Today I have for you the second installment in my Green Sisters series of essays for our book club. Please enjoy, and thank you always for every bit of support, I am so grateful!
In the first chapter of Green Sisters, Sarah McFarland Taylor outlays both the companionship between ideas and theories, (chief among them Tradition and innovation) growing together and supporting each other, but also the direct people who work together in almost a symbiosis. The same way ideas and people work together, Taylor also explains relationships that do not lead towards growth and goodness, and does not shy from saying it—male clergy opposed to the movement cling to the past and do not change or grow from the harms and ills of the catholic church’s history.
Taylor likens this simile green sisters and environmentalism as companion plants. “Drawing from a gardening approach known as “companion planting,” favored by organic gardeners in general and used by organic farming religious sisters, provides a fertile framework for looking at how sisters combine varieties of Catholicism, contemporary spirituality, environmental thought, and “green culture”” (28). Some plants grow best alongside other specifically corresponding plants—out of God’s miracle or the divine knowledge of Sophia.
I, personally believe this connection can even be drawn to symbiosis—the mutual benefits of one organism with another—which sometimes is understood as creating its own organism. Take the example of lichens. They are an algae and a fungus that work together, but a lichen is considered its own species. Ultimately, are we not all one organism, which cells die and are reabsorbed into other elements of the living being?
Something that renewed my own rational for choosing the path of farming was this quote: “If we were to accept the Earth on the terms and under the exquisite conditions in which it continues to evolve, the role of the farmer would be raised to a most honorable and sacred human profession”. I’ve heard this sentiment echoed through seemingly all of the figureheads of the small scale farming movement. Farming is a devotion. “Good work”, “work worth doing.” Laypeople to this world end up telling me something to the effect of “yeah, but it’s so hard!” Well, choose your hard! You can have a beautiful and rewarding “hard” or later on after taking the “easy” road have a rude awakening into an uncomfortable and grievous “hard”. Spirituality is the lens that turns this beautiful “hard” sparkling, meaningful, and all along the way rewarding.
Taylor writes about the potential women have to affect change for the ecojustice movement, however, she does issue a caveat, “Such arguments (which are usually labeled as examples of “cultural feminism” have come under fire by other branches of feminism for “essentializing” women (promoting the claim that there is some universal essence to being a woman that all women share)” (41). This thought is something I’ve been grappling with for a while, and I think there’s a difference between declaring this divine earthen-connection within women as a form of feminism, and personally feeling this divinity within yourself as your own expression of your own brand of feminism. You can feel this divinity, but no one speaks for everyone. We can’t speak for others and I think the Green Sisters would say so. Green Sisters seem not to be “loraxes” for our world, but instead, they seem to say “listen to the trees, hear their inherent divinity.”
Taylor continues to stress Thomas Berry’s idea that we need to create a new sense of what it means to be human. This connection to the world rather than a separation. The earth and non-human earthlings, then the humans, then the holy host, then the triune God. We are all one and god is within Us.
The Green Sisters as Taylor shows us, are, indeed, countercultural movers and shakers. “Sisters’ historical involvement in peace and justice concerns, civil rights, women’s rights, and antiwar efforts have given rise to an American Catholic sisterhood practiced at being what environmental author and naturalist Terry Tempest Williams calls “edge walkers”” (49). Some Catholics view them as pagans and say these sisters are the ones that need reform. The sisters maintain a voice of growth, though. Grow past the ills and harms of those who were in power, return the power of divine voice to the people. Taylor ends this chapter with a sentiment so beautiful I have to share. She writes of a statue of the Virgin Mary becoming covered with moss and enshrouded by grasses, “Green sisters have become faithful tenders of that growth as new green shoots somehow manage to embed themselves in stone” (51). It is these plants which will help us grow towards the light.
Green sisters 1
Today, I bring to you the start of a new book read on this blog, Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology, By Sarah McFarland Taylor. This book is an ethnography, or a cultural study, of environmentalist nuns in North America.
