Greetings grimoire enthusiasts!
The subject of maiden-spun thread has come up on the Solomonic group – and not for the first time. For those just tuning in, the Key of Solomon calls for thread hand-spun by a young virginal girl for any sewing or embroidering, and in the creation of the Holy Water Sprinkler.
I seem to mention virgin-spun thread whenever discussion turns toward the obscure ingredients called for in many grimoires. It’s not that I have a special affinity for this one ingredient in particular, but it certainly does seem to be the example par excellence of the kind item you’re likely to find on a Solomonic scavenger hunt. 😉 Virginal girls who spun thread were a dime-a-dozen back in the medieval and Renaissance eras, but today they are both fairly difficult to come by. It certainly isn’t impossible (I have a ball of it myself), but it’s not something you will find in your local fabric store or even botannica.
A member of my Solomonic group commented that modern machine-spun thread should be acceptable, based on the fact that all machines are virgins and thus have not been touched by sin (read “sexual politics”). I can understand this view, if one believes that virginity is the primary requirement for such thread. However, my understanding of hand-spun thread within its historical context suggests there is much more involved than mere sexual purity.
Before I go further, I should make an important aside: the same member of my group adds that he measures and cuts his thread on an appropriate day and hour and consecrates it accordingly. That is commendable – and certainly above and beyond the effort many practitioners put into their work. I should also add that it is a perfect alternative to virgin-spun thread in the event that you cannot obtain it. (Or if you are questing for it, but would rather not put your entire practice on hold while you search.)
So what is it that makes virgin-spun thread so important? First, remember that most folks in the pre-modern world did not buy their clothing from tailors. It was all made at home by the women of the house. In fact, between spinning the thread, making the clothing and keeping up with mending, I dare say women spent a fair amount of time on such work.
Now here is the real kicker, folks: As women would sit and sew in a home without television or radio, or game systems or DVDs or iPods, they would entertain themselves by singing. They would sing hymns, and they would sing Psalms and they would sing folk tales of ancient heroes. It was commonly believed that women sewed spells into the materials they created by singing these songs. For example, as a mother made clothing for her children, she might sing Psalms and recite prayers of protection, believing she was sewing that protection directly into the garments. When the witch trials got into full swing, a woman’s sewing practices were liable to get her arrested and tortured to death.
The Key of Solomon was composed in this atmosphere – where the reality of the female ability to spin and weave spells into fabric was unquestioned. Because machine-spun thread did not yet exist, then it was taken for granted that the woman who spun your thread included some of her own energy into it. Even if she didn’t sing or pray one bit, the mysterious power of Woman in the act of creation is enough to empower the material. It is from this standpoint that the Key requires her to be a virgin, so that her energy will be untouched by “sin” and sexual politics.
So, you can see that the virginity of the young lady is an ‘also required’, but not the main point behind the ingredient. The primary consideration would seem to be the fact that it is hand-spun, and the fact that a woman would have done the spinning is simply taken for granted by the culture of the time. A machine cannot spin its own magick into the thread, let alone does it tap into the mysteries of Mary and Sophia. 😉
To end this post, I’d like to add a few words about finding such thread in the modern world. I am sad to say that the source for my thread has passed away. However, my daughter will quickly reach the age where we can teach her to spin. It is not hard and a child will likely find it fun to do for a short while – at least long enough to get what you’ll need. (You’re not going to go through this stuff very fast.)
Another option is to keep your eyes open for people who practice old-timey crafts. You can often find them showing off their skills at period fairs – such as Rennaissance Festivals, Cracker Festivals (if you’re in Florida), Medieval Fairs, Founders Festivals, etc, etc. Seek out the folks who make hand-made clothing, dolls, etc – and you might find a young girl among them who spins her own thread. (If necessary, you could buy items she makes and pull the thread out of them.)
Another member of the Solomonic group suggested contacting your local chapter of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). You will find folks there who make things the old-fashioned way – such as weapons and armour and chainmail. If there is no one among them that makes their own thread and clothing, it is possible they would know where to find someone that fits the bill.
The group member I mentioned previously (who consecrates his own thread) says that he has also searched for convents where the nuns hand-make clothing. It is possible one might find a spinster among them (pun only slightly unintended).
And, as always, don’t hesitate to use the power of the internet. Check eBay, do Google searches and ask around the right forums and you might find someone who already has such thread. (Contact me in a few years and you can likely get some from me.) Also don’t forget to search YouTube for someone showing off their spinning skills – you can always email the person who uploaded the video:
Plus, you can watch the videos to learn how to do it, and then show your own daughter, neice, etc how it’s done – and keep her practice-thread for yourself of course. 🙂
Finally, if you must use machine-spun thread, you can do things to make up for the lack of the involvment of the young lady. Above I have already mentioned a good method of measuring, cutting and consecrating the thread in true Solomonic style. Another option I have heard about is from Buddhism, where certain traditions also call for virgin-spun thread. If the temple in question lacks a young monk that can spin, then he is simply given money to go purchase the thread. Buying an object can itself be a magickal act (remember the grimoiric instruction not to haggle over items you buy for your magick?), so even though the virgin did not spin the thread, he/she is at least directly involved in obtaining it.
As you can see, the virgin-spun thread is a great illustration of why we need to truly understand an ingredient or instruction in a grimoire before we attempt to change it. For other illustrations of this principal, see my blogs on the use of blood in ritual here and here. And also see my blog on looking for shortcuts here.