Riding the Witch’s Stang

Until recently, I had only cursory knowledge of the magical uses of stangs (a double- or triple-tined stave). It’s been a winding road for me but I think I finally see the purpose of a stang in Witch’s Work and, more importantly, in my Work. The realization was slow coming and hard won, but I think I’ve got it now.

In October 2010, Cindy obtained a length of Linden that would become her seidhr staff. The wood was actually in the shape of a stang. I noticed its shape but did not have much of an idea of what I was seeing at the time. I do recall feeling drawn to the shape but I did not think much of it. My formal introduction to the significance of the stang was in many months later, in April 2011, when I read Sarah Lawless’ article on the subject. Her work was exceedingly helpful in deepening my understanding but stangs (as distinct from plain staffs) were not important to my practice at the time so I looked on the article as a useful reference (passed it along to the Catskin Sisters) and got on with my life.

Later that month, I procured my own stave. I noted that it was not forked. I was actually a little sad about that but it was not a deal-breaker or anything. Overall, I was pleased with my staff. I acknowledged the bends and twists in the wood which whispered of winding paths in a deep wood. Very appropriate for a tool in otherworld travels. Still my mind and spirit were not attuning to the stang element or the lack there of. I noticed that my stave was not stanged but what exactly that “deficit” meant was beyond me.

Enter the month of July. I was plodding along my life road when one day I got a wild hair to redo a portion of my ancestor altar. The dried flowers no longer seemed to fit and earlier that month I had procured a few new items from New Orleans that were just itching to be arrayed among the ancestors, so I removed the dried flowers and cut off the heads leaving only stems (I have no idea why I did this!). Almost every remaining stem was forked. The intuitive part of my brain noted this and deemed it significant but the remainder of my grey matter was not up for providing an explanation. After some quiet reflection, I wrapped the tiny forked stems in cloth, bound them with red thread and thought to myself that they would be excellent for facilitating communication with my ancestors. My brain was positively itching! I knew that they could be helpful in that sort of pursuit but there was no explanatory theory or philosophy that was immediately forthcoming. I could have guessed but it would have felt like BS even if it might not have been, so I didn’t. I just accepted the intuition at face value and stopped there. You know, since it’s not polite to stare a gift horse in the mouth.

At the time of the dark moon in July, about two or three weeks after the rose stem stangs started scratching at my brain, I held a simple ritual of communion with Hekate. When invoking her, I spontaneously summoned a three-way, Y-shaped portal in order to form the link between the worlds. The double-tined stang imagery would seem to apply here; however, it was less of a stang in my mind. It was primarily a three-way crossroads to my thinking though the two are obviously not mutually exclusive. The crossroads was an energetically evoked access point/hub between this and the other worlds. At this point, I just was not thinking of a stang in this context. The intriguing and happy spontaneity of the Y-shaped portal only amplified my existing fascination (courtesy of Hekate) with gateways, portals, access points, conduits, pathways, and places of convergence among the worlds. My twice monthly offerings to Hekate beginning in August furthered my fascination and sent my mind reeling about the “three-way crossroads” form.

Later, this fascination compelled me to begin picking up Y-shaped sticks and branches. By the way, I was still not thinking of stangs, just Y-shaped, three-way crossroads. Hilarious! Things did not come together into an “aha” moment until I re-read Lawless’ article a week ago after rediscovering it while doing an unrelated search of her site. That led me to another article over at the American Folkloric Witchcraft blog.

Now I am really putting all of this together and starting to see the connections in form and function. Stangs as ritual tools (and also three-way crossroads, the cousin of the double-tined stang) serve as conduits, pathways that link the worlds. In so doing, they facilitate travel and communication across those boundaries allowing the witch or spirit worker to connect with spirits, deities, the dead, and a host of “others” who walk the worlds and the spaces between. “Saying this out loud” makes me feel extremely silly for not seeing it before. I knew it intellectually but a piece of my spirit has just gone to school!! It’s like I get it now.

In the coming days, I plan to appeal to Hekate as well as the other crossroads deities with whom I work to send a stang my way. I will keep an eye out for it during my upcoming camping trip to Fox Ridge.

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2 thoughts on “Riding the Witch’s Stang

  1. I, too, was slightly sad that my staff was not forked like Cindy’s is. It does seem to be promising though, and has a nice bend to it at the top. I will finish sanding it tomorrow and apply the tung oil to it. It may end up being a “starter staff” though. I feel like it was gifted to me, but it’s not necessarily the one I’m supposed to stay with…maybe we’ll find some nice branches while we camp!

    • Yes, I too am most definitely hoping to find a fallen piece or two that will serve as a good stang for me. If I find another length of wood that screams “staff” I would not be opposed to that either! A second staff doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all.

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