The staff has a long and interesting history. The very first mention of a staff was in the Book of Exodus, where God appears to Moses and asks him what he has in his hand and Moses answers ‘a staff’. That staff miraculously transformed into a snake and then back into a staff. The staff was also used at the parting of the Red Sea, but it started out as a necessary tool for the Shepherd and the traveler. Gradually over time, the staff became a symbol of strength and power in society.
Wealthy and influential people used ornamented staffs to accent their wardrobes and show their status in society. Egyptian rulers believed to have carried staffs varying from three to six feet in length. The top part, called the knob, was lotus shaped, a symbol of long life. Many Ancient Greek Gods were depicted with a staff in their hands.
By the Middle Ages in Europe, a scepter carried in the right hand was a symbol of royal power. The church also began to use staffs to denote its higher offices. By the 11th century, the staff started being fashioned as slender walking sticks. Sticks made of apple wood was used by ladies as a style statement. Marie Antoinette brought the cane into fashion by carrying a shepherd’s crook
. In the 1600s, the staff fashioned as walking cane became part of men’s daily attire. Thanks to etiquette, the walking cane became a necessity in order to not violate those rules. A famous example would be the cane Benjamin Franklin gave George Washington upon his death. Its gold head was in the form of ‘cap of liberty’. The ‘cap of liberty’ referred to Franklin’s fur cap.
There are many types of wood used for making a staff or a walking stick. Ashplant, or a Irish walking stick, is made from the ash tree. Supplejack, made from tropical American also serves as a cane. The Penang lawyer, made from Licuala, was famously owned by the fictional Dr. Mortimer in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. The ‘Makila’ is a Basque staff usually made from medlar wood
. Often featuring a gold or silver foot and handle it may conceal a steel blade. The Makila’s elaborate engravings are actually carved into the living wood, then allowed to heal before harvesting.
Nowadays, walking staffs are often fashioned in certain ways. Inspired by a theme or festival or design, the staff is bought by people who like to collect staffs or have a place to go to with it. If you are one of them keep a few things in mind. Standing with your arms at your side, the stick should be about 6 or 8 inches taller than your elbow. There are so many designs of the handle that are available as per comfort of the person. Handles can be of various types like derby, fritz, ergonomic, tourist or even orthopedic. The stick part can also be decorated to suit the tastes of the wearer.
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