Sea: Welcome to Saga Kraft. Myths, fairytales, legends. Stories comfort us, inspire us and heal us. Please join us as we share stories both old and new. More than anything, we are open to the story and it’s unfolding. At times it may be one story told by one person. At times it’s the same story told through three different voices. In the end we go where the story takes us, and we invite you to follow.
I’m Sea, a writer, artist, and storyteller.
Betsy: I’m Betsy, a medium and teacher of mystery traditions.
Gabriela: I’m Gabriela, an artist and practitioner of folk magic.
Saga Kraft: We are magical fairy godmothers in training.
Gabriela: Today, we will be sharing stories about spinning. The magic of spinning, the goddesses of spinning, and how threads come together. How connections come together. So, we invite the blessed spinners to be with us today. The blessing threads, the connections, the wisdom, of those threads and everything in between. And we invite saga.
My story is called The Dream Thread.
My younger sister Kasia was lagging behind as usual. Her short, chubby legs made very little effort to keep up, but stumbled clumsily down the hill towards the river where I was heading, carrying a basket of clothes for washing.
I didn’t mind this chore at all. I enjoy the walk through the village and down the big white hill and the river was always pleasant, at least into spring and summer seasons. If it wasn’t for Kasia slowing me down, I would be done with the washing in half the time and could spend the rest of the afternoon stretched out by the river, daydreaming while listening to the breeze and soothing flow of fast moving water.
I wish mother would let me come here by myself once in a while, without Kasia. I don’t see why she couldn’t stay home with mother and learn how to make herself useful. I couldn’t help but resent her at times, and how much she got away with, or rather how little. By the time I was six, I knew how to sweep the kitchen and front porch, feed the chickens, prepare and trim fresh herbs for supper, and mix the flour for baking.
For Kasia, a very different set of rules was in place. But then again, there was a reason for that. The year Kasia was born was a really difficult one for our family, and nothing seemed the same since. Everything was threaded with a tinge of sadness.
It was the year that Granny died suddenly and without any warning. We had no time to prepare and barely got to say goodbye. My mother, eight months pregnant, fell into a deep sorrow and barely survived the labor, which came a moon too early and caused great stress to her body and soul. The midwife and a couple of other older women from our village came to our cottage and stayed for nights, tending to my mother. Heating water, preparing herbs, teas, and washes, and saying prayers, whispering under their breath and exchanging concerned glances.
My mother, delirious, cried out for Granny, whose hands delivered me into the world, but sadly not this new child that was arriving. The women had to remind her gently over and over that her mother was gone, but they would stay with her and would take care of her and the baby, and everything would be alright.
I was a little over three years old, but I remember those few days so vividly. I didn’t understand fully what was happening, but I could feel the severity of each moment that stretched painfully, and it was filled with my mother’s moans at a pitch I have never heard before. My father paced outside on the porch, distant and cold with worry, unable to provide me with any solace at all. At times like these, Granny would be the one who held her apron open to receive me with an embrace, or a corner of a soft handkerchief to wipe my tears with. Granny was the only person who could have made this moment bearable for me, and she was gone.
Craving her warmth and security, I crawled into bed with her favorite shawl wrapped around me. The gentle smell of lavender and honey clung to the cloth and soothed my spirit. My hand traced the raised patterns of flowers, so lovingly embroidered by Granny’s hand. Almost as if she was holding my small hand in her own through the threads and textures, comforting me still, just like she always did, and as my tired eyes closed and the scent of lavender guided me into sleep, I remembered Granny’s words, which she shared with me not long before she died:
“You are the strong thread in the family, my Anushka, you must help your mother, and your sister when she comes, so they stay alive. You must keep their spirits strong so they are not pulled to the other world that calls for me soon now. I wish I had more time to teach you all the things you almost already know.”
I remember hearing her words, and other words and images throughout the night as I drifted in and out of sleep. I was awakened by a rising sound of women’s voices, and through my grogginess, it seemed like more than three women were in the room. It sounded like a dozen chanting voices rose higher and higher to a crescendo of a single powerful plea, which was followed by a silence, an openness of space and time.
