Today I’m discovering just how often I use the pad of my right thumb. It’s got a blister I acquired yesterday in a few minutes of slicing the bark from a branch that’s going to become a broomstick. (I’m not done yet. I sat down with it once in January and took off bark from about five inches on one end, and my left thumb got a blister that took more than a week to heal. This time, I got about halfway done, and my left thumb doesn’t have much of a blister — it’s mostly healed already — and my right thumb has an impressive one.) I also collected some maple sticks blown down in recent wind storms that will hopefully become a staff and at least one wand, but they need a few weeks to dry out first.
I’m not a woodworker, so this project is also an exercise in discovering what else I don’t know. Are my fingers unused to handling a knife, or is my knife dull? Am I using woods that are harder than others? How do I sharpen my knife? Where in my small town do I get small quantities of boiled linseed oil? At what point do I need to stop researching the best way to do something and just give it a try?
That’s a metaphor for my practice of witchcraft, I think. I spent years reading books and discussions about tools and how to create them; I read people saying that a wand is not much more than a stick of wood and people debating what types of crystals and wire are best to wrap around a wand and how. I read arguments for the wand being a tool of Fire and for the wand being a tool of Air.
Yet I don’t even think I owned a wand for the first five or six years I was a Pagan. My oldest one, passed to me from a friend who was getting rid of her things, is all crystals and wire wrapped around a glass rod, no wood in it at all. (It doesn’t resonate with me and I’ve never used it, but I’m happy to keep it. Maybe one of my wee witchlings will like it when they’re older.) The one I use now, I bought a little more than a decade ago from a wandcrafter in the UK; it’s hazel, which isn’t native to North America, so I rather had to buy it.
Thus it’s taken me this long to simply choose a stick from my backyard and begin making it into a wand.
Not just any stick, to be fair. I have an affinity for maple trees in general and this maple tree in particular, and the branch called out to me for days before I went out and picked it up. But still… a stick. My backyard. That simple.
My staff, on the other hand, dates from the earliest days of my being Pagan and was indeed a large stick I got in the woods behind where I lived at the time. I’ve slowly chipped the bark from it and kept the surface natural, and thus it remains.
It’s all a spiral. You come around back to the place you were before, but you’re changed and it’s different, yet somehow the same.