As a follow on to Paul Andruss’s last post Women’s Work – http://www.paul-andruss.com/womens-work/ Paul unravels a few more of the tangled web that has been woven about this intricate skill of weaving.
Bess’ Tapestry (Andruss)
As we saw women traditionally wove not only cloth, but also spells.
This is how labour-intensive weaving was:
In 2003 Dr Jacqi Wood recreated a collared hood beautifully preserved in a peat bog. A collared hood includes a yoke sitting over the the chest and upper back. Using early medieval technology, Dr Wood took 102 hours to spin the thread and 98 hours to weave the garment.
Collared Hood (courtesy Esty)
Classical Greece and Rome denigrated women’s skills. While some goddesses were highly skilled weavers, such as Athena, they are not goddesses of weaving. Athena was so proud of her weaving skills, when she heard Arachne boast she could teach the goddess a thing or two, she challenged the girl to a contest.
Athena & Arachne: from other figures (Andruss)
There are different versions of the tale. In some Arachne swears never to weave again if she loses, in others she wins and is forbidden to ever weave again. In despair the girl commits suicide by hanging herself with a skein of thread she spun. In a pang of conscience, Athena turns the girl into a spider – the ultimate weaver.
Then there is Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus. Odysseus joined the decade long Trojan War, and after being blown off-course, spent another ten years trying to make it home. Seven years of which, it must be said, he spent in the bed of the demi-goddess Calypso on sepulchral island of Ogygia; a land of the dead. Calypso’s name means to hide or deceive. It comes from the Indo-European word ‘Kel’ that gives rise to ‘Hell’, the eponymous kingdom of Loki’s daughter.
Head over and read the rest of this fascinating post… and next time you are looking through the racks of clothes you might just appreciate how much time it would have taken to make that dress a few thousand years ago: http://www.paul-andruss.com/fevered-threads/
You can read all the posts that Paul Andruss has contributed to Smorgasbord in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-writer-paul-andruss/