The Magical Staff, a tool often lumped in with the wand when it comes to Ceremonial magic or ritual magic. I’ve found that it has never truly come into it’s own, so have decided to create a traditional Taoist version of this implement of Art. Made popular by Gandalf and the popular image of the Wizard, The earliest magical wand or staff in Western use appears in the Odyssey: that of Circe, who uses it to transform Odysseus’s men into wild beasts.I could bring up the Thyrsus, a staff tipped with a pine cone and entwined with ivy leaves,These staffs were carried by Dionysus and his followers, or even the Book of Exodus (chapter 4, verse 2), when YHVH appears to Moses in the burning bush. Adoni asks what Moses has in his hand, and Moses answers “a staff” (“a rod” in the KJV version). The staff is miraculously transformed into a snake and then back into a staff. The staff is thereafter referred to as the “rod of El” or “staff of El” (depending on the translation).
“And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs”. And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, “Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive”. And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace”. And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, “Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life”. And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand. (KJV. Exodus chapter 4)
But what I am interested in here is The 9 Section Magical Staff that is frequently used in Daoist magical rituals. In ancient China, the staff was taken to be the symbol of royal or military power, and was also an instrument of torture used for punishing prisoners. In the Biographies of Spirits, written after the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 220 A.D.), it states that the staff was sometimes used in magic rituals as a substitute for the human body. In the Southern and Northern Dynasties (386 -588 AD.), the staff was also used as a symbol of power. The Essential Secrets of the Most High, written by Yuwen Yong for emperor Wu of the Northern Zhou Dynasty (557 – 588 A.D.), contains a “Chapter on Staffs;” it states that the Primordial Lord of Heaven has a divine Staff. “It is made of seven-segment supreme Yang bamboo from the Numinous Mountain. The highest and the lowest segments of the bamboo, which correspond to Heaven and Earth, are hollow.”However, most Daoist scriptures published afterwards say that the magical staff has nine segments, So I’ve decided to work with the current standard of 9. It will become apparent as to why, since the rites I’ve found only cover 9 segments not 7.The bamboo tree was specifically chosen by the Taoist in order to construct the Magic Staff, because of the wood’s esoteric symbolism and energetic characteristics, described as follows:
• The bamboo’s trailing branches bow to the ground because its heart is empty. An empty heart is humble. Therefore, the bamboo tree is a symbol of “virtue” (De).
• The bamboo tree is compared to a noble master, because it never changes. Convinced of its power, it stands upright and proud through every season, even though the worst storms. Therefore, the bamboo tree is a symbol of “trust and permanence.”
• The bamboo tree is forever green. The bamboo tree, pine tree and plum tree are considered to be the “three friends of Winter” because they never change. Therefore, the bamboo tree is considered to be a symbol of “long life.”
• The bamboo tree and its branches explode when set on fire. This loud “boom” is believed to drive away evil spirits and thunderstorms. In ancient China, bamboo branches were originally used for fireworks in magic rituals and regular festivities (i.e., greeting the New Year). Therefore, the bamboo tree is a symbol of “initiating chaos” so that peace and tranquility would return.
• In Chinese, the words for “bamboo” and “prayer” sound alike, zhu (2nd tone ) (bamboo) and zhu (4th tone) (prayer). Therefore, bamboo shoots are sometimes used during prayer ceremonies, and a vase containing bamboo branches can be used in order to increase the magical effectiveness of a prayer or Spellwork.
When Picking and Harvesting the Bamboo, the Daoist must select famous mountains that contain blissful realms of magical bamboo forests (I’ve picked Stone Mountain in Georgia, since we seem to be missing a mountain or two here in Louisiana. As luck would have it, Georgia has huge native Bamboo growing wild ) . The area from which to gather the magic staff should be clean of any debris. Then, on an auspicious day, take clean bamboo facing south, measuring five chi and five fen long and containing nine segments.Headache time ladies and gentlemen, The basic Chinese traditional unit of distance was the chi. As its value changed over time, so did the li’s. In addition, the number of chi per li was sometimes altered. To add further complexity, under the Qin Dynasty, the li was set at 360 “paces” (步, bù) but the number of chi per bu was subsequently changed from 6 to 5, shortening the li by 1/6. Thus, the Qin li of about 576 meters became (with other changes) the Han li, which was standardized at 415.8 meters.: The names lí (厘) and fēn (分) for small units are the same for length, area, and mass; however, they refer to different kinds of measurements.Sigh, Vincent why do you do this to yourself!!! The fen works out roughly to 3⅓ mm and the chi is 33 ⅓ cm, so I’m looking at a Staff 5.41339 tall and circumference will just be decided by the Tao.I am then told On the days of Jia-Wu, Bing-Wu and Ding-Mao (or the third day of the third lunar month, the fifth day of the fifth month, the seventh day of the seventh month, or the ninth day of the ninth month), the Taoist slightly bends the first segment of bamboo to the left and to the right.I am the instructed to store it in a quiet and clean place.
We can compare this to the Greater Key of Solomon and it’s requirements for picking and Harvesting a Staff-
The Staff should be of elderwood, or cane, or rosewood; and the wand of hazel or nut tree, in all cases the wood being virgin, that is of one Year’s growth only. They should each be cut from the tree at a single stroke, on the day of Mercury, at sunrise. The characters shown should be written or engraved thereon in the day and hour of Mercury.