The author prefaces her book with a little bit of background and understanding of “what is a green sister?” What she colloquially calls these environmentalist nuns (and the term which I will henceforth be using), as well as a little bit about related terminology.
She talks about this being a counter cultural movement, and clarifies she does not speak for the sisters, but through her own lense. Taylor clarified one term specifically that caught my eye: Lived religion—a term I feel like I’ve been searching for ever since I started exploring paganism. ‘Hold up!’ You say, as I ramble on about paganism ‘this book is about the Green Sisters Catholicism!’ Yes, I know this. However, I feel my expression of paganism reaches out into Christian tradition and by relation Catholicism, as well as its roots in all abrahamic religion. Paganism has a lot of historical intersections with these traditions in different forms. They feed off of each other and I feel like the intersections in the Ven diagram between abrahamic religion, paganism, and earthen traditions has a lot of overlap. That is to say, this is how I’m using this book to apply these principles within my own value system.
Further, Taylor writes about her writing practices, including one I found particularly useful in writing nonfiction—Interlocking sources. This is the idea that every proposition should be backed up by interlocking sources. It just really helps me in thinking how I should be organizing my writing for my own book project, Holometaboly (check the Capstone tab for more!) Specific to both Holometaboly and Green Sisters are the ways in which we study gender and spirituality. Taylor explains, “In the challenges I faced in my own research, it quickly became evident that history and ethnography need one another, and that both benefit from an analysis of gender as it relates to religion and culture” (xii). Taylor transcends the stereotypes of “women religious” by quoting them directly in a quote echoed by many, “‘Anonymous’ was often a woman”. This, to me, was empowering, and I felt ready to spiritually arm myself with the knowings of these people. “To find material about women’s religious lives, often one must pick through the refuse of history” (Xiv) what else is in the refuse of history? What treasures lie asleep…
Taylor writes of the movement of the green sisters to be “a new blade rising” in Catholicism. Freshness in the face of modern Catholicism, and not stained by and preconceptions or stereotypes of The Catholic Church. Instead, Taylor clarifies, they are a new glimmer of hope, that has grown into points of light across the catholic clergywomen (in North America specifically.)
To introduce her book, she walks through the premises of the chapters. Taylor further writes of her book that contemporary historical religious ethnography must be looked in much the same way “as a biogeographer would” (more charmed down, a “good” farmer, an ecologically holistic Wendell-Berry-type farmer). I was thrilled to see Taylor then quote from Father Thomas Berry, a passionist priest and writer. She highlights his declaration of a need for an ecological ethos and a “functional cosmology”. There is a dance in her text of the relationship between cosmology and ontology, but I, personally, feel its center of gravity lies in “place”. Cosmology being our overarching cosmic niche and ontology being the nature of our individual beings.
As I read all of this, I felt just like I was reading a book meant for me, combining thoughts from all my favorite theologians. Taylor writes about Father Thomas Berry’s insistence upon the shared understanding and functional unity of religion, science and nature, and humanity. The Green Sisters, Taylor writes, brings this theory full circle with their actions, “live[ing] in true communion with creation” (12).
Taylor writes, “that Green sisters have adopted the image of the rhizome as a metaphor for their movement poses a striking contrast to the centralized, hierarchical “taproot” power of the institutional church” (Taylor 18) moreover, what she writes of the movement of the green sisters, while divinely feminine, transcends traditional gender roles. Metaphor, here is brought to life, with an emphasis of just that, the inherent animation of the world. Detailing these actions, Taylor writes, “ecological sustainability has become a part of daily spiritual practice, and sustainable ways of life have become a form of spiritual discipline” (12). But I think the insight that “brought it all home” to me, was reinhabitation. Taylor equates this with stability. Home is something I’ve thought about a lot over my life—moving across states as a young child to my Dad’s family’s hometown, home as the place I spent the most time versus where I slept, the breakup of our nuclear family and the sale of our home and gradually building a new home of emotional and physical safety, and now finding home in the hearts of those whom I love. My family still questions where our true home is. In the Wendell Berry Farming Program I studied homecoming quite thoroughly, and being or becoming “native to a place”. I imagine, as one would guess about me, one day moving to my future homestead with my partner and perhaps even eventually some of our family members, and you know? I don’t really see why we can’t have multiple homes. The house we live in, our hometowns, but also more simply, our bodies. We must reconnect ourselves to our bodies, reinhabit them, and (I believe) rewild them. Realize our niche in the natural world, and reinhabit it. Regain our traditions and find new ways to live in harmony with our home, the earth, and our family members, the earthlings.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s deep read! Here’s to a great book ahead of us, with lots to learn. Don’t worry if you don’t have the book/don’t have the time or even want to read the book, I’ll be here to synthesize the information and divine some of its wisdom for us.
