Thursday, June 7, 2007

Stang or cooking stick?

I thought I'd clarify what I'm saying about the Stang deriving from the cooking stick in the previous post, motivated by Yvonne's comments to that post. I am convinced by Charles Zika's interpretation of the forked stick in the Hans Bulding Grien image (below) as a cooking stick. I believe this - and other images of such sticks as in Ulrich Molitor's depiction of witches flying, picture here - contributed to the idea in modern Traditional Witchcraft of the stang. So, I believe that in these depictions this is a cooking stick. However, I also believe that in contemporary Traditional Witchcraft, the forked stick is the stang. I just do not believe the contemporary stang - as it is used today - is derives from Witch Hunt-period witchcraft, or is ancient. Evan Jones says, in "Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed" that "as with many of the craft tools, the origin of the stang is lost in the mists of time" and he admits that "the few hints that we do have of its early usage are really nothing more than speculation and conjecture..." As far as I know, no stang identifiable with rites of witchcraft has been unearthed archaeologically, and I know of no primary source witchcraft texts talking about the stang - although I'd be interested to hear about such things. Just because the Traditional Witchcraft stang is not particularly ancient however, does not mean that it is not highly evocative of the Horned God - it is, and I personally find it evocative. Who could not find "Call of the Horned Piper" by Nigel Jackson, with its gorgeous images of the stang in use, totally transporting? Which brings me to the arrows Yvonne mentioned... Evan Jones says "For all major rites the coven stang is dressed with arrows and garlands. Once again, the arrows are symbolic of the duality of the Horned God concept... a reminder of the hunt...". Sounds feasible, and I don't know enough about the *symbolic* use of arrows - by hunters, or witches - to comment on the traditional nature, or not, of this use. I'd speculate however, that this combination of stang and arrows is reasonably modern, that is unless there is archaeological evidence to the contrary. So, I am not saying the contemporary stang is not evocative, effective and a residence of the Horned God - it is. I'm just saying that I think it came from the depiction of the cooking stick!


Caroline Tully. said...

I'm starting to dream about stangs, brooms, more brooms and stangs... poles and fire pokers.... Goats... All those flying things.

Anonymous said...

As a crafter and artisan I've done a lot of research into the origins of the stang and will hopefully get my article on its origins published. There is much evidence that points to the stang being a distaff - a very ancient tool that had magical and religious significance in many cultures and is found in old witchcraft woodcuts alongside brooms. As handspinning is now relegated to the hobbyists and spinning wheels and machines have been common since the end of the Middle Ages, the distaff and its significance have been forgotten by the public and those who do not work with fibre. So the stang's history as a magical tool is not lost, simply forgotten and misplaced by modern folk.