And then I heard the midwife say with great relief “It’s a girl, thank you Goddess, she is alive.”
And a raspy, tired, but defiant cry filled the cottage. That was the night. My sister Kasia was born. Small and fragile, but eager to fight and stay alive. Mother, also weak and fragile, with a little less eagerness for life, needed a lot more help and protection, as women often did after giving birth.
The first year of Kasia’s life and that of my mother’s was certainly a year of in between. With death and despair looming in the doorway of her cottage, Zotia, the village wise woman, came by a couple of times a week to check on us, to prepare milk producing herbs for my mother, to talk with her, and to sit with my baby sister.
I watched closely under the kitchen table, peering through the embroidered birds on the lace tablecloth.
“I see you, Anushka. I see you. Come help me grind these blessed thistle herbs. Say a prayer over them. It will make them work better. There you go.” she coached me gently, guiding my small hand over the bowl, the herbs responding to our combined efforts, a strong smell of the plant rising into the air.
“See your sister grow plump and strong and your mother healed from sorrow.” she said, while swirling the herbs around and around. I enjoyed this time with the old woman, for she reminded me of Granny and made my missing her a little lighter.
Kasia and my mother made it through the year. Once introduced to food and fresh pastry so lovingly baked by the village women and my mother, once she got stronger, little Kasia ate and ate and ate like she could never get enough. Her small body filling in fast, her hands and legs plump with rolls and her once pale cheeks became pink, like summer apples.
As I look at her now watching me ring out and fold the damp clothes, her big sweet eyes gazing into mine with such a calm content stillness, my heart melts, as all my previous resentments of her always wanting to be near me and slowing me down. I am so happy that she came into the world, my world and has fought so hard to stay in it, and now is so fully alive and present.
“You are doing it again, Anya, you are looking past me. It’s like you are asleep, but awake at the same time.” she exclaimed gladly.
And she was right. I was so easily lost in the moments of memory, fragments of time, that deepened fully into my recalling every detail, sound, and texture. So vibrantly alive again. I stopped the folding and used a corner of my apron to wipe the powdered sugar from her lips, leftover from the soft roll she’d enjoyed on the way to the river. She squirms a little, but doesn’t resist, trusting me to make her face look a little more presentable.
With the folding done and the sun still high in the sky, we head back. Kasia runs ahead when I remind her about the fried potato cakes mother would make for us when we get home.
Our house is the farthest from the river at the edge of the village, and closest to the woods. Whitewashed walls, ornately painted window sills, like eyes looking out into the surroundings, and crisp embroidered curtains in the windows. As always, our mothers face peering through the curtains to watch for us coming down the path as we usually would midday. Inside smells like baked bread, spices, and freshly peeled potatoes.
“I’m hungry, Mama” Kasia announces loudly, breathlessly, as she runs into the kitchen and immediately wraps herself around her mother’s waist, like sticky dough.
” Go and help her sister hang up the clothes outside while the sun is still up.” mother says, and by helping, she means for Kasia to leave her alone and not cling to her so she can get the cooking done in peace.
Sighing heavily, Kasia follows me out into the yard where the drying ropes were strung. Carefully, I lift each shirt, apron, and tablecloth out of the basket and fold and pin it to the stretched line, smoothing out the wrinkles, straightening out the colors and trims so they would dry flat. The sun so graciously dancing on the red, black, yellow, and white linen threads illuminating the birds trees and women figures with hands up or down that were sewn into the borders and hems of the fabric, like stories of our lives and our family, threaded with the linen spun by our Granny and embroidered by her, and her mother before that. The love and care of their fine stitching, still crips after all these years.
“Anya, Mama is calling” I am reminded by Kasia as she tugs at my skirt. I must’ve drifted off again, gotten lost in the shapes and memories of birds and flowers that were being kissed by the late afternoon sun.
Later that evening, after supper, I watch my mother embroider a new handkerchief for Kasia. I notice how thin the embroidery motifs are, how much space was left open between the patterns my mother was creating. I couldn’t help but compare how full and intricate the patterns were on some of our older tapestries and shirts.
