Brigit, Brigid or Brighid, meaning exhaulted one, is the daughter of the Dagda and one of theTuatha Dé Danann in the Celtic tradition. Brigid is the patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, particularly spinning and weaving, cattle and other livestock, including sheep, sacred wells, serpents (in Scotland). In modern traditions, whether she is seen as a saint or a goddess, she is linked closely to hearth and home. Spring is her season and she is linked to lambing. Imbolc in Pagan traditions is her special Sabbat. She is a triple goddess. She appears as the maiden, the mother and the crone.
In the Celtic tradition, spinning wheels were made from Rowan wood as the Rowan tree was the sacred tree of the Goddess Brigid. It is said that everywhere she walked, flowers appeared under her feet.
Brigid's cross is a cross woven of reeds and is a symbol of the coming of the sun as winter is usurped by spring.
If you'd like to give Brigid's cross a try, here's a great page with directions.
Have you ever made a Brigid's cross?
Isis and Tayet
In the Egyptian pantheon, the Goddess Isis was worshipped as the ideal mother, the protectress, the patroness of magic and nature. She was considered the perfect example of a loving wife and mother and was considered deeply magical. Her name means "Throne" and thus her headdress actually depicts a throne. She is the first daughter of Geb, the God of the Earth and Nut the Goddess of the Sky (and night).
Isis and her sister Nephthys were called the Abuti, the two weavers. They wove both funerary clothand magic. One myth holds that Isis wove the mummy wrappings for Osiris, her brother and husband, after Nephthys spun the threads. The funerary wrappings of the dead were woven with magic to help both seal the dead in their "egg" and help them be reborn in the next life.
The cult of Isis was known for their crisp white, linen shifts said to have been woven by Isis and imbued with her magic.
Tayet was more closely linked to weaving as she is the goddess of weaving and the patroness of weavers. Her name is thought by scholars to mean "shroud". Like Isis, she wove the funerary wrappings of the dead. In fact, hieroglyphs refer to these cloths as "the cloth of Tayet". Tayet was also responsible for weaving the clothing which dressed the statues of the gods, an important ritual activity in the Old Kingdom. She is closely associated with Nut and with Isis and Nephthys which makes sense given their shared links with weaving and funerary cloths. The Pyramid texts state:
WHILE THE GREAT ONE SLEEPS UPON HIS MOTHER NUT, YOUR MOTHER TAYET CLOTHES YOU, SHE LIFTS YOU UP TO THE SKY IN THIS HER NAME OF ‘KITE’; HE WHOM SHE HAS FOUND IS HER HORUS. (PYRAMID TEXTS, UTTERANCE 417)
Horus was Isis' son by Osiris and many depictions of Isis show her nursing the young pharaoh. Tayet's cloth acted as: funerary cloth delivering the dead to the next life, a protective shield between the living and the dead, and a tangible barrier between both worlds which the living could connect with.
The most interesting thing about weaving and fiber work in ancient Egypt is that it was not strictly women who did so. Men shared equally in the skill and thus fiber arts were not looked upon as a lower class occupation or skill. Instead fiber artists were more esteemed members of society. Given that, the records do not indicate there were any gods of weaving or spinning in ancient Egypt, only goddesses.
In the Shinto religion Amaterasu is the Sun Goddess. She's the creatrix of the universe. Her name means "shining in heaven". She created the universe, the gods and all the clothes they wear. She gave humans two skills which are highly prized: the art of weaving hemp and silk. The Emperor of Japan is considered to be a direct descendant of Amaterasu.
The oldest stories about her go back to the earliest written records in Japan, around 680 A.D. It is written that Amaterasu painted, with her siblings, the landscape of Japan.
Festivals around Japan celebrate her and weaving every year. Poems and songs celebrating and honoring weaving are written and new cloth is given to the temples.
"[T]he divine weaver continually creates the order of the cosmos. It is a process, never finished, ... never codified.... It is the goddess that one serves and not the order that she creates. The interaction of warp and woof, and indeed the knots so formed, reated the beautiful brocade of the world, whose skies, mountains, plains and seas are permeated with the essence of the kami, or the sacred." Utagawa Kunisada, c. 1830s
Miller compares this sense of the sacred in Shinto to Hopi, African, and Greek/Roman parallels (p. 44). For example, this excerpt from Songs of the Tewa ( a Hopi tribe):
Then weave for us a garment of brightness:
May the warp be the white light of morning,
May the weft be the red light of evening,
May the fringes be the falling rain,
May the border be the standing rainbow.
Thus weave for us a garment of brightness,
That we may wealk fittingly where birds sing,
That we may walk fittingly where the grass is green,
O our Mother the Earth, O our Father the Sky." (-quoted by Miller as recorded by Herbert J. Spinden, Songs of the Tewa (New York, 1933), p. 94.)
In the next set of posts, we will move into dyeing with plants. I'll provide you with some basic info and plenty of resources for learning more if you are interested. There will be links to some videos as well. I will also be providing a dyeing project. If you'd like to dye some wool yarn, feel free to pick up a cheap skein of undyed wool, Fisherman's Wool from Lionbrand is very inexpensive and takes plant as well as acid dyes very well. You can find them at pretty much any craft store which carries yarn, like JoAnn.
If you'd like to experiment with plant dyes but aren't interested in yarn, you can try it out on a cotton tee shirt (cotton takes dyes differently so keep that in mind), or any white or beige fabrics. They will accept dye and remain colorfast to varying degrees so just be prepared for this project to be a fun experiment. To give you a little sample of what's coming up, check out this great video of a local (to me, she's here in San Francisco) dye artist. You are going to love this video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In4sj7BoOI0