Natural Beaver Wood Native American Hiking Staff

This is a shorter staff measuring only 49.5″ and is also another customized gift. It is a piece of beaver wood found in the Ammonoosuc river in New Hampshire. Both the top and bottom have been pointed by beavers and teeth marks are visible along the length of the staff. There are numerous Native American symbols depicted with wood burning, metallic pens, and paint pens. I hope it’s not a grievous case of cultural appropriation, I simply enjoy working with these symbols. Three turquoise beds are tied near the top of the staff. I used acrylic sealer and boiled linseed oil to protect the ink and wood respectively.


Many of the symbols have different stylizations and meanings depending on which tribe they’re from. I did my best to match each one with their respective tribes but couldn’t always find their specific origin. The dragonfly and butterfly depictions I used are not the same stylizations specific to any particular tribe, but the insects themselves are symbolic to many. And since meanings and styles differ greatly from tribe to tribe and clan to clan if I’ve written anything inaccurate I would like to know the accurate information.

Symbols and meanings present on staff:


Sun symbol, unspecified tribe: happiness

Dragonfly, Zuni: messengers of the spirit world, swiftness, activity

Turtle, Hopi, Navajo: persistence, longevity, mother Earth and in some myths saved their tribes from the Great Flood

Cut circle with eight projecting lines, unspecified tribe: Earth forces, permanent home

Kokopelli, Hopi, Zuni, fertility, spiritual and physical healing, love, and music

Thunderbird, found across North American tribes: most commonly associated with divine dominion, unlimited happiness, strength, protection, and indomitable spirit

Serpent Mound, Adena, Fort Ancient, or possibly earlier tribes, believed to mark solstices and special astronomical dates, spiritual power, and rebirth. It’s also similar to the Hopi Tokchi’i symbol which may represent the Serpent Mound, the guardian of the East which they believe was constructed by their ancestors

Crescent moon, unspecified tribe: guardian of Earth associated with femininity and grandmothers

Four pointed star, or Kachina, Pueblo Tribes: morning star, courage, and purity of spirit

Spiral, Pueblo Tribes: most commonly associated with a journey

Bear with arrow, Zuni: the arrow is called a heartline and traces the path of breath to the place of the spirit, represents and encourages strength and good health

Bear prints, unspecified tribe: good omen

Turquoise, Zuni: sky stone

Turquoise, modern generalized (likely from a distillation of ancient sources): wisdom, tranquility, protection, good fortune, and hope

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Custom Birthday Gift Hiking Staff

This was a custom gift piece I made for a friend. The wood was found in the yard of their childhood home. Originally it was much longer, but broken into two pieces. This is the second piece and the first was turned into a siblings wedding gift. The recipient’s name and personalized symbols were wood burned into the staff. I then used acrylic spray sealer to both protect the wood and keep the paint from smudging. I also used boiled linseed oil to give it a final protective polish.


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Custom Wedding Gift Hiking Staff

This piece was a custom wedding gift I made for a friend. The wood was found in the yard of their childhood home. Originally it was much longer, but broken into two pieces. The second piece was turned into a siblings birthday gift. It features a lot of wood burned symbolism which include the Chi Rho, and anchor, and the recipient’s initials. The circles surrounding the anchor and Chi Rho, the alpha and omega aspect of the Chi Rho, recipient’s name in hieroglyphs with surrounding cartouche, and Roman “ichthys” were done using a black paint pen. The attached beads are an owl and several American coin replicas. Gold colored aluminum wire is wrapped around the staff several places to accent the piece and leather rawhide was used for the handle grip. A sealant was also used to hold the paint and protect the wood.


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Elder Futhark Maple Hiking Staff

I especially enjoy working with runes and the straight lines certainly make them easier to create with a handheld wood burner than some other subject matters. This staff is 57.5″ piece of maple wood and contains the elder Futhark rune set in ascending order on one side and descending order on the other. Wood burned above the one rune set is a five pointed star, or pentagram, and above the other set is a Celtic trinity knot, or triquetra. The pentagram here symbolizes fire, water, earth, air, and spirit while the triquetra symbolizes the mother-maiden-crone goddess trinity. However both symbols vary in meaning depending on their locations and cultural context. Tied to the top is a string of pyrite and skull beads. Pyrite is symbolic of luck, wealth and prosperity while also being known in mythology as a stone to induce creativity, physical health, and well being. Skulls have numerous symbolic meanings around the world and in Celtic and Norse mythology by themselves. Here they are intended to symbolize magic, creation, and transformation. And the maple wood itself is symbolically known for balance, generosity, intelligence, and longevity. I used boiled linseed oil to protect and polish the wood.

