Follow the Yellow Brick Road

This is going to be sort of a hybrid post; it has to do with a fiber-related artistic journey I’m on right now, but there is likely enough spiritual substance in it to at least entertain my regular readers.  (And hopefully not too much spiritual content for my fiber readers to cope with.)

So, I’m taking a fiber creativity course, the Journey to the Golden Fleece, and one of the first assignments is to identify a time in your life when everything changed in a way that would ultimately unleash your creative powers. For reasons that may be obvious, the first moment I thought of was when Odin claimed me.  (For fiber folks who may be reading, I am pagan, and this was a big spiritual turning point in my life, after which pretty much everything about me changed.)

But then I started thinking of yet another time only a few years back, when Jo and I moved out here to Eugene from Philadelphia, PA.  This was a traumatic period for us both, but it was also when Anne Boleyn first introduced herself to me and became the first of my Queens, my Disir.  (Fiber folk: disir are female ancestors, of either blood or spirit, who look after their “children” in return for—well, many people would call it worship, but I think of it more as a relationship, just as one forms a relationship with the gods–or God, or angels, or whoever the higher powers in your own life may be—or with other living people, for that matter. On both sides, gifts of time, energy and attention are exchanged.)  My interactions with Queen Anne led me to a place where I could claim my own sovereignty—control over myself, my own reactions and my own choices—and that proved to be a really powerful step in unlocking my latent creativity and setting my feet firmly on my path as a Maker (someone who creates with purpose and intent, who manifests spiritual ideals into material form).  I even had, during this period of my life, an anti-mentor who gave me advice on how to create certain things and then punished me when I actually followed through on said advice.

But then I decided that this was still not right, somehow.  I also realized that, in typical Virgo fashion, I was over-thinking and over-analyzing the whole thing.  And it occurred to me that ever since I had begun collecting images for this first assignment on a Pinterest board (I love Pinterest!), my thoughts had kept circling back to the Wizard of Oz.  Kids nowadays grow up with Harry Potter; I grew up with Dorothy, and there was a period of time wherein I had to wear a placard around my neck to let my mother know whether I was Laure Beth or Dorothy on that particular day, in case she needed to call me back from running out into traffic.  I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen that movie to date, but I do know that it burned itself into my consciousness at a very early age and helped to shape who I am today.  Even the name of my blog, Wytch of the North, was influenced by it; Glinda and the Witch of the West were both powerful early influences on me, and I have found that the message “You have always had the power; you simply needed to learn that for yourself” keeps recurring in my life.  My father—my very first mentor in my artistic path!–was an oil painter, so color theory was part of my life before I learned to walk; but although, like Dorothy, I received my ruby slippers early on in my story, it took me a very, very long time to discover what they could do for me.  (And yes, it would have taken a lot less time if I had not fought the journey at several points along the way.)

At its heart, The Wizard of Oz is a hero’s journey, a story about self-actualization, about claiming one’s individuality, agency, and sovereignty, but at the same time teaching that you never need to wander far from home to follow your heart, because it’s always right there within you.  There are lots of more personal resonances for me in the story too, of course, including the song “Over the Rainbow” (Bifrost, anyone?) and the fact that Dorothy is transported by means of a wind storm. (Fiber folk: Odin, my patron god, is a god of storms—among other things—whose home is reached by means of a rainbow bridge.)

Browsing Oz-related images on Pinterest, I came up with an entire yarn color scheme based on the movie; I was searching for a feeling of bright, technicolor tones, colors to recapture that moment of pure magic when Dorothy steps out of her cyclone-devastated house and into another world, out from the black and white banality of Kansas into the full technicolor splendor of Oz.  But I quickly realized the palette I had created consisted of too many colors for any single yarn.  (Pagan folk: if you combine too many colors at one time, you end up with mud; this is true even if all of the colors are pure primary or jewel tones in and of themselves, and not actually mixed with the others; optically, in close proximity to one another, the eye becomes overwhelmed and the colors appear muddy and dull—the opposite effect of what I was going for here.)

And then I came across an image of the very beginning of the Yellow Brick Road, and drew in my breath in amazement.  I had forgotten: the Yellow Brick Road begins as a spiral, which then unfurls into a road that stretches on forever.

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To take your first steps on the journey it offers, you have to start at the very beginning of the spiral, as Dorothy did; those are the magical rules.  Some of you are with me already on this point, I’m sensing, while others are hanging back: the fact that it’s a spiral is important because a spiral has a beginning point but no end; it is a circle that flows ever outward from its central source; it is the pattern of DNA, the code of Making, which assembles itself in the shape of a spiral chain; and (as my fiber readers will know) it symbolizes and encapsulates twist energy, which is generated by the movement of the spinning wheel or spindle.

