The stang has a lot of symbolism and many uses.
The word stang roughly translates from the Old Norse to mean a pole, staff, rod and such.
It is a staff or wand terminating in a fork at the top traditionally made of rowan (or mountain ash), hawthorn, yew or some tree that signifies the World Tree to the Witch using it. The stang can be of wand size or taller than the Witch who possesses it and anywhere in between.
It is usually made of a tree branch that ends in a fork (either two or three prongs) but sometimes metal tines are attached, or antlers or horns, or even arrows can also be used for the fork.
The tip is typically sharpened and may be metal shod, so that it can be driven into the ground. When use indoors it may be driven into a pot of dirt or Yule tree stands are used.
Used as a kind of altar. Stuck standing into the ground and then ritual tools, ribbons, garlands, and many adornments hung from it. This can be useful in a walking-stick size, making it a portable altar and ritual tool.
Used as a symbol of the World Tree, often used to help create a gap in the Hedge and in the connecting of the many Worlds. Also used in meditations and Hedge crossing practices.
Having antlers, horns, or possibly an animal skull placed upon it, this stang (which may also be known in this form as a godstang or scarecrow) represents the Horned God. In this form, the stang is typically placed watching over and protecting the ritual area. In some traditions, the godstang or scarecrow will be moved about the witchring (grove, temple etc) or garden according to the movement of the Sun and the turning of the seasons. The stang may be also decorated with clothing (a white linen shirt or robe is common), garlands, wreaths and seasonal symbols. For some Witches the Horned God IS the World Tree or at least, resides within it.
Wiccan inspired witches may use it to represent the Goddess (the fork having a yoni shape) and the shaft of the stang symbolizing the God (phallus).
The stang is also often a shamanic or Hedge crossing tool in that it acts as a physical representation for a tool the Witch uses while crossed and journeying on the otherside.
It can also be used as a tool for magickal work and energy manipulation like any wand or stave.
Where within a ritual it is placed can depend on your tradition. However it is usually placed in the center or north of a ritual area.
Apparently it’s featured in old Germanic mythology, and some say that Robert Cochrane introduced it into Witchcraft by ‘inventing’ it, from which other traditions followed suit.
The stang is one of the many enchanted vehicles popularly believed to have been flown by witches to the sabbat, along with brooms, distaffs, cooking sticks, and even barnyard animals such as goats. Wood cuts and other images of witches often feature them riding on forked poles such as hay forks.
There is an old Yorkshire folk custom of ‘Riding the Stang’ where a person to be upheld for public ridicule (especially for wife-beating) was placed astride a pole and carried around to the accompaniment of whistles and jeers.