Stick FAQ

Information about wands for ritual magic, shaman staffs, staves, Native American and Folk Art style rattle handles, talking sticks for group discussion circles.

 What's in a name? There are many different kinds of "sticks" used in ceremonial practises throughout time and around the world. The following are some of my thoughts on the ceremonial decorated sticks that I craft.

A wand is typically made of wood, and is a stick usually no longer than 24" inches. In it's most basic sense a wand is used to direct energy in ceremonial magic(k) and religious ritual. A "stave" is another word for a wand blank -- one that hasn't been crafted yet. By definition staves are the narrow strips of wood in a barrel or basket making. In music, a stave can refer to the set of lines and spaces used in musical notation, which is also called a "Staff", so sometimes people use the word stave to describe something long like a wizards magic walking staff. For myself, I consider a long stick that's held like a tall cane to be either a staff or a walking stick used for hiking the wilderness, and not a stave.

A size between the short wand and the long staff lacks a name then in my world so are simply considered to be short staffs, talking sticks, or canes. Very long sticks -- branches essentially -- are sometimes made into prayer or "lodge poles" that should have tied prayer bundles and/or fetish trinkets that represent the good things wanted for home and family. Such a prayer pole is a modernized concept where the pole is kept indoors either leaning in a prominent corner or hanging <--> horizontally. A staff and a prayer pole may look similar if the owner chooses to heavily decorate, but a staff is carried in the hand laterally. No matter by what name one chooses to call them, each of these types of decorated sticks are used to help generate and direct energy in magic and prayers.

Handmade talking sticks and wood shaman staffs are crafted in basically the same manner as my magic wands; indeed they can be used as wands to direct energy in ceremony. To find out more about hand crafting methods, please see the "About" tag. Rattles, also like wands, are used in ceremony for various purposes from chasing evil spirits away to inviting good spirits to enter, but rattles are used to create a sound pattern for meditation like focus. A multi-cultural ritual tool, rattles can project energy just as a wand. I enjoy crafting wands and rattles so that they are attractive, but they are more than just works of art as each is imbued with symbolic spiritual energy.

About Talking Sticks

When groups gather there can be a tendency for individuals to talk over each other, speaking at the same time, creating a crescendo of noise. It becomes an unbalanced exchange of energy or an outright competition to be heard. In order to avoid confrontation and promote fairness of brotherhood the "talking stick" was used by some indigenous people of the Americas. The concept is simple... whoever has the stick is the one who gets to talk.

Using A Talking Stick
A talking stick can help keep the peace and direct the will of a group. Special events can be marked on a talking stick for the sake of memory too. Adding trinkets and decorations can turn a family talking stick into a scrapbook of sorts, and also adds a tactile sense. It can be easier for some people to speak in a public situation if they've something to do with their hands by toying with hanging charms, stones or beads thus the talking stick takes on the role of a therapy devise. Each meeting can begin with a passing of the stick. One could make a ritual of beginning evening dinner, a family reunion or such gatherings in this way; discuss a specific topic or just touch bases. A talking stick can function as a wand to direct energy both in a group settings and/or for a private individual. It will absorb positive energy over time and store it until discharged. This can be saved or dispersed to fulfill the groups goal or need -- just as a wand. But as a talking stick it will also absorb negative energy, such as from heated group conversation, and transmute it into positive energy allowing communication within the group to improve. It may be programmed to disperse any negativity from the conversation appropriately out into the universe. This would be achieved with a prayer or declaration of release stated at the end of the circle.   
Once you or your group has a talking stick you'll need to decide on a reasonable amount of time to allow each talker. The amount of time depends greatly on the type of talking activity. A fast paced debate, where many have opinions or information to share, might require a short span of perhaps two to five minutes per person. You might allow open time for family chats or situations where participants may have a small story to tell. The group might also agree to raising hands to indicate a desire to speak. It's reasonable to assume this is a more traditional method of deciding when to passing the stick, as there weren't many stop watches or kitchen timers in the old days. This isn't an activity for an uncooperative group of individuals; sticks can hurt! If you're working with a group of small children, you might try making a talking stick from a flexible Nerf-like material for safety. 
The person starting the conversation, or the keeper of the talking stick begins. After stating the purpose of the gathering and having his or her "turn" the stick should be passed. Let the stick be passed to the right for creative conversations where positive energy is being made, or pass to the left if you're working out problems; removing negative energy. Having gathered the group in a circle, only the holder of the stick should be permitted to speak, and only those in the circle should participate. Interruptions from people not involved in the entire conversation or activity -- the circle -- should not be allowed. If you might want to contribute to the conversation you'd better join the circle at the start! You don't HAVE to speak if the stick is passed to you. It's a matter of fairly controlling the flow of energy, so if you feel the group needs to cool down a bit just use your turn with the talking stick to create a little quiet time.You may also pass the talking stick quietly if you've nothing at all to say. The choice is always your own, but you must wait until you have the stick for your turn to decide. The talking stick should then continue to be passed in this manner until all agree that what can be spoken has been said. The stick is finally returned to the leader of the group, or a voted "keeper", for safe storage. 
  With both spiritual grace and physical appeal, the talking stick easily takes on the role of a therapy devise, magick wand, scrapbook of memories, and an interesting conversation piece of home decor.

*copyright Tree Pruitt, based upon years of personal experience, research gained via personal interests, and verbal lore. Stock images courtesy Karen's Whimsey Public Domain Images. Ivy Bar from Ambrosia's Realm of Graphics.

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