Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Rod, the Staff, and the Wand

           The Longman of Wilmington                  Egyptian hieroglyph                      Magic fairy

The rod, staff, and wand have long and intertwined histories. All three evolved from tools used during ice-age astronomical observations. By 8000 BC, direction, time, and distance calculations done by a few people improved the lives of everyone, and over millennia the tools these few used gained the reputation of being divine and magical. Scripture supports this; the prophet Hosea said, “my people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them.” - Hosea 4:12. The rod as a king’s scepter indicated great power. Ezekiel 19:11 says “And she had strong rods for the scepters of them that bare rule...” Moses was a great magician – instructed in all the sciences and secrets of the Egyptians, and when he performed his miracles he had his rod. It is still so - staffs and rods accompanied the prophets, a bishop still carries the staff of life, and every magician has his wand.

Esther touching King Xerxes' scepter to gain admittance

The staff is an important part of magic and occultism. Many Bible verses have been interpreted as referring to rhabdomancy – the art of divining with sticks. Moses, as a means of knowing where the leader of his people would come from, inscribed twelve rods – each with the name of one of the tribes – and put them in the Tabernacle of Witness (Numbers 17:7). The next day Aaron’s rod had budded. Moses found water in the desert with his rod  – much like dowsing. Murals found in North Africa dating back 8,000 years show a man with a split stick, perhaps dowsing for water. 

In the sixteenth century, rhabdomancy was practiced mainly in Germany where it enjoyed considerable popularity. Even now it is popular, and to some extent blessed by science. By the seventeenth century, the term referred to a method of looking for metal deposits or underground springs. The process became a common and important part of any normal mining operation. By the end of that century, its powers were acclaimed in France – writers and philosophers discussed the art and its mysteries.

Explanation of the Diving Rod, Abbe de Vallemont, La Physique Occulte

A great debate developed over whether or not there was demonic influence in the working of the rod. Martin Luther announced that dowsing was the “work of the devil;” from this came the term “water witching.” Scientific theories were offered to counter this idea; some suggested radioactivity or corpuscles as the reason for such odd attraction; corpuscles that would rise above springs of water, or in exhalations of minerals. Even those rising over the footsteps of fugitive criminals would cause the divining rod to turn; soon the mysterious rod was used for tracking down robbers and murderers. A century later, at the Munich Academy, the power of the rod was attributed to a phenomenon analogous to galvanism (the induction of electrical current from a chemical reaction). The action of the divining rod has now entered the domain of science, yet it is still not clearly understood. Even psychologists have investigated it. In the early 1900’s Grillot de Givery wrote in Witchcraft, Magic, and Alchemy, that he experienced this phenomenon with his own hands.

Doodlebugging is another term for the use of the dowsing rod to search for petroleum or water. During the Middle Ages country folk who wanted to dig a well would call a sorcerer – they were numerous, and rather than calling an engineer, these folk preferred the services of a good wizard and his rod, to assure success at the least possible cost. 

Rider-Waite Tarot

Today we know these magic wands as dowsing rods, witching rods, or divining rods and they are commonly used by those who search for ley lines. How these wondrous tools work is a mystery, even to those very experienced in their use. Einstein was convinced they work, saying that the rods show a reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown. Most people relate magic wands to fairy tales. They are a major element in stories like Cinderella, Donkey Skin, Harry Potter, and even Shakespeare’s Tempest. Wands are one of four suits in Tarot cards (sometimes referred to as staves, batons, or rods) and most magic traditions use a wand as one of their ceremonial tools. Stage magicians, or illusionists, often use a “wand” to perform their magic, as part of their misdirection technique. If a magician is deprived of his wand he may be deemed powerless; yet magic wands can change, move, disappear, display their own will, or behave magically, without the magician. The status of being a magician grew from those in antiquity reputed to be wizards: those who knew how to use the magic rods for divining heavenly events by the stars.   

Duncan-Enzmann’s history of astronomy traces these devices back to ancient astronomers who used a stick’s shadow to create the first sundials and to determine north, thus designating direction. Ashera poles were used to measure the movement of the stars and planets, and by 5000 BC the Vanir mariners divided time and calculated longitude using the rod and cord. Several scriptures in Ezekiel tell us the rod was used for measuring, and determining distances. (Ezek. 40:3, 42:16, 45:1, 47:3, & Rev. 11:1) The rod has a long and prestigious history of working magic for those who knew how to use it.

8,000 years ago an astronomer planted a staff in the ground and proceeded to use it to predict the movement of the heavens, to calculate the time, and to lay out the geometry needed for a great stone observatory. Those watching must have thought this a most magical process. Scientists still perform magic and continue to investigate that which we do not understand. So whether you are a believer or skeptic, the magic rod has an ancient and prominent history.  

Michelle Paula Snyder
Michelle Snyder is the founder and VP of the Foundation for Research of the Enzmann Archive, Inc. She is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.  Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.

Symbologist Michelle Snyder

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