Exploring the Wands of the F(a)eri(e) tradition
A few years into my training in the Feri tradition, while participating in a private Feri internet forum, I heard of a curious piece of lore ominously called “the Wand system”. It comprised of three differently colored wands to represent different powers available to initiates. When I asked for clarification I was told that it was an archaic piece of lore that had long ago fallen into disuse.
Upon further investigation I learned that in addition to those lines that had abandoned its use, some had never been passed this piece of lore to begin with.1 It appeared that those who never received it regarded the wand system as a later invention, and thus regarded it as suspect at best, or as a damaging deviation at worst.2 Like most things in Feri it seemed to elicit the most severe of emotional responses in those who disagreed with it. I later learned that contrary to what I had previously been told not everyone had abandoned its use, and that the Wand System was alive and well and being practiced by at least a portion of the descendants of the Bloodrose line of Feri3, as well as amongst those individuals and groups that worked directly with Victor Anderson in the latter years of his life.4
In those circles which I worked with during my training (which were also descended from Bloodrose) the wand system was not passed. To this part of the community the wands were generally considered to be a system of hierarchy that had no place in our egalitarian tradition and many were satisfied in their belief that it was not something that was then being practiced. This all began to change in 2003 when Cora Anderson, eldest living member of the Feri tradition and wife of Feri founder the late Victor Anderson, passed a Black Wand to Anaar5, a long-time student and initiate, also dubbing her “the Grandmaster”6 a title which Cora had previously held since the death of her husband in 2001.7 Suddenly the reality of a current use of the wands was brought into public light and a discourse began that in part sought to examine their often convoluted use and history.
There are two distinct takes on the wand system (as well as a slight variance of one, which has caused much controversy), both legitimately claiming Victor Anderson as their origin. In one take the system is seen to be a form of individual recognition8, with the White Wand conferred upon initiation, the Green being the wand of the Elder and Master (i.e. those who have had several years of experience and who have given a great deal of their time to teaching and have thus shown a mastery of Feri lore and practice), and the Black being the wand of a Grandmaster9; someone who has shown exceptional mastery of sorcery and is thus empowered to start their own distinct lineage and even to change aspects of the tradition if necessary.10 This system was largely proliferated in a slightly altered form by the founder of Bloodrose, and it is largely because of the hierarchical nature of this variance that many Feri have rejected the wand system altogether.11 In this variant form of the above interpretation the right to initiate others into the tradition (outside of the immediate coven) was withheld until the achievement of the Green Wand, a move that is seemingly at odds with what many now consider to be core beliefs of the tradition, namely that once someone is initiated they are fully empowered to function in any ritual role within the tradition and are autonomous, answerable only to themselves and to the Gods.12 Because the Bloodrose line13 has historically been the most prolific in Feri, this version of the Wand system was seen by many as being an accurate representation of the system as a whole, causing some to denounce the system as being hierarchical and ultimately harmful; inserting a “degree system” into a tradition that prides itself on having only one initiation. I believe that this version of the system is really only effective in a coven setting, outside of which I find it becomes unnecessarily restrictive and ultimately detrimental.
The other take on this system is what Victor taught to his students and initiates in the latter years of his life. In this interpretation the wands do not represent gradations of power or hierarchy, but are instead seen as markers of specialization, or “job descriptions”.14 In this understanding of the system, the Green Wand is said to be conferred upon every one at their initiation, and represents “new growth”. It carries the added association of healing magic, especially that involving herbal lore and medicine. In this understanding, to claim the Green Wand is to proclaim oneself a healer, in whatever form the individual witch is drawn.
The White Wand is said to be for “flowering witches”, in that it represents someone who has come into their own power via the channel of creativity. A White Wand witch directs their energies into the creative arts, and makes themselves available to their community as a ritualist, a bard, or an artist. To claim the White Wand is to proclaim oneself an artist, whether that be in the visual arts, or in any of the many artistic forms available, such as dance, music, or poetry.
In this interpretation of the system the Black Wand represents the Master and Sorcerer, in that it signifies someone who has dedicated themselves to developing the tradition, making themselves available to their community for the purposes of deeper, sometimes darker, magics. A Black Wand witch is both a collector of traditional lore, and the innovator of new techniques. They possess all three aforementioned wands, and are skilled in (among other things) magical warfare.
