Article ID: 4731
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,687
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Posted: September 30th. 2002
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"The bee bounces/Through the knots/Of grass." As I was writing that line of poetry, my mind started to wander, as it is quite prone to do while I am writing poetry. That is actually the method by which I write poetry as well as how I write just about anything else. My stream of consciousness starts chugging away and I've trained my fingers over the years to just type along as my thoughts go streaming. I never know ahead of time where I might end up. Hence the subject of this week's column. It isn't about bees (did that one already) or grass (either kind) or even bouncing (although that sounds like fun). It's about knots. Magickal knots. So, thank you, Ms. Bee for bouncing into my brain carrying your little buzz of inspiration.
Now, I generally use the term 'Witch' to describe my spiritual path and for the most part that is accurate enough. Sometimes I'll use 'Pagan' -- usually as a point of common reference if I am talking with groups whose members may be involved in many or various Pagan paths -- and on rare occasions. I'll toss a Neo- in there somewhere. But I almost never identify myself by the classic term for my particular magickal niche. You'll understand why in a second or two. You see, I am a "Charmer". (You can stop giggling now.) Yep, that's the name for what I do: I work magic(k) via various sorts of marks and charms.
Now one really can't go around in this day and age blurting out, "Why, I'm a Charmer" every time someone asks, "So, what do you do?" Even before those 92-pound (And I suspect that's total weight) three sisters got their own 'Charmed' television series, it was hard enough to explain the workings of the Charmer. I mean, the term just begs for that 'So...just how 'charming' are you?' dripping with sarcasm comeback. Heck, I'd say it myself. Which rather proves the point that all Charmers are not necessarily 'charming' under all circumstances.
Historically, Charmers -- much like Witches -- could be deemed as either good or bad and often those value judgments were in the eyes of the beholder --or of the bewitched. Indeed in some places, such as on the Isle of Man, a 'witch' was the bad egg and the 'charmer' was the good guy or gal. (Just like me to attempt some reclamation of both words during this lifetime, eh? Well, everyone needs a hobby.) But Charmers can charm no matter where they are. And that is how we (finally) get back to the subject of knots.
The symbolism of the knot is probably a universally understood one. Knots bind and knots loosen. Things are tied and untied, fastened and unfastened. I could probably stop right there and you would still have the general idea of how knots can be used in the magickal sense. But when you think about it a little bit more, you come to realize that knots are really neither here nor there. A knot can either be in the process of being tied or untied, tightened or loosened. A knot can therefore be simply one moment in an ongoing series of moments. It holds potential as often as it holds finality. Knots can be either a 'done deal' (left tied) or a means in which what is done can be undone (untied).
Knots can also bring two (or more) separate pieces together in unity. Hence the 'handfasting' knot. 'Cutting the ties that bind' denotes freedom and separation from unity again. Weaving also has a relationship with knotwork and many Charmers are also weavers of some sort.
In weaving, the warp is the vertical plane. The warp is static (stationary and tied down) and thus denotes what is and what is 'fixed' in time and space and reality. The weft (woof) is the horizontal plane, the variable and changing element. The warp and the weft form a cross at each thread and symbolize the union of opposites. By alternating colors and tensions, new patterns emerge. In the magickal realm, things change, but it is a planned and orderly change. Such changes can be both very beautiful (gauzy threads) and very practical (strong threads) and given the right materials (such as silk or love) can even be both. The warp can be construed as the foundations of a thing, idea or religion and the weft can denote then the explanations, rituals or interpretations of those things. And you thought knots were just for tying sneakers!
While most Charmers will not divulge just how and why they ply their magicks (and I am one of those) some things are pretty well reported in folklore and occult literature. The number 'three' (and its combinations) really is used in magickal knotwork quite extensively. Television got that right, more's the pity. The Witches or Charmers of the Isle of Lewis (in the Highlands of Scotland) once made themselves quite a good living 'selling the wind' to sailors. Untying the first knot would unleash a fine breeze, the second would bring up a high stiff wind and the third would produce a gale. I doubt many sailors undid that last knot and I'm sure most prayed that no pissed off Charmer on the shore would either. But that is another tale...
Knotted threads were used for cures as well as for curses. Loosening knots were cures for headaches and congestion. Binding knots were used to cure warts (when buried in the ground) or for stopping nosebleeds. One Charmer of my acquaintance braids her hair whenever she has a headache and then slowly unravels the locks with her fingers. She swears that by the time her last braid is undone that her headache is gone. I tend to reach for the ibuprofen myself. But I may try it someday if I find myself in a wasteland with no drug store nearby.
And, of course, while threads and strings and yarns are the traditional tools of the Weaver-Charmer, anything pliable will do in a pinch. Hair, I have mentioned (Don't pluck and run. It's rude and somewhat dangerous. Use your own.), but one can also use long blades of grass, pine needles, flower stalks (Hello, daisy chains!) gum wrappers (Rent the movie '28 Days' for instructions and you'll get to drool over Viggo Mortensen as 'not Aragorn' while you braid.) and -yes, I have actually done this- stray threads from your skirt hem (Always check a Charmer for a hanging skirt hem!) or from the frayed bottom of your jeans. You can use a contemporary color correspondence chart if you wish, but many don't bother and just use whatever is available.
The lowly and simple knot has probably hexed and/or cured more folks over the centuries than any other single magickal device. Think about that the next time that you knot up your Nikes or take a spider to lunch. And watch out for those Charmers with the hanging hems. Although such simple and traditional methods -- and the philosophies behind them -- would never make for hefty 'Craft' book sales, there are some who still believe that the weaving of some very serous magic(k) doesn't have to be done via a flashy and complicated production number.
And indeed, most often, that it's knot...
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, September 30th., 2002
Location: Tampa, Florida
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