The Crafting the Wisdom Loom By Mary F. Gelfand



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.

image of Loom

Photo by Nickolas Nikolic

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.

image of Light Work, by Autumn Skye

Light Work, by Autumn Skye http://www.autumnskye.com

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.



Categories: General, Goddess feminism, Goddess Movement, Goddess Spirituality, Women and Art, Women's Voices

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17 replies

  1. Oh, this is a most beautiful post – so deeply moving – and the image of women weaving in a circle is one that I can imagine – as we live in liminal space… thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also admire Edna St. Vincent Millay’s life and poetry. I love it that you’ve held the lines that struck you in your heart for so many years. I, too, have used the image of women in a circle. It’s in a couple of the spells I’ve written for Llewellyn annuals. I see women literally tossing a ball of real yarn back and forth to weave friendship and sisterhood and magic.

    Weaving light is wonderful, too. Can we apply such weaving to what politics have done to us for four years and especially now when the orange T. Rex in the White House is trying to steal the election? Can we weave more light and honesty and kindness back into our democracy and leave him out of the weave? Bright blessings to your weaving and to ours.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Barbara. I’ve done rituals and led teaching circles where we’ve tossed a ball of yarn back and forth and used the resulting ‘structure’ to explore what it means to be part of an interconnected web. I surely hope and believe we can weave more light, honesty and kindness back into the country. It is the biggest task facing us now.

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  3. Aloha Star Weaver and fellow Loom-mate, what a beautiful story that you’ve woven here. In my book One Gods, I characterized the Bible as a giant tapestry where the mystery is found in the threads – the warp threads, those laid down are a store of Hebraic knowledge but as persevered by the scribes and the weft ones, the interwoven threads come from other pagan sources, Egypt, Meso-America, Celtic, etc . . . But when I wrote this I never did consider the loom itself and how important that is.

    I love your vision of hands creating the circular pattern with our wisdom. If I am to hold this vision, I find that men do need to be involved. Perhaps we women need to lead the charge but in honor of my husband, my son-law (soon to be the father of my first grandchild) and my son, all wonderful men I can’t exclude them from my visions.

    Thank you for a wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Janet. Are you really writing from Hawaii? It is one of my daughter’s favorite places and one I hope to visit at some point.

      I once did a shamanic journey when the Akashic Records revealed themselves to be a giant weaving curling through dark matter and being woven at two ends. It was really fascinating. I think if you are a weaver, weaving is probably a metaphor you use to interpret life. I know I do! It’s nice to meet a fellow loom-mate.

      I hear what you’re saying about men. My husband is a very feminine man and we need to support those who can be compassionate. I don’t know a lot of me who have the gentleness, patience and dexterity to weave with their hands. In my vision, the men are helping to curate the wisdom and facts being used in the weaving.
      Blessings,
      Mary

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      • No Mary I am not writing from Hawaii. I am an alakai which is a Hawaiian spiritual guide from Aloha International. I do go there whenever I can although not recently (deep sigh!). I live in the NY City metropolitan area.

        I am delighted that you include men in your visions.

        On another topic, I see you are Maine. I have a dear friend who just moved to Maine (Nov 1st) and I think would love your work. I couldn’t find where the Abbey of Hope is located ( although I imagine most stuff is done on zoom now). Is there some information I can give her about your location? Mahalo.

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        • Sorry to take so long to reply here. I’m struggling with the comment procedures here. The Abbey of Hope is not an actual physical place. We are an interfaith group working with other groups to coordinate and co-sponsor activities and events in Maine. All much more challenging now, of course. But we recently co-sponsored an online workshop with Mirabai Starr, and in Sept helped put on the One Planet Peace Forum–online of course. Our website is http://www.abbeyofhope.com.
          Blessings

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  4. Thank you for sharing Millay’s poem, which so succinctly expresses our current predicament. It is always helpful when something overwhelming and distressing is named. And thank you for your vision of the women’s soft, made-of-hands circular loom. I was also struck by your evocation of dream time. I spend time there almost every between night and dawn, between waking and sleeping. That’s when I can see/hear things in new and surprising ways. How inspiring to think that I am joining with the star weavers in these moment. See you, and all of us, there!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Mary, how beautiful and how profound! I loved this post and resonate with it deeply. In a recent ritual, that was truly powerful, my final “word” was to sing John Lennon’s “Love is All You Need.” I believe that is true, but, of course, have added my creativity, compassion, respect, and will to the thread as well. The loom as a circle of hands weaving together what is needed to weave the “wisdom to leech us of our ill” is a beautiful metaphor for the community we are creating in order to get beyond the “dark hour” we are now experiencing. I believe, as you do, that love of our Mother Earth will be a large part of that weaving. And I love how Elizabeth has named the qualities this loom evokes: “women’s soft, made-of-hands circle.” Our softness is not weakness, but the necessary quality to offset the hardness, lack of compassion and love, that our world has evoked with its warrior qualities that have brought us to the edge of extinction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Nancy. So nice to keep encountering you in this space. I had not thought of this as a metaphor for the community we are seeking to build, but it is so I’m grateful for that revelation. I have to preach on the subject of Beloved Community in February and I now have my approach.

      You are quite right–our softness is not weakness–indeed most women I know are incredibly strong and we are able to blend strength and softness into a marvelous fiber. It is definitely time to abandon the warrior archetype that dominates the US today. Or–better yet–replace it with Matthew Fox’s concept of the spiritual warrior–those who are in service of love and life, not power and patriarchy.

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  6. So beautiful and inspiring. I feel you’ve further shed light on, clarified, what so many of us feel we are doing though we couldn’t quite name it. It’s on a scale so much larger than ourselves and our own lifespans, but we are following the imperative. You’ve helped us see it, so we can continue more effectively — repairing the holes, elaborating the beauty, lifting it high over the random thorns that would snag it.

    Thank you immensely, Dear One.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You Laurie. I so appreciate your comments and your understanding of what I was seeking to say. Yes–it is much bigger than our lifespans, and a lot of us have been doing this work subconsciously. I am honored to be able to name it.

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  7. Such a beautiful sharing of St. Vincent Millay’s poem – a perfect expression of our times – and your experience with it over the years! Love is certainly the yarn we must use to weave our world back to health.

    Like

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