The Stang-Shamanism

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Forums -> General Info -> The Stang-Shamanism

The Stang-Shamanism
Post # 1

As a shaman, we use various different tools in our practices, many of which are similar to that of the tools of witches, wiccans, and other magic practitioners. I wanted to share a small bit on one of my favorite tools that is similar in fashion to that of a wand or staff, and that tool is called the stang. Traditionally in many magical paths and cultures a stang is usually a large staff with a carved Y like prong at the tip, in Wicca this tool is used as a symbol and tool representing the horned god. However, in shamanism a stang is usually crafted much smaller, usually the size of a large wooden wand. A part of a shaman's journey when they reach a certain stage of their apprenticeship or study is to go about a quest for an entire day sometimes even longer, and commune with nature and the spirits. As they do this they will converse with the spirits, the plants and fauna they come across, and so on.

Their objective of this journey is to find and connect with the wood material they will carve and make their stang out of. To do this, as they commune with nature and the spirits, they usually find themselves talking to many plants, flora, and trees. At some point during their journey they will stumble across a particular plant or tree that speaks to them differently than normal, in a way that one feels on a deep conscious and spiritual level of awareness. When this happens, the plant or tree has chosen you, this means the creator and the spirits will offer a part of themselves, the wood material, for you to borrow, so that you can carve and make your stang. Being that the creator and spirits, as well as the plant or tree lends and offers you a part of themselves for you to use to make your stang, it is important to know the stang that you create, will have a very powerful bond with you as well as a connection to the spirit realm, the creator, and nature. It is also equally important to know the qualities and persona of the stang will be unique to your own, as well as it's your own and shared characteristics For example if you are a healer, such as myself, the stang will personify and symbolize the power of healing. Usually the wood material you use, that have been lent to you, will share magical properties and correspondences to those that you hold and identify with.

The shaman's stang is used for many purposes, and like that of witches and the like it may be used to direct magical energy when spell casting; however in shamanism that is not the stang's primary purpose. The stang is an embodiment of the shaman's power and spirit, and thus the primary use/s of the shaman's stang is used as a tool or key of sorts when working with the spirits, healing ceremonies and rituals, and occasionally during rituals and ceremonies or personal workings in which magical energy, and energy from the creator spirit and nature is channeled.

When working with the spirits and accessing the spirit realm, the stang plays a critical role in the process, acting as a key, an anchor, and a shield of protection. The shaman will usually start his ritual for spirit working or access by holding their rattle or instrument in their non dominant hand and holding their stang in their dominant hand. They will start dancing, rattling, working their way towards achieving a trance like state called the SSC or shamanic state of consciousness, it is there where the majority of the shamans work is done. The stang will act as a key, a key of spiritual and emotional energy unique to the shaman. From there as the shaman traverses his or her way through the spirit realm the stang will act as a guide and light, for the shaman, helping him or her find their way. It also further acts as a tether to the physical plane/realm as so he or she does not become lost or entranced in the spirit realm beyond their limitations or against their desire. Lastly the stang will provide protection to the shaman from spirits and other beings in the spiritual realm (astral plane), this protection is provided by the shamans power, soul, light, and through the channeling of nature and the creator spirit.

During healing ceremonies and rituals the stang acts as a channel and filter, which conducts healing energy from the cosmos, nature, the earth, the elements, the spirits, the creator spirit and even you. This energy is then filtered by the stang removing any stray or unwanted energies or vibrations from the pure positive healing energy. The filtered healing energy is then transferred and channeled from the shaman, through the stang, to the patient that needs healing. The stang is directed by the shaman to heal specific people, wounds, illnesses, and so on, however the stang can sometimes release its own healing power at random as I have seen people recover, with no explainable evidence or logical assumptions why.

The stang may also be used in a more wand like fashion when a shaman presides over or practices in ceremonies and rituals; either alone, or as a tribe our gathering. The stang can also act as the shamans talking stick during tribal or communal gatherings and meetings. Many shamans form such a strong and personal bond with their stang, that from the moment the shaman has carved and created his stang, he or she will always have it by their side or on their persons at all times. In conclusion I would say from personal experience that the stang is most shamans favorite tool and symbol aside from their rattle or drum, which in my book share the same equality of status and reverence. Within the next day of writing this post, I will put up a picture of my stang, for others to see.

Green Blessings,


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Re: The Stang-Shamanism
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 2
Great post Othala. But there are shamans and medicine men/women worldwide. Which tribe/culture did this come from? It might be worth adding. =)
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Re: The Stang-Shamanism
Post # 3

Thank you Raven, and good question. I am uncertain the true origins of the lore and use of the stang as it was first introduced to me by my mentor who is an eclectic shaman. Shamans as well as medicine men and women can belong to any faith, path, religion, or culture. My own practice of shamanism stems from a wide array of beliefs and practices from many paths and magical practices, mostly native american, celtic/druid/, and egyptian; as well as some northern traditional shamanism. However the research I have been able to find on the stang and it's history and lore comes mostly from northern/norse and druidic shamanism.

However, to clarify, this post is written based off of my experiences and practices within my path. so I encourage others to share their experiences on the subject as well as, post any information or lore on the subject they may have or come across during their studies or further exploration of this topic.