The most common misunderstanding is that these wands are meant to convey additional powers, abilities, or privileges. In a culture that is most accustomed to social hierarchies it is certainly tempting to see these wands as linear markers of accumulated power. In reality the wands are markers of specific responsibilities that one holds to the community at large. In this they are “job descriptions”, communicating one’s magical “specialty” or area of interest both to the community, as well as to one’s own fetch.
For example, all initiates are trained in some level of healing magic. Part of our training in working with energies is about learning how to refine and reclaim our personal power, which leads to a better state of balance, health, and harmony. We quickly learn that these internal techniques can be used externally to assist others with the same issues. In this we are all healers, but for those who would possess the Green Wand healing becomes a primary focus. To claim the Green Wand tells other members of the community that you are available to them in the capacity of a healer. Those who do not possess the Green Wand may also be proficient in healing techniques, and might even pride themselves as healers, but the holders of the wand have taken a vow to make themselves available as a resource.
Likewise the holders of the White Wand might not possess any more artistic talent than any other individual, but they have received the spiritual charge to make their artistic talents available to their community. These individuals usually create rituals, write poetry, and make music and art as devotional pieces to be shared in some fashion within the tradition. While there are many talented artists in Feri who may perform in this way, a holder of the White Wand has taken this on as a responsibility; they have pledged themselves to provide their talents not just for themselves and their immediate circle, but for the community at large.
This same line of thinking holds true for the Black Wand as well. Whereas all initiates are Priests and Priestesses, a Black Wand initiate is a “Priest/ess for the Priesthood”; meaning that they have taken on an added responsibility toward the tradition and the community, making themselves available to assist other initiates and practitioners in their workings. Many initiates who do not hold the Black Wand currently act in this way, but to hold the wand is to accept the charge to do so, and to make oneself publicly available to the tradition as a whole.
One question that often arises in discussion concerning the wands is quite simply “why are they necessary; what purpose do they serve?” To this I respond that they aren’t necessary; but they are certainly useful to those who are called to use them.15
The wands, ideally, are triple in function. They are first and foremost the symbols of power. Defining them as such has led to the unfortunate conclusion by some that this means power-over or coercive control. This is a terrible misunderstanding, both of the wands and of the nature of power itself. Power is simply our ability to do, and we should remind ourselves that it is such an important aspect of the Feri tradition that in our pentacle lore it appears twice.16 As symbols of power the wands give our fetch something to rally around, giving each of us a magickal goal worth aspiring to. This becomes especially important after initiation when the lack of such specific goals can contribute to spiritual lethargy; a sense of being lost with no particular direction to follow.
The second purpose that the wands serve is that they are also honorifics. They allow us to formalize our praise and support of each other in specific ways so that we can come together with a positive approach in order to build community. When we can come together to honor our peers for the work that they have done, it serves to further bond us together.17 It also enables us to make decisive statements regarding work that we find value in, thus communicating those values to the larger community.
The third role of the wands is that they are also egregores18; collections of occult power existing on the astral. These are powerful symbolic forms that can be “tapped into” not unlike specific frequencies on a radio. When passed formally in a rite, these astral forms are intentionally placed in the energy field of the recipient, further connecting the individual to the energy of the wand in question.
Beyond the specifics of initiatory lineages which have historically kept certain of us apart, sharing the wands need not be limited to those lines, allowing us to ritually reinforce our common connections and also to forge new ones, thus working toward a more inclusive community based on communication, excellence, and of honoring each other for our talents and services.
Different lines hold different rituals and customs concerning the formal passing of wands (as opposed to a wand being passed informally in vision from the God/dess) but it is usual that a holder of a particular wand may then pass that wand to another initiate if they so desire. In this we may all honor each other with markers of our particular talent and specialty. In the way in which it was first presented to me, it is the God/dess who passes the wand, and then Her human priests who formally confirm and acknowledge it.
While there are many different valid styles in how and when students are trained and initiated, one widespread practice is to engage in a (quite often lengthy) training period prior to receiving the initiation. The thinking behind this is that since the initiation empowers all parts of the recipient, it is in the interest of safety (and the sanity of the student) to work toward self-knowledge and purification prior to this major energetic event, lest these internal complexes and blocks become magnified and threaten the psychic well-being of the individual. While this is done for good reasons there is a downside: in this style of training the end result is almost always initiation, leaving the psychic impression that initiation is the final culmination of the larger work, when it is actually only the beginning. It is not uncommon for new initiates who have been trained in this way to feel that they are without support in the usually fragile time just after their initiation rite. Some people feel that they are without focus or direction as there is no specific area of study for them to continue toward. One solution is working toward a particular wand, giving the initiate a renewed focus and a new magical goal.
I hold the Black Wand. It was first passed to me in a vision from the God/dess and then years later confirmed and blessed by Cora Anderson along with several other initiates during a simple rite in her home. I was later passed the Black Wand again, this time by Feri teacher and Priest Dominic Elemirion, thus ritually presenting me with both of the aforementioned versions of the wand lore and lineage, thus allowing me to effectively —and traditionally —merge them into one.
As a holder of the Black Wand I was taught that I am empowered to make changes to the tradition where necessary, a role that I believe all initiates possess. If we genuinely commune with the Powers then it is likely (and often preferred) that new forms and understandings will be uncovered, thus making changes to the tradition, or at least in how we ourselves practice and, by extension, how we teach it. One development that has been talked about amongst some initiates over the past several years is the potential need for more wands to represent different areas of talent, expertise, and magic which could give both new initiates as well as seasoned elders a renewed sense of focus, purpose, and magical study. With this, the inclination toward an overt hierarchy is lessened while the potential for communicating one’s role, connection to an egregore, and sharing of honorifics between our peers remains. Toward this end I present the following; my own development and interpretation of the wand system in thirteen parts. While each wand’s color speaks to their overall role and meaning, there are also a series of symbols and invocations that may be used when meditating on the powers of each of them. Feel free to invoke their presence in magical space and approach them on your own in order to explore your personal relationship with them to determine what power or lesson they may hold for you.
The 13 Wands and Emblems
The Thirteen Wands and the meditative emblems do not represent a hierarchy of authority nor of inherent value. There is no “first wand” passed at initiation which is then built upon in terms of gradations of experience. The wands are all equal in terms of power (for how can an artist be above or below a healer?) but there is added responsibility to the community, as well as an additional lineage, with the Black and it is for these reasons that I feel this wand alone should not be claimed publicly unless formally conferred by those who already possess it. The triple strands of power (inner calling, honor from our peers, and connection to an egregore) that are braided into the wands are about an individual’s service to the community.
The White Wand
The mark of the artist or bard. The White Wand witch expresses their spiritual craft in the form of visual art, poetry, music, dance, or creative ritual and offers these talents to the community. These individuals are concerned with expressing the traditional power in ever expanding ways, creating poetry and art in order to allow all of us deeper access to the living and changing powers of our Feri craft. Emblem: The Moon
White the moon a jewel among the night
Brings ghostly longing and the shifting sight
From swirling-colored chaos of the storm
Grasps creation as it moves through form.
The Red Wand
The symbol of a sexual magician, someone who specializes in utilizing sexual energy to fuel their magic. Those who wield the Red Wand are skilled in sexual ritual and may be proficient in the techniques of Tantra, or other spiritual sexual practices. Emblem: The Flame
Red the flame that burns with passion’s kiss
That builds with pulsing throbs and leads to bliss
This primal flame that is the force of life
Erupts in sensual majesty as light.
The Yellow Wand
The mark of a teacher. The Yellow Wand witch is one who has taken on the responsibility of guiding others on their spiritual path and to impart the tradition to others. While holders of the other wands may offer their particular skill in the form of teaching others, the Yellow Wand witch is committed to imparting the tradition as a whole, and not just a particular specialty or area of study. Emblem: The Sun
Yellow bright the sun that deftly shines
With strength of heart and clarity of mind
The lamp of knowledge lit at your command
As sacred fire is passed from hand to hand.
The Green Wand
The sign of the herbalist and healer. The Green Wand witch is one that is called to offer themselves to the community in any of the various healing arts including herbalism, bodywork, or energetic healing practices. The Green Wand witch might have a rapport with particular plant spirits or devas, and might also employ any number of other traditional healing practices such as acupuncture, massage, Reiki, holistic medicine, and even psychic surgery. Emblem: The Tree
Green the growing leaf upon the tree
Healing spirits I commune with thee.
Kin of flower, root, stem, fruit, and vine
We enter now into the Healing Shrine.
The Blue Wand
A counselor or mediator. These individuals are called to assist others with spiritual, psychological, or emotional counseling, or even offering their services as mediator to help with problem solving or conflict resolution. A much needed role in any spiritual community! Emblem: The Well
Blue the glass-still waters of the well
Underneath whose surface all shades dwell
Currents move and swirl in quiet dance
The mind and soul aligned in perfect trance.
