The mark of the witch

This lone blackthorn flower caught my eye shining out against the black tangle of thorny branches. A bright spark of blood appeared on my finger as I was nicked by a thorn. The very same thorns that the devil was said to mark witches with. The thorn marks that Witch Finder Generals (my flesh crawls even thinking about those twisted men) were looking for as they accused young girls, women, old crones and men alike in the medieval witch trials. The Blackthorn was so entangled with those supposedly involved in the ‘dark arts’ that their branches were cut and used as fuel of the pyres set to burn the accused alive.Its association with darkness is really just the oppressing hand of the medieval church in their attempts to overthrown those practicing an earth based spirituality.

In Scotland Calleach (the crone of winter) is said to have struck her staff of blackthorn into the earth striking down any sign of growth in her dark reign of the winter months.

Baba Yaga Rides

While modern attitudes might sneer at the idea of a tree encompassing a healing property or spirit I love that it’s existed for thousands of years, showing up in archaeological records going back as far as 8,000bc. Wither in spirit or metaphorically it can offer us the tool for overcoming negativity. It helps us to facilitate our rebirth bringing forth that which we may repressed from those long dark days where dreams fed from our unconscious to bringing our negativity into the light and begin to work with them.

One idea I’ve had for this blog is to talk to fibre artists – people who I see the soul of nature infused in their work. Feature artist’s I’ve met through workshops, Flickr, blogs etc and generate some discussion. I’d like to examine in this blog is when we consider the state of the world I want to question what what role does craft and creativity play in facilitate our relationship to our self, each other, nature and ultimately spirit, god, mystery (however you view the interconnection that is life).

Just now I feel quite infused with the spirit of the blackthorn. While I love the longer days I’m feeling quite naked separated from those winter layers that bathed us in darkness, it felt safe somehow, I was able to hide.

I’ve been working nuno felt scraps machine embroidered into layers, it makes me think of my Grandmother. She was a tailor working in an eminent dressmakers in Glasgow called Muriel’s, just off Suchiehall street. In the 1920’s the rich of London Society would travel to Glasgow for tailored flapper dresses. Her embroidery was amazing as I remember as a kid not being able to work out which way down the embroidered tablecloths went!

As the machine stitches trails of gold and connects and merges the layers of nuno I feel like i’m bringing light to dark layers of my psyche. I need to explore them and recognise the patterns they, often unwittingly, weave in our life.


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