Hear how the earth in her joy is shouting

The spindle arrived. It’s a trindle, from Trindleman, which means the shaft has a neoprene ball on it, and separately you buy carbon fiber arms with beads of various types as weights. The arms are swappable, allowing you to adjust your spindle to the project. The reason these are so awesome is that to get the longest, fastest, most stable spin, a spindle whorl should have the greatest weight on the outside edge. Various methods of achieving this have been invented. The middle of the whorl can be carved out, either just with a simple dip or groove, or in complicated and beautiful fretwork patterns. Sometimes on a large mushroom whorl, holes are drilled into it from the underside. The Golding Ring spindles put a ring of a metal around the outside, giving it considerably more weight, and they are much admired for their long, steady spin. But I work with very lightweight yarns, and I need lighter spindles for it. The trindles are the most elegant solution I have seen yet to the challenge. I have a microtrindle already, with a short, ultralight carbon fiber shaft, and it spins very well indeed for a featherweight. Thanks to Sannion’s generous donation, I was able to buy a new, full-size trindle as a dedicated spindle, solely for ritual and magical use relating to Ariadne and Arachne. The twelve-inch shaft is striped ebony, ebony in which the black resin has not been thoroughly dispersed, creating the fascinating variation in color. I chose the rock crystal spheres for the arms, and they’re a wonderful weight. The hub on this one has six holes for arms, so I can add more arms if I need more weight. I suspect I might for the last ply on the bracelets. Fortunately, I have these lovely skulls to hand, which normally live on my microtrindle. The virgin spindle having been properly consecrated to Ariadne and Arachne, it is now ready to go to work tonight. The hemp came out an excellent color. I’m very pleased. It will probably fade somewhat with time and wear (although Procion make very lightfast dyes, everything dulls eventually), but it should stay a nice, solid, bright green, like the young shoot of a plant. The cotton came out a good color, too, if a less consistent one than the hemp because I left the hanks twisted. That should work well for my planned use for those, though. And I like variation in color. I am, thus far, extremely satisfied with my work. Tonight, I’ll begin twisting the bracelets themselves....

Wasting Dye

The hemp came in at 110yds and 7g or 1/4oz. Not very much, but since I plan to use less than 2yds per bracelet, I should have enough for lots of them. That, along with two hanks of charkha-spun cotton, are in a ziplock of dye. I like dyeing, but I’m usually working with very small amounts, an ounce or two of fiber, a couple of silk scarves, four yards of very fine fabric for sewing. I’m nearly always using acid dyes, since I don’t work much in vegetable fibers, and it’s been years since I did tie-dye. Whichever kind of dye I’m using, the quantities always leave me with the same problem: wasting dye. I’ve known dyers who prided themselves on the fineness of their calculations for dye quantities, on the way they could have perfectly saturated fabric and an absolutely clear bath at the end, every bit of dye having been taken up, leaving no unevenness of color on the fabric. I sigh in envy over that. See, they are typically working in weights that are an order or two of magnitude greater than what I am. I’m doing a quarter-ounce, one ounce, three ounces maybe. The instructions on most dyes read something like this: TUB DYEING - 5 gallon bucket, 1 pound of fabric, 3 gallons of cold tap water or until fabric is covered. Add 2 cups plain salt, 1-4 tablespoons of dye, stir. Add wet fabric, stir 20 minutes. Add 1/4 cup soda ash (dissolved), while slowly stirring. Stir occasionally for 50 minutes. Rinse and wash. (Those are the instructions from the Bright Green Procion MX Dye I’m using.) A pound of fabric. The hemp was a quarter-ounce. One-sixty-fourth of a pound. If we assume really saturated color, 4tbs per pound, that’s 1tb per 4oz, which is 1/16th of a tablespoon (or just under one-fifth of a teaspoon) of dye for my tiny skein. I mean, I could use a 1/4tsp measure, if I had one in my dyer’s measuring set (which I don’t at the moment, since most of it got lost), but really at that point it’s nearly as precise, or not-precise, as my cook’s eye. (Volume is not a very accurate measure of hygroscopic powders anyway.) I might as well just take a pinch, since I can estimate a quarter-teaspoon of salt quite accurately. Some dyes do have more precise directions, and I can get out my good scale and weigh things precisely and then I do pretty well, but for this it just wasn’t worth it. It usually isn’t for me, frankly. I don’t dye in any one color very often. I have a couple of dozen little jars of dye lying around in various drawers and totes, most of them with at least a tablespoon or two of dye left. It’s usually just easier for me to tap a little extra in to be sure, and rinse a couple of extra times to get the excess dye off. It’s a matter of deciding what to spend my time, attention, and spoons on. Generally, working out the exact weight in grams of dye powder is not a good choice. But I do feel sad, sometimes, watching all that color pour away down the drain, or looking at pictures of some other dyer’s perfectly clear runoff. I wrote this up last night, but got no chance to post it. Today, the new spindle arrived. It’s lovely, striped ebony and crystal balls. I found it on the way out, so no picture yet. Tonight I’ll dedicate it, and then wash the thread and hang it to dry. Tomorrow, bracelets!...

