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What is a Wand?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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A wand is an object with tremendous legendary significance, thought to be a source of power and magic. From ancient religious rites to modern ceremonial displays, wands are used to signify a wielder of power. With the incredible popularity of the Harry Potter books and films, wands have become popular gifts for fans of the books and films.

Wands are generally made from wood, bone or metal. In Greek mythology, one of the earliest wands discussed was the caduceus of Hermes. This short staff with two snakes twined around it would become the symbol for physicians in modern times. The rod of Asclepius, son of Apollo, was also said to possess healing power from the Gods.

Many ancient religions used specific wands, or staves, for ceremonies. They may have originated as drumsticks used by healers or magicians in ancient shamanistic rituals. In magic traditions such as Wicca, wands are used as a focusing object for power. Rods and staves, which are longer versions of wands, are also used for a similar purpose, and are mentioned several times in the Bible as the tools of Moses.

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Wands carry a secular symbolism unrelated to supernatural or magical forces. The scepters of kings and queens are a type of ceremonial wand used as a literal symbol of power. Conductors of orchestras also use a baton often called a wand, to denote their power and position. Even the crosier of high church officials in some religions is meant as a sign of position, rather than an object imbued with magic or sorcery.

In fiction, wands are an integral part of wizard lore. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, both Gandalf and Saruman use staves to focus magical energy and as a source of power. The world of fantasy role-playing games such as the Dungeons and Dragons series also has a wand or rod as the primary weapon of wizard characters.

In J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally successful Harry Potter series, wandlore is an important part of the plot. Wands in this fictional world are said to have an affinity with their masters, and will work in concert with their owner’s desires. The search and true ownership of one legendary wand makes up a considerable part of the action of the climactic final book.

Typically, wands are between 6-16 in (15-40 cm) long, and carved or decorated. If using wood, any variety can be used to make a wand. An ancient Celtic chart exists matching certain woods to birthdays; it was using this system that Rowling chose the materials for her main characters’ wands. Metal or bone wands are more difficult to come by as their manufacture is trickier, but if you have carving or etching abilities, you can make a unique wand of your own.

Many companies now sell wands as a novelty or gift item. While some of these are meant as inexpensive toys for children, others are highly decorated and meant for use in magical rituals or for display. Carved wands range in price from $30-$80 US Dollars (USD), and are a wonderful gift for any magic enthusiast. For true Harry Potter fans, exact replicas of the heroes’ wands are also available for purchase.

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