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Staff or Rod – Exploring Traditional Druid Tools

Last updated on December 30, 2019

Druid tools continue to have value in the modern world.  Though they remain a mystery for most, modern Druids use these personal tools to help focus their energy.  This makes them powerful aids.

Beyond the entertainment value of it in many books and films, no Druid tools hold power in and of themselves.  Rather, it’s the careful and thoughtful construction and dedication of each tool to a purpose that supports a more efficient focus of energy in the user.  Construction materials selected with purpose to take advantage of the natural properties can focus that further.

A Druid may have many versions of the same tool.  A variety of natural construction materials like wood or stone are matched together in a complimentary fashion with the addition of specific stones or crystals. Using these combinations of materials with purpose makes them excellent aids for specific tasks like divination or dedication of spaces or cleansing.

Druid Tools – Staff or Rod

staff with vinesAnother very personal tool, a Druid’s staff or rod, should never be touched by anyone but the owner.  Rods and staffs are most often made from wood.  The wood used in their construction will imbue this tool with the resonant power of not only the type of tree, but also the location the tree came from.  Wands and rods are closely related and may double as the same thing in some cases.

By tradition, a rod or staff is a precise length with 3 or 6 feet as the usual suggestion.  The main use of this variety of Druid tools is protection or laying out space. Sticking it in the ground and marking out the shadow can give you precise area measurement. A staff or rod can also be a symbol of position. We can see examples of them echoed in the sceptre of power used by people like kings and religious leaders.

An ancient and traditional use for a rod was to measure bodies for burial and markings on it would include units of measure. In more ancient times, the staff was also used (depending on the owner’s tradition) to keep a record of journeys or as a record of events that were marked in through carvings. Irish Druids used carvings on their staff to record stories of the gods, historical notations or mythical tales of beasts or magical happenings.

In the modern world, a staff or rod still looks similar to a walking stick with a longer rod referred to as a staff.  The owner will often carve it with a variety of symbols that have meaning to them or to the purpose they will later dedicate the tool to.

Making your own staff – staff basics

branchesThere are about a million ways to go about making a staff for yourself and they’re all correct. Everyone’s journey is different, so whatever feels correct is the right way to go at it.

Wood for your staff should be chosen with careful consideration. Oak or Ash are the most popular choices due to the spiritual associations, but other types of wood also work well. Depending on what you want to use your staff for, choose a type of wood with properties that compliment your purpose. Cedar, for example, is a wood of protection and preservation and could be helpful casting protective energy. Elder is a sacred tree, so could be useful for blessings or to drive out negative energy.

How to choose the wood

moss covered fallen branchesOne way to approach the choice of wood is to walk in the woods with your intention of making your staff in your thoughts. Listen with an open mind and if you’re drawn to a particular piece of wood, you’ll know it’s giving itself to you.

My personal preference is felled wood over hacking branches off, but cuttings from a tree are okay as long it’s done with permission. Ask it. Trees are alive, don’t forget. If it’s okay for you to take the piece, the energy of the tree will tell you. If it feels a correct and comfortable thing to do, you’re good to go. Be respectful and remember to always cut on an angle as it’s healthier for the tree. Wood should be dried laying down for 30 to 60 days or so before working on it. Don’t dry your staff standing up on one end to prevent uneven drying.

If you don’t have access to a wooded area, you could also purchase a staff from an artisan. There’s nothing that says you can’t. Being in a shop with a selection of already-created staffs, approach the task with an open mind. You may find yourself drawn to one in particular over others. Listen to your instincts. If there’s a staff you feel you have to have, then it’s telling you that’s the one for you.

To decorate or not to decorate

crystalsPlain staffs work just as well as those with lots of decoration, so don’t feel there’s any rules there. If you’re a minimalist kind of person, a plain staff is going to compliment your personal energy, so that’s perfect for you. Just as correct, you could decorate it with symbols that have personal meaning. Carving in or burning these in work well depending on your skill in this area.

Staining with India ink, paint or anything else you can think of is another way to go. Bark can be removed or left on depending on how that strikes you. If you do remove the bark, remember to condition the staff with beeswax or some other natural wood conditioner to prevent cracking.

Adding crystals, stones, bone, antlers, shells or feathers can also be done if it feels correct. Choose these with consideration. The properties of these elements should compliment the properties of the wood and the purpose for your staff.

