Of Spindles and Knots

Spinning and weaving no doubt played a very important role in the Ancient world right up to the time that machinery replaced the hand spun and woven methods. There is hardly a civilization that does not have a mother goddess that taught weaving to the female humans and these goddesses are often depicted with spindles and distaffs. There are countless stories of how the universe was woven or our fates are interwoven and there are many tales containing life lessons through the methodology of spinning and weaving. To the Ancients actual physical spinning and weaving were synonymous with spiritual life.

In later times it kept its' importance. ”The term distaff is used as an adjective to describe the matrilineal branch of a family (e.g., the "distaff side" of a person's family refers to the person's mother and her blood relatives). This term developed in the English-speaking communities where a distaff spinning tool was used often to symbolize domestic life”. In Medieval times Adam was depicted in art as digging and toiling the land whilst Eve is shown holding a spindle and distaff after being exiled from the Garden of Eden, indicating the importance of spinning and weaving as very ancient and necessary to the survival of humankind. Fertility, midwifery and the virtues of women were also always connected to the spindle, distaff and later spinning wheel. The spinners and weavers and even wool dyers were often regarded as having magical powers, indicating just how powerful the role of these (mostly) women were.

For the Celts weaving and spinning were as important. So much so that they adapted a Roman design to form their very own Celtic Knot. The Celts, like many other cultures, view the Tree of Life as a sacred part of our existence with the roots representing our subconscious, hidden selves and the trunk connecting it to the branches that represents our conscious and revealed selves. ”Celtic knots are referred to as endless knots due to the fact that they do not have an end or a beginning. The endless knots represent the eternalness of nature. Tree of Life knots symbolize the branches and roots of the tree which are woven together to show the continuity of the cycle of life. The Celtic Tree of Life knot is associated with positive energy, making it a widely used design for tattoos and other art.“ Through the Celts this particular knot spread throughout the Christian world in all forms of art, especially illustrations in the Bible and other literature.