The Violet Wand
The psychic. These witches are skilled in various forms of divination and/or psychic techniques and make their talents available to the community as readers or psychic consultants. Emblem: The Eye
Violet shines the eye that looks beyond
This world of form of which we’ve grown so fond
Awareness of the worlds that lie between
The world of matter and of that unseen.
The Brown Wand
Those who work extensively with earth energies. Dowsing, ley lines, crystals, animal communication, and geomantic magic all fall under the auspices of the brown. Emblem: The Stone
Brown the earthly cast of stone
Feather, scale, hoof, and horn
Unseen crystal rivers flow
Primal voices; down below.
The Gray Wand
The symbol of those who are skilled in possession and in traversing the astral realms. These individuals offer their talents in trance mediumship as vessels for Divine consciousness and as astral explorers, delving into and discovering the temples of the inner planes, as well as working in the physical plane while out of body. They may at times even act as teachers of their particular skill. Emblem: The Veil
Gray the ghostly cloak of fog
That looms beyond our dream
Here we move beyond the world
The veil parts, receive thy charge!
The Silver Wand
The “astrological” sorcerer. This individual is skilled in various aspects of astrological observance and/or interpretation which may include stellar magic, as well as working with planetary, angelic, and other celestial/luminary energies. The Silver Wand witch is able to observe the subtle energies of the cosmic procession, and to mediate those energies into work here on our own planet, thus acting as a bridge between heaven and earth. Emblem: The Star
Silver star a beacon shines
From realms above the earth
Tapping into secret light
Tides of power mapped in stars.
The Golden Wand
The wand of the “alchemical” sorcerer. Those who wield this wand are concerned with the transmutation of spiritual energies thus “turning lead into gold”; for example they may be skilled in transforming energies that are a hindrance into those that can assist the individual. Emblem: The Scales
Golden scales of weights and measure
Between the worlds of pain and pleasure
Changing form from base to gold
Revealing secrets left untold.
The Bone Wand
Symbol of the ancestral priest/ess and one who is skilled in necromancy. This witch has a deep connection to the ancestors; not just their own biological ancestors, but those of our Feri Craft, both human and non. Bone Wand witches may be called upon as resources to help us connect with our spiritual and ancestral roots as well as act as a link to the Mighty Dead. Emblem: The Skull
Bone of life now gone to death
The clan of spirit and the clan of flesh
Beyond the grave in shade they now unfold
Ancestral spirits come, and all behold!
The Iridescent Wand
The mark of the shape-shifter, those who are called to explore, and to develop, the Queer Mysteries. These individuals need not be any particular sexual orientation, but are able to remain open to “move beyond” the boundaries of sexual and spiritual convention. Iridescent Wand initiates are comfortable exploring the blurring of one’s etheric gender and form and may practice specific forms of magic that are commonly associated with either the opposite sex, or that of the “trickster”. Emblem: The Winged Serpent
Iridescent shifting color
Serpent winged with peacock eyes
A flash of dreams across the mind.
By lover’s kisses be thou tempered.
The Black Wand
The wand of an elder sorcerer, sometimes called a Grandmaster. The holder of this wand is extensively trained in diverse forms of sorcery, as well as in black magic. They are also the keepers of traditional lore and may also be the holders of their own distinct lineages within the larger tradition. A Black Wand acts in the capacity of a priest for others in the priesthood, providing advice, counseling, and magical assistance when needed. A Black Wand initiate makes themselves available to everyone within the tradition and must embody the qualities of all of the other wands as the situation demands. Those who have received this wand in vision are called to exemplify its qualities in their own lives. Those who have received it formally are called to take on the responsibility to the community that it entails, and are thus honored by their peers as having the knowledge and ability to uphold that responsibility. Emblem: The Cave
Black the cave of ancient dwelling
Guarding secrets beyond telling
Heaven’s stars within you gleam
As Ana’s council so convenes.
Anyone who has legitimately received a wand from the God/dess can, of course, internally claim it as a personal calling (for who is anyone to judge your personal experience with deity?) but when the wands are also formally recognized/passed by our peers who already hold them, they take on the added purpose of validating and honoring the work we do by the community we serve. I internally took the role and responsibility —along with the energetic charge—of a Black Wand from a vision of the God/dess, but because I have also formally received the wand I present it publicly to communicate my responsibility to the community. I am proud and honored that my peers who have also been given this honor, believe that it is my path, and that I have the skills, knowledge, and power to uphold it. For those of us who use the wands they are both personal and transpersonal, communicating the specific talents we are offering to the community, while also proudly proclaiming that others who are also skilled in those particular fields have made testament to our abilities.