Thank you for joining me for my fourth installment of blogs on the book Cord Magic by Brandy Williams. If you’re just jumping in and are a little lost, just scroll down to read my earlier blogs on the foundational chapters.
The first chapter of this section was on creating a cord magic kit. I thought, at first, I don’t need a kit, I’m just going to probably do this at home, not ~in the wild. However, this section for me really was about collecting the materials needed and having them somewhere. For someone that’s not me, this literally means a “kit”, but for me, it’s kind of my whole life so it’s just alllll over my house. Now, maybe I can look at how I will go forward from this book and implement its knowledge in my life, and will start making cords out in the wild (not at home). I could see that being a very fulfilling activity. Then, I would need to create a kit! I feel like I kind of do that whenever I take my spinning wheel or drop spindle out, but I couldn’t see taking my loom out into the “wild”.
As I’m reading this book and envisioning all the projects I want to do, I’m imagining almost all of them as Inkle woven bands actually… I don’t know why, but it seems meaningful to me—something to explore…
One of the things I really appreciate about this book is how it combines different magical practices alongside making cords and yarn. Blessing materials with salt water or earth water. Calling a circle, magical phrases, meditations, mantras. Acknowledging and collecting energies. I love the astrological connections, and though all of it may not directly fit into my life, it is helping me to see how I can sanctify all that I currently believe in and celebrate it.
The way Williams writes about energy is how I have always experienced the flow of energy in my spiritual practice of Flamenco. The energy is there for you, you can summon it from any corner of the universe and call on it to fuel you. It never runs out and you can store it until you are ready to release it.
Some of the Magic Proper spells really caught my attention like the traditional “nine knot spell” and “the witch’s ladder”. Something Williams mentioned that I want to dive deeper into is my natal chart and how I can use that for my cord magic. I loved, too, at the very end when Williams talked about handfasting. The idea of such a magic being so important that we invoke it to bond us in our marriage unions is so beautiful.
Overall, Cord Magic was a truly wonderful read. It shows how personal and creative magic in general is, and how versatile cord magic can be. It has already inspired me so much and I can visualize how empowered I am going to feel with these new tools for processing my world and this life, and how to make it just a little bit more magical!
Today I wanted to treat you to a special reading response to the poem, “The Farm” by one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry. Please enjoy my response.
“The Farm” by Wendell Berry is a book length poem capturing the round and round of the country years. Here is my response
The poem opens with a pilgrimage’s crest upon the hillside of a farm. From the humble tunnels of a mouse tunnel through the simple, foundational food-chain source, grasses.
I feel a timelessness as our footsteps linger down Fords Lane, days and years ago and stepping ever further from me in the timeline of the forevers.
He called me to this life. He did not even know. He called to me, a mild voice from the pages of a book in a big, nearly quiet auditorium. I had my knees up on the seat in front of me, my arms on my thighs, my book nestled on my arm. He called, softly as through the wool on the sheep on the other side of the hedgerow In Ireland. Hey. Lookie here. Life lives here.
I told him one day and he snickered an ugly snicker. “Don’t speak til it’s over”
O’er the cyclical fore’res, I believe.
