Saturday, August 11, 2012

Altar Tools: Making the Bell Branch

 I love crafting!  Honestly, I'm not the most artistic person in the world, and I'll probably never make something as nice-looking as what you'd find in a store; but I find that I love the homemade touch and the connection with a tool that crafting it gives.  Celtic myth tells of a silver apple branch hung with bells that was the tool of a Druid.  This isn't necessarily historically accurate information, and as such it's not a commonly used tool in ADF Druidry, but its history and symbolism is so rich within revival Druidry (Yeats even wrote a poem about it) that I really wanted to have one myself.

This project was easy and straightforward, exactly the kind I like!  I used nine bells bought from the local metaphysical supplier, three colors of embroidery thread (I had it lying around) and a beautiful strong branch of unknown wood that I picked up in the park last year and has been drying in my garage ever since, just waiting for a project like this.

First, I had to prepare the branch.  As I said, it had been drying in my garage for nearly a year, and so it was relatively easy to strip it of its bark with my pocket knife.  After it was as clean as I wanted it to be, I took a piece of very high grit sandpaper and sanded it for a good half-hour.  With that kind of sanding, it was mostly a beautiful pale white color, and extremely silky - the kind of feel wood takes on after a nice polishing.

I then strung three bells on each of the three lengths of thread, tying them in place.  I placed a bunch of three near the top of the branch, and the other six I tried to space evenly along the rest.  I then wound the threads around the wand, tying it carefully at each end.  For extra insurance to make sure the strings didn't slip, I placed a dab of wood glue at each knot.

And that was it!  All together, including the carving and sanding of the branch, it took about two hours - hardly a major time investment!  The bells are beautiful; but unfortunately don't give much of a sound except where the three are bunched together at the top.  If I ever make another, I think I'll choose the more traditional kind of round jingle bells; they would probably give a better sound.  Still, I really love this branch, and I hope it will make a great and atmospheric addition to my future Druid rituals.

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