Articles/Essays From Pagans
March 9th. 2014 ...
Healing the Witch Within
Discovering Wicca as a Young Child
March Pisces Energy: Pre-natal Memories and Standing Upright
March 2nd. 2014 ...
Lessons of Ostara: Six Ways to Move Forward
The Wiccan Priest - The Misunderstood Role
Which is Which? Am I a Warlock or a Witch?
The Secret Teaching: Selected Aspects
February 23rd. 2014 ...
Wicca or Traditional Witchcraft: Some Differences
Everything is Not Under Your Control: Making Sense of the Senseless
The Wonders and Gifts of Paganism and Community
What Makes Us What We Are
February 16th. 2014 ...
Death, Grief, and Psychopomp Work in Shamanic Healing
The Stones of Fear: Anxiety Relief
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Alternative Medicine – What Is It?
February 9th. 2014 ...
Words of Power!
The Allure of Glamour in the Apocolypse
Lunar Insight Planetary Preponderances: Year of the Horse, Imbolc and Mercury Grazings
February 2nd. 2014 ...
The Magick of Jewelry and Metals
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The Golden Bough: a Study Guide (Part 2)
January 26th. 2014 ...
Love of Self: The Hardest Thing To Do
The Golden Bough as a Seminal Work in the Neo Pagan Movement (Part 1)
13 Keys: The Mercy of Chesed
Lightworking In The Screen Age: Staying Connected
January 19th. 2014 ...
Open Letter to the Goddess
A Southern Girl's Guide to Hospitality
Social Conventions and the Pagan World
January 12th. 2014 ...
Never Once Was There a An Athame Near My Chalice: My Very Sheltered Occultist Upbringing
One Wiccan's Journey Through Depression
January 5th. 2014 ...
Religion vs Practice: Defining Witchcraft in a Modern Age
Traditional Apprenticeships: Training in the Modern Pagan Abbey
2014's Magickal Magnificent Manifestations!
Lunar Insight Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances: Wise and Wild
December 29th. 2013 ...
My Top Ten Favorite Cauldrons (Part 3)
13 Keys: The Might of Geburah
Beyond The Season of Greed
December 22nd. 2013 ...
My Top Ten Favorite Cauldrons (Part 2)
December 15th. 2013 ...
The Hex Murder of 1928
My Top Ten Favorite Cauldrons (Part 1)
Lady of the Forest Mist (A Story of the Woods)
Lunar Insight Moon Musings: Hunting, Fires and Parting Shots
December 8th. 2013 ...
Help and Thoughts for Pagans New to the Journey
Using Your Wand in Reverse
Leaving a Group - Part 2: Leaving, Healing and Moving Forward
The Cry of the Soul
December 1st. 2013 ...
The Tarot as a Tool for Raising Consciousness
A Pragmatic Look at Neo Paganism
Leaving a Pagan Group – Part 1: To Leave or to Stay?
November 24th. 2013 ...
The Pagan and the Papacy
The Groovy Aquarian Christ: Jesus From a Pagan Perspective
November 17th. 2013 ...
For Love of the God
Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca
A Threat to Religious Liberties?
November 10th. 2013 ...
Where did Aleister Crowley’s Influence on Wicca Go?
Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return
The Celtic Tree Calendar
Nine Creeds: A Statement and Explanation of My Beliefs
November 3rd. 2013 ...
The Mundane/Spiritual Mirror: What Does it Say About Your Life?
October 27th. 2013 ...
Thoughts On a Miley-Cyrus/ Robin-Thicke Society
On Being Wiccan: Some Unsolicited Advice
Pagan Religious Communities in your Area: Connecting With and Creating Them
Banishing, Invocation and the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram
October 20th. 2013 ...
Bottle Spells and Magick in Hoodoo Tradition
Weather Magick: Who is Responsible for the Weather?
Broom Closet: In or Out?
On Coven and Claws
October 13th. 2013 ...
Destroying to Create: A Lesson from the Dead
Consume the Scorpion- Scorpion Energy Revisited
October 6th. 2013 ...
UPG and U: A Breakdown and Building Up of Unverified and Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis
Answering The Call from Spirit
Coping with the Loss of a Familiar
The Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage, Part 2 (The South)
September 29th. 2013 ...
Six Reasons Why Covens are Here to Stay
Priestessing and Titles: What's the Point?
Truth or Convenience? Questioning Motives for Spiritual Advancement
Speaking Up: The Conflict Between the Spiritualist and Our Human Experience
September 22nd. 2013 ...
Death of a Friendship within the Craft
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
The Lost Tools of the Witch
Article ID: 14906
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 765
Times Read: 3,591
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Author: BellaDonna Saberhagen
Posted: February 5th. 2012
Times Viewed: 3,591
When you ask your average neo-Pagan or Wiccan what tools are on their altar (or are important to their craft) , you typically get the following list: athame, wand, pentacle, chalice, besom, cauldron, candles, incense, sometimes herbs and stones, sometimes a “white-handled knife” or boline. That’s about it though. A great number of the tools are things that would have been common household implements during the early-Modern Witchcraft trials. Every household needed a cup, a knife, a pot, a broom and firelight to see by (whether by candles or an oil lamp) . It’s interesting how the common daily tools became associated with witchcraft (it also made it exceedingly easy to tell the magistrate you suspected your neighbor of witchery and for “proof” of said witchery to be found) .