This being done, thou shalt say:
ADONAI, Most Holy, deign to bless and to consecrate this Wand, and this Staff, that they may obtain the necessary virtue, through Thee, O Most Holy ADONAI, whose kingdom endureth unto the Ages of the Ages. Amen.
After having perfumed and consecrated them, put them aside in a pure and clean place for use when required.”
The Taoist canon gives these instructions,According to the Daoist Rituals of the Pervasive Mystery and Numinous
Treasure: “all those who learn Taoism should master the Nine-Segment Bamboo Staff. It assists old people
and saves people in emergencies, and it has different names. It is necessary to know it.” The nine segments
of the bamboo staff are named after the constellations,
• The Taihuang Constellation
• The Yinghuo Constellation
• The Jiao Constellation
• The Heng Constellation
• The Zhang Constellation
• The Yingshi Constellation
• The Zhen Constellation
• The Dongjing Constellation
• The Ju Constellation
I am to chant each name in turn, pushing Chi into the segment while doing so. I’ve found 9, 9×9 and 69 times as the number of chants needed to effect the Investment, I plan on using 69 because it makes me smile, and smiling is a good thing in Taoist magic.Next, I must open four holes below the first segment to insert the secret names of the Four Sacred Mountains,”Dong Qi Tai Shan Lei” (The Eastern Energy of the Peaceful Mountain Thunder); Nan Qi Heng Shan Lei” (The Southern Energy of the Balancing Mountain Thunder); ” Xi Qi Hua Shan Lei” (The Western Energy of the Splendid Mountain Thunder); “Bei Qi Heng Shan Lei” (The Northern Energy of the Permanent Mountain Thunder). Then I open one hole in the center at the top of the bamboo to insert the secret name of the Sacred Mountain of the Centre,Zhong Qi Song Shan Lei”( The Center Energy of the Lofty Mountain Thunder) . Here comes the tricky part, I am now told to fill the middle part of the bamboo with Numinous Treasure (lingbao) and seal the hole with wax.According to The Encyclopedia of Taoism, “The name lingbao (Numinous Treasure) was originally a description of a medium or sacred object (bao, “treasure”) into which a spirit (ling) had descended (see *lingbao). Seemingly, the first scripture to use the name, thus indicating its own status as spiritual treasure, was the Lingbao wufu jing (Scripture of Five Talismans of the Numinous Treasure), the surviving edition of which, the *Lingbao wufu xu (Prolegomena to the Five Talismans of the Numinous Treasure), contains passages which were cited by *Ge Hong in his *Baopu zi. At the end of the fourth and into the early 5th century, a unified corpus of new scriptures appeared in Jiangnan, near present-day Nanjing, under the name Lingbao. ”
“The Lingbao scriptures drew upon the prevailing religious traditions of the day — *fangshi practice, Han-period apocrypha, southern practices known to Ge Hong such as those found in the Lingbao wufu jing itself, Celestial Master Taoism (*Tianshi dao), *Shangqing Taoism, and Buddhism — sometimes copying entire sections of text and presenting them so as to accord with its central doctrines in order to fashion a new, universal religion for all of China. This goal proved elusive. Scholarly Buddhists, in particular, were not slow to point out the ways in which Lingbao texts adapted and reconfigured Buddhist tenets. In the court-sponsored Buddho-Taoist debates of the fifth and sixth centuries, the charge of plagiarism was often levelled at the original Lingbao texts. Some Taoists, such as *Tao Hongjing (456-536), made the same charge with regard to Lingbao incorporation of the earlier Taoist scriptures.”
Needless to say, The Lingbao scriptures are huge reams of text covering many ritual programs for lengthy Retreats (*zhai), Offering rites (*jiao), burial rites, and penitentials, they also include a number of practices for the individual. I’ve decided to go with three Scriptures, the Bawei zhaolong jing (Scripture of the Eight Awesome Powers for Summoning Dragon [Kings]),Shengxuan buxu zhang (Stanzas on Ascending to Mystery and Pacing the Void) , and the Ziran wucheng wen (Text of the Self-generating Five [Talismans] of Correspondence). I’ve arrived at this decision from Meditation and I-Ching Divination,sometimes in this work you just must follow your sense of the Way.
In the Rituals of Fasts and Offerings, it states that Daoist priests can summon Demonic Spirits or Heavenly Generals and destroy hells (according to the rules of the canon) with the esoteric power of the magical staff. The Great Law
of the Numinous Treasure of the Highest Clarity by Wang Qizhen says that when the ritual master destroys hells,
he gazes at the staff and “transforms it into a pillar in the form of the dragon’s head and the tiger’s tail. The dragon is brilliant and holds a splendid streamer in its mouth. Numinous wind and auspicious clouds coil around the dragon, shining limitlessly.”- I do promise, dear Reader, I will let you know how that turns out . This whole process should take me around 3 months from start to finish,so expect more posts on my progress in the coming weeks.
Sources:King James Study Bible: Second Edition By Thomas Nelson, The Encyclopedia of Taoism, vol. 1, pp. 663-69 Edited by Fabrizio Pregadio Routledge, 2008,Magical Tools And The Daoist Altar By Jerry Alan Johnson, 2006,’Index of Zhonghua Daozang by Fabrizio Pregadio,Commentary on the Mirror for Compounding the Medicine A Fourteenth-Century Work on Taoist Internal AlchemyBy Wang Jie (?-ca. 1380)Translated by Fabrizio Pregadio.
The Key of Solomon Text was taken from http://www.esotericarchives.com/solomon/ksol.htm