Weaving has long been a winter activity. As the last vestiges of the cold hang on hereabouts, the thought of spring still seems distant. But friends have been sharing pictures of their new lambs so it's coming nonetheless. The whole cycle from wool to woven begins again.

There has long been an association of magic with weaving. While dismissed as 'women's work' often, its intricacies inspire wonder at its mysteries. If you don't know how to do a thing, the process can look like magic. Indeed the association goes back to the Moirai, the Parcae, the Norns and even Macbeth's three witches. The threads they weave, measure and cut -- how do they affect our fates? And what are the incantations they mutter over the threads?

Perhaps many of the rhymes are just to keep the rhythm even whether spinning the wool or running the loom. There are a few charms in the Carmina Gadelica, collected by Alexander Carmichael, that vary between simple description of the proper occupation in winter,

'Air oidhche fhada gheamhraidh
Theid teanndadh ri gniamh,
A toir eolas do chloinn
Bith an seann duine liath,
An nighean a cardadh,
A mhathair a sniamh,
An t-iasgair le a shnathaid
A caramh a lian.'


In the long winter night
All are engaged,
Teaching the young
Is the grey-haired sage,
The daughter at her carding,
The mother at her wheel,
While the fisher mends his net
With his needle and his reel.

to illuminating the proper numbers of strands and colours,

DAORN nam buadh.
Gu deilbh ’s gu luadh,
Bidh ceud gu leth dual
     Ri aireamh.
Snath gorm gu math caol,
Dha gheala ri a thaobh,
Agus sgarlaid ri taobh
     A mhadair.


THURSDAY of beneficence,
For warping and waulking,
An hundred and fifty strands there shall be
     To number.

Blue thread, very fine,
Two of white by its side,
And scarlet by the side
     Of the madder.

and of course, protecting the work in progress.

Cum air falbh gach droch shuil,
Gach uile mhuinntir droch ruin,
Coisrig cur agus dluth
     Gach snathla.
Ward away every evil eye,
And all people of evil wishes,
Consecrate the woof and the warp
     Of every thread.

A terrific collection, available online thanks to Sacred Texts.