Stones and crystals require digging grooves out of the wood and affixing them in a way that prevents them falling out, so a bit of a challenge. Wrapping them in with copper wire is an easy way to go about it with the benefit of the copper adding its own properties to the antlermix. Some people use epoxy adhesives or similar to prevent stones falling out. I’m not a big fan of chemicals mixed in with my energy, and if you feel the same you may want to go the copper wire route.

Twine, ivy, cotton cord or any number of other natural materials are also good choices to hold crystals, stones and shells in place. Antler pieces are easy to affix using double ended screws and drilling them into the top of your staff for a tight fit that won’t come loose.

My own staff has five embedded crystals. It took some doing, but the grooves I dug out are just big enough to provide a snug fit for each one, so they don’t shift. I also poured some melted Dragon’s Blood-infused wax into each crevice around the crystals for further adhesion.

Cleansing and dedicating the staff

Being a personal tool, each staff is unique to its owner and their place in the world.  Before you use it, it should be cleansed and dedicated. What does that mean?

sage smudgeTo get the best use out of it, the staff should be aligned with your energy. Removing or releasing the energy of someone else who made it or releasing any energy attached to it overall allows you to start with a blank canvas. Taking it into a dedicated circle with your personal intentions firmly planted in mind will help ground it and align it to you alone.

Start by casting a sacred circle. If you’ve done this before, use what you normally would to represent the four cardinal points or watchtowers. You might also want to include a small bowl of salt in the centre for further cleansing. If you haven’t done this before, I suggest using four candles for simplicity – green for North (earth), orange or red for South (fire), yellow or white for East (air), and blue for West (water).

Call upon and ask the energy of each cardinal point to bless it and then cleanse it with the salt. Once this is done, smudging it with sage will release and cleanse it of any other energy that may still be attached to it. At this point, you may feel the need to ‘wake’ the staff to its purpose. Tapping the end of it on the ground three times while asking the deities or energies personally closest to you to bless it for success in its specific purpose can cap off this exercise.

What is a staff for?

While we’ll never know exactly what Druids used a staff for in the past, in modern times, we know a staff can be used to extend ourselves. At the end of your arm, it quite literally gives you a longer reach. More than that, though, this longer reach is a mental position.

air staffLike other similar tools, a staff will store your energy the more you use it. Working with your staff often will continue to help it align to you. Meditate with it, walk with it, take it into sacred circles and spaces until it becomes a part of you. Doing this for an extended period of time will allow it to store up your energy. You’ll know you’ve done a good job with it when you feel the energy in it when you pick it up. It may even feel like it’s vibrating in your hand. As an extension of you, part of you will be in it and so it will feel alive.

This contained energy in your staff can be directed by you toward whatever purpose you choose to use it for – blessings, protection, healing, etc.. Akin to doubling yourself, it will help you cast stronger spells. On a day you may be feeling low on energy, your staff can even charge you up – it’s your energy in there, after all.

Not only this, but your staff is a part of you and an extension of your higher self. Over time, you’ll find it takes on a ‘personality’ of its own. For example, if you begin to use your staff in a way it doesn’t ‘like’, you’ll find it retreat or withdraw from you. Rather than feeling charged in your hand, it will feel empty and inert.

Never forget, your higher self or spirit is connected to the greater conjoined consciousness of the universe. It’s this energy that gets built-up in the staff. When you hold your staff and have an inclination to do something, say something, understand something, feel something unexpected, know and trust that it’s correct. This is your consciousness guiding you without the filter of human fear, pressures, biases or doubts.

The more you work with your staff, you’ll learn to trust in this without hesitation. And it can become a powerful guide for yourself in helping others in the world around you.

[Never seen a Druid staff? Check out local Niagara, Ontario, Canada artisan Dave Bennison owner of Stick To The Story on Twitter or Facebook. I really dig his work.  He carves wooden staffs, canes, walking sticks, wands and a variety of other custom pieces handcrafted using the natural shape of wood from the forests and beaches of Southern Ontario.]

Historical sword fantasy book - The Seer by JD Stanley


For a more colourful demonstration of some of these Druid tools in action, check out my book, The Seer. This historical sword fantasy about a Druid in the fictional realm of Edenshire in 4th-century Britain is available at Amazon!

Want more?

Check out all the articles in this series on Traditional Druid Tools!

Crane Bag
Staff or Rod
Druid Egg
Druid Cord

Awen, the modern Druid symbol, the 3 rays referring to inspiration and divine illumination for poets, writers, artists and creativity - representing male and female energy and the balance between, also the 3 domains of earth, sea and sky, and mind, body and spirit

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