Over 20 years ago, I randomly came across the following passage from Sonnet X by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric
I was just learning to spin and weave and so was struck by this passage. I’ve been contemplating Millay’s words ever since.
Weaving is a fascinating process that the ancients in many cultures believed was a gift from the Goddess. Before the Industrial Revolution, clothing was valuable because of the sheer amount of both labor and skill necessary to create it—tasks that were primarily delegated to women. The process of collecting, cleaning, and preparing plant or animal fiber to be spun into thread or yarn is a lot of work. And all you have now is spun fiber. It still needs to be dyed and used to warp the loom—a tedious and time-consuming process. Next the weaving itself—dancing the shuttle in and out across the width of the warp—over one, under one, over two, under two—or some more visually appealing pattern which is also more complex to do. Finally, the woven fabric must be measured, cut, and sewn to make a garment.
As I grew older, these words continued to echo in my mind. Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill / Is daily spun; but there exists no loom / To weave it into fabric. I began to speculate on what kind of loom would be required to weave spun wisdom into the fabric so desperately needed by humanity. And so, when I celebrated Cronehood, I took Star Weaver as my magical name, hoping to make my own small contribution to healing the world.
Eight years ago, while I was training to become an interfaith minister, our work one evening involved a trance. I don’t recall what the trance was supposed to be about, but I vividly recall that my spirit soared up into the stars and studied the night sky. Everywhere I could see places where the fabric of the Universe was worn or even torn. Clearly it was necessary to re-weave this fabric—to weave the stars that form the warp and weft of our universe into a stronger and more beautiful whole. What would one use in this process? What does one spin into fiber that can be used for this sacred task? No sooner had I formulated this question than the answer came back loud and clear—you have to spin your fiber from Love—and that Love is pulled from your heart.
In the years since this vision, I’ve added a few strands to my fiber spun from love. I want a blended fiber, love mixed with compassion, creativity, respect, and will. As any spinner will tell you, the strength of the fiber is improved by blending multiple strands into the yarn.
A big part of the conundrum presented by this poem was solved, but I still couldn’t conceptualize the loom. The loom is crucial—it provides structure for the fibers during the weaving process, allowing the weaver to ensure both the strength and durability of the fabric as well as the beauty.
This poem has been haunting me lately. Because it is true that we live in a gifted age, in its dark hour. And it is true that a meteoric shower / Of facts rains upon us every day. And it is also true that they lie unquestioned, uncombined. We have the information, tools, and wisdom we need to leech us of our ill but are totally clueless as to how to use them.
Recently, an emotional couple of days reopened old wounds and at 3 am I found myself sitting on the deck, gazing at the waning quarter moon, and weeping. But there exists no loom—there exists no loom—there exists no loom kept reverberating in my soul. Slowly an image began forming in my mind. I saw a giant circle of women, tossing balls of magically spun fiber back and forth across the middle of the circle. I saw them catching the yarn, anchoring it in their hands and passing it to the next woman to then toss across the circle. When each woman was holding as many strands as felt right to her, they began chanting and then weaving. This was a kind of weaving I had never seen before. It is hard to weave in a circular pattern—I know because I’ve tried. But somehow, before my eyes, these women were doing it—moving their hands with care and deliberation coupled with flashing speed in patterns I could not recognize but longed to learn.
As I reflect on this vision, I know in my heart that it is true. Women make up the loom we need to spin healing fabric from the wisdom that rains upon us. Our loom is not a hard, rectangular structure made from wood, but a soft organic circle created by women, whose hands are engaged in the magical work of healing the world. This is work for women because the facts themselves are generally drawn from the logical, rational sides of humankind. But blending those facts—spinning them with love and compassion and weaving them into a fabric that can leech us of our ill –that is the work of those who birthed the world and cannot stand by any longer watching it rip and tear apart. It is the work of Dreamtime—a task to engage in when hovering on the verge of sleep, when you can invite your spirit to join the Star Weavers as they re-create the world with love pulled from their hearts, and facts pulled from the mind of science.
Mary F. Gelfand is an ordained Interfaith Minister and a Wiccan High Priestess. She holds a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University and is a gifted teacher and mentor. As a Unitarian Universalist, she has served in both local and national leadership roles, including five years as national board president of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS). She is an experienced teacher of Cakes for the Queen of Heaven—adult education program focused on feminist thealogy and the Great Goddess. Mary serves on the Leadership Council of the Abbey of Hope, an interfaith outreach community in Maine, where she regularly contributes to their weekly Reflectionary. A practicing Pagan, her spiritual life is rooted in the cycles and seasons of the natural world which are so abundantly visible in New England. She reads and teaches about feminist theology, the Great Goddess, mysticism, and the mysteries of Tarot. As a fiber artist, she enjoys weaving tapestry and knitting gifts for strangers and friends.