Lineage Staff of the Hedge Druid

The Staff is a rather iconic tool of the Druid.  More than just an implement of magick, its usage was rather widespread in application.  Historically, the staff was a tool of the Bard, a tool to keep a record of one's journeys and special events by carving corresponding symbols onto the staff.  Irish Bards would make carvings on their staff to record stories of the gods, historical events, and tales of magical happenings.  In doing so, the staff was imbued with ancestral memories and lessons for the next generation.

In Welsh lore, the fabled sorcerer god Gwydion fab Dôn utilized a staff revered for its powers of transformation and healing.  The Mabinogion tells the story of Gwydion's sorcery removing a curse upon Llew.

Irish mythology tells of An Dagda, a God, one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who is said to be associated with magick, wisdom, and Druidry carries a magic staff with a rough end and a smooth end(known as the lorg mór 6) which can kill with one end and bring to life with the other.

From these examples, one can see that the staff is no stranger to Druidry.

The Lineage Staff

One of the key tools in my path of Hedge Druidry is known as the “Lineage Staff”. The foundational teaching of the Lineage Staff that I subscribe to was taught to me by my late Buddhist teacher, Ven. Shanjian Dashi, a recognized master of Chan, Dao, Vajrayana, and Theravada teachings. Further instruction came to me via Awen.

Venerable Shanjian Dashi often stood with a bamboo cane in his hand gifted to him by the lush bamboo grove which surrounded his hermitage at the time. One day, a young man seemingly seeking ordination came to Ven. Shanjian and asked him “What is your lineage sir?” to which without a word, Ven. Shanjian simply pointed to his cane in reply.

They boy was befuddled at the gesture and asked Ven. Shanjian to clarify the gesture to which Ven. Shanjian again without a word simply pointed to the lush bamboo grove and walked away.
They boy grew frustrated calling Ven. Shanjian “crazy” and “dumb”. He left the hermitage deciding against taking precepts with this “old crazy fool”.

As Ven. Shanjian’s disciples sat in contemplation of the matter, discussing the matter, trying to make sense of it, Ven. Shanjian overheard the conversation and returned to expound the truth of the “Lineage Staff” to his students.

Ven. Shanjian proclaimed that he did indeed answer the boys question in great detail. Yet the boy let the emotion of his ego cloud the deep teaching Ven. Shanjian offered the boy.

This bamboo cane is a direct representation of my lineage. It was taken directly from the bamboo grove behind this hermitage. Thus, it contains all that the grove contains. It was cultivated from the same soil, drank the same rain, fed on the same nutrients as the rest of the bamboo in the grove. What makes it so different?” Ven. Shanjian asked.

His disciples replied “its use”. To which Ven. Shanjian rebutted, “The use does not change the qualities of the bamboo. It still contains the qualities of rigidity yet flexibility; it is adaptable, and resilient no matter if it is in the forest, used as the structure of a hermitage, or even as a cane, it still retains its original nature. The bamboo is bamboo, no matter what form it is in.

The disciples then asked Ven. Shanjian, “How does this apply to your lineage?” To which he replied, “Just as the bamboo in the form of the cane retains its original nature – or qualities just hidden in the shape and use of a cane, I-and all of you, have an original nature hidden in this human form. It is the very same original nature that all Great Sages have awoken. It is the thread that links us all. So my lineage, just as yours, is one directly linked to all Great Sages, and to all sentient beings. The very same nature that is within them, is also within us. We are one in the same.

I have never forgotten this lesson, and have pondered and meditated upon it often. I have asked for further teachings regarding the “Lineage Staff” in my work and have received further teachings regarding its nature and use in Hedge Druidry from my guides, historical accounts, and most importantly Awen.

History of the Lineage Staff

The Lineage Staff is seen in many cultures. In Sanatana-Dharma (Hinduism), it can be seen in the hands of Shiva and Durga as the "trishula" - represent various trinities1—creation, maintenance and destruction, past, present and future, etc. It is said to destroy the three worlds: the physical world, the world of the forefathers (representing culture drawn from the past) and the world of the mind (representing the processes of sensing and acting). The three worlds are said to to be destroyed by the trishula into a single non-dual plane of existence, ending in infinite bliss.

In Buddhism, it is represented as the triratna – representing the “Three Jewels” of the Buddha-Dharma-Sangha, which Buddhists take refuge in, leading one to enlightenment.

In the Abrahamic Faiths – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Moses is said to have carried a “staff of God” and utilized it to “do signs”2 such as spring forth water from stone, and part the red sea. Tree branches can also seen being utilized to purify barren water, thus making it potable.

In occult circles, a 60 inch wooden “wand” is often utilized within its inner workings.

In traditional shamanism, it is said to have originated from the drumming stick of a shaman.3

Its age is great, as Stone Age cave paintings show figures holding sticks, thought to be symbolic representations of their power4.

The Lineage Staff is the multi-tool of the contemporary Hedge Druid. Its uses are many. It serves as a spiritual altar- a conduit for spirit activity. It can aid those following Hedge Druidry in attaining balance in their earthing practices, and even as a weapon if there were no other means possible. It possesses the essence of nature itself and thus, it is the link to the organic ancestral memory of the universe and its many dimensions. Let us expound upon this idea.

The Lineage Staff is made of natural material – wood, of which was once part of the larger integrated network of plants within nature, trees. Trees are birthed from the womb of the dark earth, and as it feeds upon the nutrients and minerals of the soil, it grows tall, taking deep roots within the Earth’s soil. This soil contains an organic memory of every moment since its creation. It is composed of minerals (rock, sand, clay, silt), air, water, and organic material (matter from dead plants, animals, and even the first human beings to those who have passed today).
Every bit of this material is composed of energy. If we were to break down any object to its sub-atomic particle level, we would find that this seemingly solid object is composed of protons and electrons rotating in a vast amount of space constantly trading light and energy with all that is around it. Einstein's familiar formula, E=mc2 ringing a bell?

