Tag Archives: spinning

In Honor of Frau Berchta’s Day

Flying, Spinning, Flying, Spinning,

Lady of the Night,

Let your troops come home to me

Settle for the night.

I have no fish or oats to offer

Due to problems unforeseen.

Please take to heart this promise

Dear Lady of the Woods,

At a later date I will

Set a meal for the night.

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That weird feeling of…DISCOVERY.

It’s kinda like digging through a box of parts that did not come with instructions and includes a few odd parts . But you can’t know which is which until you start fiddling around and putting them together according to a vague idea of what the final product can be.

In this case it’s a box of ideas and experiences that seem to link together, all totally UPG. If you develop hives at the very mention of the term, run now or forever hold your peace.

So what got me started was this short but sweet article regarding “spinning magic” in the context of seidhr mentioned by Birka at her own recon/personal experience blog where she wanted to explore seidhr through recon methods. I was inspired to do similarly, as the nature of “magic” in my everyday life was something I was both fascinated and confused with. One of those “ever since I was a child” stories. When I got into Neopaganism as a young teenager I become exploratory, but nothing fit within the Wiccan or New Age schemes available at the time. I had to be aware of cultural appropriation from a relatively early start too, so neoshamanism simply irritated me and didn’t fit. It was all just so complicated sounding with the “required” tools and ritual steps, nothing like the simple but powerful magic in the old stories.

Functionality was another problem I ran into. I viewed magic/shamanism/etc. as something that could make my paganism be functional outside of myself. I didn’t see any point in having those beliefs if they didn’t benefit anyone (be it human/animal, spirit, lands, or other). That was my major sticking point with Neoshamanism especially, so much of it did nothing for the community and acted as a self-help system instead. I had no use for that.

So long story short, I think several separate lines of thought and activity are coming together now to fix those issues I had in the past. In a manner of speaking, here are the parts in the box:

Perchta, Miraculous Doe, spinning/spindles, crocheting, color red, that seidhr article I linked earlier, spiders, past profoundly “magical” experiences, foxes, connecting via “threads” or “webs”, love of the forest and occupying liminal spaces. There are a few others, but those are deeply personal and are similar to some of the things mentioned here anyway.

My thought train is going down a path that ties (pun intended) all this together via the act of spinning. Seeing this (and other forms of craftsmanship) act of creation as something powerful and magical is nothing new. Churches had to actually pass LAWS throughout Europe banning such forms of magic, and Christians certainly weren’t the first to take it so seriously. I see no reason to not take it seriously either and subject it to recon exploration like anything else. Unlike a lot of other aspects of heathenry, however, this is something I can also experiment with, as I’m by myself and unable to do the community-based activities. Besides, why should Diana Paxson get all the fun?

A painting of Lady Perchta of Rosenberg, thought to have added fuel to the Perchta myth of the Alps. Note the distaff being used to write strange characters around her.

Regarding this “thread magic” practice, it’s something I already got started with soon after learning how to crochet. I made a couple blankets for babies and children in need, and while crocheting them I would say that the child who receives this shall become lucky in life, or something along that line of positive intent. I just didn’t know I could call it something fancy like “seid magic”, or that there were others that shared similar ideas. So in a way, this new attempt at magic isn’t all that new, it’s just given a sturdier and more colorful context.

Course, I may just be feeling a more feral form of “Christmas in July”.  I tend to get that every summer and this year it’s coming out with Perchta research. She was another part of the inspiration puzzle, as she’s a being I was attracted to for the past couple years. Just recently I remembered her associations with spinning, and boom, I finally figured out what to do with honoring her.

More later once I start piecing the rest of the parts together and fleshing them out with time. Perhaps later we can return to our scheduled non-woo programing.

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The spinning of threads.

It’s no secret that spinning plant and animal material into yarns and threads is an ancient craft. It has been, and still is, necessary for our survival by protecting our bodies from our surroundings. It is also no secret that women rather than men tended to be the threadcrafters in European cultures. And it is definitely not a secret that modern heathen women are associated as well (sometimes to an unfortunate extreme, however).

But let’s look at the bright side first. I personally love spinning and crocheting the resulting yarn into something beautiful, primarily because I am an artist in general, but also because it brings me closer to my great-grandmothers. I would watch them swiftly create dainty lace and sturdy blankets with their old, weathered hands and wish I could be as good as them when I was young. They were left-handed, and I was right, so I couldn’t be taught directly. Thanks to technology though, I was able to access some youtube videos on crocheting over a year ago that allowed myself to go beyond the basics. There is a certain sort of magic involved in such things. Not “woo-woo” magic like in movies, but feelings instead. By working my hands, I recreate my great-grandmothers’ hands and feel them with me, as if the parts of them inside me come alive in this shared activity.

I took this a step further about half a year ago and learned how to spin my own yarns out of animal and plant fiber. I have since disregarded acrylic and pretty much anything from Wal-mart, even though they’re cheaper and longer. Spinning wool and silk, particularly ones you don’t have to process yourself, is a wonderful feeling when you just let it slip through and come out with a nearly perfect strand. Not to mention that the resulting yarn worked into a crocheted piece makes the art as mine as possible. But, it’s not truly mine. My great-grandmothers may have not spun their own yarn, but our more ancient ancestors did. They come alive in me as well when I recreate their craft. Every piece I make is a shared one, the result of generations of women before me passing on their teachings.

As one who practices ancestor worship, this feeling of a shared experience is invaluable. I am symbolically connecting my threads with theirs and continuing our craft into the future. This is not the only art or craft that I do (I also draw and make pottery), and nor is it the only one that has a long history behind it. But for me, it is the only one that was inspired by my family and the only one that connects me back to them. My other works have their own meaning for me, more personal and individual ones.

That is why I do the stereotypical heathen woman yarn/thread thing. Not because I feel like I have to as a woman, but because it carries value and history for me.

That is where I think things get tricky in the more cultural pagan groups, particularly Germanic heathenry. As one put it, some heathen women seem to fall into a yarn trap of sorts, believing that’s their duty as a woman (along with staying in the kitchen and making babies, all that boring boy’s club crap), and that’s all they really can do or talk about. Personally, I’d prefer to debate Roheim’s Freudian interpretations of Hungarian folk practices when doing my yarn thing over gabbing about children. There were plenty of bad-ass pre-Christian women that probably carried a conversation quite well, and I’d like contemporary heathens/pagans to bring that back. Send those threads back to a tougher time and realize how necessary “women’s work” really was. Not only was it mandatory for survival, it was sacred too, not something to be shooed off to the side while the boys take center stage.

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