I can almost see it
Almost touch it
Invisible in the for’eres
Which changes the meaning
Is the work meant to be a tattoo on the timeline?
Or a mere new cell, to grow, and die again and be reborn, the product of our offspring, the telephone message of our kin. We transform and mutate. And it is meant to be. Wild and impermanent. A blizzard of snowflakes in the glaciers of time.
Invisible, clear, peaceful. Whispering a voice of the flowing winds, howling wild passion, with abandonment, to the void.
And the babes of goodness come, and we will shelter them as the Father advises,
He speaks of things our country dare not do,
Lest be a savage the likes of which the future live not not--
Live in the past
When we can envision something completely new
Of our own ingenuity
For our own benefit.
We don’t think
We were made
That which the Great God said we would serve
But that which we eat today
Cannot be so simple
It must be sterile
Isolated from imperfection
We cannot stomach the heartbreak
And so we protect
And freeze at peak freshness,
We cannot process imperfection.
We cannot accept it.
We certainly cannot love it.
But perhaps we can shatter the illusion
Make it sacred again
I promise you, we can
What he says what he says
Do or do not
“ if you should go and not return and none should follow you, this clarity would be as if it never was. But praise, in knowing this, the genius of the place, whose Way forgives your own, and will resume again in time, if left alone […] and so you make the farm, and so you disappear” (32).
He writes it all
Into the ashes he traces fingerprint drawings,
To one day be blown away in the winds.
They’re bombing the places of afar
Here and there, ere’where
And back at home,
No mason Dixon line separates us
We are a vitiligo,
Pigment of politics plugging the sound of Babylon
We can’t even hear our adversaries
We can’t even hear our brothers and sisters
We can’t even hear our own thoughts
We could at any moment it seems
Fall into a pit
Of barbed thicket seeds
Bless us to remain living souls
Pray bless us
And let us still allow ourselves
To see that the wheel
Will one day turn again
And turn, turn again
For today’s selection from Cord Magic, we continue onto the later three chapters of Part 2, the first being, Fiber.
This section talked about the direct making of the yarn itself. Naturally, I was intrigued. As an advanced spinner, this section was a lot of things I already knew deeply. I really appreciated the space to create your own meanings associated with the fiber types. The author, Brandy Williams writes that perhaps, if sheep have a special connection to you, use sheep. Taking it one further, maybe if red has a meaning for your purpose, use red fibre.
Immediately purpose is brought up. Williams writes about the purpose of the cord, but to me, spinning is such a visceral act, that to me, a lot of the magic in thread, string, and yarn, is IN the SPINNING. A lot of this book is about example, visualization, and idea sparking. The purpose section really brought that home for me. Williams starts with intention, and I don’t know, sometimes I hear these things like “set your intentions” but after nearly 25 years, after reading this section, I feel like I’ve been doing it all wrong, and now I finally realize how to make it work for me. This section, I think, may be an invaluable explanation of the idea of a “mindset”.
Williams explains something I didn’t think was that important, negative bias. The idea that we are drawn to catastrophize. By avoiding all negative visions, we are envisioning positive outcomes. Williams gives the example “this car is protected”—foresee goodness, or as some people like to frame it, manifest goodness. Manifesting isn’t about a Magic Proper, it can also just be about focusing. If you focus on the good, you’re not going to INVITE negative. The simplicity in this seems too easy. But truly! It makes sense. Plus, what amount of worry is actually useful? Unuseful worry is only a negative, draining force in our life, and perhaps we could just let go of that. It’s hard, but I have faith that one day, when I’m ready, I can allow this “letting go” to happen FOR me. The universe, god, or myself can be the ones to make it happen, but I have to be the one who is open to letting go of unuseful worry in order to think positive in my own life.