While this is what is now passed in my own lineage of the Feri tradition, I present this to a wider audience in the hopes that it will assist or otherwise inspire some in our community to achieve a renewed focus on their magical pursuits. Certainly these wands and symbols can be meditated on by anyone who wishes to explore their deeper meanings, and so it is likely that others will form different relationships to them than I currently have, perhaps even radically so. This is the nature of Feri tradition in that it seeks to create new forms (and break down old ones) in the interest of continual progress and deepening of power. For some, the wands will provide a new focus and opportunity to forge new powers. For others it will seem restrictive and irrelevant. There is no right or wrong answer beyond the inner calling of one’s own soul. For those of us who are called to use the wands, they become like the broomsticks and stangs of the Old Craft, transporting us into new territories of power where we may gather in study and celebration to develop and deepen our talents. For others they might just be an interesting, if obscure, piece of evolving lore with no bearing on their own practice. Either way they represent an opportunity to look beyond what we have already received, and into the open vistas of the possible.
1. In a tradition as fiercely individual as Feri, it is certainly not uncommon to find entire bodies of lore and material that are passed in one lineage while not in another.
2. In a series of private conversations with another Feri I was told that the Wand system did not exist in the early 70’s, the “proof” of which is that the late Alison Harlow, co-founder of the Vanthe line of Feri, was present at a rite in which the wands were used for strictly seasonal purposes and carried no official function. However, in my research I have uncovered the text of a rite in which Gwydion Pendderwen was passed the Green Wand in such a way that implies an official capacity, and Alison is noted not only as being present for this event, but playing an instrumental role in conferring it. I post the relevant text below in the interest of history:
From a Samhain rite from Gwydion Pendderwen’s Book of Shadows:
Delegation of the Rites – Victor and AlisonVictor approaches the altar, where Cora gives him the Green Wand. Victor confers it upon Gwydion, who kneels before him, by placing it upon his neck momentarily. Alison says: “He who serves for the master, let him take up the office.”
This would imply that the Green Wand symbolized some type of official function and that Alison was aware of this at the time, and presumably in agreement with the idea, as she participated in the ritual and performed a defining role.
3. From a private correspondence with Gabriel Carillo, founder of the Bloodrose line of Feri. Gabriel told me that he had never stopped using the Wand System, and that all of his initiations were within the observances of the Wands. I later would learn that he did abandon its use for an unspecified period of time, but then returned to using it some time later.
4. From private correspondences with Anaar, student and initiate of Victor and Cora Anderson.
5. See, Witch Eye #8: “Community Forum: The Passing of a Black Wand: http://www.feritradition.org/witcheye/community08.htm
6. See FAQ at FeriTradition.org, “What is a Grandmaster? Who can be a Grandmaster?” http://www.feritradition.org/FAQ.htm#grandmaster
7. Memorial for Victor Anderson: http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usca&c=passages&id=3624
8. “The Feri tradition” by Steve Hewell. http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usxx&c=trads&id=3785
9. A grandmaster is distinct from the Grandmaster. There are several grandmasters, but only one “the” Grandmaster.
10. Oral tradition.
11. I base this on numerous conversations that I have had with Feri initiates from several different lines. I would personally estimate that amongst Feri initiates those who practice the Wand System are almost certainly in the minority.
12. Oral tradition.
13. In this usage “Bloodrose” refers to those diverse styles of Feri practice that were formalized in the Bloodrose coven and that continues on in variant forms in all of its descendant lineages.
14. See “Feri Wands” by Anaar. Witch Eye #8. © 2003, April Niino. http://www.whitewand.com/feriwands.html
15. It should go without saying that those lines and individuals who do not recognize the wand system need not feel compelled to begin doing so. Feri is sufficiently diverse to allow for varied practices without resorting to attempts at fundamentalist dogma.
16. In most lines of Feri the Point of Power appears on both the Iron and the Pearl pentacles.
17. Historically, different initiatory lineages have unfortunately kept certain of us apart. Sharing the wands need not be limited to specific lines allowing us to ritually reinforce our common connections and to forge new ones, thus working toward a more inclusive community based on communication, excellence, and of honoring each other for our talents and services.
18. See Wikipedia, Egregore: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egregore