Lignum Vitae

Many years ago, I was driving to a provincial park to spend a weekend hiking and camping. As my carload of companions and gear neared the entrance to the camping area a terrific thunder and lightning storm brewed up out of nowhere and assaulted the area with horizontal rain, spikes of lightning and deafening claps of thunder. One extraordinary lightning bolt struck a huge oak in the middle of the campground, shaking earth and air and sending a tingling thrill up the spine and out the divers hairs of head and body, and then the storm sped away as quickly as it had come.

On arriving at the campsite, we spoke to those who were already there and sought direction to the oak that had been touched by the gods. I made my way there to find the tree splintered and blasted to the top third of its height. A strip of wood two inches thick and five feet long had been blasted from the tree and had tangled itself in its lower branches. These I climbed to fetch the prize and after making offerings to the tree, I reverently took the plank back to our transport.

The original piece was about 4 inches wide so I cut it into several sections and shared them with folk of like mind, reserving one piece for myself; for the making of a wand of power.

Oak, with its great strength and course grain is not amenable to small scale detailed work, so I wanted simplicity and balance to dominate the design. I wanted a wand that would reflect the powers of sky and earth, and honour the axis that mediated between the two with its own body. A wand that would draw down power from the great above, and also to raise power from the great below, as the oak tree had.

A wand of quickening.

Wand of lightning-struck oak

I shaped the wand with hand tools and sandpaper over the course of the summer, staining half of it by taking advantage of the reaction that ammonia causes with the tannins of oakwood. I worked the centre of the wand to be its handle, so that it would balance in the hand, and the working point could be light or dark, horizontal or vertical according to need. I finished it with linseed oil and lac resin, then charmed and charged a red thread to circumscribe the life force of the tool at its centre.

This is one of several wands I have made and use for different purposes. I have another of rowanwood, also touched by lightning, and when time and the Genius of the Tree allow, I will make one of hazel. I have an elk antler and an extraordinary fossil waiting to be conjoined to made another. The wands I see and make these days tend to be of larger stature and more complex design than the old ones I have seen from the Isle; perhaps we witches these days are trying to over-compensate for something……

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