Williams includes so many easy-to-understand (and actually appealingly inspiring) examples of these intentions. Intentions to process life events and circumstances universal to the human experience. This section was so useful to me. She wrote at the beginning of this chapter, you’re gonna be inspired to create several of these different projects, and I was. I could easily see how creating a cord for each of the intentions I feel like could be useful to me, would be a great way to process them. Not only that, making a cord is understandably a visual and kinetic prayer, “please let this be good”. It can be specific or general. It is personalize able. Not only that, you can add things like knots, and beads, to add extra meaning. I had immediate ideas, especially with the bead idea.
Knot magic, the last chapter for today’s selection, built upon the intention cordage projects. I thought it was just going to be simple. This is what a knot means. These are different types of knots. I knew that knitting is technically different types of knots, but I didn’t think it would be included in this magic. But Williams concurred, knitting is a part of magic. Ohhhhhh I feel like a proper witch today! Heck, this gave me inspiration for a knitline, some type of magical knitting patterns. When Williams put in the sample project sheet, it all came together. Each of these explanations of magic—from number to fiber to purpose (intention) and knot style—come together to create a piece of magic, a project, a prayer, a spell.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I got magic to work…
Imbolc tuesday Jan 30
Today I’m continuing with my reading of Sacred Actions by Dana O’Driscoll on the pagan holiday Imbolc.
As O’Driscoll writes, Imbolc is a time of Reskilling, relearning learning older skills. She writes that this time of year in the colder months we can learn from reading. I over the past three years have been actively trying to expand my knowledge of skills, from my knitting, to canning food, to emotionally caring for myself and others. I still want to learn (seemingly innumerable) things, mostly about homesteading. There’s always more to learn. And even in the beginning, foundational skills, there’s ways to hone in and learn deeper.
Reskilling, as O’Driscoll delves deeper, can also be about renewing misinformed beliefs and unintentionally bad practices into better practices—better for the earth, ourselves, and our communities—ie using reusable shopping bags. She calls these skills “tools for change”. With each new skill we are “taking one small step further away from modern industrial and consumerist society” (54).
This chapter details examples of skills we can learn related to homesteading and the bardic (creative) arts like visual arts and music etc. it also details where to learn these skills, be it from people, online, in books, etc. Some classes I take part in are local weekly classes like my flamenco, other classes are once in a lifetime events that I travel for. The jewel of my lifetime learning so far will be traveling to Peru this fall to learn with a group of fiber artists. Other types of people to learn from are people in groups or guilds. I meet with a local knitting circle, but also the KY state fiber guild, The Friendship Spinners. O’Driscoll also writes of Reskilling festivals and fairs, but I more experience that type of in-person learning through conferences, like the e Organic Association of KY annual conference. Learning from history is also detailed in this chapter and I was delighted to recognize one of the video programs cited, Victorian Farm by the BBC which I actually discovered separate of this book, for free on YouTube. Providing hours of beautifully crafted, engaging entertainment, that program has taught me so much. From straight traditions to timeless skills, that program is fantastic. Other YouTube videos are also invaluable learning resources for me.
The act of learning, itself, can be a sacred action. Learning can be an act of obedience, or disobedience. It is radical, in many ways. Reading, listening, witnessing.
I just also Want you all to know that while I read this chapter and wrote this blog, I had a 3 month old 3lb black kitten in my lap… my Witchy baby, Pluto. She sends her love ☺️
Today in my continued celebration of the pagan holiday Imbolc, I share with you this year’s article on my reading of Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices. The wheel of the year refers to the 8 traditional Pagan holidays, starting with Yule in December, the shortest day of the year, and finishing with Samhain or todays Hallow’s Eve. Paganism, the way I live it, is a way to live in sacred connection with the Earth around me, honor it, care for it, and in return recieve its blessings and bounty. This is expressed in my daily life in innumerable ways including gardening, and using reusable bags at the grocery store.
The author, Dana O’Driscoll, takes on the wheel of the year in different focuses, and the focus of Imbolc is in Reskilling.
