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.