For more than half of my life the art of hand spinning has appealed to me. Spinning wheels especially. The various wheels I would see in art, old photos, and antique shops always seemed like more than a tool to create yarn and thread. There was something magical about them. Like a veil of mystery that each one had cloaked over them. A connection to so many people that it had created threads of life for, through making material via weaving, stitching wounds, in the tying of the umbilical cord of a newborn, clothes making, selling raw material for food to crafters, the creation of the spinning wheel itself, et cetera. Along with the story of the spinner or spinners and the ritual art of spinning. The repetitive and meditative motions echo through time with the millions of spinners that have lived their craft.
When I came to Heathenry spinning was a part of it. Not physically however. I became a heathen officially in 2008 and didn’t start spinning until February of this year (2016). Though I had owned a custom handmade drop spindle that was a gift for 4 or 5 years by the time I started. The time just wasn’t right when it first came to me to learn how to use it. Now that I have begun I can’t imagine not spinning. The idea has been with me so long that the fulfillment of this dream in one aspect (I still don’t own a wheel) has been deeply satisfying. What really brought me to Heathenry were the stories of Frau Holda and a spindle that led a young girl to her domain. Drawn in not only from the familiar symbol of the spinning wheel, but through what she stood for and had to teach. The stories of her love of industriousness and specific morals reflected my upbringing with a first generation German-American mother, and close German ancestry on both sides of my bloodline. Together they made this German goddess appeal to me in so many ways. I found connections through her to the more popular Norse figures of Frigga, Hel and even Odin. Soon after I got quite the nudge to proceed along the path after a dream concerning Thor. I had been a Pagan for around 7 or 8 years at that time and it felt amazing to find something more suited to me more-so than general Paganism.
I got my first drop spindle from a close friend that I called my “fairy godmother”, as she was extremely helpful during a confusing and gray period in my life. She used to gather reclaimed wood and burn the Elder Futhark onto the top, so that as I spun the wheel of runes would turn. I found myself unable to proceed with use of the gift until recently, but kept it tucked lovingly away for the right time. After moving to the Pacific Northwest I almost exploded with creative energy and spinning became an eventual outlet. I joined groups, watched videos, made new friends who spun and eventually spotted the most perfect drop spindle to start my journey at a local fiber shop. I started immediately. I spun a beautiful bulky cobalt blue Corriedale wool yarn. Later I bought my first Viking spindle. (A replica made in Europe.) Now, I use all three and lust over both historical replicas, as well as more modern adaptions. I won’t go into detail of my journey here, I have my own blog for that; though I will say that though my journey has barely begun, the fact that I spent so many years full of curiosity and yearning makes it feel as if I have always spun. Spinning is a part of me reaching deep into my soul.
Another reason I feel spinning may be so dear to me is due to my ancestors. I feel that most people more than likely had an ancestor who spun. So many cultures use quite an astonishing variety of traditional drop spindles as well as wheels that were introduced not too far back in history. It’s easy to forget the majority of our ancestors couldn’t pop into a shop to buy clothes. Especially cheaply. They spun and wove and sewed. Or had family members who did. Even if you claim noble ancestry, someone was at least taught embroidery or some sort of basic weaving depending on your heritage. For me spinning is one of many crafts I use to connect to my ancestors. I may not know them all or even their names but my intention is to honor and respect them in my work. So whether they did or did not spin is not of much consequence. I did however find a picture one of my aunts sent me of my 4 times great grandmother at her wheel. When I found out her name I was floored. Eleanore. A name I had loved since childhood. Funny how that works. Makes one wonder how close the ancestors are even when we don’t actively seek them out or try to honor them. With ancestor veneration being a part of my personal Heathenry I am trying to strengthen these types of finding are very important to me.
One could also use spinning to connect with the gods. This seems the most obvious seeing as I am writing this for a mostly Heathen audience. Readers that I do know personally work mostly or even exclusively with the gods in many cases. For me, wights are my go to in most situations but I can understand why it’s so popular to try and form relationships with deity. The most obvious choice of goddesses for forming a connection with via spinning would be Frigga. Many artistic pieces show her at a wheel. It isn’t historically accurate as the spinning wheel wasn’t introduced to that area until much later than our lore was written but then again most Norse inspired artwork isn’t accurate and is heavily fantasy inspired. Still, having her at a wheel could show her still thriving in later times. Changing as the world moves on to reflect our world. Other deities may include Frau Holda if your practice is more Germanic, Saule who spins the sunbeams if your practice is Baltic in origin, the Norns who spin the threads of fate and others. You could include Frigga’s handmaidens as well as many female deities. Whether lore or historically based or even experiential in your workings with them. One could argue the case for different gods as handspinners per their personal experiences but I will leave that up for debate.
In the end spinning is one of many crafts one could incorporate into their Heathenry. Nothing has to be based from the Viking age to “count” as something that will honor the gods and ancestors. It is your work, your drive and and your respect that honor them. Finding crafts that flow back into the ages past is an amazing thing but definitely not necessary. Now go and craft!