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Wood Spirit Walking Sticks, Origins and current applications

Updated on August 24, 2010

Wood Spirit Walking Sticks

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Apple Jack #3Snake Eating Wood Spirit 2The Angry Wood SpiritThe Pipe Smoking Wood SpiritWood Spirit #2Wood Spirit #3
Apple Jack #3
Apple Jack #3
Snake Eating Wood Spirit 2
Snake Eating Wood Spirit 2
The Angry Wood Spirit
The Angry Wood Spirit
The Pipe Smoking Wood Spirit
The Pipe Smoking Wood Spirit
Wood Spirit #2
Wood Spirit #2
Wood Spirit #3
Wood Spirit #3

Wood Spirits in History and in Modern Times

In Greek Mythology, Gaia is the god for 'mother earth' ( Tellus Mater is the Roman mythology equivalent). As the legend goes, Gaia created all on Earth. She created the 'seen' like the oceans and the mountains, and also the 'un-seen' like spirits and dieties. Among the nature spirits are the Wood Spirits and wood nymphs, also sometimes referred to as the 'Greenmen' or 'woodwose'. They have existed in almost every culture since the beginning of time. From early rituals in the spring where people would pay homage to trees (and the souls inhabiting them) for the promise of a prosperous growing season, to leaving gifts to these sacred spirits so they would heal a sick or injured loved one or guide them through a troubled time. From the Dark Ages to modern times, we have all asked the wood spirits for help at one time or another.

Have you ever heard the expression, "Knock on Wood"? The expression draws its relevance from the ancient belief that these wood spirits inhabit the trees in the forests. To 'knock on the wood' is to wake up the green man that lies within and to ask for protection, or guidance, or healing. How many times have YOU 'knocked on wood'???

It is generally thought that Wood Spirits were (are) benevolent souls; ancient and gregarious and providers of protection. There are however a few references in modern times to evil spirits as well. Remember Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, being harassed by the trees while on her journey to the Land of Oz? Or how about the little boy from the original "Poltergeist" movie and the tree outside his window that was trying to swallow him.

Wood Spirits have fascinated generations of people. Even today they are a favorite topic of those who carve wood and walking stick collectors. From beautiful wall hanging wood spirit carvings in bark segments to intricately carved designs on walking sticks and canes, there are wood spirit incarnations everywhere. It is believed that the face of the Wood Spirit can only be revealed by the work of a 'true' wood carver. There are many styles and manifestations of faces, included in the photos here are some examples.

A simple online search of Wood Spirits will yield thousands of results. The carving of Wood Spirits is its own industry. As a wood carver myself, I never have a predisposition as to what the spirit will look like once the carving is finished. I just start carving away and the results are always different. I always keep several Wood Spirits around, just in case..."knock on wood"!

If you want protection and good fortune, legend dictates that you have a few wood spirits in YOUR possession :).

About the author:

Jim Arnold is a master wood carver, known around the world for his unique hand carved themed chess sets and custom themed walking sticks. He has been carving professionally for over 18 years and is currently teaching wood carving classes at the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts in Galax, Virginia. Many examples of his work can be found at


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      Dianna Blackmer 5 years ago

      I am trying to find the carver who made my walking stick, so that I can order another for my husband. I got mine at the Santa's Village at Fauquier High School about 5 or 10 years ago. Could you be the same person? Thanks,

      Dianna Blackmer

    • marshacanada profile image

      marshacanada 7 years ago from Vancouver BC

      Thanks for your hub on Wood spirits. I am a carver and I like the originality of your cavings. Do you ever carve female wood spirits?