“Why are the flowers so small, Mama?” I inquired.
“So I use less thread, Anya.” she said, and added as she saw my confusion, “Your granny was the spinner of our family, she blessed the flax and spun it into thread so we could embroider with it. Since she died, no new thread has been spun.”
” What happens when the thread ends?” I asked mother, pointing at Granny’s spinning wheel and the staff that stood, sad and abandoned, in the corner by the window.
“I don’t know. It’s never happened before.” she replied sadly, her eyes reddening with tears a little. “We have never been without the family thread. We must make the leftover batch last a very long time, until you are a little older and can learn to spin. It would have been your Granny who was supposed to teach you, but maybe when the wise woman Zotia has some time she can show you. In a year or two. She knows the way.”
” Why can’t you teach me Mama?”
” Because I am of childbearing age. Too much interference and daily concern would cloud my vision and disturb our fate if I tried to spin, as your Granny would say.” She smiled softly and touched my cheek, seeing the sadness in my eyes. As I thought about her last words, she said, “This is nothing for you to worry about. You are too young to think about such things”
Only I wasn’t too young. I was always thinking about such things. Ever since Granny told me I was the strong thread in the family and had to keep things together. I was always observing, paying attention, looking between moments that seem to open up for me more and more as I’ve gotten older. I didn’t know what she really meant by that.,But today Granny’s words seemed to come into sharper focus. For me, thread was very important, and our family was running out of it.
I laid awake late into the night. Long after mama and Papa went to bed. With little Kasia snoring peacefully next to me, I couldn’t help but think how sparse the threads were on the hems of her clothing now. Before they were so rich and full, thick with story. Now, like sad shadows of our colorful past.
I had to do something. I didn’t know what exactly, but the situation, it felt so heavy. I crept out of bed and went into the main room where the spinning wheel and distaff were. The Distaff, wrapped in a white cloth and red ribbon, stood tallest at the side of the wheel, almost like a person. A few loose strands of flax exposed on the bottom. Nobody has touched the distaff or the wheel since Granny’s death. I remember the wise woman Zotia who attended her death, covering the distaff with great care after Granny’s body our her home, her wrinkled hands making careful knots over the cloth containing our family treasure.
Remembering this moment so vividly makes me nervous now to stand so close to the spinning wheel, which seems to be taking on a new life in the moonlight. The strands of flax moving gently as I breathed in and out. Hypnotized, I reach out to touch the distaff, to feel the ribbon and the bulky flax bundle underneath.
As my fingers barely glide over the bundle.,the distaff jumps off its hinge and to my bewilderment ends up in my arms. Instantly I’m flooded with emotions, memories, and visions, so strong that my head spins and I’m forced to sit down. Birds flowers, trees, intricate patterns and reds and whites whirl before my eyes, coming together and growing apart into bigger swirls and movements. I see rolling hills, our forest and river coming out of the shapes and colors, all so alive. I had to keep my eyes closed to stay on the ground, and stay on the ground to let them all settle.
After some time I opened my eyes slowly. The visions fading a little, but still feeling dizzy. I dragged myself to bed and crawl under the covers, the distaff still in my arms. I fall asleep right away.
I thought I heard the sound of the wheel spinning in the next room, it’s rhythm taking me deeper and deeper into the dreamland summoned earlier at the wheel. In the dream I was sitting at the wheel, distaff in hand with my own hands gently pulling the strands of the thick flax bundle into a single thread, strong, smooth, and just the right thickness. Glistening with the magic of hope and possibility. I couldn’t believe that I was spinning and it was so easy. Then I remembered, I didn’t know how to spin and that I was only dreaming.
And that’s when I heard the voice of a woman and she said “Just keep going , Anya, just breathe and keep going. Nothing to think about here. Just open to the flow of the dream. This is what spinning is. Remembering and dreaming. I will guide your hand, just like I guided the hand of your grandmother and her grandmother before her.”
I didn’t know who this woman was, but surely she knew me, and her voice was the most beautiful, comforting sound I’ve ever heard, and I trusted her without abandon.
I didn’t see her exactly, but for a glimpse here and there of a long braided hair like golden wheat, eyes as light as the summer sky. The hem of her dress red like blood and ripe berries, and she was everywhere. She was as big as our cottage, even bigger. Stretched up to the sky, with fine spider thin threads of light, moving all around her and connecting them all into a living tapestry.
In this tapestry I saw Granny, and I saw myself too, and the Kasia and mama. We were all together, woven into breathing lines and symbols. And she spoke to me through these symbols, moments and textures. She spoke to me in the first language, the language of the goddess.
This was the first time Mokosh came to me in a dream. The first, but certainly not the last, for the goddess holds her daughters, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers in a tapestry together. Always helping them find each other, always strengthening the bonds and threads between them and I, as my grandmother told me, was one of these threads, and I would pick up the distaff at waking time tomorrow and take up my place behind the spinning wheel.
The, end for now.
Sea: Very beautiful. Thank you so much. I loved it.
Betsy: What was it like for you to do this story, as it was unfolding?
Gabriela: It was really nice. It was really… it was really comforting. It was easy. And it certainly took me to a time that I long for it. Being in the present time and being so much in that present would capture the past and the future at the same time, through hope and memory, and just embroidery itself, and especially folk embroideries as families would do. Each their own motif, or one that was familiar to them, is such a sacred place for the divine. And especially for the goddess. And I do feel like there is this hidden language of the continuity of that love and that protection and embellishment of what we wear, whether it’s something that’s for a special occasion, or for daily wear like an apron. And within that, the secret is contained, and that language is contained and, it’s a safe place for it because people will not really take it apart or look at it as an old way. Because it’s just temporary, but there is so much there. And I know that there are lots of studies done about this by scholars. You know, that the goddess, there’s really little written about the goddess, but she’s everywhere. She’s in the textiles. She never left. And women contained her and kept her spirit alive, and I feel like she guided them.
Betsy: I was going to say, and possibly the women were kept alive, not just alive alive, but alive in their souls. Work that could become drudgery becomes something that you’ve put something inspirational into that has that connection to her. That’s what I’ve found really beautiful in your story.
Gabriela: It was a very, very fun story to be in.
Betsy: Feels like you were really in it as you wrote it too. That definitely comes across.
Gabriela: Thank you. I could feel a deep love for all of the characters and perhaps it’s a call to you to embroider, too. That call has been coming. It certainly has. So I think now that I’m saying it out into the world, I’ll have to do it, but I want to do it. I want to do it. Though I’m much more like Kasia, wanting the buns and the cakes.
Betsy: I think we do want those things until we feel the touch of the divine. And then we’re gently nudged into another pathway, or an inclusive pathway, including the cakes and the buns…Were you going to say something, Sea?
Sea: Oh, that same thing. Why choose…. Why choose? Cakes, buns, and embroidery. It threw me back to my grandmother, so my grandmother did all that. And I remember being so humiliated actually, because we were to take home our PE uniform in the sixth grade and to have our name put on them, and everybody else wrote their name on their PE uniform in marker and my grandmother and embroidered mine. It just felt so strange.
Gabriela: I had the same grandmother. She taught herself to… so at nine her parents bought her a sewing machine. They couldn’t figure out how to use it, and she, one day when they were out working in the field, they came home and she had figured it out how to sew herself a shirt. So I always think of that. And she has been… that’s how she made her living. She was a seamstress. She does amazing immaculate, embroidery and sewing. And I always had, you know, I had the school uniform. Usually kids would just buy whatever the basic one was. And mine was always extra. And I was so embarrassed because I stood out with this embroidered beautiful collar. And for when I got married, my mother gave me a box of some of those collars. And they’re exquisite. , Just a weight and the feel of them. There’s something magical about that.
Betsy: I’m so glad you have that box of them now.
Gabriela: I don’t know what I’m going to do with them, but I like to just look at them and think about them and think about her
Betsy: Maybe they’ll show you some embroidery that you want to do.
Gabriela: Exactly. Exactly.
Betsy: Well, it sounds like all of our grandmothers were seamstresses or adept in those arts, because mine was as well.
To the grandmothers then, and to their loving hands, so carefully threading, embroidering beauty into our world. And to the goddess.
And to the goddes. That’s lovely, thank you.
Sea: Thank you.
Gabriela: Thank you. And Betsy, we would love to hear your story.
Betsy: Well, my story is The Magic Spindles, and it is a story that is about a character who is one of the Huldufolk, and for those of you who don’t know who the Huldufolk are, that’s a Scandinavian term for the hidden folk. The small people which show up in every culture and have different names.
The body of the dead queen, Alfhilde, was laid to rest on an immense feather bed, covered with brocaded cloth. The four posters of her bed were ornamented with the fanged heads of carven wild animals, which had decorated her traveling sledges, her ship, and her carts as protective spirits. Draped across the head of the bed was an intricate woven tapestry with the figure of a great goddess receiving offerings from mounted men and women coming from either side. Scenes of ritual, including carts carrying priestess and goddess, wheeled along ceremonial routes, were embellished with gold wire embroidery and glowing with Jule like colors. The tapestry was a priceless treasure, and a woven history of a way of life that was coming to an end and going into the grave with the priestess queen.
Attendants brought in a chest filled with finely woven embroidered gowns wrapped in ritual cloths to place alongside the immense bed, to clothe her in her afterlife. Her daughter and other noble women arranged her and her hair, and placed personal items alongside her. Her ritual implements were stowed in another chamber of the ship. Yet another chamber contained sacrifice animals feed and to accompany her. And all of these treasures were enclosed within a great and elegant ship, already at rest in the base of what would become a grave mound in a boggy fen near her temple and her hall.
One of the women stood back a little, surveying the rich funeral goods, committing them to memory. She had played her own part in the making of these textile treasures. They had not been just for death, but had served the queen in life, in her ritual duties as a priestess or Freya. She felt sadness of the loss of the queen that she had loved and served, but even more at the impending loss of the queen’s elder companion, who had been her own weaving companion as well.
Sopdis would go into the grave with her mistress, to serve her in death as well as she had in life. This was her destiny and Runa accepted it and grieved for it. She thought back to how she had come to be here. A Huldufolk serving an elven queen, and both of them disguised as mortal. It all had to do with the magic spindle,and this is how it came to be:
There once was a Huldufolk woman who lived on a beautiful Island in the shining sea. She lived there with the other hidden folk for many years when she was finally blessed by the goddess to have their own child, a sweet daughter. Much to her surprise, on her daughter’s naming day, a powerful and rather magnificent woman came with gifts and declared the right to name the baby girl and to lay her destiny upon her.
She blessed her with a helpful nature, a sweet disposition and great skill with the spindle. She bestowed a golden needle, a stone spindle, whirl, and stone loom weights upon the infant. The glowing woman named her Runa, which the mother understood to mean both secret and generous. She told the mother that the spindle would be the guiding force in Runa’s life. The mother didn’t think too much about it for this was true for many girls.
Runa’s birth coincided with the arrival of more humans on the Island, who settled over time in a small village adjacent to a good Bay where they anchored their ships. They gathered together, with houses close to each other, and set their flocks of sheep to grazing.
The hidden folk, concerned about what living closely with human mortals would entail, found rather to their surprise that humans brought some benefits which improved the lives of the Huldufolk. These improvements largely had to do with sheep, with whom they developed strong and loving relationships.
The hidden folk, talented at crafting of all sorts, quickly found the sheep’s wool in the heath and thickets, and set the young hidden folk to collecting it in the dusk and dawn hours, when concealment was optimal. This will was spun into very fine thread, which is quite easy because of the long fibers and the great skill of the Huldufolk spinners.
Eventually, as the Huldufolk learned more about the much larger mortal humans, watching them for some time, they began to come closer to the settlement, even daring to creep into the part of the long houses devoted to livestock. Here they clipped some of the undercoat of the sheep, or even finer yarn and began to take some of the milk of the ewes in spring and summer. This milk was made into marvelous cheese. Being fair minded, they left sweet herbs for the sheep, which helped the milk to be rich and plentiful.
