DO WHAT THOU WILT SHALL BE THE WHOLE OF THE LAW
Hello and welcome to a new episode of ‘Magick in Theory and Practice’ to follow up…
Today, as the title indicates, we will deal with 2 very specific magickal weapons.
SWORD & STAFF
As I already mentioned, magick weapons are generally assigned in elements. But in the case of the sword and the staff there are discrepancies between the different traditions. Sometimes the sword is assigned to fire and the staff to air, and sometimes the staff stands for fire and the sword for air!
Well, I want to reveal two essential things now! First of all, it is completely irrelevant which magickal weapon is assigned to which element, since it only depends on the protagonist in magick, not on any material things or “toys”. If I want to have a clear structure for myself, I deal with the corresponding topic and then make an individual decision for myself and for my way of working, which is also not set in stone. On the contrary, if I want to, I can make it flexible, so that I always try to achieve an optimum.
As long as I am true to myself and my working method or working maxim, anything is possible!
On the other hand, one has to take into account that the respective element assignments have been thought up by people. Every person has an ego and his personal preferences. So it is perfectly normal that there are differences here and there in terms of allegories and analogies. Therefore I want to say “already now” clearly that there is no clear evidence whether the sword is assigned to the element fire or the element air or the staff to the element fire or the element air.
There are good reasons for fire and air, which almost cancel each other out. Unfortunately, it is not as easy with the sword and the staff as with the chalice (element water) and the pentacle (element earth). You can rather compare it with the color assignments, which are also far, far, far apart.
I use this assignments for me:
- Yellow / east / air
- red / south / fire
- blue / west / water
- green / north / eart
But there are many, many other assignments, so that one could create a wild and very colorful play of colors. All not so easy, but unfortunately magick reality!
As there are – fictively assumed – 20 arguments, that the sword has to be assigned to the element fire and the staff to the element air, so there are 20 arguments, that the staff has to be assigned to the element fire and the sword to the element air too.
In order to give everybody the possibility to form his own judgement, I will now give general informations, which are specific to swords and staffs!
THE SWORD – FIERY BLADES IN AIRY HEIGHTS
[magickal sword of solomon the king]
Before diving into the depths of the metaphysical symbolism of the sword, one must deal with the form of the sword in a very material way. One has to understand which fragments a sword can consist of, whereby it is exclusively the European form, since the Arabic and the Asian area are to be neglected, in relation to an element allocation. A sword consists primarily (or superficially) of the fragments “pommel”, “hilt” (also called handle or auxiliary), “parry bar” and “blade”. The blade is usually made of steel, the quillon of brass (or of a material that is easier to work with than steel), the hilt of wood, which was provided with a winding, which in turn was made of leather, fabric or metal, and the pommel, which serves as the end of the sword and is usually made of steel or brass.
Furthermore it can be said in general that the longer the blade is, the longer the hilt must be and the heavier the pommel must be, because there must be a counterweight. This does not necessarily apply to the quillon, although one can assume that the length of the quillon also refers to the length of the blade. In most cases, the quillon runs at right angles and in a straight line away from the blade, but there are also curved quillons that can point towards the tip of the sword.
If you now look at the materials, you will see that it is primarily steel, a material that can only be formed under great heat. This clearly tends to the element fire! When did the first swords actually exist and were they always made of steel? Well, the first finds refer to the Bronze Age and reach from 2500 B.C. and 1600 B.C., respectively. It must be clearly stated that these swords were rather pieces of jewelry (at least longswords), since bronze is not a resistant material. With time and “growing knowledge” (ca. 1500 – 1000 B.C.) new swords were created. The Iron Age “emerged”, which means that swords were now made of iron. Since it was not so easy to extract real iron from lawn iron ore (which could also superficially be called dirt), the myth of “the magickal blacksmith” quickly developed. This gave the sword an additional value, a value that already went into the realm of “magick”, precisely because complicated extraction methods, with large furnaces or fireplaces, were necessary.
This picture alone again supports the assignment to the element fire, even if in forges there are of course always large bellows, which with a little good will pointed in the direction of the element air. Of course swords were still expensive and basically unaffordable for “normal people”. Therefore it is not surprising that the sword rose as a royal insignia, since basically only rich nobles could afford a real sword. It became an object of prestige and not a weapon. Here the mace was rather the weapon of choice.
But the sword was not only a symbol of power, no, it was also a symbol of freedom, because whoever owned a sword and carried it, demonstrated and proved with it that he was his own master and could make his own decisions. But this circumstance tends again to the element air, because this element naturally stands for freedom or rather for mobility. With all symbolism and interpretation one must not forget that the sword alone by its form, has a high power of image. Since the center of the sword is not the “optical center” – somewhere on the blade – there is a very special symbolism.
