Monday, May 9, 2016

The Wizard's Staff

The use of magical wands and staves is as old as the Art itself. Most wizards wield staves because of the lack of time required to learn to use them. This, combined with a staff-wielding culture, has perpetuated their use as normal tools. Staves may also serve as a prop in old age, and many wizards remain ambulatory well into their twilight years. However, that doesn’t account for the great many magical staves and wands that have been crafted over the centuries, leaving one explanation that was posited by the Llyrian wizard Galthese the Wise:

The staff and wand are traditional implements of magic. As matter that was formerly living, wood is tied into the natural radiations of magic that flow from the center of the earth. The rod, as a shape, is naturally attuned to various outflows of magic as well. It mimics the shape of the human finger, and thus can be used to manipulate the flow of the causal tide of energy that surrounds us. In essence, one places in the staff the potency to bend and manipulate magic itself. For this purpose, various woods and metals suit our needs to lesser or greater degrees...” (Galthese the Wise, Treatise on the Staff, IX Age)

A compiled list of various materials is presented below. These are taken partially from Galthese’s treatise and partially compiled from various and sundry other sources.

Ash. Ashwood is the most holy of all trees. The barbarian Thegnar tribes revered it and it alone in the Dawn Age; they knew it instinctively. The great World-tree, Asca-Irminsul, is represented in each and every growing ash. Know that this holy tree is not to be touched in this realm!” (Agis the Unconquered, Declaration to the Skinchangers)

The ash tree has many magical applications; the most famous are the Wands of High Sorcery, which have been immortalized in legend and song. Great magical staffs have been carved from it as well; It has been known to store great reserves of magical energy and I would not hesitate to call it the king of woods for that very reason. It is rare, but possible, for natural ash growing in the wild to trap pockets of latent magical energy and develop into something more than simple vegetation. This is complicated, of course, by the burning fury of northerners when you damage or cut down an ash tree. Thegnarians, Valelans, and even some Mileans view the ash as semi-sacred.” (Galthese)

Birchwood. White like the ash, and indeed related to it through descent, the birch tree is a nice pick for a staff. Stylish! Many Dorlish wizards use birch; it’s not as presumptuous as ash nor as mundane as oak or bronzewood.” (Edeo Aspeki, Courtiers Guide to Wizards, X Age)

The white wood of the birch is often compared with that of the ash tree. However, it is in many ways unsuitable for use in magical procedures. It makes a fine dust or powder for rituals requiring substances of that nature as, once burned, it can bind with magical humors present in the air. However, in its whole form it is too dense for the tides of magic to penetrate it. It is the foolish wizard indeed who attempts to enchant a birchwood wand or rod without first preparing it with potent resins, oils, and powders.” (Jiacamo di Tyrol, Myths of Magic, X Age)

Bleakwood. A rare find indeed! Bleakwood has to be harvested in a particular manner and only grows in the swamps of Tyrolin. Dorlish mages generally eschew it due to its brutal nature and ties to bloodlust and madness in folklore. I do believe the Archmage General Enzeo Petrucci carried a staff of this nature!” (Reynarius di Llun, Staves and Things, X Age)

Cut from the swamps of Tyrolin, Bleakwood has many uses commensurate with its rarity. Amulets and rings cut from it can protect the vital anima or essence of the wearer from outside attack. Tea brewed from the root of the bleakwood tree has been known to be extremely toxic; it may cause blindness and lameness as well as sapping the vital strength of the imbiber. However, when served to those on death’s door, it will either kill them within three hours or revive them.” (Solon Everwind, Lectures at the Polis, X Age)

Bronzewood. Stone and bronzewood are the most commonly used materials for wizard’s staves. The reason for this is simple: they can withstand a great deal of stress, and there are mages who use their staves as offensive weapons. They can be found with relative ease (though not everywhere in the north). This is the same material used by shipwrights for the central mast of great cogs and carracks.

"It is widely believed that bronzewood and ironwood have no magical applications. This is generally false. Bronzewood was prized for its ability to contain the squirming and often volatile effects of alteration spells; Ironwood, in contrast, has a grain perfect for grasping the potent strands of high sorcery of all kinds. Ironwood bark may also be used as a cheap alternative base for scrolls as opposed to the much more expensive parchment or vellum. The same preparations must be applied, and the ink must be thickened by a factor of two to three times.” (Galthese)