Though they were as careful as they could be not to be seen, the presence was intuited by one married lady, who felt the presence rather than seeing them. She occasionally left them cakes on festival days. These cakes were repaid with medicinal herbs and finally worked wooden spoons and spindle shafts.
This friendly relationship continued, with mutual benefits, for some years. Being in good stud with the hidden folk brought prosperity. As Runa grew older she found that as she spun with her naming day, spindle, that she had visions which appeared in her mind’s eye. One such vision was of a room of treasure kept in the long house of the kindly woman.
The spindle visions urged Runa to see these treasures for herself. A great curiosity grew in her to visit the human settlement. The mystery that drew her was in the part of that hall where the mortals dwelled.
In the first of her night visits, she could only peek into the area where the humans lived and worked. Sometimes the door would be closed and she saw nothing. Sometimes a big hound would be in the space between. Her curiosity was rewarded in summer when the darkness had disappeared and was replaced by the luminous light of the northern summer night. This allowed her to see more clearly into the human hall, and eventually to find herself in a room with a window, and able now to see tools so familiar yet different to those that she used.
A tall upstanding loom with tabby cloth stood in the corner. Piles of wool roving in, various states, were in baskets all around. Some were dyed, some not. Some carded, some not. The carding combs were different, the scale much grander than what she was used to. There were baskets of herbs, all of which she recognized would be used to dye the roving or the spun yarn.It was enthralling. The loom that drew her was lying on a table that was too tall for her to see. She felt nervous to bring a stool closer to stand on. She feared making a noise that would bring dogs, or worse, men, to discover her.
On the next summer midnight visit she asked her friend accompanying her to hold her up so that she might see what was being woven. A scene of ships in full sail, fighting men in mail and helmets, ships anchoring in a cove. There was a revelation to her that life itself could be woven in pictures. Though crude, the colors and shapes were undeniable. Her imagination took flight, brought back to earth by her friend hissing “I need to let you down. Now.”
They hurried out and home, and for days afterward Runa, whose memory was astonishing, replayed in her mind all that she saw in the weaving room. To parents relief, she rarely wanted to go to the mortal settlement, but instead took it upon herself to recreate what she had seen. She did go back occasionally to look more closely at the looms and to discover the use of tablet squares with holes that allowed the weaving of intricate braided trim.
As Runa grew older, her skill in replicating the mortal’s weaving and ornamentation grew. She created many patterns of trim with the cards and began to experiment with dyes. After a few years, all the people in her settlement wore clothing trimmed with Runa’s creations.
One summer evening, her life changed. She found the mortal woman, Sopdis, waiting for her.
“Don’t be frightened” said the immense mortal woman, looking down at the small slender Huldufolk girl. She looked closely at the gown trimmed with ornate braid that Runa wore. “You have a fine hand.”
Runa looked up at her with alarm, unable to say anything.
“I know that you are skilled and want more skill. What can I do to help you? I know that you help us as well.” and so began lessons taught by Sopdis that could only occur when her husband was away on trading voyages.
Sopdis shared with her that she felt restless when he was gone from home, and she enjoyed Runa’s company. She made sure that Runa and her family were well paid for Runa’s part in the weavings that’s Sopdis sold as her own. Runa’s skills surpassed hers.
Together the two of them created amazing woven tapestries, with figures so tiny and intricate that Sopdis’s reputation for weaving grew, as her husband carried the weaving to distant lands, and eventually to the court of the King. His queen, taking the measure of the skill of the weaving, and of the man who sold it, commissioned a ritual weaving from his wife. Carefully laying out the details to him.
These details were passed onto Sopdis, and from her to Runa. While spinning the finest of threads from flax and wool with the stone spindle, Runa found the design for the queen’s weaving came to mind with clarity, and very little effort.
When the queen received this weaving, she acknowledged it to be even more perfect than she had envisioned. She could also see the influence of the magic spindle. Another commission was made and executed with precision, and in such detail that the queen found it to be magical. Yet again for Runa, the spindle spun design patterns almost endlessly, which she marked out for Sopdis or executed herself on a variety of looms.
