We’ve all watched the Disney movies. Every powerful sorceress uses a wand to cast her spells. But what lies behind that iconic images? I had to find out.
Specifically I wanted to know exactly what a wand is, what it’s made of, and its relationship to magic. Here is a glimpse of what I learned.
A wand is a thin rod traditionally made of wood but can be made from other materials. Longer forms of wands are called staffs, staves, or sceptres and many of them have large ornamental tops (Think Gandalf).
Wands are quasi-sentient—that is to say they are alive. Through wands sorcerers channel their magic and focus its effects. Spells are often, but not necessarily, completed with wands.
The use of wands dates to the ancient Zoroastrians who used them in sacred ceremonies in 9th century BCE. But it was Homer in the 8th century BCE who popularized them in his epic stories about the Greek Gods and Goddesses. Here is a story about what happened to Odysseus’s men when they met the sorceress Circe.
The Greek hero Odysseus was returning home from the Trojan war, to reassert his place as the rightful king of Ithaca. During his travels his soldiers came upon the house of a sorceress called Circe.
Many beasts, mostly lions and wolves, hung around outside her home, as if they were domesticated pets. The soldiers could hear a woman singing inside the house in a melodious and enticing voice. The sorceress, Circe appeared before the scouting party and welcomed them into her home. One of the men, Eurylochus, sensed danger and stayed outside observing the event and he later told the tale.
The rest of the soldiers followed Circe into her home and enjoyed her wine. Once they drank a fair amount, Circe pulled out her wand and cast a spell over them, transforming them into pigs. They still had their human brains, but they were no longer men. They wept as Circe put them into her pigsty.
But, Eurylochus lived to tell the story.
This tale comes from one of the oldest pieces of literature, The Odyssey, by Homer.
More about Circe …
“Within Greek mythology, Circe is the child of Helios, the god of the sun, and Perse, an ocean nymph who is the daughter of the titan Oceanus. Due to her lineage, she is skilled in sorcery and is adept at utilizing herbs and potions and practicing necromancy (communicating with the dead). Circe can also turn human beings into animals (transmutation), which is apparent in Homer’s Odyssey. As a powerful enchantress, Circe built herself a palace on her home island of Aeaea, where she would practice her spells.
Circe’s popularity stems from her appearance in Homer’s Odyssey where she turns Odysseus‘ men into pigs. Fortunately, Circe was able to trick Odysseus into becoming her lover rather than an animal. Circe and Odysseus had three children before his return to Ithaca, one of which accidentally kills him later in his life.
Though not considered a significant player in Greek mythology, she is mainly known for her role in popular culture. References to Circe are found in The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway and Tangled Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Edmund Spenser, James Joyce, and Toni Morrison based female characters on Circe in their most famous works. More recently, Circe has appeared as a villain in a DC Comics series that included Wonder Woman.” (https://study.com/learn/lesson/circe-odyssey-summary-myth.html)
The Elder Wand
In J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter every wand is unique, and much of its character comes from the materials it’s made from. When it finds its ideal owner, it will both learn magic from them and in return teach them more magic. The most famous crafter of wands in Harry’s world is Garrick Ollivander (of Ollivanders Wand Shop in Diagon Alley). Here is a conversation between Harry and Ollivander about the legendary Elder Wand.
“Harry: “You — you really think this wand exists, then, Mr. Ollivander?”
Ollivander: “Oh yes, yes, it is perfectly possible to trace the wand’s course through history. There are gaps, of course, and long ones, where it vanishes from view, temporarily lost or hidden; but it always resurfaces. It has certain identifying characteristics that those who are learned in wandlore recognize…Whether it needs to pass by murder, I do not know. Its history is bloody, but that may be simply due to the fact that it is such a desirable object and arouses such passions in wizards. Immensely powerful, dangerous in the wrong hands, and an object of incredible fascination to all of us who study the power of wands.”
— Garrick Ollivander on the Elder Wand” (from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
An additional note — according to Hermione, a wand is only as powerful as the person using it.
In short, Homer was the first writer to make the wand a popular concept, and it’s been used since by many writers.
When the enchantress Jane Black attempts to free a local Casanova warlock from the clutches of an evil dreamwalker, trouble brews in Mystic Keep.
Metus stalks the warlock Slade Derringer in his dreams stealing from him cherished memories from his past and hopes for his future. Jane fears that when the dream stalker finishes with Slade, he’ll begin devouring the dreams of everyone else in town. No matter the cost, she must stop the beast.
Jane’s friends and family rally to assist her, each in their unique way. The men in her life keep things hot and spicy. There is Gavin McGee, the white wolf intent on claiming her, Leos, the smoldering dragon enforcer who turns her blood into estrogen jelly, and Alessandro, the blackmailing vampire who makes her do things she doesn’t want to do. Then there’s her loving family of witches and warlocks who swish their brooms and swords in her business whenever they can. Last, but never least, Vixen—her snarky cat familiar—is always by her side.
Jane, true to her personal code, is determined to make things better for everyone—or die trying. Can Jane spin a dream catcher strong enough to entrap the evil night prowler? Will Jane choose to play with the forbidden fire of a dragon, or wrestle with a powerful wolf, or … both? All good questions.
Dial Magic is the final book in the Dial Witch trilogy, set in the Mystic Keep world. It’s an urban fantasy featuring witches, warlocks, werewolves, and vampires, and it’s filled with humorous adventure and heart-warming romance.