Yoga and Charkha

Asana -- yoga poses -- are intended to be a preparation for meditation. I had been just doing simple, mind-clearing breathing meditation after my yoga video, but today I thought I'd get out the charkha and do a little spinning. I haven't had it out in at least a couple of weeks, and haven't used it regularly in over a month, but after doing yoga, I had fewer problems than I normally do after a long break, got less frustrated at the problems I did have, and got more out of it as meditation. None of which is even slightly surprising, of course. It's a technique that's thousands of years old, and I used it in exactly the way it's intended to be used, and got exactly the results I was supposed to get. I've been meaning to try doing trance work following yoga, to see if it makes induction easier, and now I want to even more. The only problem I can see is that I'm always so hungry after yoga, I'm worried that my stomach would distract me. I might take up a piece of fruit or something very simple to eat....

Woozy Notes

Cotton spinning continues to go reasonably well, although I definitely have better and worse days. I can now do the long draw magic trick about one time in three. One other time in three is because I don't see the slub until too late and my arms aren't long enough to make the trick work. On a good day, I finish with more seeds than waste, and on a bad day, as much waste or more than seeds. Yoga research, obviously, continues. Other current projects include the devotional hanging for Hermes and a mask in variegated purples, which may or may not become an altar piece. Maybe Silenos. We shall see. This morning, I accidentally took an extra mood leveling pill, and am dizzy and vague. I'm also still sick, with all-day, all-over body aches. Ugh. Hey, if I wrote a cookbook, would any of you buy it?...

Notes on Horseback, Firing Arrows Into the Trees

Experiencing internet outage at home. Expect posting to be spotty, especially since Ghost doesn't allow scheduling or queueing yet. The cotton spinning continues to improve, although this week I haven't been able to put the time into it that I mean to. When I have to get out the door to do something, spinning is the part of my morning rituals that gets skimped on. Still, I finished a skein. I finished the wool for the Ghost Masks, and got about 70 yards before I called it done, because a mask doesn't take much, and I hate it when a spindle gets that heavy and the cop starts getting unmanageable and unwinding itself at the bottom. I don't understand how anyone fills a drop spindle so full the cop is sticking out beyond the whorl. Also, must remember that candy caning the yarn is more important with fat yarn, not less. I'm exploring the way Hellenic reconstructionism is practiced, so I can see what of it works for me. I keep being baffled by how they pick and choose which bits to keep and which to discard. Why leave behind watering the wine, when it's key to at least one myth and at least one major festival, and seems to have been an assumed part of every time anyone partook of wine, both a symbol and a practicality? Why stress the importance of miasma (ritual impurity or pollution) and katharmos (ritual cleansing), but then discard specific acts of katharmos that are part of specific festivals, because they are inconvenient? Why thus-and-such interpretation of one festival, without any support for it in the primary sources you cite for it? Because some scholar fifty or a hundred years ago interpreted it that way? What did he base it on? Other than UPG (unverifiable personal gnosis; there's an April Fool's joke in there somewhere about a Personal Gnosis verification service), how does one pick and choose, if one is trying seriously to reconstruct ancient practice? I don't get it. And it's one more reason I'm not a reconstructionist. I'm working on several posts about some of the specifics, and I suspect it's a theme I'll be returning to. I feel a little bad about them, because I really respect some of the people I'm planning on discussing the inconsistencies of, if only because those are the people I read most, and therefor see those inconsistencies from the most. And because the ones I have less respect for, I tend to laugh at more than think about. (Because holy crap, are some of the sites and claims out there absurd. Anyone that utterly dismisses a book as being "pure neopagan propaganda" is someone I simply cannot take seriously.) My mom has requested that the length of cloth I wove for her be turned into a bag, or sewn onto one. She loves bags, and can always use more, and that way she gets to show it off more. So now I need to find a tote the right size, or see if I have fabric stashed that will do for making one....

