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A Staff that forks at the top and is decorated with items symbolic of tools you need as you travel between the worlds. The Stang is an altar and a ritual tool in one. Symbolic of A' Crann Bethadh with branches in the Upper World and roots in the Underworld with the trunk running through our Middle Earth. The Stang represents the channel between Sky and Earth. If you have a stang you do not really need any other tools to cast circles and perform rituals or spells. A stang is portable and can be taken anywhere making it an excellent choice for outdoor rites and taking to festivals. You will notice however that published information on the Stang or the crafting of a Stang is difficult to come by.
The Stang has been popularized (albeit slowly) among Pagan Reconstructionists by Robert Cochrane (Relationship to the SMCC Cochranes' unknown) however, the use of a forked staff is not restricted to Traditional Witchcraft and its traditions in the UK. Reverence for forked staves is found all over Europe, East and West, and in the Mediterranean. The stang is the ancient Tree danced around by witches during their sabbat rites. It is the pillar in the Pagan temple and the sacrificed god hanging from the Tree.
Why the fork? The ancients believed horns and antlers allowed animals to have heightened senses and intuition and that the horns acted as conduits of wisdom and knowledge from the gods and spirits. Gods with horns were believed to be especially powerful particularly when it came to being far-sighted and wise in all things –not to mention the horns could also be used as protection or a weapon. Three-pronged staves were considered especially lucky and powerful as were trees growing in the same formation. This is because they resemble a human being with the center as torso and the prongs on either side the arms.
Two and three-pronged staffs are representatives of the World Tree as an anthropomorphized figure. We find the three-tined stave in ancient art being held by Hades, Poseidon, and Shiva. Is it a fisherman’s spear, a pitchfork, a hay-fork, or a magical tool? Maybe it’s both… Often the ancients did not separate the magical and the mundane for magick can be practical also.
Much of the Lore associated with crafting a Stang is based on Norse Myth. Take your time and select a length of wood that appeals to you and your tradition. Many use Ash because of the Yggdrasil, Oak is what A' Crann Bethadh is styled after; it is my feeling that any of the sacred woods could be used effectively.
The Stang should come to about shoulder height and be forked at the top, if your staff isn't naturally forked you could top it with a goat or deer skull or bind antlers or bull horns to the top with rawhide to create the fork. Some witches put a candle between the tines or screw a hook into the wood to hang a lantern from. This is practical as well as representing the light of cunning and wisdom. Traditionally, a Stang is also Shod by driving a coffin nail up the base, this is to help fascilitate Hedgecrossing, the process of moving between the worlds.
In the end, a Stang can be as elaborate or simple as you desire. It can be intricately carved with animals, plants, and sigils, or just left plain and finished with oil and beeswax. If you like you can hang bones of animal familiars from the tines so when the Stang is used it also calls your allies to aid you as your perform rituals. Feathers can be tied beneath the hand-grip as symbols of flight – both for yourself and for gods and spirits. You can also use symbols of animal totems or spirit guides, recommended is a land animal such as a horse, deer, goat or cow, the feathers of a bird, so if using your stang for otherworldly travel, you can travel across land or sprout wings and fly to great heights. When it comes to hedgecrossing don’t forget that something physical in our world also exists in the Otherworld. A tie of feathers becomes a pair of wings and a staff becomes a horse.
Understanding how the Stang works you know that Wood doesn't conduct electricity, but as part of a living tree it is a conduit for flowing water and tree sap. Water is an excellent conductor of heat, cold, emotion, sound, and of course spirits as A' Crann Bethadh itself. All the fibres in a branch are aligned for this flow of up and down. This flow can be tapped into in order to channel energies to summon deities and spirits. It becomes critical to consecrate the Stang or bind it to yourself. Once its bound to you you can begin using it as the anchor for your rites.
A simple circle-casting method you can perform with a stang is casting a caim. A caim is a method left from the old Gaels and is a circle/sphere of protection that moves with you or around an axis –such as your Stang. With your Stang in your right hand and point it outwards as you turn your body sunwise essentially “drawing” a circle with your stang. As you do so you can recite a charm or call the directions or the guardians. When the circle is complete, drive your stang into the ground (this works best if your nail was allowed to stick out the base like a stake, or if you prepare a stand). Perform your rite, spell, or invocation while in this protected space between worlds.
Indoors and can’t drive your stang through the carpet or hard wood floors? Keep a medium-sized flower pot of earth on hand to do so. I have a pot filled with river stones where I keep a few small containers with dirt from the mound at Tara and Emain Macha (sacred sites in Ireland) and small treasures of earth from other sacred sites. The type of earth you use can reflect the ritual you will be forming. If you wish to work with the wild gods of the forest or nature spirits you will want earth from a forest. If you will be working with a mercurial deity you’ll want dirt from one or many crossroads, if you’ll be working with the dead dirt from a tree in a graveyard is fitting. The bigger and heavier the stang the heavier the flower pot will need to be. If you have a heavy wood stang topped with a heavy skull you’ll want to be putting some stones in your flower pot –these can also be collected from places of power.
Once your stang has been used to cast sacred space and is upright in the earth mimicking a living tree, Shapeshifting witches riding a forked staffit is ready to use as a conduit. Call spirits up from the underworld through your stang or draw deities down into it from the heavens. In this manner the stang acts as a doorway and an inhabited idol. How do you do this? Say so out loud. Leave offerings at the base of the stang. Draw sigils of the deity or spirit you are calling at the base of the stang or hang a charm or fetiche representing them from your stang. Sing songs or recite liturgy, play a drum, rattle, or sistrum.
Who needs statuary when you have a ritual tool that can be possessed by your Witch Gods? As with any such practice don’t forget to send spirits you summon back where they came from and close any doors you open and in that order (spirits can’t travel through a closed door) so your stang returns to just being a piece of wood. Your stang can also act as a conduit for you. Sit or lay beside your stang in protected ritual space when you practice hedgecrossing. You may find having a stang as conductor for your spirit to travel down to the underworld or up to the heavens significantly aids in your travels. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “riding the stang”. Think of the stang as a shaman’s horse or chariot. It is your ride to the otherworld. If you wrap yourself in an animal hide while performing this rite you will be able to practice hag riding as when your spirit travels through the stang it will take on the form of the animal. You will “ride” the animal rather than your stang. Don’t have an animal hide? Sew feathers onto a cloak, coat, or shawl to mimic the shamanic costumes found from Siberia to Ireland.
| A' Crann Bethadh
To Bind Your Stang