With this in mind, I decided to base my palette for this first yarn in my journey on the colors of Dorothy’s first steps on the Yellow Brick Road: yellow and gold, for the road itself, red for the Ruby Slippers, blue and white for Dorothy’s dress, perhaps a touch of green for the foliage along the roadside, and brown for Toto (because journey companions are so important!). To emulate the technicolor tones of the movie, I used mostly bright primary colors, which is unlike me; I love jewel tones and muted shades best.

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However, I found that, once spun, this yarn became far more muted and subtle (in places at least) than I would have anticipated; I love the way the golden tones blend into greens and oranges, thus bringing in a lot more of the palette of the world of Oz than I had anticipated, including the Emerald City, Glinda’s pink gown, and and the poppy field.

Since the instructions for this module were to spin a yarn you could spin in your sleep, I decided to spin this as a semi-worsted single and then Navajo ply it with a lace weight commercial red mohair, strung with sequins.  (I’m very well versed in Navajo ply from all of the ritual cords I’ve made.) This yarn represents who I was at the first moment of discovery: the moment when I stepped out from a black and white world and into a technicolor one, but had not yet set foot on the spiral beginnings of the Yellow Brick Road.

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18 thoughts on “Follow the Yellow Brick Road

  1. I love the Wizard of Oz. Not just the film, but as a child, I read every one of Frank L. Baum’s books – there are 14 in all. My favorite one is the one where a boy turns out to be a princess, and the rightful ruler of Oz. (make your Loki joke here) And the cords are just gorgeous. <3 I could see where they would be great for a rite of passage ritual.

    • I’ve never read the books (which is something of a guilty confession cpming from me: my love affair is based solely on the movie! And thank you! This is yarn though, not cords; it will be used in a final weaving project at the end of the course.

  2. Lovely story (and cord). I remember the first time I saw the Wizard of Oz it was in black and white. Ah, good old days. (I’m not as old as that might make seem though not that I have issues with age.) Blessings.

    • Thank you! I thought the bulk of the movie (after the b/w beginning )was always in color, though maybe it was colorized later on? I was born in 1965 and saw it for the first time when I was very small…I will never forget the first time I saw her step out of that house into a technicolor world.

      • Yes, I think so too. I was actually wondering that as I wrote the comment but because I haven’t seen the film in over a year I couldn’t remember (and, of course, it didn’t occur to me to check but I suppose I shouldn’t Google every darn thing!).

  3. Oh my. Beautiful yarn made even more beautiful by the depth of meaning behind it all. This is lovely and so touching. And I’ll repeat myself a bit: that yarn is amazing and has so much power! Thank you for sharing this!

  4. Wow, this is beautiful, and certainly packs a punch in terms of symbolic meaning!

    You’re quite right, the Oz portion of the movie is in Technicolor; the sepia (rather than pure black and white) was a deliberate contrast choice on the part of the filmmakers. This decision is quite true to the books. The first chapter emphasizes how gray and flat Kansas is, followed by the incredible splash of color Dorothy experiences for the first time in Oz. The book slippers are Silver Slippers. They were changed to Ruby Slippers for a more dramatic tone on film.

    My grandparents saw The Wizard of Oz in the theater in 1939. They remembered it vividly, because the first thing they saw as they left the movie theater was a special edition newspaper announcing the start of World War II. What an association to have! Nevertheless, they were still quite fond of the movie, and watched it whenever it was on TV. We only had a black and white TV until 1979, but the Flying Monkeys still left an impression on me at an early age.

    • Yes, sepia! That was so very evocative of what we call the “dust bowl” today–the grey, washed-out sameness that characterized Kansas in the story. I seem to remember my father telling me the colorlessness of the beginning was deliberate; and Dorothy’s first step into a Technicolor world was pure magic for me…I’m not surprised the silver slippers were changed to ruby; what other color has the impact of red?

      Ah yes, the flying monkeys…I think I had nightmares about them. :)

    • That, too, is a wonderful film! The only book series that have had the same impact on me have been The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. As I mentioned to Heather, I’ve never actually read the Oz books; maybe I should!

      • Brand wrote a rambling thing the other day about how the LotR films were extraordinarily valuable to recent and future generations, because they show a wide variety of male characters who suffer through intense emotions and /show it/, crying and grieving terribly and everything else that Hollywood insists men never do, and said characters never cease to be identified as heroes with great strength. Also, Frodo’s PTSD is dead-on, and so familiar that we both always cry.

        We haven’t seen any of the Hobbit films yet.

        I’m going to put The Neverending Story on the kindle to keep me company while I’m down in the city until Saturday and I should probably reread LotR, because it’s been… ten years now, I suppose, which is a very long time, and stick the Hobbit on as well.

        I have so many religious books I ought to be reading, but!

        • We watch the lotr movies every few years; as with the wizard of oz, it’s one of the few examples I can think of where the movie equals or even surpasses the book (in my opinion; I know there are those who would take issue with that).

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