O’Driscoll writes in this chapter of Oak Knowledge, or as she puts it “The knowledge of root and stem, seed and growth, balance and restoration” (49). She writes about Feeling that she has no heritage, and I also feel that as a citizen of the United States. I think we can agree that this is an interesting country. We’re out of place in this world a diaspora of happenstance. As human beings we are born into randomness of time, place, and circumstance, but in the United States in the years, say, 2015-present….. that’s a really bizarre era of humanity (as a whole).
It genuinely makes me wonder, are we cut-off from our nature as human beings? Some have suggested we are evolved past our old knowledge and the skills associated with it, to the point where these skills and this knowledge is not only foreign to us, but are unrealistic as a part of our modern daily life. Immediately spinning yarn comes to mind for me.
Spinning yarn is an ancient skill. Adam and Eve realized they were naked and wanted clothes. Cavewomen twisted plant fibres together into cordage for rope, string, and eventually, cloth. Women through the ages have spun and spun and spun. And now, machines do it to the point where it would be ridiculous to conceive of anyone on the planet having need to ever spin again. Machines do it. Machines do it for plastic fibres like Acrylic and polyester, and for natural fibres such as merino wool and cotton. The machines do it fast, uniform, (arguably) durably, and without need or desire to be paid. What, then, is the purpose of a modern-day spinner?
I got one word, “Principle”.
I do it on principle. I value the work of my ancestors and do not see it as beneath me, unimportant, or even outdated. Those clothes that are handspun, are just as functional as machine-made clothes, the main difference is that the human-made clothes have a soul. They have fingerprints left on them. They have random hairs from the maker accidentally knitted into them.
I’m not saying machine-made items aren’t special, but I am saying “modern machine-made garments should not be the standard for which we judge quality.” I think we all have a piece of clothing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “disposable clothing”, and no, I don’t just mean the underwear that got thrown away. That shirt the washer ate. Those pants that ripped by the end of the night. That supposed cool, leather jacket that just crumbled at the seams after a season of wear. If you had the privilege to get rid of that item, would you throw it or donate it? Would you ever buy a piece of clothing specifically to fix it and wear it?
That wasn’t a question in the old days, and today still isn’t for millions, if not billions, of people. People in poverty, people in war, migrants, your own neighbors, even folks reading this. But I won’t speak for them as I DO have the privilege to just get new clothes. If my coat doesn’t fit, I can go buy a new one. If I threw up on my shoes, I’d probably throw them away and get new ones. That’s a luxury.
So why do I spin?
I value it as a traditional skill. I am utilizing my privilege of being able to spin for fun, beauty, work, and my own wardrobe, and delighting in it. Delighting in the motion that every single generation before my grandmother’s, and many other current cultures, have partaken in. I am not so naïve as to not see a value in knowing it.
Such is true of many other skills we have lain aside in our modern lifestyles…
O’Driscoll writes of the industrialized world as a “frenzy of fast-paced, consumerist living, where knowledge and craft are replaced by efficiency and product” (49). If the knowledge is outsourceable to machines, it is redundant for humans to know it, let alone be skilled at it. It is only acceptable to practice unnecessary skills if one is especially “talented” or “good” at them. How many times have we as a society told that shitty artist to get a real job? Something they can depend on.
We live in a society where creation itself is now not merely a human task. I’m not talking about producing product. I’m talking about content, art, and even mimicking life itself. We all know it now, so, say it with me, “AI”.
I think we can all agree—if we’ve seen an AI hand or any other artificially generated weirdness—AI is a shitty artist. But we don’t tell it to get a real job. We inherently trust that “if it keeps working on it, it’ll get better at it.” We don’t inherently trust people like that. Are we betraying the miracle of our divine creation and our own possibilities in the names of laziness disguised as speed and ingenuity.
I create because I value my own potential. I create because of a drive to live radically, to create with wild abandonment. Create to the level of your privileges, create outside of the bounds of privilege.
Follow along this week for more on my celebration of Imbolc! Later this week I’ll be doing some seed starting ceremonies and will continue with my reading. I’ll also be doing a tutorial video on making candles and some other fun recipes!
