Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back to the Magic & Mythology

I am still drawn to the fairy tales and mythology that surround the arts of spinning and weaving.  For some reason knitting and crochet don't get the glory like spinning and weaving.  I think perhaps its because there's a type of alchemy, "some magic", in transforming fluff into substance that can be woven and knitted.  Just about every other fairy tale is about spinning hay to gold.  Talk about making something out of nothing!  As I look into all the various folk tales, they are cautionary tales of laziness, or asking others to do your chores (that's when the fairy folk come to help and then wreck the place).  They are finger wagging admonitions that you won't marry if you don't have skills!  Of course, I also enjoy the reverse spin (pardon the pun) where the damsel who cannot spin shows her husband the hideous physical mutations that come of being a good spinner (mainly big ugly lips from wetting the flax as they spin, amongst other troll-like attributes).  There is so much to cover in the mythology of this art, from the ancient goddesses to the characters in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon, that I cannot possibly cover it all.  I've wanted to, but it is truly overwhelming.

However, through the good graces of Wikepedia, who has neatly broken down the various mythologies for me . . . I thought perhaps I could go down the line and share the myths and some lore surrounding spinning and weaving one at a time.  It's a good way for me to learn as I go and saves us all from "TMI".

I'll start of with Neith (aka: Nit, Net & Neit), an early goddess in the Egyptian pantheon.  She was mainly worshipped in the Western Nile Delta of Egypt.   She was a goddess of war and hunting.  Her hieroglyph bore a resemblance of a loom, so in later years she also became the goddess of weaving.  Prior to this, her name was interpreted as water and she was linked to the primordial waters of creation:  a mother-goddess.  But a different interpretation of her name meant weaver and she was considered to have woven the world and all existence on her loom.  In art, Neith is often depicted as having a shuttle on top of her head and holding bows and arrows in her hands.  I guess women have been called upon to multi-task since the beginning of time.

As a goddess of weaving and all things domestic, Neith was considered to be a guardian of women and protector of marriage.  However, she was still a goddess of war and retained an association with death (I brought you into this world and I'll take you out -- comes to mind).  Actually, it was said that she wove the shrouds and bandages as a gift to the mummified dead.  She was considered a water goddess, the mother of crocodiles and the mother of Ra the Sun God.  But as the goddess of weaving she was said to re-weave the world on her loom daily.  She was a virgin goddess, yet all that she conceived in her heart came to be, including thirty gods.  Procius (412 - 485 AD) wrote of an inscription in the adyton of the temple of Neith (an adyton is a restricted area of a temple, usually at the farthest end, often housing the cult image of the god and accessible only to oracles, priests or acolytes).  Sadly the temple has been lost to time, but the words of it's inscription live on:

"I am the things that are, that will be, and that have been.  No one has ever laid open the garment by which I am concealed.  The fruit which I bore forth was the sun."

Only a goddess could lay claim to such powers of creation . . . that only a woman could appreciate.

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