Notes All the Way Down

Cotton boll breakthrough! I went back to what the person who had told me about spinning from cotton bolls said, which was that you just sort of held it loosely, and the fiber just spun off the seeds, leaving you with nothing but a handful of seeds. I thought that's what I had been doing, but I wasn't getting those results. Then I realized that what I was doing was fluffing it out and holding it more like a cloud of wool, with the seeds spread out, which made them greater obstacles (pronounce it like they do in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou"; it's more fun). So I tried bunching the boll back up, loosely, but all together, and tucking it into my palm, then letting the thread come out between my first two fingers. My fingers don't hold onto anything, but they keep the seeds from hanging up in the thread, and hold them back, like a wall. It works beautifully! Easier, better thread, and it's bringing me closer to getting the knack of the magic trick. Today I lit the tenth candle in my set for Forty Days of Ritual to Keep Abortion Legal. I've decided to do a full forty days -- if other people are doing it, keeping on doing so a couple of days after they stop can't exactly hurt -- and have a circle of stacks of votive around my little altar cauldron, ten stacks of four candles. But now it's ten stacks of three candles, which is good. Every day, after I lustrate and do my bit of tarot study, I add the burned-out little foil cup to the stack of them under the altar, grab the next candle off the stack, anoint it with oil, and call upon Athene as Giver and Keeper of the Laws, and Artemis as Protector of Pregnant Women, to help us keep abortion legal, and let no one be forced to give birth against their will. Then I put it in the cauldron and light it. Last night was the full moon, of course, which meant it was time for me to pour out my usual round of libations. I made offering to Hekate, Artemis, Okeanos and Tethys, Athene, Dionysos and Ariadne, Hermes, and Hestia. After sprinkling the barley and pouring out the wine, I added honey for Ariadne ("And for the Mistress of the Labyrinth, honey"). Then I pulled out the little copper tripod chafing dish I use as an indoor firebowl. I keep a bed of Epsom salts laid in it, and pour in jest enough rubbing alcohol to cover that, and light it. It produces very little smoke, making it quite safe to use indoors, and is hot enough to burn small light things, such as paper. This was the first time I attempted to burn cotton in it: the waste cotton and seeds from my spinning attempts. It worked ok, I guess. I didn't want to let the fire burn too long, and I put it out to soon and had alcohol-soaked blackened seeds left at the end, but offering made and lesson learned. Two days ago we had a truly horrible day. I can't even talk about most of it, but the worst bit was running out of gas in the middle of a long, uphill, high-speed bridge. I managed to coast over to the far right lane, and Kate got out and pushed, and some nice man who must have been sent by Hermes came along and stopped his car behind ours and got out and pushed, too. But we were still in a traffic lane. They got us something like 60ft, uphill, to the first turnoff, and I hauled the wheel around and got us into it… only to discover that it was even more sharply uphill, and there was a very high curb. So we were still stuck in the way of other people. But there was, at least, room enough for the people trying to actually make that turn to get around us. An awful lot of them honked and cussed at us, though. What the hell were we supposed to do? We literally could not move the car any further. We tried several times. Fortunately, I still have AAA, and I called them and they sent someone on an emergency rush, since we were blocking traffic, and he was there and gave us some gas in maybe fifteen minutes. But it was a really stressful fifteen minutes. As tired as I was when we got home after that, I had come to the conclusion that I really, really needed some ecstatic time with Dionysos. I'd been needing it for a long time, probably a couple of months. I really ought to do that ritual regularly, it's good...