Bone and Ivory. Most sorcerers, wizards, mages, and magic workers fear using the living or formerly living matter of intelligent beings for their spells. They are squeamish, and allow the petty concerns of morality and the morés of Arunëian society to constrain their Art. ‘The bodies must be burned!’ the priests will shout, ‘destroy all the remains!’ Yet, there is potency in bone, for it remembers the essentia, the pattern, of the life that was lived within it. Necromancy worked with bone is particularly powerful, as one might imagine. Yet feel bone in your hand! It is cold, almost lifeless. The pattern is faint. Now hold ivory in that selfsame hand and it will warm to your touch. Ivory is the queen of all necromantic material save for bone from the undead themselves. It contains within it a perfect duplication of the essere, the essentia, of the living being. It responds to life with warmth and eagerness for it recalls what it means to live.” (Cesiderus the Necromancer, On the Marrow, IX Age)

 Cedar. O hardy cedar! You provide for us the fire of ascension, whereby the spirit may be carried into the West. Do your wonders there cease? Nay, for even the magician has said ‘cedar, thou art fine.’ For with the branch of cedar can-not one see into the future? Is it not perfect for divinatory auguries and rituals of all kinds? Yes! For the priests of the Weaver know its potency, and the Crippled God weaves not with an ashen loom, nor one of pine, but of cedar.” (High Oracle Jacynth, Devotions, VI Age)

Firwood. Fir and pine are sacred to Eleia, and often associated with growth, virility, and health. Many cult-idols are made from firwood in the East, particularly in Llyris and former Llynder. Stonemark also has a special place for the fir, and sacred buildings are often braced and built with firwood.” (Ceylan the Thoughtful, Symbolism of the Sacred, X Age)

Hickory. Hickory wood is similar to bronze or iron wood in that it has a heavy resistance to shock, is pliable, and is very strong. However, it grows in a narrower environment and is thought of with less prestige. There is a family of hickory trees known as the Wyrmwood Tree which grows where, long ago, draconic tombs and ruins stood. This tree is favored by those sages that study Wyrmlore for use in their rods, wands, and staves; whether or not it is actually attuned to wyrms or their shades is a matter of debate.” (Galthese)

Larch.Larch is prized by builders for its sturdiness, durability, and waterproof nature. It’s resin is particularly thick and the wood is resistant to rot. This makes it a valuable asset to wizards, for it can withstand a great deal of essential pressure. Lesser materials might crack or shatter while channeling the energies required for potent summonings or invocations, but larch will bear up under the strain quite admirably. I have found that banding it with silver will reduce the effort in enchanting it and lessen the strain on the caster...” (Turin the Master, Letters to his Apprentice, IIX Age)

Oak. Oakwood is a sturdy choice for a staff, and sees heavy use (along with bronze- and stonewood) with wizards from Atva-Arunë. This is probably because of its association with strength and sturdiness. The oak tree is also sacred to Haeron, and thus staves of oakwood are preferred by priests, travelers, and the devout.” (Ceylan)

Banishments and abjurations are made simpler with oaken implements. The reason for this is complex, but in essence the strength of the oak and the depth of its roots provides a perfect metaphysical pattern or anima for spells of turning back, protecting, and cancellation. Does the lightning strike the mighty oak tree and fell it?” (Galthese)

Shieldwood. “The ubiquitous grey pine of the North, shieldwood is stout but must be dried over a long period and then treated to be worthwhile. It has no magical properties inherent in it, though again, ease of locating a shieldwood pine makes it quite cheap and easy to come by.” (Ceylan)

Stonewood. “The hearty Stonewood tree provides a sound foundation for staves and wands of all types. However, the expense of felling Stonewood when such trees are reserved for use as masts of large ships, makes it a difficult thing to obtain. Some wizards thus cultivate Stonewood trees of their own, and its presence in wizard’s gardens is a well-known attribute of Llyria.” (Galthese)

Willow. Willow-wood is a fine choice for wands; it’s lack of firmness disguises a youthful and vital core that is perfect for weaving potent magic to it, but not for engaging in battle.” (Lydur of Soloth, The Heart of the Wand, VII Age)
Willow wood is itself magical. The willow grows not only where the land is right, but also where the tide of magic breathes from the earth in abundance. The ancient willow groves of Sylvasil were once host to great gatherings of nouriso enchanters, for there the magics of enchantment and staying were strongest. Songs of slaying are not its potency, but those spells which forge the bonds between. During the Draconic Wars, the great Oronnos of Sylvasil added their strength to the embattled armies hundreds of rods to the south by means of these circles and groves...” (Aranaderyn the Wizard, The Elf-Dragon Wars, VII Age)

Xoantha. The olive-wood called xoantha was a classical choice for staffs; Aellonian wizards primarily utilize this light colored wood. It feels somewhat warm to the touch when held much like ivory; this is because the animating spirit of the wood is reluctant to flee and will be held in the staff. Much preferred by Ishtrian and Aellonian wizards as well as the goblin-mages beyond the Straits.” (Galthese)

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