What I find interesting is that some of the most common tools that are also mythologically associated with magic are not mentioned amongst the tools of today. These are the tools of the textile industry; which in older times were the distaff, spindle and loom. Often, in Viking women’s graves, these tools are found amongst the grave goods, meaning they were important enough to be taken to the afterlife. Often, they were noted as the “women’s weapons.” Since they aren’t likely to be physically good at inflicting bodily harm, this must mean something else. That something else is magic.
Since these tools aren’t listed among modern witch and/or magician tools, we have to look to lore, myths and fairy tales to find their significance. This isn’t as hard as it might sound because the fairy tales we were told as children are filled with this information. The most famous example is Sleeping Beauty, but we’ll talk about that story later.
The most famous spinners in folklore are the spinners of fate, the three Fates of Greek mythology and the Norns of Nordic myth. The Fates spin the thread of your life, weave the story into a tapestry and cut the thread at the end of your life. Clearly, the tools of old textile work are deeply connected with fate. A lot of neo-Pagans blanch at the concept of fate; I know I used to be the same way. We make our own destiny and nothing three biddies can do can change that (sticks tongue out for cheeky emphasis) ! The truth is that both are correct. There are some things we cannot change; we will all die someday (after-all life is sexually transmitted and always fatal) . Basically, the choices you make throughout your life bring you to certain places where you make more choices. Now, based on your past choices there is a great likelihood that you will make specific choices at this new crossroads. However, once you become aware that you have a pattern, you can work to change that pattern. It’s a bit confusing, I realize, but it makes sense when you really think about it.
Now, if the Fates or Norns spin your fate and you are seeking to change it, how would you go about doing that? Well, sympathetic magic works wonders in other ways so why not here? If you are willing to concentrate on the fate you want and spin (with either a drop spindle or spinning wheel) , you may be able to spin that fate into existence yourself. In essence, you are replacing the thread spun by Fate with the thread of your choosing. I will admit that I am a failed spinner. I either cannot get fresh enough roving (unspun wool) so that the natural oils can hold my thread together, or I’m just plain rubbish at it. Spinning is hard and it may take years to master, especially in a society where you can just go out and get yarn and thread without the hassle. However, I think spinning will be worthwhile in the long run.
The Norse goddess Frigga, the wife of Odin, is also associated with fate. She knows all fate, but speaks nothing of her knowledge. She is also associated with spinning and some see her as the source of the master material from which all fate is spun. As far as I know, Frigga interceded on the fate she saw but once. Her son, Baldr, was doomed to die and she tried her best to prevent that from happening. She failed and his brother killed him. Baldr’s death might explain her silence, for if she cannot change fate, why speak of it at all? The story of Baldr mirrors the Greek vision of fate as shown in the story of Oedipus: everything done to try to prevent the fate is what brings it about. However, if we go through the thought that our choices bring about our fate, then Oedipus’s father was already patterned to throw his son away at the first sign of trouble (which may have been why he wanted his son’s fate read by the Oracle to begin with, to foresee any trouble) .
Beyond the usefulness of spinning (and by connection, weaving) in regards to fate, there are other uses magically. It is a common held belief that it is better to use natural materials; and that tools have more power if you make them yourself. By spinning your own thread and weaving your own fabric, you can make sure to use only natural fibers for your cords and cloths and you can put your intent into the very fibers of your creation. You may also be able to connect with ancestors that would have spent much of their time with the spindle and at the loom. (Now I am going to be realistic here, most of us have jobs and not as much time to spend on crafting -- of any sort -- as we would like. I would hazard that you can take shortcuts by mock-spinning pre-spun thread and yarn, as long as you visualize and focus intently.)
So, back to Sleeping Beauty. The spindle was very important in the tale, just as it was important to the very clothes on anyone’s back during the era from which it came. The bad fairy (having been slighted by not being invited to the baby princess’s party) curses her to prick her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday and die. The only good fairy that could do anything to help (the rest having somehow used their blessing allotment for the princess, though what law only allowed each to give only one gift is not stated) only had enough power to put her to sleep if the events should come about rather than die. The King attempted to prevent the fate of his daughter (again with trying to out-maneuver fate) ; rather than keep spindles around and telling his daughter to be careful of them (you know, so she would know it’s not a good idea to play with the pointy ends) , he outlawed spindles, having all the spindles in the kingdom burned (thus, forcing his subjects to wear rags or spend exorbitant amounts of money on imported cloth and thread) . As an added bonus, this also effectively crippled women. If the spindle and loom were the weapons of women, outlawing them put women at an even lower status. So what does our princess do when she sees a spindle for the very first time? She touches its pointy tip, falls asleep, and has to be rescued by a handsome prince willing to fight his way through the briar-patch of doom. He kisses her, she wakes up and they live happily ever after. The spindle? Well, a good look at the Industrial Revolution lets you know its fate.
Fraue Holle is often associated as a witch goddess in Germanic lore and she, too, is associated with spinning. I mentioned in my Yule piece that if you hadn’t finished your years’ worth of spinning by the Solstice, she would come by and befoul it. If a witch goddess thought spinning was important, then it was once an important part of magic and is worth delving into even in this technological age. It’s not easy, but whoever said magic had to be easy?
Our Troth Volumes 1 and 2 edited by Kveldulf Gundarsson
The Poetic Edda
Hedge-Rider by Eric De Vries
Mythology by Edith Hamilton
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
Sleeping Beauty collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Location: Sunbury, Pennsylvania
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