It’s believed that wood spirits rule the forest. Apparently, they are very elusive – indeed, I’ve never met one! At least, not knowingly.
It is claimed by many that sensitives, that is, people with an affinity for the ethereal and other-worldly things, can actually feel the presence of wood spirits when walking in what I like to call “tree-laden places.” More mundanely, forests and woods.
Wood spirits are reputed to harbor goodwill to the deserving, those who are pure of heart.
On the other hand, black-hearted individuals earn nothing but the wrath of these entities, which could sort of seem a little racist if taken out of context.
Those who don’t have the native ability to sense the presence of or psychically ‘see’ wood spirits have to step up to the plate, be resourceful and proactive, and resort to carving one for themselves.
This article is for the never-the-say ‘die’ person who isn’t content to leave seeing a wood spirit to fortune.
How to Carve a Woodspirit in a Hiking Stick
Carving a wood spirit is a five-step process. Find a suitable stick with which to work, determine which nature elements will feature in the human manifestation, chisel out the gross outline of the wood spirit, carve finer details into the stick, and finally, sand the wood spirit smooth.
Carving Wood Spirits into Pieces of Wood
As the notion of wood spirits grew stronger, those who entered the woods to hunt and were never again heard from were swiftly understood to have become victims of the now-notorious forest-dwelling entities.
The only feasible protection from these foul, malevolent creatures was the good offices of their diametrical opposites, friendly and munificent tree spirits who were powerful enough to offer meaningful protection and sufficiently virtuous to grant such protection to feeble and desperate humans.
The tradition gradually arose that men would knock on a tree of choice to awaken its spirit and implore protection before venturing into the wild forests to hunt.
Thus aroused, the tree spirit would look deep into the hunter’s heart, and if what it found there was pure and deserving, then as mentioned earlier, it would grant protection and spread the word throughout the forest that the fellow was to be left unharmed.
The tree spirit will then be kind and generous enough to overlook the fact of its rude awakening by the importunate and boisterous lout.
Eventually, it crossed the minds of these same importunate and boisterous louts that they could coerce a wood spirit into a piece of wood they themselves owned and dispense with the knocking and pleading for intercession.
In effect, the fact that this would be a form of slavery seems to have bothered neither 15th century nor 21st-century minds.
Instead, with the axiom “needs must” burning brightly in their ‘pure and deserving’ hearts, folks have been chopping and carving away for nearly 600 years with happy abandon.
Carving a Wood Spirit Hiking Stick: Step-by-step Guide
Find a thick stick that is sturdy and useful for hiking even after it has been carved.
Wood spirit sticks are said to be best when the stick itself is personally found in a wood.
It is a sign that the person and the stick have predestination that augers well for their alliance.
Each person then has to meditate and consult their psyche to assess the natural elements which need to be expressed in the wood spirit.
The lore here is that during such meditation, the stick should be held in both hands, and eyes should be closed to aid concentration.
Clamp the stick to a table and use a small chisel to carefully and artfully knock out a rough shape that accords to your shrewd plan.
Remember that the finished product will be in bas relief, with the wood spirit appearing to rise up out of the hiking stick.
There’s nothing wrong with consulting videos on YouTube to help here.
Use the chisel and carving knife together to tease out the fine details of the face and nature elements.
Conventional wisdom posits that the human face should be carved first, then nature elements will more easily ‘find’ their place in the carving.
With light sandpaper, sand the wood spirit hiking stick until smooth.
A clear coat of varnish will help protect the stick, which is only fair, considering that precisely the same is being asked of it.
Additionally, the varnish will also bring out the natural woody beauty of the finished product.
Wood Spirits 101
Carved wood spirits are figurines that combine human features with the elemental powers of nature.
Many native Americans claim that these figurines, when properly imbued with spiritual power, are said to gain talismanic properties through which they can protect their owners from dread perils such as might be encountered in tree-laden places.
Rather than lug around logs of wood, more enterprising – not to mention, intelligent – folks have taken to carving out these figurines on hiking sticks, thereby maximizing benefits by cleverly combining two advantages into a single piece of wood.
First, gaining protection from misadventure by favor of the spirit world, and second, profiting from the more mundane but less contentious assistance of the stick as an aid to hiking over tough, rough terrain.
Origin of the Wood Spirit
Mindbogglingly, the wood spirit legend as we know it today did not originate with native Americans.
Rather, as practiced by wood spirit wood-carving enthusiasts, the legend (or lore, I guess it’s up to you to decide which applies) originated in 15th century Europe. Surprise!
It’s hard to know for sure, but the legend/lore of wood spirits probably sprang up among the superstitious and decidedly unschooled when comparing woods and forests in calm conditions to those same places when the weather was truculent and testy.
Under the former conditions, peace and tranquillity reign supreme, but under the latter conditions, woods and forests make all sorts of eerie and unsettling sounds.
It is easy to hear moans, groans, sighs, and howls of seeming torment emanating from and around the trees, even without an overactive imagination.
To the people of 15th century Europe who still believed in demons, and who were still expressing their distaste for witchcraft by burning alive at the stake those persons they thought had one pimple too many, a nose that too passionately sought the air, or eyes which fiendishly and steadfastly looked in more than direction at one and the same time, the anguished forests and woods betrayed the presence of restless spirits.
Over time, the notion of the wood spirit was born.
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Carve a Wood Spirit in a Hiking Stick
What are the steps to carving wood?
There usually are three steps: prepare, stain, protect. However, because this is a wood spirit and, properly speaking, the wood would have come from the forest and not a timber yard, dispense with numbers 1 and 2 and protect the final form with varnish.
What are the steps to avoid drips and dust on the varnish?
Avoid drips by not applying too much varnish. Apply the varnish in small dollops, carefully building up a light coating. To avoid dust on the varnish, apply thin coats, as these dry more quickly, giving dust little time to settle and spoil the effect.
Afterword: How to Carve a Woodspirit in a Hiking Stick
Wise travelers ensure their safety when traversing through forests and woods by taking with them a wood spirit.
The most intelligent of all take a wood spirit cunningly carved into a hiking stick so that malevolent denizens of the spirit world face an unpleasant and robust surprise when they find their hopes of spreading dismay dashed by the caring wood spirit in the hiking stick.