The visions the spindle gave her were not only about the projects that she worked on. Sometimes the visions from the spindle showed her of the business of gods and goddesses, heroes and Valkyries, all of which came to life in braid or tapestry with Runa’s clever fingers.
Then came the day when Runa’s life changed again. The spindle showed her that when she spun wool dyed from a particular plant on Thor’s Day, she would find herself changing and growing to mortal size. Spinning thread from wool dyed from the same plant at midnight would allow her to change back. Runa saw that this power of transformation would be needed, and that she should practice now.
She gathered the herb, she dyed the wool, and spun the yarn on Thor’s Day. After her nerves settled down, and after spinning for some time, when she entered into the spinning rhythm she felt a curious sensation. She was relieved to see that while she grew rapidly in size, everything that she wore or touched grew with her. She stopped abruptly when she realized that she would soon be too big for her Huldufolk sized home. At midnight that night, after calming her horrified mother down, she spun herself back to her usual size.
She let Sopdis know what had happened, which gave them both a lot to think about over the next weeks. The two of them practiced in Sopdis’s weaving room on Thor’s Day just before midnight, and then back to the usual size for Runa,. They had long conversations, questioning what it meant or why it was needed.
They understood why when Sopdis’s husband returned and let her know that she had been bidden to court to serve the queen. Sopdis dreaded about being able to serve Queen Alfhilde without Runa, which she knew would be unacceptable to the queen because it was largely Runa’s skill which had called all of this into being.
When she and Runa met again, after listening, Runa let her know that she would accompany her and could be presented to Sopdis’s husband as the shy village girl who spun for her. And so Runa’s life was changed.
At court, as a mortal girl, or so she seemed, it changed again, for when Runa met the queen, she saw her what she was. A queen of elf land and a queen of mortals. Alfhilde, the queen, let her know that she had seen instantly that the magic of the cloth tapestries was beyond mortal skill and that she, Runa, was the answer to Alfhilde’s prayers, for Alfhilde served a goddess whom she felt to be the ancient horned mother, now represented by two goddesses, Freya and Frigg.
This goddess had shown her a vision of a tapestry that would preserve Alfhilde’s life and service as a priestess to the goddess. Freya showed her that knowledge of the goddess would go into the mound for a long time, to eventually emerge in a whole new age in the future. As frigg, she had bestowed her own spindle on a girl who could spin the threads and weave the stories straight from the heart and the mind of the elf queen.
And so an unlikely friendship of elf, mortal, and Huldufolk began, and continued in quiet devotion to the weavings. As the queen shared her practices, her knowledge, her experience of the goddess, Sopdis and Runa found that of all the queens women, they were the one ones who could hold her and support her in her ritual ceremonies. They felt, and Runa spun, the fertile love of the goddess. Her prophetic knowledge, her grace, and wove her story with queen Alfhilde into the tapestries.
These were carried by the queen on her processions. They were displayed in her temple and her home. And when it was time, they went with her into the grave. And so too did Sopdis, accepting the blade and laid to rest with her mistress.
As the mound was built around the ship, stones were laid above the two women, buried within the ship to prevent their rising. Runa feared, something different, for the bones of queens and priestesses were sought as talismans. Runa, with her spindle, stood in front of the growing mound, where she spun thread for the queen one final time.
Her intent was to spin protection for the queen for a thousand years, but found to her dismay that the thread broke at 100 years. Sobbing, she knotted it and continued with the magic spindle to complete the thousand year protection spell, and leaving her blessing and fine thread over the queenandn her dear companion, she left for her home on the bountiful Isle.
Gabriela: I feel so swept by this magical thread. I feel like I am in that story. That was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you.
Sea: It was beautiful. How was it for you to live through that?
Betsy: You know, it was fascinating and very touching. I have to say, it started one way and then it moved in another direction and really just became its own story that wanted to be told.
Gabriela: I can really feel the presence of the old ancient horned goddess, and her splitting, just that act of sacred division. It just touches me deeply. I’m really taken by it and it feels very true.
Betsy: This story was definitely inspired by the Oseberg ship burial, and it was broken into a little over a hundred years later. And it was mostly… the metal was taken from the grave, but no one knows what all exactly was there, but many of the bones.
Gabriela: It makes me really want to explore that world and the dream state, and explore those women and those priestesses, and the queen, and all of them. If I were to be allowed, but that just feels like a really powerful potent place and a coming together of powerful women.
Sea: I agree. It feels very, very sacred. I feel a little speechless, because it just feels sacred.
Betsy: One of the things that’s true, not to take away from any mortal spinners or weavers, but they don’t know how some of the fibers were spun so finely, because they would be very difficult to replicate at this point in time. So these weavings were extraordinary, and the remnants of them can really attest that to the intricacy and to the incredible amount of skill. The idea of a Huldufolk who can change her size and spin the thread finely as a tiny Huldufolk, but then use those threads in a bigger weaving.
Gabriela: That was wonderful. Yes, that was wonderful. I also love how, even at the end, at the death, that the agreements that are made when certain connections or certain important players come together, it’s certainly an old way, but it feels so intimate. And so devotional. It’s really moving.
Betsy: Yeah. I think one of the themes that I’ve felt going through the story were just all the different layers of destiny that were happening, but a destined time for the goddess to go into the mound, in that way. But to know that she would emerge later and we would have these, these remnants. One of the things that unfortunately happened to the tapestry, when the tomb was broken into, is they were cut into pieces and then they were layered and so, you know, we don’t know what the whole thing looks like. We just have pieces of different tapestries. Of the main one,that fortunately was recorded and brought to life. And periodically. I think it was brought out of the mound in 1904 and then it’s been sort of archived. The pieces have largely been archived, but there’s been a rising interest in them again. And so even more of them are unpacking now. And I think they’ll continue to unpack, and that horned goddess will continue too. And I also think it’s quite fascinating that the horned goddess, when we think of the Viking headdresses, of the two horns, and thinking, Oh, those are for the women, for the goddess, not the guys.
Gabriela: Exactly. A part of me really likes the fact that that only pieces surface at a time for us to fill in. And travel in between those pieces and its entirety. And to see something so beautiful and so profound might, the circumstances would be, you know, too great. The consequences, rather, would be too great, of such an unraveling. So we’re getting the pieces that we can contain safely.
Betsy: Draw us in and want to know more.
Sea: I wonder if it isn’t leaving room for us to put our own pieces in as well.
Betsy: That’s a really good point. And for myself, I mean, it, wasn’t my intention to have the story be about beings from three different dimensional realms, but it’s the way it turned out. But I also love that there can be that kind of, just like in your story Gabriela, there’s the continuity between generations. There can be this collaboration between realms also. Serving a greater purpose.
Gabriela: I really love that in your story, that for a greater purpose or for destiny’s greatest gift, it’s just not one world that shows up. Different layers of skill and ability are needed.
Betsy: So it really struck, as the story was unfolding for me, of, the long vision of the goddess also. Sopdis is a name that I heard in Iceland, and from what I understand that, you know, Dis or Disir, being the ancestors of the goddess and the “So” part is about oceans. So, Sopdis would be the ocean going goddess, which sounded like a good name for a trader’s wife, somebody who lived on an Island as well.
Gabriela: That is a most fitting and beautiful name for her.
Betsy: But the queen Alfhilde’s reign coincides with the dating of this tomb, too. So her family, all names that began with elf. So they were definitely seen as relatives or relations or connections in some way to that realm, too.
Gabriela: Thank you for this really beautiful gift. I’ll be taking this story with me. Into my dream and into my waking time. And I love Sea’s vision of the tapestries and our own piece in it. I will be thinking about that and finding my own language in the cloth.
Betsy: I was struck by the spindles in both of our stories being the teachers. The spinning of the visions, the opening to the space where the visions can come. So I’ll definitely be thinking of that in the week to come magical spindles and magical threads
Sea: And special thanks to the fantastic Zoë Magik for her phenomenal editing skills.