Winterstide: Wool & Loom

"Spider spider, is that web for me?"
"Of course!  To hold you tenderly."

Merry Witch's Night.  What is it about winter that brings out the domestic magic in me so hard-core?  Is it the constant cold and darkness?  The silence?  The short days that need filling with work before the long night sets in?  Maybe all of it.  Winter gives me a strange energy.  A buzz.  A rat-like change of spirit.  Maybe my shadow self does change shape this time of year; from a rabbit in spring, a mole in summer and fall, to a rat in winter.  Scurry scurry, with lots of hurry, stirring pots and tying knots.  I've been boiling pears in butterscotch and brandy, whipping berries with heavy cream, layering dough and stuffing jars with the last fruits for oxymel.  I need to be careful with all of these brown-sugar and pine cinnamon buns, I'm plumping up on 'nog and dough.

I've spent the summer dying new wools with poke and walnut and verbena... I've been washing my old threads in saining water and rewinding them around their white bones.  And, I finally whipped out my spindles and hooks and bag of old fibers and am about to undertake a project I haven't heard of anyone else doing before.  I'll be using a seasonal fiber common to the Northwest but woefully underrated, and I collect it annually.  I've finally thought of a neat idea for my fibers.  

While I practice, I reflect.  When I reflect back, I start to pull at old threads and wonder.  I don't regret much in my past, except the things I didn't do sooner.  The projects and progress I've undertaken these last few years have overwhelmed me and I've discovered a renewed desire for total independence and self-sufficiency.  I want to weave things, create bonds and wind lost threads back together.  For now, it starts with keeping my working-wools in good shape and getting them ready for a brand new year of absorbing my work.  That's their purpose after all; to bind and hold all the magic they touch.

Never doubt the power of Red Thread.  It is a popular magic.  It's well known around the world that a string or rag or spool of red has a binding, connecting, banishing, petitioning and protective power.  Red thread connects the fated, red thread leads us through the labyrinth of life and death, red thread binds the dead, red thread winds a trick and pulls the future towards us.

I don't know how you choose to wind your wool, but mine goes round bones much of the time.  Simply because they're smooth and never catch on the wool and hold the spirit of life and death.  Wrapped in wool, like muscles and sinew round a skeleton, reminds me of what it means to give body and substance to something.  My wool feeds from the energy, and you can feel it-- a cold strand in each thread.  Horse-chestnut-dyed wrapped around horse-tooth, poke around chicken, rue around rabbit bone...  They bind up around the bones and sit ready at hand-- never to be snipped, only to be wound and unwound with each charm, with every fortune.

Spin. Measure. Cut.

Fate is funny.  They are funny, I should say.  Or at the very least, they have a wonderful sense of humor.  Sick.  Cold.  Cutting.  She who weaves, she who measures, she who cuts...  Parcae, Norn or Fates; whomever is spinning the threads, they seem to have a way of laughing at us, crying with us, sympathizing blindly.  The Fates, as I know them-- as an American metaphor and personification of destiny, are unseeing things, just like blindfolded Fortuna (Lady Luck).  They are not too closely scrutinizing, they seem to be following some greater directive, one given in the textiles of destiny, by Lady Luck, and by Trivia-- by the triple-facing, terrible Queen we witches adore.  It is the Soul and Chaos directing the triumvirate of weavers and cutters.  They're all in cahoots, they've ensnared us all.

Weaving was taught to me by my favorite teacher, Missa.  You may have seen her name mentioned in my acknowledgements section of my book.  She taught my sister and I so much; how to card and spin fibers, how to dye and soften, how to weave on fingers or looms.  Spinning wheels, drop spindles, indigo dye, frame looms, pin looms, round looms, lap looms, beading looms, wool, cotton, flax-- when a teacher of great creative and domestic skills is in your midst, love that person, for they are teaching your children some sacred magic.  Because of her, I expanded past crochet and into appreciating how my textiles get made.  My sister is a quilter and seamstress of great skill.  I... was not so gifted with the complex things, but I was always very good at simple; lap looms and drop spindles, crochet hooks and embroidery hoops.

Looms are phenomenal magic; framework magic.  What does a loom mean in sacred work?  As part of the everyday domestic arts, kitchen and hearth witching, homemaking and artistic innovation, the weaving of things is pure magic.  The tools used for this creative work are like any other tool or arte.  The scissors, the hook, the needle, the wool, the hoop, the loom; they all serve a purpose in magical practice.  The hook is ruled by earth, and is feminine, and generates the energy of activity, strength, protection, binding, protection, creation and community.  The frame loom is balanced, genderless, and holds a supportive, creative, guarding energy; it says to the witch; all things are temporary, and fate's boundaries, while ever present, are changing.  My looms are usually handmade from a wood with containment properties; something with masculine scent, with Solar or  Jupitarian energy.  So, oak or walnut usually. They are usually square or round, but never rectangles or triangles (preference).

I will rule,
I rule,
I have ruled,
I am without rule.

The divination aspect usually comes in with the weaving of shapes and lines.  The colors; the weave; the mindless loss; the focus; the feel; the texture-- all of it induces a state where the mind sees... things.  Past.  Present.  Future.  There are secrets in those threads as they cross and knit.  And the little vibrations-- smallest shimmer of life in every fiber, catching the air and electricity all around it. The stress on the knot, the wind and unwind.  It's  a trance inducing set of moments; senses engaged in a rhythm, a focus.

from my scrapbook of shadows
I really love all threadwork-- in particular; sacred embroidery, and knot-magic.  Love knot magic and Winding-charm fortunes are some of the more popular Halloween, Mayday and Midsummer folklore in the US, and I'm fond of the way it preserves in our practices today.  I adore the connection between calling visions of love, summoning spirits and winding a simple ball thread.  The connection between binding a charm and knotting a cord; it's such symbolic, simple, accessible magic.  Could be a shoelace, could be a sacred band of woven silk-- doesn't matter, both will get the jobs done admirably.  It's a deeply intentional magic.

The Fates are always at work; they are Fortune never stop their wild rhythm.  Winter is for them, I suppose.  And on this Night of Witches, I honor the raveling and unraveling of life, and death.  We are caught in it, all of us, and so, let us learn to manipulate these harmonies, and tangle them as we go.  Let us make something from the balls of chaos in our lives, and undo the structures we've woven.  Set the knots, pull the knots.

My books of work (grimoires, cunningbooks) are all full of knotwork, threadwork.  It's... a connection many of us practitioners share.  I wonder if most folk witches in America have a special spool of wool or ball of yarn or twine?  I wonder if we all keep some stock of cord to cut and crochet and quilt...  Are we all just knotting our hexes and whispering our rhymes?  I'd like to think it's a connection we're all sharing on a folk-spiritual sense.  I'd like to think that the pluck of the harmonies these threads weave can be felt, resonating against the work of others.  Maybe it's the kind of magic that can draw us to one another.  

I wind, I wind... who holds?

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