Symbolic Meanings of a Shaman’s Staff in the Context of Indo-European Ritual Traditions
E. V. Nam
Symbolic meanings of a staff as a significant ritual attribute in traditional and archaic cultures are considered. Based on the analysis of ancient Indo-European cultures, ritual importance of a staff and its equivalents as a specific tool for speaking, communicating and transmitting information is identified. The use of staffs in initiation rituals as well as in ecstatic mysteries, which could be thought of as long and difficult journeys and even be accompanied with flying on special objects (staff, rod, broom, arrow), has direct analogy with shamanistic rituals. A staff has also a special social status marker possibly having to do with liminality (borderline state) of certain categories of people who have to cross culture space borders – shamans, sacrificers, headmen, soothsayers and storytellers. Moreover symbolic importance of a staff was established at the level of cosmogony and cosmology since in myths a staff could act as a creation tool and embody the cosmic axis – the Universe’s vertical model. On the research basis it was concluded that from ancient times a staff was a universal mediator between the world of humans and the otherworld it was a means of communication which could be conducted via a word, sound, magical acts and ecstatic journeys between the worlds.
staff, communication, foretelling, ecstasy, world axis