The Secrets of Bess' Tapestry

When a male friend said he would like to learn to knit he was greeted by hoots of laughter. It seems that it is all right for  women to learn 'men’s skills' such as carpentry and metalwork but why would a man want to learn women’s work! It was like it was not important. 

    I grew up with my mum knitting clothes she could not afford to buy the family. If that is not important I don’t know what is.

I first became fascinated by the idea of knitting and weaving when I heard the story of Arachne as a child. She was a mortal girl who was better at weaving than the goddess Athena. Now I like Athena, I really do, but she was one heck of a sore loser and turned the poor girl into a spider - the ultimate weaver.

Then there was Penelope the faithful wife of Odysseus. She refused to believe her husband was dead, even though it took him ten long years to return from the Trojan War. Forced into agreeing to remarry when her tapestry was complete, she spent every night unpicking the threads she wove during the day.


The idea of weaving somehow controlling  your life is in lots of cultures.

 In Greek mythology there are the Fates, personifications of destiny. These three sisters doled out the thread of your lifespan, wove your destiny and in the end cut you dead. 

Their names were

Clotho, the spinner

Larchesis, the measurer

Atropos, the cutter

In German and Viking mythology, the Fates were called the the Norns. To the Viking, magic was woman’s work and magic was taken very seriously. While the men fought the battles the women weaved For victory at home  for it was believed a woman could paralyse an enemy by tying him in knots on the loom or loosen the knots that bound her own husband's hands.

Inca Quipu courtesy of Wikipedia

The idea of tapestry knots holding memories came from something half-remembered about how the Incas used knots to write.

These are called Quipu or talking knots. Lengths of knotted strings we are still unable to read. 

It seemed only logical that a culture as ancient & global as the fairy race - largely ruled by women - would choose traditional weaving skills to keep memories alive & to make maps. 

In the book Thomas the Rhymer, the fairy queen Bess gives Catherine an old yellowed piece of lace, which is the last map to the fairy realms of Britian. Every thread on the lace is a fairy road, where the threads join are the ancient sacred sites of power, while the holes in the lace are the secret locations of fairy nests. 

The last map of Fairyland

Learn about the history of the Fairy Race from Mr Grin