Spinning and Wyrd

Yesterday, in a comment to my post on why it’s sometimes important to remain silent about certain aspects of one’s path, Shelley asked how spinning factors into my spiritual practice.  As I was walking home I realized that my reply had been somewhat rushed–having been written at work during a break–and had omitted a couple of important points, so I thought the question deserved a post of its own.

Spinning is integral to my practice in many, many ways, not least as a link to Frigga and as a simple meditative exercise.  Like many other repetitive activities, spinning definitely has a hypnotic quality and can function as a meditation in itself, quieting the mind as the attention focuses on the series of actions required to produce yarn–drafting the fiber, wrapping it around your wrist or a distaff, setting the spindle in motion with a flick or a roll, watching the twist travel upwards, drafting some more, flicking or rolling the spindle again, smoothing out the yarn and wrapping it around the spindle shaft, and again, and again, and again.

This repetitive activity is calming and relaxing, to be sure, and arguably as effective as any form of sitting meditation in reducing stress and focusing the mind.  But there’s so much more to it than that, because once the muscles begin to learn all of these small motions and do them automatically, the mind no longer has to monitor and narrate each one and is free to enter a very special state of energized stillness, a stillness that enhances the ability to perform a variety of very odd activities–such as conversing with spirits and inviting glimpses into Wyrd.

That’s right: spinning is a trance-inducer, as surely as drumming, dancing, singing, breath, and all of the other methods more commonly employed by spirit workers, witches, and shamans.   In fact, spinning was likely one of the most commonly employed trance inducers by northern practitioners such as seidhrkonur, simply because it fits so perfectly into the pattern of northern European life.   My spiritual ancestors were extremely pragmatic people, and although singing might be used for certain rituals (such as the seidhr performance depicted in the Saga of Erik the Red), and drumming may even have had its place for those trained by the Finnish Saami, spinning–and weaving, for that matter– fit a whole lot more smoothly into the pattern (sorry, can’t help myself) of daily life.

So, spinning is a great way to induce trance–once you’ve become competent enough at it that you no longer have to closely monitor each step–but there’s even more to it than that.  As my first spinning teacher, another spirit worker, explained to me, spinning offers a working model of Wyrd.  I’m sure a version of applies to the spinning wheel as well, but I was taught this model as it applies to the spindle: the shaft is Yggdrasil, the World Tree that connects all the realms of existence, the whorl is the Well, which holds memory of the past and the shadows that will become the future, the fiber is the raw stuff of creation, of potential, and the act of spinning sets Wyrd in motion, sending intent and will into potential and creating pattern, form, order, and direction.   As I mentioned in my comments yesterday, spinning can be used as a vehicle for operational seidhr, for those who have the capacity to practice it.  (I almost didn’t mention this last bit, but the fact is that spinners will eventually make this connection themselves assuming they have talent or inclinations in that direction, and it’s one of those things that you have to see for yourself directly, before you can use it; merely being told doesn’t do any good.)

I use spinning as a tool in my own seidhr practice, and Frigga, Frau Holle and the Norns most certainly practice this particular art to perfection.  In fact, this is why spinning (along with weaving) is such a common motif among the northern goddesses in general, and why it is traditionally forbidden during the 12 nights of Yule (a word etymologically related to wheel, by the way)–because the goddesses and the Norns are spinning, forming Wyrd at this vital turning point of the year, and human spinning, even by the most skilled seidhr practitioners, would just get in the way.


8 thoughts on “Spinning and Wyrd”

  1. because the goddesses and the Norns are spinning, forming Wyrd at this vital turning point of the year, and human spinning, even by the most skilled seidhr practitioners, would just get in the way.

    Oh my goodness, this is so obvious and yet never occured to me before! Thanks for hitting me with a clue by four. 🙂

      1. And you dear. My time is big time becoming my own again so we will get to talk more again.

  2. Thank you for elaborating on my question so much! Your post has given me lots to think about, especially the analogy of a spindle and spinning representing The Tree, The Well and Wyrd. I have come across the idea that the rune Naudhiz actually represents the spindle in it’s iconic form. I’ve also heard about the prohibition of spinning during the 12 Nights of Yule and your explanation makes sense but why would that time be anymore crucial than another? I thought Wyrd was being spun out continually?

    1. Yes, that is of course true! However, Yule is a time when the veils between the worlds are especially thin and Wyrd is especially fluid and volatile; this is why it became traditional to make oaths for the year ahead at this time (the precursor to our New Year’s resolutions). All of the normal boundaries that exist are thin and permeable at Yule–between the living and the dead, the gods and mortals, possibilities and manifestation.

      I can definitely see Nauthiz as a spindle!

  3. So, I just left a comment in another post of yours asking if spinning can be trance inducing as I’ve heard that said before. And then I go back and read this and my question is answered. 😛

    That’s quite the interesting story of spinning (and the wheel) being connected to Yggsdrasil. I can easily see the connection though, it makes perfect sense~ *nods sagely*

    1. Now that I have a wheel, I’m going to have to come up with a wheel-version of the spinning and Wyrd model. And I am already reserving spindle spinning for when I’m away from home and specific ritual uses, just because the wheel is so much more efficient! In time, though, I’ll probably discover that there are specific fibers I prefer to spin on a spindle; my friend Janis at Dyelots likes to reserve her spindles for spinning silk hankies and cocoons, for example.

  4. […] I’ve talked about how central spinning is to northern European spirituality in general, and its role in my spirit work practice.  It’s also extremely central to my personal spirituality, to my marriage to Odin and how […]

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