I’ve been meditating upon the first part of this book. Thinking about how it already relates to my life as a spinner is fun. I do feel a spiritual historical type connection to spinning. A connection to the archetype of spinstress. I think—what were these women thinking as they spun? What was their connection to spinning.
I didn’t think about the design of the yarn being spiritual; to me, so far, it has been the act and action that is spiritual.
Design is the first thing discussed in this second part of Williams’s book. With numbers, and number of threads, colors etc, this opens a connection between spinning and numerology. Layers of spirituality, and more yet to discover. And it’s not just a hokey “it’s 11:11, make a wish”, it’s history—the three gifts of the wise men, the spokes in a wheel. Sacred geometry.
My favorite spinnstresses were the Fates, with lifelines, tangles, tethers… and shears…
The Chaldean numerology of Babylon interested me. The number traits and meanings resonated meaning with me but the way to add up and find your number didn’t excite me.
I did really love thinking about the number of plies of yarn that I do in my spinning, and their meanings, and it gave me pause. I love the look of a single ply thread, it seems so peaceful and Williams wrote of the singular ply as “Unity”.
As I read on to the next section, colour, it became more meaningful to me and apparent that this book is chock full of symbolism examples. That is what is meaningful to me, and it also leaves areas for you to create your own meanings
As a fiber artist the meanings with history of dyes was intriguing. I also love combining magic with science, so the explanations of colour science were very engaging.
Of course I loved Williams’s question: “how far would you go for color” after her telling of the Scheele’s Green story. The Colour of yarn is what initially drew me to it. I saw the rich, vibrant artistry that is hand dyed yarn, and knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life 😂 truthfully. As an environmental health-aware woman, though, it catches my attention when they say wear PPE and don’t use dye equipment for food use… how safe is colour??? At what point does it go from being poison to safe to be against our skin, to hold the garment up to our nose and breathe in its scent? You know, neither the internet nor the EPA has answers…
I identify with the Concetta Antico quote “Color is power”. Natural dyes have enchanted me for a few years now. A few years ago I started a dye garden with Woad and Weld, and they keep on growing! I’ve yet to utilize them, but it thrills me to imagine coaxing pigments from something I grew for multiple years. Multi-year projects are becoming my jam 😂
For the next part of my reading of Cord Magic, I will be finishing Part 2, there are a few more chapters in the Design section. Thank you for coming along with me in this reading. I hope you are enjoying my Witchy Earthen Women series of 2024!
For my first book of the year, I happened to pick up “Cord Magic: tapping into the power of String, Yarn, Twists, and Knots”. New years is always a spiritual time for me. As a pagan woman, I delight in learning about magic, and as a woman of wool, I am enchanted by threads. Threads have always been a part of my life. As Brandy Williams notes, from our genesis, a cord tethers our cells and string of heartbeats to our mother, who is tethered to the ancestors by her family line. The umbilical cord.
Stories of string are spun from the tongues of each nation of our species. From Spider Woman to 3D printers and fiber optics. To stem cells and the spinal cord. Axis mundi lives, and breathes; tightening and loosening, coiling and uncoiling.
Williams writes about examples of the myriad cordage rituals and magics, and I’m reading quickly, hungrily, my eyes feverishly desiring more Inspiration… already I’m planning ceremonies, imagining a future enchanted by that which naturally fills me with glee: handspun wool yarn.
I’ve been spinning yarn for…. Four years now! I started during the 2020 pandemic as one of my pandemic projects. Before therapy on a hot summers day in my garage, I tapped out my cigarette and stood up from my thrifted wingback chair—the Queen’s chair. Stretched. Straddled my spinny stool at my craft table and got out my purple Electric Eel Wheel nano, with six brand new bobbins, fresh out of the plastic bags and cardboard box. I’d watched video after video after video. I had a bag of “sheep’s tails” from Mary at Camaj Fiber Arts, an embroidery floss “leader” and I was ready.
Fiber through the loop, twist on, aaaand ssssslurp clog stop.