For example, the center of the sword can be found in the hilt or on the parry bar. The center of the sword takes into account the counterweight, which is the most important part of a sword. Sure, the point is enormously important for the thrust, but how should a thrust into a target be executed if the target cannot be fixed or recognized? If you relate this analogy to magick or to your own magickal evolution, you will find very meaningful approaches of self-reflection. Only when I am “balanced”, when I know my center and am in a harmonic balance, I can work purposefully. You can even extend the analogy of the sword, reference to your own life!
This is not at all about embellishments or embellishments, no, it is about the position of the sword and the symbolism of power and freedom. By this symbolism the sword is also gladly seen as a weapon, which separates the “bad” from the “good” or judges wisely in true righteousness. Such a pattern can of course also be found in the different religions. Christianity, for example, uses the representation of a sword when the decision is made on Judgment Day. Jesus, the Christ, carries here a double-edged sword in his mouth, which is supposed to illustrate that the word is always sharper and more powerful than any material sword. In order to remain in Christianity, Martin Luther is said to have described the Word of God as a spiritual sword, which should or will rule the swords of the worldly authorities.
All this is of course supported by the actual form of the European sword style, since one sees more than clearly a classical cross, a Latin cross. This symbolism, which refers to the word and to communication, would again speak for the element air. The motif of the sword, in relation to an imposing position of power, was of course also a theme in many pictures and works of art. In Christian art, the “servants of God” – the cherubim – were often depicted with a fiery or flaming sword, who guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden after the fall of the great parents (Adam Kadmon and Eve) and their expulsion from Paradise.
But this is only a small aspect of the sword symbolism, because in the past ages the sword was also seen as an attribute of different deities. Often these were deities of war or battles, such as the Roman Bellona, the Nordic Tyr, or the archangel Michael, who defends the sky with his flaming sword. Acla, the “Unshakable”, Indian deity who acts as protector and teacher, Armaz or Aramazd, a pre-Christian god of battle, Dievs, a heavenly god who defends the sky with a sword or Ekajata, Indian goddess (her name means “the one with a shock of hair”), who represents war, death and destruction with the sword, Ikenga, a god from Niger, who is represented with horns, sword and a cut off head and who is supposed to bring luck and prosperity, because he “can guide the hand of man”. Then one can take the gods Kalki (not to be confused with Kali), an apocalyptic apparition of Vishnu, Mal, shepherd god, whose name can mean “the great” but also “dark” and who can be interpreted armed also as god of war, Ukko, a thunder god, but who is represented with a sword and Virtus, a Roman god of manhood, who is equipped with lance and sword. In general, swords very often were own “personalities” or “celebrities”.
Here, for example, the swords of the Germanic saga should be mentioned. Balmung, the sword of Siegfried, Eckesax, Gram, Mimung (blacksmith: Wieland) or the sword Rosen, forged by dwarves and hardened in dragon blood, which the hero Ortnit received from his father Alberich and which was later wielded by Wolfdietrich. But also the swords of the worlds of the gods, such as the sword of Freyr, which fought on its own, or the swords that lit up the drinking hall in Asgard and had their own bright shine. Of course, the Greek god Hephaistos, who knows how to forge excellent swords, should not be missing in this context. He gave such a sword to Peleus, for example, on his wedding with Thetis. Apart from that, the Celtic Luno, who forged the magickal sword Fingal, should also be mentioned. Very famous is of course the legend of the sword rammed in a rock or an “iron block”.
Arthur easily drew the sword Excalibur from such a block and was recognized as the rightful king of England.
But the symbol of the sword can also be found in myths, fairy tales and folk tales. So it is also to be found as a narrative motif. The wordless sword, laid in the lap, represents a warning or revenge; Hagen von Tronje in reference to Siegfried’s sword “Balmung”, in the Song of the Nibelungs or also in the Ingeldsage (a Germanic heroic poem) it is stallion in the Finnsburg battle. In other folk tales (partly in Danish), the grip of the sword symbolizes a will to fight and a looming disaster. The “bare sword” between a sleeping couple, however, means chastity (Siegfried and Brunhild in the Song of the Nibelungs – signum castitatis). If one takes the admonition or the threat of revenge, the element fire would be found here again. The same applies to the will to fight. Only chastity would not fit here. But the bare sword between a couple is not really difficult to interpret. Here you can literally see it as a barrier or an obstacle.
You can see from these legends and stories that the sword has always been a symbol of action, of power, but also of raw power. Something that can be assigned to the element fire again. Therefore it is not surprising that in alchemy the sword is also assigned to this element, while in chartomanticism or especially in tarot it is assigned to the element air.
Through the assignment of power and strength, the sword also appears in ceremonial magick.
For example, among Freemasons (here only in the high degrees) it is a ritual instrument and symbol of the spirit. While in the ordinary Masonic lodges the hammer rules, i.e., the highest physical force, in the High Grades it is the sword, which stands for a royal spirit and is the weapon of power, law and justice. In this case, one could even come up with the idea to assign the sword to the element ether (spirit), whereby the royal dignity rather resembles a sun and thus again the fire! Therefore it is interesting to mention that in the Germanic area swords were not only given names or titles, no, consecrations were also celebrated via weapon dances, which again suggests magickal-symbolic values. It is not for nothing that the accolade of knighthood was performed with the tip of the sword.
As already mentioned, the sword or flaming sword was depicted as the weapon of the archangel Michael, whereby the sword also rested in the hand of King David and Judith, who beheaded the Holofernes (general of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II) with it, and was a symbol of power. This representation of power and the symbolic power of vital force, makes the sword also often appear as an attribute of gods of war (Mars, Ares etc.), but sometimes it also appears as a symbol of lightning, so that here also “gods of thunder” were represented with the sword. Well, thunder gods naturally have the association with air, since a thunderstorm often acts hand in hand with a storm.
All in all, you can’t make a clear assignment, even if you compare the described legends with each other via the point table. There are still hundreds of descriptions about swords, which can be associated with the element fire, but also with the element air. So everybody has to decide for himself, which element stands for the insignia “sword”.
THE STAFF – COSMIC FIRE FROM THE CLOUDS
In general, the staff is considered to be an elongated, massive, cylindrical, mostly also manageable object, which is made of wood. Wood is usually also the first associative image when it comes to the word “staff”. Nevertheless, there are many “rod materials” and of course many rod variants. But of course this is also true for every sword!
The different variants of staffs have a higher symbolic meaning than the different forms of swords. So the following staffs are to be mentioned here as “forms”:
The shepherd’s crook, the crook of Roman Catholic bishops, the marshal’s crook, the Aesculapian crook, the staff of Hermes (or the knotted staff), the torsion staff, the massage staff, the baton, the baton of Jacob for measuring angles, the family staff, the pilgrim’s staff, the staff of Moses, the baton or conductor’s staff, the talking stick, the scepter, the staff of Dionysus or Thysros staff, the shaman’s staff, the hunting staff, the coup staff (a staff with which unwounded enemies were touched in homage to the Minneconjou [a warlike Indian tribe]), the chief’s staff, in the broadest sense and with a few natural-religious toothaches even the witches broom or the shapes of an obelisk, a totem pole or the world tree – whereby one should also stop at some point and not declare everything that has a narrow, straight shape as a staff. After all, that’s what a person looks like in the end, isn’t it? Exactly, and that’s why the staff is also a symbol of the upright human being and has been used as a tool in various contexts for thousands of years. What is interesting here is that the handling, the different meanings and even possible peculiarities (e.g. in color, form and material) of the staffs can be clearly assigned when it comes to the cultural grouping of individual continents and peoples.
Well, it is not really surprising that the staff is one of the oldest and at the same time simplest devices or tools of man. Approximately 11500 years ago, Neolithic cave drawings clearly show staff images that were used in ritual and cult.
In this context the staff, like the sword, is a primarily male symbol. However, this has only secondary to the phallic form. Primarily it is again about rule, power, honour and glory. In addition, the symbol of the staff also stands for growth, success (through hard work), wealth, leadership (as a shepherd or head of a family or a town mayor) and for all agricultural professions or work. Especially in this context the staff is often used as a symbol for the (often) enslaved workers and farmers. Since the staff stands for growth, it also symbolizes spring (in a magickal sense thus the EAST, the dawn, the new awakening, the air), since here of course everything sprouts “very fast”. So the staff is often assigned to the astrological “signs of spring” Aries, Taurus and Gemini, but since these three signs of the zodiac include the elements fire (Aries), earth (Taurus) and air (Gemini), one can only say here that the staff has astrologically nothing to do with the element water! Not a particularly great insight!
However, the staff is also often used for themes of awakening, restlessness, revolution and change, through the assignment of the “spring” or dawn. Since in the end every human being can create a staff (or a long cudgel) without needing real knowledge of any kind of technical occurrences (such as building stoves and forging swords), the staff is of course “the” weapon of the common people. While the sword was the symbol of wealth, in this case the staff was the symbol of the common people! Well, and riots, usually come from the common people when they rise up against the rule of the leadership caste (or in this case the sword caste). Therefore, sometimes energetic riots, wars and fights, abuse of power, ruthlessness, general dangers and misfortunes and even death itself are attributed to the staff. If you like, it is really easier to associate the scythe of death (or of the peasant) with a staff than with a sword, because the staff (like the scythe) was a tool of labor and not, like the sword, an object of prestige!
