important to remember however, that it will be you who is using your wand, so if you feel that oak is feminine and can aid intuition then don’t worry if the rest of the world disagrees, what you feel is right for you is right for you! After all, what is actually meant by accepted wisdom and tradition is only that this thing worked for most people most of the time, there are no guarantees and no rules, so learn to make your own decisions!

One thing that really should be taken into consideration when choosing any magical tools is the ethical implications of the item. Find out about the origin of the wands you look at and ask questions of the seller. Was this crystal ethically mined with regard for the Earth and respect for the workers? Is this wood from our endangered Tropical forests? What impact will arise from me buying something that contains paint derived from the petro-chemical industry? Also assure yourself that the seller actually knows their product as I’ve seen too many bits of coloured glass passed off as amethyst and random sticks labelled as something rare and exotic. The best defence against getting duped by fakes is to become an expert yourself, so do your research! Get books from the library with good quality photographs and descriptions, so you know what to look for and can tell the difference between elder and mahogany, citrine and sandstone, or lead and silver. If the seller is also the maker of the wand they should be able to answer your questions without any trouble, but if they sound unsure it’s probably wise to be cautious! Anyone who works with wood, metal or stone should have an in-depth knowledge, either from experience or formal education, or both, so don't be afraid to ask complicated questions. As far as I can tell, anyone who really knows thier subject is more than happy to tell you about it, in great detail and at great length! If you're buying on the internet at a site such as Etsy or eBay it's always a good idea to look at a person's feedback, it doesn't tell the whole story, but it will let you know how long they've been selling and how many happy (or otherwise!) customers they have. You can also look at the items they've sold in the past to get an idea of what they could make if you decided to ask for a custom wand.

It may or may not appeal to you to purchase an item already cleansed, blessed or charged with some form of energy, it’s probably not actually dangerous, and may well be perfectly fine as long as you’re sure that the rituals were done in exactly the same way as you would do them yourself, but it’s not easy to be certain. At best, it’s a well-meaning waste of time and at worst you could end up with someone else’s feeling or intent influencing your magical work. In any case, if you want your wand to react to you and truly be yours then you should be the one to do any rituals for it! I would always advise anybody to be very cautious if the seller gives out a list of rules, or strict instructions such as how to consecrate or enliven your wand by anointing it with three drops of your blood taken from the middle finger of your left hand, after being pricked with an unused silver needle at exactly midnight under a full moon wearing a green robe with your ruling planet in the fourth house, etc, etc, etc. If you need step by step instruction join a reputable coven or working group, and learn from people who actually know what they’re talking about. No one can tell you that unless you follow their directions to the letter and do things the one true way then your wand won’t work. They may have made it, but they took your money and handed it over to you - so it’s your wand, and you can do what you want with it. Don't be taken in by sellers describing a wand as "powerful", "strong", "potent", or anything else that implies it has power of it's own, it doesn't! When all’s said and done, no matter how beautiful, ornate or expensive, it’s basically a stick, and it will remain just a stick until you’ve built up a working relationship with it, there is NO MAGIC in it… the magic comes from within YOU! Don’t ever forget that!

Finally, I have to say that the very best magical tools are the ones you make yourself, but if you’re unable to do your own crafting then there are some lovely examples fairly easily obtainable. With time and use they’ll become just as personally yours, just as familiar, comfortable and comforting as your favourite pair of old jeans, and quite likely just as scruffy to look at! But to you they’ll be precious beyond gold and totally irreplaceable. Just choose carefully, ask lots of questions, and don’t spend more than you can afford!

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