Friday, April 29, 2016

The Stang: A powerful tool

It was at a local gathering that I first heard the word stang. I was speaking about magical tools and their uses in-front of a group of people. I held up one of my own personal tools that I had created and used in some of my workings. As I do with a lot of my creations, I let the objects instruct me on what it was meant to be.  A small forked cedar twig lying on the ground grabbed my attention one day while out walking. I walk the same route everyday while walking with my dog. Part of my route leads me through a local cemetery when there grows a small grove of cedar trees that I like to call the cedar sisters. The cedar twig caught my attention. After a number of days of walking my daily route and passing the twig, I finally decided to take it home. I usually do this when I feel like something is attempting to grab my attention. I like to be sure that it is truly speaking to me and that it's truly a gift from the Spirits. It's ALWAYS safe to be sure and most importantly it's respect. Not everything is meant to be yours just because it speaks to you.
   After deciding it's a gift, I ALWAYS leave small gifts or offerings. Sometimes it's tobacco or corn meal. Sometimes I bring back a plate or saucer of sugar and sweets, crackers, jelly, peanut butter, cake... anything that I would think the little people would like. I sometimes will leave wooden beads, shinny beads, buttons, strings, ribbons as gifts. I never ever say verbally or mentally, " Thank you!" for a gift. It's just a rule that I learned from my grandfather and I swear by it. Trust me, I have found out what happens if you do. It's just something hard not to do especially if you were raised to say, " Thank you! ".  The gifts or offerings is enough. Just be sure to leave something. It's respect.
   After months of listening and working with this forked cedar twig, it became one of my most strongest tools that I have today.
    I had taken this particular tool to this gathering and to use in my speech. As I was showing and discussing this tool an observer and friend of mine spoke up and said, " Stang! That's a stang! " I asked her to tell me what she meant and what a stang was. Never heard of it before then. After that day I came home and done some more research. It's been a few years since then and the stang has became a big part of my spiritual and ritual life.
   The stang can come in many sizes but it's forked at one end, constructed either by nature or man. The word stang is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term staeng or steng which translate to pole or rod.
   Some scholars and facts point to a short history of the stang. Robert Cochrane is credited with introducing the idea of using a stang to the modern craft.  Robert founded the Clan of Tubal Cain in England. His tradition of witchcraft became known as Cochrane's craft. He said that the stang was sacred to the people as the crucifix was to the Christians.
   As I stated earlier, the stang can be different sizes with many uses. It could be a forked wand, a forked staff of shoulder height or a pole standing in center of a ritual area. Here the stang was used as an altar decorated with ribbons, stones, feathers and other meaningful trinkets even candles were used. Sometimes the stang's forked appearance is created by using some type of horns esp. antlers of a deer. Sometimes a single candle is place between the horns. The other end is usually carved to a point and stuck in the ground. This is especially done if the ceremonial ground or circle is outside. If inside then it can be held up by a tree stand like the one you use to hold up your Christmas or Yule tree or simply a bucket of dirt or sand. This particular practice was because the stang was thought to be a bridge between the Mother and the Father. If the stang was a staff then many witches and
shamans was thought to ride it as a horse to the other world. Robert suggest that the best wood to use to make a stang was ash wood because of it's connection with Yggdrasil, the world tree of the beliefs of the Norse. If a large stang was used in the center of the circle then it would act as an axis of magic and spirit within the circle. It was the world tree where a shaman or a witch could journey to the other world. A stang was could also be made from rowan, which was also known as mountain ash, hawthorn or yew. A stang also didn't have to be a wooden tool which forked out at one end. It could also be a pitchfork. There are drawings and pictures of witch's riding not only brooms but pitchforks and forked staffs to their sabbats.
There are also carvings of shamans in different cultures using a forked tool or staff in their beliefs.
     Having antlers or horns or even an animal skull attached to it represents the Horned God, the Witch Lord, the Lord of the Forrest. In this form it is usually positioned in the center of activity. Here it was thought as watching over you and protecting the sacred site. Some users turn the stang to face the direction of the seasons as a clock especially if there is a skull and antlers.
    Wiccans could use it to represent the Goddess with the fork representing the womb shape and the shaft of the stang symbolizing the God and the phallus.
    I have two stangs, one is a wand type of tool as I had described at the beginning of this article. I use it to cleanse areas and for protection. I also have a stang as a pole in the center of my sanctuary. It is a representation of the Horned Lord, Cernunnos. It has a deer skull with antlers except the skull is covered by a fox skin. The fox is my strongest guide. It looks like a horned fox. The horns are decorate with trinkets of importance and sacredness to me. This is the strongest of all my tools that I have. I'm not at all allowed to take pictures of it or I would share one with you nor am I allowed to share it's name to you. This particular stang has become it's own consciousness. I guess that's a safe way to describe it. It has become an entity within itself. There are times when people has entered my sanctuary and staggered back once they see the stang. It protects my sanctuary, rituals, workings, journeys and protects this house. There are times when I hear movement in my sanctuary. I go to see what's making the noise and the stang has turned, facing a different direction than before.
  The stang may not be of importance to you as it has become for me. Like I said, I never heard of the term before that day at the gathering.  What's weird and cool was that I kind-of already knew before I started doing the research. The stang isn't just a Wiccan thing or a tool of witchcraft. I don't consider myself practicing either but I do follow a shamanistic path where I use the stang to travel to the other side. I use the stang as a physical representation of my spirit. It also is a center for me during ceremony or ritual.
   As with many tools that we use in our ceremonies or rituals, what's more important is what it means to you. It's your spiritual path.

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