Sunday, November 15, 2015

And Now For Something Completely Different

Back in 2004, when I had just published my book, a friend asked me to contribute a chapter to a project he was working on based on the magic of various crafts. I wrote the chapter and sent it off, but the project never came together and no book was published. Recently, I was digging through my old computer files and found a copy of it.

While it's outside the scope of this blog, I couldn't resist finally seeing this in print. It's definitely more my "book" style rather than my blog style. For example, the inclusion of various example spells is something that book publishers really like. One fascinating element is a rather large (and admittedly lazy -- though I did get permission from the author) extract from a now defunct website.

Cords and Knots

The origins of cording (or braiding) and knotting are ultimately unknowable, hidden in our furthest past. Knot historian and researcher Pieter van de Griend believes that knots are "man's oldest technological achievement, possibly even predating the discovery of fire." Combining several strands of vine or long grass to make one stronger strand is the forerunner of spinning and probably one of humankind’s earliest discoveries. While the materials that formed these earliest cords would not have survived, we can guess their age through implication. For example, beads and pendants (which would suggest the use of cords and knotting) have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. The oldest known pierced objects (a drilled wolf incisor and a bone point) were excavated from an Austrian cave and dated to 300,000 years old. [1]

In the cave of Lascaux in France, home of the famous Ice Age sorcerer and other 17,000 year old rock paintings, a petrified piece of braided cord was found imprinted in the stone floor. It is believed that this cord might have been used to lower ritual participants into the sacred “pit” area.[2]  In addition, the Venus of Willendorf, dated to between 25,000 and 22,000 BCE, has meticulously carved braids surrounding her blank face.

While the earliest uses of cords and knots are ultimately unknowable, they certainly have been used throughout recorded history and before. From the simplest cord and over hand knot, many of the other fiber arts would eventually develop: spinning, knitting and crochet, even weaving. From wholly practical (securing clothing and harnessing animals) to beautifully ornate (macramé, decorative braiding, and seaman’s artistry) knots have been used so frequently and in so many ways that it’s difficult to separate the history of knots and cords from the history of humankind in general. However the art of cording/knotting for practical, decorative, and magical purposes seems to have been developed primarily on the sea.

A sailor on a long voyage would have had little to occupy his free time and not many supplies or tools beyond what was standard onboard equipment. Examples of early seamen’s arts (elaborate whale-bone and driftwood carving, detailed model ship building, and so on) were based on our need to create – even when there was little to use and inspire the artist. This human urge for beauty and the display of skill, which drove these coarse, uneducated men as much as the most well-known Renaissance painter, can certainly be considered magical. In any case it’s no wonder that on a ship outfitted with lots of rope, seamen would have had the time and inclination to invent and improve on not only practical nautical knots, but also braiding and knotting for purely decorative purposes.

There are examples of knots used for magical purposes scattered throughout the cultures and histories of the world. Eliza Fegley, creator and maintainer of the Pagan Database [3], includes the following brief overview on her knot magic site [4].

Knot magic has been in use since ancient antiquity and can be found in the art and literature of all ancient cultures, from ancient Mesopotamia onwards. It is also found in all the religions of the world.

It was a practice among Catholics to tie a knot when invoking saints to bind the saints to them until they have done their bidding. 

Mohammed, founder of Islam, was cursed by a knot and, had it not been found and untied, it is said that Mohammed would have died. Some male followers of the Islam religion will tie a knot in their beard to protect them from the evil eye. When at sea, they might tie several knots in their clothing to put an end to violent winds, but when going to Mecca they must not have any knots in their clothing.

In Hinduism, knot tying is often associated with the death gods. 

Buddhists refer to the untying of knots as a "process of liberation." [5] 

Knot tying was common in Roman magic as images of lovers were sometimes tied together to keep the couple bound to each other. Solemn oaths were also made to their deities while tying a knot. 

In mythology, we have the Fates who wove, knotted, and cut the strings of life. We also have the famous Gordian Knot which Alexander was said to have cut in two with his sword.

In not so long ago times, there were men and women who were called blowers of knots. They would recite incantations while tying knots. The most famous of these incantations were done for wind knots. 