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Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs Hiking Staff

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are always fun to work with, though they do require a fair amount of precision hand work. Each of the six symbols were created with a wood burner and paint pens. The first set depicts an ankh, wedja, and seneb meaning life, prosperity, and health. The second set depicts the nefer, djed, and wasir symbols meaning beauty, strength, and power. There are also three beads attached a little more than half ways up the 56″ staff. They depict King Tutankhamen’s death mask, the god Amun, and an ankh. The staff itself is made from sumac wood which is sturdy, but lightweight. I used spray on acrylic sealer to protect both the wood and paint. I also used boiled linseed oil for the same reasons and it also gives the piece a subtle luster.


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Painted Flowers and Vines Hiking Staff

While it took a fair amount of time, patience, and a steady hand to make this staff I enjoyed working on it and am pleased with the final result. Red and orange flowers are joined by a leafy vine wrapped around the body of the staff. It’s a 60″ piece of maple wood with a faux ladybug attached near the top. The images were wood burned onto the staff and the colors come from paint pens which give better control than a typical brush. I then used a spray on acrylic sealer to keep the paint from smearing and wearing off as well protecting the wood from weathering. I also used boiled linseed oil for an extra layer of protection which had the added benefit of giving the piece a subtle shine.


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Zodiac Star Constellation Hiking Staff

This staff stands at 62.5” and is made from an unidentified hardwood. The original branch must have been about 15’ long and had to be carried home intact because it simply would not break. Our production partner helped with the procurement and refinement (sanding, cutting) of the piece. The best section was cut away and paint pens were used to illustrate the 12 constellations of the Zodiac. The signs are all in order although Pisces which is normally last fit better at the top. Spray acrylic sealer keeps the constellation images safe from smudging and the elements. Boiled linseed oil was also applied afterward producing an added luster to the wood.

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Hieroglyphic and Cuneiform Bo Staff

This piece of wood used to be part of an old shovel, or something I don’t remember the specific tool. It looked run down, felt rough, but a little sanding, wood burning, and polyurethane gave it new life. The symbols have quotes from Star Wars like “May the force be with you” and “All is as the force wills it to be.” There are also quotes from The Walking Dead – appropriately for a bo staff there’s one from Morgan- “All life is precious,” along with “Let my mercy prevail over my wrath.” There’s a few other symbols thrown in for spacing and good measure like the symbol for the Rebellion in Star Wars and some Egyptian glyphs meaning “peace” and “strength.”


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Painted Viking Serpent Diamond Willow Staff

I’m tempted to say this staff is cursed. From the beginning nothing went the way I intended it and the final product turned out completely different from what I’d originally envisioned. Something would go wrong and I’d be forced to redo something else, or change the direction to compensate. Overall it still came out looking alright, just not its original intended look. And although I’m happy with the final outcome I’m more relieved that it’s finally done. It took a lot of hours to complete and even more to fine tune it and fix mistakes.


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Bird Feathers Hiking Stick

Measuring only 49” or 4’1” this piece falls more into the cane or walking sticking category. The wood I’ve had for a while and can’t recall its origin, but it’s sturdy and is probably a local hardwood. It’s smooth to the touch and has been adorned with various bird feather patterns and a series of small bird tracks made with various paint pens. Near the top are a few strips of tan rawhide where several small eagle charms are affixed along with a blue jay feather weighted down with a dark turquoise bead.  I sprayed with an acrylic sealer to keep the paint from running and for overall preservation and protection from weathering. Because the acrylic seal is so thin I tried an experiment and polished it off with some boiled linseed oil as an extra measure and it came out surprisingly well. However, in the interest of full disclosure, during the process, as sometimes happens with these projects, some linseed oil got onto the rawhide leather strips. It darkened them nicely, but is generally not supposed to be applied to leather as it can cause problems like stiffening down the road. However, stiffening, shouldn’t be a problem since the leather serves no functional operation and furthermore most of what I read said a single application shouldn’t be too problematic anyway, it’s with repeated applications that issues tend to arise.

 

Artist: J.R. Goslant

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