Spinning and the Golden Mean

I continue to contemplate the Golden Mean and its applicability to my life. I'm not really comfortable talking much here about more general applications at the moment, because a lot of things are pretty bad right now, in ways I don't want to discuss, but the last couple of days while doing my morning spinning, I've been thinking about how it applies to that. Charka spinning uses a technique known as long draw, meaning that drafting is accomplished in a single long motion using only one hand. I'm getting better at it, but the "magic trick" continues to elude me. What magic trick? Well, once you've spun a length, if you have the twist balanced right against the tension, you just pull gently, and the slubs (bumps, places where there's more fiber clumped up than in the rest of the thread) just smooth themselves out, because the thicker the thread, the less twist there is in it. It's hard to explain, exactly. If I ever get the hang of it, maybe I'll post a video or something. At the moment, though, I'm mostly still having to use my other hand to untwist a little just down from the slub and then draft, because I've put in too much twist. I also have problems with previous length sliding off the bobbin when I pull. Argh. But it's very difficult for me to get just the right amount of twist. Too much, and the slubs are too tightly twisted and won't draw smooth. Too little, and the slubs just part under tension, and you lose some part of the length you've just spun. Thickness of thread is a balancing act, too. You can spin whatever thickness you like, within a certain range, but it needs to be fairly consistent. A thick place has too little twist and will just fall apart. A thin part will have too much twist and get brittle and snap. Today, I decided my bobbin was full enough, and wound it off in a skein -- the bottom of the skeins in the picture above, shown together for comparison to previous work -- and the improvement in my spinning showed. Previously, I've had three or more breaks in even a very short skein, like the top one, places where it was too thin or thick, weak spots that gave under the tension needed for winding the skein. This time I had only one break in my weightiest skein yet. It makes me feel a lot better about my progress, which can sometime be hard to see on a day-to-day basis. Having wound the skein, I then had to boil it. Cotton fibers are coated in a waxy substance that needs to be melted off in order for the thread to take dye. The heat and moisture also helps set the twist, or get the fibers to "remember" their new shape and not come undone the moment tension is released. I usually just drop it in a glass container full of water and pop it in the microwave for several minutes. The cotton is done when it's thoroughly soaked and no longer floating on top of the water. Then it just needs to be dried out. It's still damp in the picture above, actually, and will be fluffier when dry. The better I get at it, the more easily and naturally the motions come, the better it is as meditation. After the other day's fixation on Hadestown, though, I've learned to stick to music I don't get drawn into the lyrics of. Today, it was Mediæval Bæbes. The ugly little pinchpot I keep my cotton seeds in is overflowing. Full moon is Friday, which is when I normally make my offerings. I'm trying to decide exactly how I want to dispose of these and the waste cotton. Burning, maybe? Kind of smoky, and I don't currently have access to my backyard fire bowl (it's buried under blackberry vines, as in pretty much the entire yard). Bury it? On the off chance some of those seeds are still viable (hey, they brought back the extinct Judean Date Palm from 2000 year old seeds), and the plants could survive the damp and cool, it's a fairly invasive species, and I don't want to do that to the local ecosystem, which has quite enough invasives as it is. Hem, hem, blackberries. Finding balance is always hard for me, and always has to be dynamic. Life and context changes so often that keeping balance is like log rolling. It's even true with spinning. Different thicknesses, different fibers, even different breeds of the same fiber, the humidity, all kinds of things change the way you spin. My life right now is incredibly unbalanced, but much of the reason for that is not really something...

