Updated: Jan 16
Over the centuries, a shaman’s regalia has often included a ritual staff. Different forms of this ritual garb are seen in cultures around the world. From the high steppes of Asia to the deep jungles of the Amazon basin, shamans use staffs as power objects. They are usually made of wood and decorated with special symbols, talismans and carvings which represent the shaman’s own power.
For many peoples, the shaman’s staff is a representation of the connection between the shamanic realms of Upper, Middle and Lower Worlds and symbolizes the Axis Mundi or World Tree. As a stand-in for the Axis Mundi, the staff functions as an energy conduit between the worlds and holds the spiritual center in ritual.
In many Siberian tribes, the use of the staff precedes the use of the drum and the shaman learns to journey without the benefit of the drum beat. Most Siberian staffs are adorned with jingle cones so that the staff can be used as a type of rattle during journeying. Most shaman staffs are either forked or adorned with animal heads. In Buryat tradition, the most common type of shaman staff has a horse head carved at the top.
In the shaman’s world, all is alive. Like the shaman’s drum, the staff is imbued with spiritual purpose and becomes a living presence. Since the objects are then considered to be alive, they function as spirit helpers and guides to the shaman in their work. Once imbued with spiritual energy, the staff becomes a catalyst for change and transformation–even capable of working on its own on behalf of the shaman. To guide you in making your own sacred staff, I highly recommend the book, A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools by Evelyn C. Rysdyk.