Threads I span
These I weave
Then I cut
No one has any idea when weaving started. Perhaps it originated long before we were even human. Chimpanzees loosely weave branches and leaves into sleeping platforms in the trees. It is likely proto-humans wove baskets, not only to carry goods but also to fish. A fishing net made from willow is known from 85,000 years ago, while the first evidence of textile weaving is a 70,000 year old fabric impression.
Spinning and weaving came under the provenance of women’s magic. In cultures where men wove, such as ancient Egypt, they are believed to have usurped the woman’s traditional role. Neith, the Egyptian goddess of weaving, was viewed as an ancient mother to who the other gods went for advice, and one who provided mighty aid in war. This attribute resurfaced some two millennia later with the powerful Norse goddess Freya of the Vanir, whose name simply means ‘The Lady’, and her sorceress representatives, the Volva.
The Vanir were the original gods of the Northern forests. When Odin’s family tried to overthrow them, Freya used magic and prophecy to start a war with the Asgardians, eventually forcing them into peaceful power sharing. As part of the bargain, Freya kept half of all the brave warriors’ souls the Valkyries gathered.
In Ancient Greece and Rome, women’s skills were denigrated, except for goddess too ancient and powerful to ignore. Those such as the Graeae, the Muses, the Furies and the Moirai occupied a shadowy place in the minds of men. That they were originally three sisters, suggests they are revenants of the original triple goddess.
The three Morai or Fates appeared three nights after a child’s birth to determine its fate. The sisters doled out the thread of life, wove destiny into the world tapestry and in the end cut you dead. They were: Clotho meaning the spinner; Larchesis- the measurer (who allotted the length of life) and the small but terrible Atropos, (the name means inevitable) who cut the thread when life was done.
Continue reading: Women’s Work ← Odds n Sods: A cabinet of curiosities