Meditating On Chthonic Myths

I got in an hour's worth of spinning today, with less wasted than yesterday's half-hour. I was listening to Hadestown, a "folk opera" of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, written by Anais Mitchell and performed by her and a bunch of other people, including Ani DiFranco. It's the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in a sort of postapocalyptic Dust Bowl/Great Depression era. Orpheus and Eurydice and in love, and they plan to marry, but neither has any job or money, and no work is available. Orpheus insists that this is not a problem, that the rivers, trees and birds will provide everything they need for their wedding, in answer to his singing. There is one place where there are jobs available: Hadestown, an entirely subterranean city where the inhabitants work the mine and build their encircling wall. Hades and his wife Persephone are well known as very rich, although there are many rumors about whether the citizens of Hadestown are rich, too, or overwork by a hard taskmaster. Just now Hades' private train has come to retrieve his wife for the winter. He may take others down with him, who wish to join the town. Hades, meeting Eurydice and hearing her sing, sets out to seduce her into coming with him. She's hungry and tired and afraid, considering suicide already, so she takes him up on the offer to go underground, abandoning Orpheus, even though she loves him, for the promise of a full belly. Learning from Hermes where Eurydice has gone, he follows the tracks of Hades' train on foot, ignoring warnings about the dangers, the cinderblock and razorwire wall known as the River Styx, and the "dogs" that guard them. They can be bribed -- maybe, if Orpheus has anything to offer. Below, Hades appears as a benevolent father to his people, singing a call-and-response song with the chorus of workers called Cerberus, about how the wall protects them from the poverty in the outside world. The people are grateful for the work and the pay and food they get for it, but they also desperately miss the upper world. Fortunately, Persephone's speakeasy has wind and rain, autumn leave, moonlight and sunshine, all on tap for the discerning customer. Eurydice is finding Hadestown not to be the city with the streets paved with gold and people covered in diamonds that she'd dreamed of. Now she dreams of flowers that wither and die, and thinks that she is sleeping and will never wake. Orpheus, unable to find Eurydice, despairs, but keeps looking, begging people to tell him where she is, because without her he might as well die, too. He finds Persephone, and his song touches her heart. But Hades has discovered everything: his wife's smuggling, Orpheus' unwanted presence, his plan to take Eurydice back above. He is furious, but Persephone attempts to soothe him. Truly, she does love him, calling him "Hades, my husband, Hades my light, Hades my darkness." She pities Orpheus, and wants to move Hades to do so as well. Hades worries about the unrest this may cause in others, that people will try to take more and more from him, that everything he has built will crumble. Orpheus continues to sing his grief and love throughout Hadestown, and the people are moved by it as Persephone was. They begin to rise and to riot, calling for freedom. Hades is badly torn. He truly loves his people, and has tried to do his best by them, giving hungry and jobless people work, food and money, even while he locked them away from the sun. He agrees to let Orpheus and Eurydice leave, with the famous condition that Eurydice will follow him, and that if he turns back to look at her before both of them reach sunlight, he will lose her forever. And doubt creeps in, as Hades knew that it would, and Orpheus turns to look as he gains the upper world, but his wife is still in shadow, and she must go back below. She and Persephone, and the inhabitants of Hadestown, drink to Orpheus, wherever he is now. Now, I have only ever listened to the album of it -- there were only a few live performances, and no video -- and I've done my best here to string the story together based on that, but I don't have any way of knowing what sort of action they have on the stage or if there's any unsung dialogue. But there are a number of things here I find very interesting, mythologically. This story is nearly always told from Orpheus' viewpoint. It's his story, his journey, him saving his wife. Eurydice has no agency, and often not even a personality. She gets married, she steps on a snake, she dies....

