I was curious if anyone had some more information to add in regards to Godpoles and Stangs. And I was curious as to how these views, which come from Traditional Norse practices, compared to other practices.
Here's my general understanding of the two:
A Godpole is a very specific or particular type of statue/image that is in the form of a vertical pole.They are, traditionally, a big keystone in devotional religious practices. Usually they are made out of wood, and in this wood they have carved the face of the deity it is dedicated to (though there are multi-faced godpoles for multi-deity dedications). They serve as a focal point for energy and the channeling of that specific entity when used in ritual or magickal workings. Some poles have a small nook hollowed out, in which the person leaves offerings for those deities. Some poles have branches and "hands" sticking out of it, to receive offerings hung around the branches. These poles often get a designated area outside in the yard of the practicioners house, and when doing a ritual an offering (of things like mead, or blood offerings for serious workings) are given to the soil at the bottom of the pole. They are used in devotional work, and many Heathens make Godpoles in their yards or in their Kindred's property, so that they can spend a quiet moment dedicating some time to those specific deities. Think of it as an outside altar. Key note: A Heathen does not *pray* to the pole. It is just a focal point of devotion, and is symbolic. A momento. For Asatru rituals, these poles can play an important part of the ceremonies.
Here are pictures showing examples of Godpoles, or explaining specific ones:
Stangs are a bit different. They are mainly divided into two different types.
There are the World Tree, or Yggdrasil, types. These are the more generalized type of stang. The purpose of this stang is to help with connecting to Yggdrasil, and shamans use it as a means of channeling energy and helping them to pathwalk, or project. The World Tree stang is supposedly similar to a door: it should allow easier access for US to get THERE, and for things from THERE to communicate with US. Volvas, who are very respected women that practices forms of seidhr and shamanism, often are carrying a volva-stav, which is essentially this type of World Tree pole. They use this stang in several rituals, hitting it against something to make a rhythm which they use to get into the trances they need. Touching a specific limb while in trance is supposed to help Northern shamans pathwalk or project to that specific area. It's like a maop. They channel the energy of specific deities through it, as well as the energy of Yggdrasil, when doing a working. It's used in divination as well. These types of stang can vary in what they are made of. Some I've seen are iron. Others are carved out of wood. They too can have branches hanging off of them, and tend to be about shoulder-height. They get annointed with oils, ribbons, furs, feathers, etc. Some I have seen have 9 specific branches to represent the nine realms, with specific colored ribbons for each realm. Really, as long as it is a tall vertical object with "arms" it can be considered a World Tree stang.
An example of volva-stavs, and World Tree stangs:
The other type of stang is the Nidstang, which I've talked about before. To recap, it is a cursing pole. Like the godpole, it can have a face carved into it. The traditional way to make one was to sacrifice a horse, and afix the head at the top. That's not practical anymore, so what can be done is to use a skull of somekind at the top, or carve a horse head out of wood then annoint it with a small blood offering to connect it. Runes, like spellwork, are carved into the side of the stang naming the person(s) the curse is aimed at, and detailing what the curse intends to do. Sometimes a specific deity is called to the pole- for instance, it's common to call upon Hel and channel her energy through the pole, as she is the Goddess that deals most with death. Traditionally it was believed that the spirits called to the pole (landvaettir and wights) directed their anger at whoever the curse was intended for. The spirits coming into the pole is what "activated" it, so to speak.
Examples (Don't click if you don't want to see horse skulls and skins):
At the top of each of these types of poles (Godpole, Stang, and Nidstang) you affix a focal point. This is usually done with a carved face, a mask, a skull or something to represent a head. The reason for this is that a spirit is supposed to take up residence there. Most of the time, the types of spirits you call into the stangs are going to be wights or general landvaettir. Deity channeling through a pole is not something done constantly like this. The idea behind having a spirit in the pole is to "watch the door", so to speak. Many Northerners believe that the stangs are "doorways" to communication and contact with wights, vaettir, deities, and all sorts of things. The spirit that is brought into the pole through the ritual and making of the pole is a sort of guardian set to make sure that neither side of the "door" is wide open.