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Re: The Stang-Shamanism
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 4

I really enjoyed this post, and the information you provided. The stang plays a big part in Norse/Northern Tradition Shamanism, as well as in some other practices from Northern Europe. I've built a couple during my years of practice for a variety of reasons. It's always interesting to see the variety of stangs in practice. They can be as small as a wand, or as big as a tree- depending on the person, the task, the goal of the stang, etc.

The stang plays a big role in pathwalking for the Northern Tradition type of shamanism. Like you explained- it's an anchor, a protective tool, and a guide at the same time. We tend to decorate our stang and build it in the form of Yggdrasil, or the World Tree, as this is what we "climb" (travel) when we are pathwalking (projecting)- they get covered in runes, strips of cloth that are colored to represent a variety of things, and then ribbons and leather are tied as well with an assortment of items attached to that (feathers, shells, bones, etc). Generally it has rungs or differing levels to symbolize each realm. When working with a specific one you coat that rung in an offering of sorts- blood is a common thing to use, as its very personal and connects you to directly to the stang. Pathwalkers describe their stang as being different in appearance when pathwalking, as it can appear as something as small as a coin. It serves the purposes of being a reminder of where you are, and how to go back where you started. The stang itself is usually put in the yard but can be kept in the house or wherever the practicioner wishes to do their working.

As I'm sure you've heard of before, the stang is the main tool used in some Northern cursing poles- the Nidstang. While the nid is technically the verbal curse, the purpose of the stang is specifically for cursing and channeling energy. Since the stang is a tool great for working as an intermediary tool with energy, the energy is raised by the practicioner and channeled through the stang in order to affect or disturb the wights- which is how the curse works. These stangs are decorated differently, without the rungs (typically), carved with runes specific to the person who carved it and the name (of the person you intend to curse if you use it for that reason), as well as the head of a horse or a horse skin (though typically now a horse skull is used in place- and even then, a lot of people use either a different type of skull or just carve the skull out of wood). When using the stang in this way, Hel tends to be the deity that is called to charge the stang with energy. After its been charged with energy- it is pointed in the general direction of the person/peoples whom you are trying to affect through this, and the energy is released.

And vice versa this same type of stang can actually be used as a sort of protective tool. If the stang I mentioned above is left inscribed in runes without a name on it and is just pointed in the direction of the front of the house- it serves the purpose of driving away unwanted guests and any ill-willed person or wight. Protective runes can be incribed into the wood and then it can be placed inside the house to protect the maker, their family, etc.

Technically the stang is used during seidhr practices as well, however, when it is used under these circumstances we just generally call it a volva-staff. The volvas, or the seidhr-women, are known as the staff carriers and the stang/staff plays a vital role in oracular seidhr as it is pointed and directed during the ceremony to conduct and channel energy, and as a representation of the World Tree, this stang acts as an intermediary between the "Heavens and Hell", (Asgard, Valhalla and Hel are all connected through this). The seidhr-woman uses the staff to help get herself and whoever she is pathwalking or projecting with into the trance. It serves as the conductor for the energy of the entire ritual.

I'd be interested in hearing about the uses of stang in other cultures, or how people have used theirs.

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Re: The Stang-Shamanism
Post # 5
From my post about stangs.

A stang is a fork-ended staff used in traditional craft. Its common use was introduced into modern traditional craft by Robert Cochrane, but there are plenty of woodcuts depicting witches riding pitchforks and stangs as opposed to brooms, so their use in the craft has some historical basis.

A stang is, in Cochrane's description of stang construction, made from an ash branch with a natural fork, an iron nail driven into the base and a pair of crossed arrows are tied near the top. Ash is sacred of course as Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Northern European folklore. The forked top resembles the horns of the Horned God, the Witchfather, Auld Hornie, or whatever your personal or traditional names are for your witch god. They also represents the prongs of the distaff, a tool used in spinning thread and with strong connections to witchcraft through figures like the Norns, the Moirai, and the Northern European goddess of witches and the household, Frau Holda.

The crossed arrows have several meanings. Robin Artisson says;

"The crossed arrows remind us that he (the witch god) is Lord of all things that stand facing each other, what is here and what is there, as well as the one thing that resolves this. To this, we see Life and Death in the arrows. We see the Master that gathers up life and death and shows their meanings to us when we pass beyond."

The arrows may also resemble points of the compass, with the horned top of the stang being the Upperworld and the iron shod foot as the Underworld.

Stangs have a variety of functions. They are commonly used to hallow the compass (casting a cicle) and act as an altar all of their own, driven into the ground at the north or on other points of the compass and dressed depending on the working or season. Stangs may represent the presence of the Witchfather in the circle, especially when hung with a horned skull and lit candle between the horns. They may also stand for the World Tree, the comsic axis from which all other worlds may be accessed. When communcating with spirits, the stang may be set in the centre of the compass and used as a conduit for drawing spirits up from the Underworld or down from the Upperworld. A small hand-sized stang can be used for binding magic, winding a red thread around as a method of binding or tying up a wish.

Another common use for a stang is as a riding pole, in the classic sense of riding the witches' broom through the night. This isn't a literal flying of course, but the hedgecrossing practices more commonly known as astral travel or astral projection. Witches use their stangs in the same way that shamans use drums to travel to the Otherworld and make contact with the spirits there. In a ritual space, setting the stang into the ground, placing a lit candle between the horns and focusing on the flame while practicing breathing exercises, swaying, or other trance inducing techniques can aid your hedgecrossing experiences.

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