Really Obvious Lessons Cotton Is Teaching Me Again

Clockwise from upper left: A dish of cotton seeds, a cotton boll, fiber still attached to the spindle, and wasted cotton. As part of my daily practice, I spin cotton on my charkha for a while, as meditation. I don't set a time on it. Instead, I stop when I have screwed up enough that I'm frustrated instead of meditating. I'm slowly getting enough better that I go can for about half an hour before I hit that point, but there's still a fair amount of cotton wasted. I'm out of the cotton roving I had turned into rather crappy punis, as I mentioned before, so I'm spinning straight from the cotton bolls I had stuffed in a closet, that a friend picked on the roadside years ago, and gave me when she realized she'd never use them for whatever she'd thought of when she picked them. It's actually easier, overall, than spinning from the punis, which is probably because I prepared them and they were uneven and crappy. They are, however, teaching me some of those lessons that I really ought to know by now, but that I just keep having to learn again. Cotton bolls are a bit like dandelion puffs. The seeds are attached to lightweight fibers that help the seeds be carried and spread. But cotton, unlike dandelion, has been cultivated for those fibers for a good 7000 years now, bred for long, strong fibers. They're really good for people to pick and use and sow again, but no longer as good as dandelion seeds for spreading far and wide. Of course, they still spread well enough that ditches and uncultivated land near abandoned cottonfields are often covered with cotton growing wild, like the spot my friend picked these. Left: A teased-out boll, with some of the buried seeds circled. Right: A still-bunched-up boll. Wine cork for size comparison. Because it was handy. Cotton bolls are analogous to individual puffs of dandelions, and each boll contains several seeds. There are two types of fiber in each boll: the long staple fibers that are spun and woven, and the finer, much shorter fibers that cling tightly to the seeds, called linters. Linters aren't good for spinning, being less than 1/8" long, but they are used in papermaking, and give paper strength and texture. They're also used to make cellulose and cotton balls and cosmetic pads. Cotton seeds with both linters and spinning fiber clinging to them. If you can see the obstacle, you can usually go around it. Usually. If you can spin around the seeds, pulling staple fibers from the loose stuff around the seeds, it's great. Very smooth pull. But the seeds can be hard to see (which is why I had to circle them in the picture above), and the staple fibers can cling tightly to the seed, or the linters can get caught in the twist, and then the thread gets hung up. If you can see the seeds, you can generally stick to the staple fibers, and move around where the thread is drafting from, and then all the long fibers around the seed spin away and the seed pops free easily. Sometimes you don't see them until they're already stuck, or can't move fast enough to move the drafting triangle, or it just gets caught despite your best effort. Sometimes, obstacles are unavoidable. Thread hung up in the linters. Once you're caught up on an obstacle you can't go through, break it off and try again from another angle. For the above picture, I just picked out a seed with a little puff of fluff, and spun that until it caught, but usually spinning from the boll, you've got a much larger puff with several seeds, and there's more cotton to work with. So you pull loose the thread, lap it over another spot in the puff, and start spinning again. Just turn the crank and pull and -- if it works right -- the fresh fibers just catch on the thread and away you go. A loosely-wadded accumulation of one day's wasted cotton. Sometimes you can't pick up where you left off. Sometimes you have to scrap some of the work you've done, and pick up before you left off. Sometimes, though, the fibers just won't catch on the end of the thread. It's twisted too tight, or the fibers snapped off too short, of whatever. Actually, I don't know what causes it. It just happens. And then it won't catch no matter how many times you try, or you'll get four or five inches in and it'll snap at the same spot. Ugh. Then all you can do is back up the thread a few inches, untwist the thread until it comes apart without snapping any fibers, and...

Finishing Notes

The seascape piece is 36" long, and varies between 12"-14". I keep wondering if there isn't some way I could turn it into clothes after all, cut it into sections and quilt it onto something else, or find a long dress or coat to add it to, or something. It's such an awkward size, though. I finished up the cotton roving I turned into punis on the charkha, and got a decent amount out of it. I can't afford any more punis right now, but I had a big bag of cotton bolls in the closet that a friend picked on the roadside years ago and eventually handed off to me, having nothing to do with it. I don't have cotton cards (although I know a clever way to gin it using my pasta machine), which makes preparing it very difficult, but someone on Rav mentioned that it was perfectly possible to spin straight from the boll. So I tried it this morning, and, oddly, it's easier than the punis were (probably because I prepared them badly). The cotton is coarser than the prepared stuff I was using, but it just drafts off beautifully. The seeds still give me a little trouble, but the leaf and calyx bits come out easily as I spin, or just fall out of the thread. The seeds themselves, I'm saving to make more offerings to Athene with. They're twelve or fifteen years old, so there's little to no chance of them germinating, even if this were a climate in which they'd grow, but really, I think I'd give them anyway. It seems appropriate. I'm saving the bits of cotton waste left when I screw up, as well. I like the idea of offering my failures up while asking for the skill to reduce them. As I get better, I'll find other offerings to give, or learn to skills to offer failures from. It's important to acknowledge that skill and knowledge of these arts comes from Athene. It's the first and simplest lesson from the story of Arachne. I'd forgotten that the cotton on the spindle had some brown under the off-white, but just wound it all into one skein, which leaves the hank looking stripy, even though the thread only changes color once. If I ever get hold of colored cotton again, I might alternate colors, to make self-striping yarn. At any rate, I mean to dye a hank of brown with each hank of white, eventually, to see the way the dye goes on differently. Stripy hank:...