But what happens to this energy when our physical bodies or the bodies of any other living organism expire? The law of conservation of energy in physics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another. This would imply that energy of the deceased organism is transferred or transformed into the energy of the organic memory of the Earth as it “becomes” the soil. But why is this important?

Just as in Ven. Shanjian Dashi’s story of the cane, the Lineage Staff contains every quality that it had while in its plant form in the forest. It, being grown from the soil, also contains all the organic memory that the soil contains. It is the micro version of the macro forest.

Furthermore, as seen in the recounted story above, just as the use of the staff does not change the nature of the wood (it's element and spirit is very in tact), it is a reminder to the contemporary druid that how we utilize Druidry today (as opposed to the ancients) does not change that nature of what we are doing. It is still Druidry! The Lineage Staff is a testament to this.

Due to the organic memory in which the Lineage Staff contains, it can be utilized as a way to connect with all that nature contains, to tap into the organic memory of the universe and gain information that is needed at that moment and more.

The Lineage staff can be used as an altar, which is wonderful for those in urban settings without access to a forest on a regular basis. By tapping into the Lineage staff itself, one taps into the whole of nature. Where you are becomes a sacred place. You can utilize the staff as a conduit to place your prayers upon which the universe, or if you prefer -the primordial creator (An Dúileamh) receives, or use it to consecrate items and places.

The Lineage Staff can be used to communicate with those in non-material reality. It has the spirit of the tree from which it came. It is a representation or symbol of the Cosmic Tree teaching us Druidic Cosmology5. It is representative of the Cosmis axis by which it can be a guide in the Three Worlds known as Annwn (the lower world), Abred (this world -the Middleworld), and Gwynvid (Upperworld). It carries with it all the energy of that which it came. Its energetic roots reach into the lower-world, while the energy it contains of its trunk aids us in living harmoniously in the middle-world, and the energy it retained from its branches reaching far into the sky above aid us in entering the upper-world.

In magickal workings, the Lineage Staff is the great magnifier, pilling energy from Ceugant (the infinite) amplifying your energy through the unification of the microcosm within, and focalizing it into a single potent stream to achieve one's goal.  Finally, it aids one in releasing and returning energy into Ceugant.

In Celtic Mythology, the Welsh Magician-God Gwyddion is a great bearer of the staff.
How to utilize the Lineage Staff in magickal working will be discussed in later posts.

Acquiring a Lineage Staff

Acquiring a Lineage Staff is essential for those who are called to journey on this path of Hedge Druidry. However, it is imperative that you respect the spirits of the land on which you are seeking your Lineage Staff. Do not start sawing away on a random tree that you think is to your liking. A Lineage Staff must be “gifted” –given to you by the spirits of the forest.
Just as you would not walk into someone’s home and take things that are not yours, you simply don’t just take things from the forest without asking. Everything in that forest has a spirit and is therefore sacred. Treat it as such. Spend regular time in the forest, communicating with the spirits of those that inhabit it. Listen for their teachings and guidance. Leave an offering of organic tobacco or milk and honey for their wisdom and comfort. Cultivate a relationship with those of the deep woods just as you would any other relationship. In doing so, soon you will discover that the forest is very giving.

You can cross (via your preferred method) into the unseen, the world where many plant spirits reside. Receive guidance as to where you can find your Lineage Staff and permission to take it. I have found that more than often, I am led to a branch that has fallen, or a struck down tree where I am gifted with a staff. Be sure to leave an offering of thanks when you are gifted. I always have a pouch of organic tobacco in my crane bag for such times.

Once you have your Lineage Staff, it can be seen as a sign of your calling to Hedge Druidry. Now, it is time to make it your own. Forge your personal energy into it by decorating and/or crafting it as guided by your intuition. The Staff has the spirit of the tree from which it came from (spirits are infinite, and thus infinite minus infinite equals infinite) so listen to it, and let it guide you. Choose whether to leave the bark or remove it. Will you stain it, or perhaps keep it natural-sealing it with linseed oil, or something more natural such as beeswax (a definite preference of mine)? Will you do any carvings; add stones, feathers, etc.? The possibilities are endless.

The last thing you will want to do is to awaken the spirit of the lineage Staff, giving you full access to the organic ancestral memories of the universe. The Hedge Druidry lore of my path indicates that woodpeckers are sent to trees to peck at them, waking the spirit of the tree up from slumber when they have taken a time of rest and need to be awakened.

In the tradition of the woodpecker, This path of Hedge Druidry instructs to awaken the Lineage Staff in the same way. One should grasp the Lineage Staff with two hands just as a woodpecker grasps the tree with its clawed toes, and tap in a stabbing motion, three times- one for each world (as well as the Three Kindreds)- firmly on natural ground to awaken its spirit from slumber. Anytime you have not utilized your Lineage Staff for a period of time, this procedure should be done.

With the spirit of the staff now awake, you are ready to begin this powerful multi-tool of The Hedge Druid.

1 Prevalent in many cultures, to include shamanic spirituality.
2 Exodus Chapter 4, Quran 7:136
3 "The Reindeer People". Donsmaps.com. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
4 David Colbert, The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter, p 195, ISBN 0-9708442-0-4
5 We will talk more about Druidic Cosmology in a later post.
6  http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/dagda.html