But besides all these negative associations, the staff is also attributed the attributes of thinking, understanding and mental power.
Classically, the wand is of course immediately associated with the wand, i.e. an image of the will, wisdom, influence and of course the power of a magician. As already mentioned in a previous chapter of our series, a wide variety of materials can be used here. No matter if it is wood (then primarily hazelnut, willow or apple tree), metal (here the assignment to the respective planets would be taken) or crystal (here, too, very specific materials can be taken, e.g. referring to one’s own zodiac sign, to special characteristics of gems or to other comparative values of mythology), everything is possible and common. But a magick wand does not have to be “only” 30-40 cm, also the walking wand or stick is for example an equivalent for a magick wand. The same applies of course to all fighting sticks, which may have metallic additions such as blades or spears. This would also include lances, pikes, halberds, glefen and even a glavius. Since these are all weapons of war and war is primarily associated with “fire”, a clear association to this element would be given here again.
But of course there are also other staffs, such as the winged staff of the Greek god Hermes, which are clearly associated with the element air. In alchemy, the caduceus, around which two snakes wrap themselves, is a symbol for the union of the two opposing principles of Mercury (mercury) and Sulphur (sulphur). If one sees the mercury as a connection with the element water, the sulfur with the element fire, the rod would be the connecting medium, which is the air. But from the connection of mercury and sulfur – according to the imagination of the Arab alchemists – all metals are created, so that one can interpret here again rather a fire allocation.
An air allocation can be found again, if one compares the rod with a tree, which is again a symbol for the axis of the world. Many peoples had the basic idea of an axis connecting heaven and earth, which connects all levels (underworld, earth and heaven) and is arranged around a center. Since these three worlds are spatially separated from each other and “air” exists between them, the assignment to the element air is very simple here.
The “magick wand” serves – as already mentioned – to direct energies and is always used when it would be rude to the principles or energies to wield a blade (i.e. a magick sword). So if you as a supplicant contact cosmic energies, the wand is the tool of choice here – no matter if it is archangels or the different gods of the different pantheas. If you want, you can use different staffs here, which are tuned to the respective principle or to the respective panthea, for example. For example, the Dionysos staff or Thysros staff, a staff that is wrapped with ivy and vine leaves. But also the classical Asclepius staff or the Caduceus are fitting examples that can be used on the archangels – in this case Archangel Raphael 🙂
But with all these sticks you have to pay special attention here and there. Again, you can use the Rod of Asclepius AND the Caduceus. The staff of Asclepius, for example, is wrapped by a snake and has been a symbol of medicine, healing and relief since ancient times. The Caduceus, a magick wand around which two snakes wrap themselves, has a completely different meaning here. It is the staff of the messengers of the gods (for the Greeks it was Hermes and for the Romans Mercury), a principle that presides over all paths and all activities of trade. Thus Caduceus is still today a valid symbol for traffic and economy. Both classifications (healing and trade or traffic) rather suggest an air symbolism, because traffic is something “fast, airy” and a healing can be interpreted as a “new beginning” or as “relief”!
In these cases the staff bundles and manifests “spiritual powers” in order to be able to use them purposefully, e.g. to heal pain and diseases or, through touch, to impart secret knowledge so that one can recognize one’s future. These are also primary air attributes.
If you want to take another jump now, you can quickly land at the divining rods, some of which can also be counted among the “magick rods”. But divining rods are primarily used to find mineral resources or water, which would rather make an assignment to the elements earth or water fair, unless you see it as a “lifting of a secret”! No matter how you want to turn and twist it, the rod and its use or meaning are absolutely multilayered. Every people, every culture has its own ideas, analogies and classifications. In the past, daily life and ritual acts were ultimately one single structure, there was no strict separation. So one could list innumerable further cultural ideas (e.g. that the contact with a staff causes invulnerability, that one can astrally travel or even change the weather by means of shamanic staffs or drum sticks, that one can control nature and humans, as well as establish a connection to the ancestors and the dead, if one knows how to use the staff “correctly”), but one would always come to a single final result: You have to decide for yourself how you want to work magickally and energetically.
Do I want to work via staff or sword and what do I actually want to achieve? Do I want to hurl lightning like Father Zeus with my staff or command the heavenly fires with my sword, or do I want to recognize myself, evolutionize and take my place in the Great Work? What do I want? And this is exactly the question that everyone should be able to answer before entering into wild discussions about classifications and analogies that are ultimately only from people for people!
So with this thoughts I say goodbye for this episode of our series and I’m looking forward to seeing you again when we continue with the “Describing and using each magick weapon “.
May you be blessed on your magickal journey.
One thought on “Series 1 | Part 6: Fire & Air – Wand & Sword”
I could not resist commenting. Well written!