And that’s how my pursuit of fire led me onto the Great Hungarian Plain.
It was back in late April that I decided it was time to make a wand. When contemplating what kind of wood to make it out of, it occurred to me that we’d been invited, to a day-long social event at our friends’ secluded house on the Great Plain, along with a gaggle of other families whose matrons know one another from Waldorf and home-birth blogs and forums. “Acacia! How about making it out of acacia?” I said to myself. Checking the aforementioned table at the Esoteric Archives I found the quote from Franz Bardon himself: “the wood of an oak or an acacia, too, is an excellent material for making a magic wand.” Considering that Franz-baby lived a stone’s throw from here (relatively speaking), he probably even had the same variety of acacia in mind. Hot dog! Acacia it is!
It was a pleasant, sunny, breezy day, and all the families that had gathered were the type who’d bring lots of wholesome, homemade food. These are also the kind who have several children each, so there was lots of commotion. Fire. The fire of community. The fire of united will.
In America, celebrating out of doors, you light the grill and grill up steaks, or chicken, or hot dogs (in latter days, marinated vegetables). In Hungary, you still light the fire, but instead of grilling, you whip out the iron cauldron and make stew: fish stew (from carp), goulash, or paprikás. Fire: the fire of the hearth. Fire in the belly.
When lighting the fire, we discovered that a clan of lizards had taken up residence in the bricks that constituted the fire ring. They were out sunning themselves after awakening from their winter’s naps. We needed to catch them and relocate them somewhere safer for them. I managed to catch two at once, and happened to snag two fine specimens; one male and one female.(Click on the image to see them life-sized). Fire: the fire of the sun.
The men pitched in together to cook the stew – cutting up vegetables, tending the fire, stirring the cauldron. This being Hungary, the stew was nice and red from generous amounts of paprika in the spicing. The fire of spice.
After much had been eaten, and the children were playing while others engaged in woodworking and other hand crafts, I borrowed a saw from the host and headed off for the woods, timed so that I’d be there during the hour of sun (it was Sunday, by the way, and I also took note when planning this that the waning moon was in aquarius, an air sign, so the wood would dry properly). I wandered for a while, looking at various acacia trees, asking them if they wanted to be my wand. Nothing seemed decisive, so I sat down on the ground to meditate. I began with a prayer to the Master Within to guide me to the right tree, and then calmed and emptied my mind. When I opened my eyes, I stood up and walked straight to a tree that was no more than ten meters away from me. I tapped it with the saw and it sounded solid. I asked it if it wanted to be my wand, and the response felt affirmative. Since these trees are so leggy, there was no way I could make a decent wand from a branch. I’d have to cut down a whole tree, and use the trunk. I didn’t really feel like I was wasting the wood, since I’d leave the rest to rot and fertilize the forest.
You can see the piece of wood I brought home in the accompanying photographs. While handling and admiring this piece of lumber during the month I waited until I would carve it (I couldn’t resist “playing” with it every day), I suddenly understood why the Ace Of Wands is an unfinished stick of wood in many tarot decks. It’s a wand in potential. It’s still undefined for its purpose and unadapted to its working environment. For two weeks I would pick it up every day and tap it with another piece of wood and get nothing but a thud. I worried I’d chosen a bad, soft piece of wood. Then, some time into the third week, I tapped it and it resonated with a nice “tonk”. After that, it sounded more musical every day.
As luck would have it the kids were at their grandmother’s the day I designated to carve the raw piece of wood. I had to get up indecently early on Sunday morning to catch the first hour of the sun, but it was exciting to get all the tools together and start peeling the bark off. I’d never worked with acacia before, so I was surprised at how yellow it is. A very unique wood. Though I often get myself in trouble when I make spontaneous decisions about magical procedures, once the bark was off and the wood smoothed down (not easy because of all the knot holes!), I was inspired to carve a “pine cone” at the top of the wand, with the pineal gland in mind. So I went with the flow. At the conclusion of the morning’s work, Very Aries said it looked like a giant penis. She was right. I’d been thinking the same thing. OK. I’m no prude. It has to be assumed that sometimes a cigar really is a phallic symbol. Right, Uncle Sigmund? Fire. The fire of sex.
The wand sat on the shelf for several weeks. It got oiled every couple of days so it wouldn’t crack, since the wood was still slightly green when I peeled the bark off. Recently I borrow a wood burner from a friend. With this I burned two spirals in opposite directions on the “pine cone” to make it more pine-cone-y, with a moderately pleasing effect. But somehow, it didn’t seem finished. I left it on the shelf and contemplated it for another couple weeks. Names of God? None really seemed appropriate to me. The symbols on Trithemius’s wand from the “Drawing Spririts…” grimoire? No, that didn’t strike a chord with me either.
I don’t recall when the idea of putting a salamander on the wand occurred to me, but with time it grew on me. My graphic skills are extremely limited. I can screw up stick figures. Add to that the awkwardness of working with the cumbersome wood burner, and I feared I could mess up months of work trying to draw a salamander. But I was still attracted to the idea. So I looked in Google Images and found lots of simple renderings of salamanders that I could adapt. I spent several hours practicing simple, linear, top-view pencil sketches of a salamander until I was confident I could pencil it onto the wand and then follow that with the burner. Here, you can see the results. I’m pleased. It is an instrument I will be happy to work with. Fire. The fire of creation. The electric fire of the wood burner.
Funny, though. The more I look at the drawing on the wand, the more I see those lizards from the fire pit. In a way, it also looks like a living flame.