“For the ‘old style’ witch, the Devil is the initiator and awakener of power, vision and wisdom, and the revealer of the witch’s path; that which deviates from the restrictive and normative ways of ‘civilized’ folk. The old Devil of the witches is the very rend in the veil betwixt the worlds, an embodiment of the power and spirit of witchcraft itself.”
Gemma Gary- The Devil’s Dozen
When I first found my Stang, I didn’t realise how important it would become to me. When I saw it, I just knew it was right…There was something of the strange and wyrd about it. I picked it up knowing in some deep place that it would be important, but still cheerfully unaware of its significance in my practices . The Stang came to me shortly after my tined wand- the one I named in honour The Phouka. It signalled to me the way forward, the way through, a doorway into Other ways and Other things that I had only seen or known peripherally.
After working with my Stang as a focal point in many of my rituals, and after receiving my copy of “The Devils Dozen”, I felt inspired and decided that this Samhain Feast was the perfect time to do the “Shodding” and “Raising” of the Stang as Gemma Gary describes in her book. Part of this ritual requires beating an iron nail into the bottom of the stang. This nail or nowl is representative of the serpentine, telluric and cainite forces that witches honour.
Gary describes the Stang as primarily a symbolic tool rather than a working one, and as such it stands in for the Devil himself, holding his power and his dual nature. The Devil and the Stang is often less about strict duality and more about the transgressing of boundaries, The Devil being a spirit I often think of as non-binary and difficult to define in terms of absolutes.
“The Devil is the border of possibility, and the witch has for his or her playground the whole of manifestation from the solar pole to the diabolic abyss of the otherworld”
-Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold- Craft of the Untamed
For many people the overlap between the gods and the spirits, the devil and old pagan religions, may be discomfiting- many balk at it, mock it, deride it, deny it and ignore it, particularly when the Devil is involved. People are quick to deny the stranger and wyrder elements of the craft, preferring something more comfortable, safe and compartmentalized. For our ancestors however, things were often far more blurred, folk magic and elements of folk religion in the form of fairy faith survived alongside Christian faith, and distinctions between nature spirits, demons, fairies and the dead were not entirely clear.
“The witch is bound to no dogma. This makes them a threat to a Christianity established on doctrine. The witch insists everything in creation has its place. The Church insisted on two contrary substances God and The Devil. The witch strives for synthesis.”
Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold- Craft of The Untamed.
While everyone must make their own decisions regarding personal practice and where they are willing to go, and which paths they wish to tread, I have always been of the mind that Witchcraft smashed boundaries, and that witches were those who walked the (h)edge, being themselves bridges between the worlds, even if in a different capacity to Shamans. As an animist, there are no boundaries between what is living, what is dead, what is spirit and what is not.* The Witch then, like The Devil exists on the periphary of what is seen and what is unseen, walking between the worlds, crossing the hedge, and traversing the crossroads. The Stang is a symbol of the Crossroads, and world tree uniting the roads below with the roads above and acts as a horse for the witch to ride.
The Devil is the Doorway, and the Rend in The Veil, and therefore the first ritual of the Samhain Feast goes to Him and his liminal nature. In his liminality he holds a similar position to Hekate, ruling over the twilight times and places where the veil may be thin. I honour both The Witch Queen and The Master of Arte as the spirits ride wild and howling on these cold Autumn nights.
“[The] ‘Devil’ or the ‘Old One’ remains as the old initiator; the opener of the ‘Way Betwixt’, and the awakener of the spirit of the witch unto the crooked path of vision, illumination and power. ”
Gemma Gary- The Devil’s Dozen
*Sarah Anne Lawless has a brilliant post about Animism on her blog.