THE HACKIA STICK – By Dmitri Allicock + video

The making of a hackia stick above


By Dmitri Allicock

Trekking Through Guyana and History.

The word hackia comes from the Arawak language haküya and denotes trees of the genus Handroanthus, typically used for making tool handles.

The hackia stick is a part of Guyana’s history and is made with any kind of dense, heavy wood, specifically that of the forest tree Ixora ferrea (family Rubiaceae) or of trees of the genus Handroanthus (family Bignoniaceae); especially (in later use) in hackia stick.   

When one thinks of walking sticks in today’s society, our first thoughts turn to canes and the infirm.  But the walking stick is much more than an aide.  Over the centuries it has been used for many purposes, from weaponry to clothing accessory.  It has been a symbol of authority, as well as a decorative appendage.

The walking stick has three main parts–the ‘handle’ by which the stick is held, the ‘shaft’ or straight part of the stick, a ‘band’ or ‘collar’ which joins the handle to the shaft if they are of different materials, a ‘ferrule’ or tip, and the ‘wrist cord’ for carrying.  A ferrule was usually metal to protect the end of the stick.  Sometimes, however, it was of a material that matched the handle, such as ivory horn, silver or gold.  Before roads were paved, the ferrule was three to four inches long.


Although the first sticks were probably used to help one stand, they became both weapons and symbols of authority.  The larger and stronger the man, the larger the stick.  As centuries passed, man added stones, points and hatchets to the sticks, which then became weapons as well as walking aides.  The most elaborate of sticks would belong to the chiefs of tribes.  These were often elaborately carved with emblems pertaining to the tribe.

In ancient Egypt, a stick was an object of prime importance. But while everyone had one, they varied by the person’s occupation.  A shepherd’s staff was different from a merchant’s, whose was different from a priest’s or Pharaoh’s.  The stick remained with a person even in death, when it was placed in the coffin beside the mummy to protect the deceased on his travels.

The middle ages were dominated by the church, and this showed in the design of the walking sticks.  The decorations were crosses and bishop’s crosiers.  Some even contained hiding places for money, precious stones and secret weapons.

European kings used canes or sticks as a symbol of authority.  Many monarchs, such as Henry VIII and Charles I have their hands resting on sticks in their portraits.  Louis XIV ‘wore’ his canes, and the court followed suit. (Although they could not be worn to court in the presence of the king.)  The knobs and handles of many royal sticks were embellished with precious jewels.

Once the industrial revolution came about in the 19th century, canes were manufactured in mass by the hundreds of thousands.  Stores carried specialty canes as well, some even designed by the leading silversmiths of the day.

The hackia stick, was and to some extent, is still a part of Guyana’s cultural life. It serves as a good tool and weapon of Guyana’s countryside and villages of the hinterlands.

There are countless stories made for the nights and rainy days of the thief- man or ole higue encounters with a hackia stick. It is a perfect weapon to have for snakes when trekking through the grassy and leaf- laden pathways of the journey around Guyana.

The hackia stick remains a valuable aide and treasure of ancestry and will be around for a long time due to its practical application.


Katiwau Culture Group – Sand Creek (Guyana)

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  • Cynthia  On March 24, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you for this article. My dad had a Hackia stick he was in no way infirm; is was more for style than anything else 🙂 He only used it on occasion. I do not know if my mom could not pronounce the name properly but I knew it as the “Ackia” stick.

  • Dmitri Allicock  On June 16, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks Cynthia

  • walter  On August 28, 2018 at 10:58 am

    I always enjoy your stories. I need your advice. I bought the lemon grass from the Chinese Grocery, but it is not the same as Guyana Lemon Grass, it that true, if so what is the correct name of the Guyana Lemon Grass. Thank you

  • Dmitri Allicock  On November 21, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Thanks Walter, I just know it as Lemon grass. Some also calls it fever grass in Guyana.

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