Smorgasbord Reblog – Fevered Threads by Paul Andruss

Thomas the Rhymer Paul Andruss

As a follow on to Paul Andruss’s  last post Women’s 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:

You can read all the posts that Paul Andruss has contributed to Smorgasbord in this directory:


Smorgasbord Reblog – Women’s Work by Paul Andruss

Thomas the Rhymer Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss does what he does best.. unravels the myths and legends surrounding the making of cloth.. weaving has been associated with many ancient cultures…gods, goddesses and sorcery of all shades of dark. We take our clothes for granted these days as we pick our way through rails of bargains or pay way over the top for a see through blouse… but there was a time when the ritual of making cloth to wear had special significance.

The Norns- figures cut from lithograph by Gehrts (Anduss)

Threads I span

These I weave

Then I cut

No one has any idea when weaving started. Perhaps it originated long before we were even human. Chimpanzees loosely weave branches and leaves into sleeping platforms in the trees. It is likely proto-humans wove baskets, not only to carry goods but also to fish. A fishing net made from willow is known from 85,000 years ago, while the first evidence of textile weaving is a 70,000 year old fabric impression.

Spinning and weaving came under the provenance of women’s magic. In cultures where men wove, such as ancient Egypt, they are believed to have usurped the woman’s traditional role. Neith, the Egyptian goddess of weaving, was viewed as an ancient mother to who the other gods went for advice, and one who provided mighty aid in war. This attribute resurfaced some two millennia later with the powerful Norse goddess Freya of the Vanir, whose name simply means ‘The Lady’, and her sorceress representatives, the Volva.

The Vanir were the original gods of the Northern forests. When Odin’s family tried to overthrow them, Freya used magic and prophecy to start a war with the Asgardians, eventually forcing them into peaceful power sharing. As part of the bargain, Freya kept half of all the brave warriors’ souls the Valkyries gathered.

In Ancient Greece and Rome, women’s skills were denigrated, except for goddess too ancient and powerful to ignore. Those such as the Graeae, the Muses, the Furies and the Moirai occupied a shadowy place in the minds of men. That they were originally three sisters, suggests they are revenants of the original triple goddess.

Find out more about the way different cultures approached the art of weaving:

You can read all the posts that Paul Andruss has contributed to Smorgasbord in this directory: