We are the Weavers of the Web

by Dr Tricia Szirom

This ancient land is one of many spirits, which add meaning and depth to our understanding of the web of life and the Great Mother. Over the past two hundred years many peoples have arrived in Australia bringing with them traditions of the Goddess from many lands. What are the ways in which we have adapted our rituals and beliefs to this land, and in what ways have we been influenced by the land? This workshop will look at the weaving of two traditions to enrich our understanding and practice in ritual and celebration.

 

Introduction: Goddess as Weaver of Creation

Many of the world's people believe that the world is woven and that a weaving Creator wove its designs into being; for example the Navajo legend of the Spider Woman; she who sits at the great galactic centre. She is the female force of all creation who joins all nations, all tribes, all families, and all realities together, in her web. The Weaver is the Female Principle of creation.

Myths of weaving exist around the world as metaphors for creation.  However, there is, in all the world, no god of weaving -- only goddesses. Often the weaving goddesses are also teachers of wisdom and midwifery. While there are one or two examples of Weaver Goddesses who are connected with the Sun mostly they are of the Moon.

 

 

Weaving Destiny

The Moirae (the "Fates") are the three crones who control destiny, and the matter of it is the art of spinning the thread of life on the distaff. Ariadne, the wife of the god Dionysus in Minoan Crete, possessed the spun thread that led Theseus to the center of the labyrinth and safely out again.

 

Greek Mythology

Athena was a weaver and the Goddess of Wisdom. She was described as having shining gray eyes and She would always be accompanied by an owl now a symbol of wisdom. Often, Athena is accompanied by the Goddess of Victory, Nike. Athena is always depicted wearing armor and a helmet. She is described as a virgin and there are no instances of her having any male lovers. The Partheneon is dedicated to Athena.

Apparently a woman called Arachne used to boast that she was the best weaver ever and Athena challenged her. Arachne, in her vanity, wove a scene of Zeus in trouble with his many wives at whichAthena became furious and burned the tapestry down along with Arachne. Later on, she regretted it, and turned Arachne into a spider so that she would weave her beautiful designs forever. After Greece was conquered by Rome, Athena was incorporated with a similar goddess from Roman Mythology called Minerva.

"The Voice of the Shuttle" comes from Sophocles and refers to Polymela, a young woman who was savagely raped by her brother-in-law, a Thracian king.  To prevent her from telling her sister (his wife) what had happened, he cut out her tongue.  Desperate, Polymela used the only means she had available -- she let her wooden shuttle speak for her as she wove the scenes of her rape and mutilation into a tapestry.  When her sister saw it, she understood w hat had happened and took a terrible revenge upon her husband.

 

Japanese Story

Ama-Terasu 
"Great Shining Heaven" is the Japanese sun goddess, guardian of the Japanese people and ruler of all deities. One of her tasks was to weave sacred robes for the gods.

After an altercation with her brother she hid in a cave a wouldn’t come out so that no sunlight could reach the earth.

The gods met to plan a way to free her and the lewd dancer Uzume stepped forth. She danced so that the gods all were delighted and laughed so much that the cave shook.

Ama-terasu opened the door of the cave to see what was going on. Uzume said that they were happy because a new, better, more beautiful sun goddess has come to replace her. Amaterasu immediately demanded to see this goddess, and was shown a mirror. She was startled and spellbound by her own reflection long enough for the gods to draw her from the cave, and so the world was light again and there was much rejoicing.

Ama-terasu symbolizes warmth, harvest, love, fertility, goodness, wisdom, peace, light, sun, compassion.

 

European Goddesses

Dalia is the Goddess of weaving and fate in the Lithuanian mythology. She was the giver and taker of goods and property and the omniscient goddess of childbirth and destiny. Dalia was a spinner, weaver, and seamstress. She is also believed to cut off the cloth of life.

Perchta or Berchta (English: Bertha), Goddess in Southern Germanic paganism in the Alpine countries. Perchta is often identified as stemming from the same Germanic goddess as Holda and other female figures of German folklore (see Frija-Frigg). With Holda she shared the role as a "guardian of the beasts" and came during the Twelve Days of Christmas when they checked on the spinning. In Bavaria and German Bohemia, Perchta was often represented by St. Lucia.

"January 6 the Twelfth Night was once known as her festival day, though it was later replaced by Epiphany in Christianity when the church adopted the Gregorian Calendar, thereby moving the holiday from the 19th to the 6th. The festival included a feast of traditional foods of dumplings and herring." (Wikipedia)

 

South America

Ixchel, is the Mayan Goddess of weaving, healing and childbirth. Mayan women say that fabric made on a back-strap loom is not woven, it is "born". Although associated with floods and rains, Ixchel was commonly worshipped as the patron goddess of weaving and especially childbirth.

 

Egypt

Net (also Neith) was an ancient Egyptian goddess, not very well known perhaps, unlike her Hellenistic reincarnation - Athena. Net was a warrior goddess, just like Athena, and the goddess of weaving - "weaver" is actually the translation of her name.

 

Maori Traditions

Maori passed their knowledge and wisdom between generations through stories and permanently recorded them in the carving and weaving of the various tribes. Weaving wasa gift from the Gods. Weaving is one of the Treasures of Hine-te-iwaiwa, the female personification of the moon (Marama) and also the Maori goddess of weaving, plaiting and other arts. The Maori developed the craft of weaving and plaiting to a fine art to make a variety of articles for use in daily life.

 

Indigenous Australians

Since long before history the Aboriginal people were spinning fibre from their land. Traditionally all portable goods were carried in "Dilly" bags that were knotted, woven or laced from fibres that reflected the climate and conditions of their homelands. From the south east comes the beautiful, soft, inner bark and possum fur string. On the north coast of New South Wales came such exotic fibres as string spun from native hibiscus. From the Centre the spindle that is still used today to spin hair and fur into string which is plied into heavier yarn.

There is no evidence of loom weaving in Indigenous Australia however the many different nations each had their own traditions and stories of spinning. Some of those stories go back many thousands of years. In many of the aboriginal communities the spinning of the landscape into fibre takes on a different meaning when feathers, human hair, water plants and other local products are spun together and worn as a head band, necklace or belt.

Basketry is one example of the interconnected nature of Aboriginal culture, in which everyday objects also have religious meanings. The respect system in which elders are valued for their wealth of practical and social knowledge is also created and emphasised. So special techniques are passed down to the next generation in this way.

(Further reading:
 Jennifer Isaacs Australia's Living Heritage 1984, 
Australia's Dreaming 1980, 
Lansdowne Press, Sydney, NSW)

 

 

WEAVE (Rosemary Crow)
Weave, weave, weave us together,
Weave us together in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together,
Weave us together, together in love.

We are many textures, we are many colours,
Each one different from the other.
But we are entwined in one another in one great tapestry -

We are different instruments playing our own melodies,
Each one tuning to a different key,
But we are all playing in harmony in one great symphony.

A moment ago still we did not know
Our unity, only diversity.
Now the Spirit in me greets the Spirit in thee in one great family.