Soooooo it takes a minute to learn to draft.
I have never been so frustrated! (Welll… not true… buuuut).
Many frustrated moments and incredulous tautological lessons later, I had actually forced out a few mini skeins of lovely, spirally yarn. But looking back on it, my journey with twists and threads really started when I met my drop spindle. A light, red Malle burl top whorl from Viscount Woodturning, that is ever so balanced. It spins gracefully and evenly, a balance I never knew I needed in life, never knew I would want, crave, a whirl that would suck me in, a whorl that would keep on turning. Immediately it had meaning, immediately I knew. Like Harry Potter picking up his wand, red sparks whizzed off my whorl, like a planet sent into orbit, flicked on its axis.
Wheels later, I identify as a spinstress, walking it out through the history books and tapping it out through the “for you” pages. This is me. I make magic with thread,
And this book is speaking my language…
I feel pulled into these traditions, I feel the pull of the goddesses, plucking the strings on their harps to usher me into song. I will be an enchantress in between the tall grasses, I will tend the flocks by night, and bear my lambs with the ewes, bringing forth the fiber seeds, and brush my fingers through their hair. I am of the fiber. I am fiber.
Williams goes about describing several magical charms that can be worked with or without partners for various purposes, how to undo them and recycle the magic…
For Valentine’s Day this year, I thought I would open up my book of Neruda’s poetry. Pablo Neruda was and is known around the world for his love poems, full of intimate infatuation, slow-burning and raw love, and aching despair, and I have been an admirer of his poems for six years now. I have a deep love for his poem “The Insect” and breaking down the beauty of his translated words is always such a treat.
Today, I flipped to a selection from 20 Love poems and a Song of Despair, 14.
Poem 14 — Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair | by Emanuele | Medium
Those words, I just imagine them, whispered under the stars. “Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.” The speaker goes into both the lover as he interacts with her, as he holds her face and kisses he sweet lips, and how he imagines her. Neruda in much of his poetry connects the women he writes about to nature and the bounty of the earth. Women, in his eyes, are bountiful, overflowing, with natural aura. In this poem, his woman is succulent like fruit, plums, and wild like the flowers.
Much of the actions in Neruda’s poetry are carried out by natural forces, so characteristic of love, and yet these actions in love poems are so nuanced in their expression, “The rain takes off her clothes”…
Neruda also often writes of birds fleeing people, and I can’t help but think that these birds must be emotions, felt and expressed and released into the universe. You know in cartoons when the characters have little heart bubbles floating off of them. It also makes me think of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, with Hermione’s birds, which attack Ron after his insensitive dismissal of her in favor of Lavender Brown. As I was doing my current read-through of the series, I also noted that in the Goblet of Fire, Victor Krum, who had a happy little romance with Hermione, had birds fly out of his wand at the weighing of the wands with Ollivander. Birds are expressive. And imagining them flying free, our emotions flying free, is so characteristic of love.
But the last two lines of this poem could stand alone, “I want
To do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”
Happy Valentine’s Day! Blessings and joy! August Lee
Welcome to book club 2023! This year I have selected 14 books (one for each month, an extra, and a partially read one I will finish) to review for you as I read through them. Feel free to read along if you’d like and leave all the comments you’d like whether you’re reading along or just reading my posts! Stay tuned for extras and fun! Blessings, August Lee
Sacred Actions by Dana O’Driscoll
How to be a Good Creature by ash Montgomery
Cord Magic by Brandy Williams
Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard
The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
Beauty by Natalie Carnes
World of Wonders by Aimee Nezuhkumatathil
The Wisdom of Birch, Oak, and Yew by Penny Billington
Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics by Dennis Klocek
American Georgics edited by Hagenstein, Gregg, and Donahue
Maddaddam by Margaret Atwoodd
Our Only World by Wendell Berry
The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Tsing
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
- Feb 4 2023 Sacred Actions section 1
- Feb 6 2023 The Spinners Book of Yarn Designs, BC Extra