Druid priests carried different wands to show the different levels of their priesthood. In ancient Egypt, priests were always drawn with rods in their hands, marking them out from the rest.
During important ceremonies we still use some of these symbols of power, for example sceptres, pastoral staffs and other such objects. The caduceus was a wand carried by Hermes in Greek mythology to symbolise healing powers and wisdom. This symbol (a rod with two entwined serpents and a pair of wings) is still used by doctors today.
Often in children’s stories, witches and fairies are depicted with a wand in their hand that has a star on top. In The Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch’s wand is feared because it is capable of turning any creature into stone. In other stories, like The Lord of the Rings, The Sword in the Stone and the Harry Potter series – wizards (Gandalf, Merlin and others) use their wands to duel with their enemies.
J.K. Rowling has introduced an interesting twist: in Harry Potter's world, wands match the personality and destiny of the wizard, and it is the wand that chooses the person who should own it. These wands are made from a combination of parts of magical creatures (e.g. phoenix’s feathers or unicorn hairs) with pieces of yew, willow, oak, maple, ebony, beech and mahogany trees.
Traditionally, wizards’ wands were often made from the elder tree, since it has always been associated with magic. Other stories tell of dark wizards carrying a wand made of cypress wood, because this tree is connected with death. Voldemort carries a wand made of yew, which is not only a tree with immense supernatural powers but also a symbol of death and rebirth, thus representing something the dark wizard really wants – immortality.