Wind knots were three knots made in a string, rope, or rag and sold to sailors. If a sailor were to untie one knot, he would get a moderate wind. If he should untie 2 knots, the wind would blow half a gale. To untie all 3 knots would have caused a hurricane. [2] 

Knots are prevalent in wedding lore, where two people are united in marriage which is also known as "tying the knot." From the Dark Ages to the 18th century, it was forbidden to tie a knot at someone's wedding for fear that it would prevent a true union between the bride and groom. Another form of knot magic associated with weddings is the wearing of a net over the bride's head. Today, brides often wear a veil, originally meant to protect them from the evil eye and evil sorcery during their wedding day. 

During a woman's labor it was custom in many cultures worldwide to undo all knots within the house. In black magic, knots can be used to hinder or stop the birth of a child, killing both the mother and infant. It was also believed that a knot can cause a painful and difficult delivery. 

To knot a cloth that had touched a man's penis was believed to bring about his impotence. The same was held true to tying a knot into a man's pubic hair and burying it in the earth. 

When someone was dying, it was once a common practice to untie all knots within the room so as to not keep the dying person bound to life and suffering. 

In Russia, knot magic was once very common. There are written accounts of the many types of knot spells including an 8 double-knot curse to use against an enemy in which wool yarn was used. As each double-knot was made, these words were spoken: 

"1. I go out onto the road, 2. I throw into the open field, 3. into the distance, 4. between the homesteads, 5. into the fields, 6. into the seas, 7. into the forest, 8. into the quaking bag." [4] 

This cord was then left in a place where its intended victim would step on it. 

For protection from harm by a gun or other weapon, 5 knots were tied in a cord and kept about the body. 

Red wool thread with nine knots was sometimes worn by children to protect them from fever. 

A cord with 40 knots might be kept as an amulet for protection against thieves. 

In today’s world, knot magic continues to have its place. Examples of this would be in the dream catchers made by the Lakota's, the "Eye of God", and shell decorated nets that are hung in homes and businesses. 

Select Bibliography: 
1. Amulets and Superstitions by E. A. Wallis Budge. Dover Publications. 1978. 
2. The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer. Collier Books. 1963. 
3. Taboo, Magic, Spirits: A Study of Primitive Elements In Roman Religion by Eli Edward Burriss. Greenwood Press. 1972. 
4. The Bathhouse at Midnight: Magic In Russia by W. F. Ryan. The Pennsylvania State University Press. 1999. 
5. The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols by Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant. Translated by John Buchanan-Brown. 1996.

Cords too have a lot of associated symbolism. From the cords used during college commencement ceremonies, in traditional Japanese dress, and to take your measure when you join a coven – the combination of strands of fiber to make a more complex, beautiful, and stronger finished product had definite magical associations.

Knots and cords have even been used for communication. There are many systems of using knots to symbolize numbers. In times past, an illiterate person might keep a numeric inventory or accounting by tying knots in a string. Incan quipus were knotted cords used for communicating both numeric and literary information. As a form of language, quipus were portable and sturdy and the materials to make them easily obtained. These are the same properties that can make knots and cords so useful for magic today.

We have many advantages over our knot working ancestors. There are host of books and sites devoted to the art of knot tying, with detailed illustrations and practical techniques. In addition, methods for braiding cord have been researched all over the world and collected in excellent reference works. But however easy it is to find knot and cord information, actually creating them can still take a certain amount of skill and practice. The best way to become adept at any new skill is to enjoy your practice as much as the final product. For knot and cord magic, the practice can become part of the spell. If you want to create a specific knot and need some time to learn it and get it right, you can use that practice time to refine your intent as well. By the time the knot looks perfect, the magical symbolism and will you imprint on it should be as well.

There’s an important difference between a knot and a tangle. While a knot is a collection of structured and planned twists in some length of material, a tangle is a chaotic jumble. Knots are usually also easy to undo (although it might take the sailors’ marlinspike or a sharp pick or knitting needle to do the trick). Tangles however can be maddening to sort out. Knots are like the traditional labyrinth – convoluted, but containing an underlying structure with an obvious path. Tangles are more like a maze – multiple openings, paths, and dead ends. Labyrinths can be transformative and very useful, but it’s the maze that can get you truly lost. This can give us some hints as to how knots and tangles differ in magical use.

For example, the traditional witch ball often contained a tangle of threads. To get into your house, it was believed that the witch would have to follow the path each of the threads. No doubt any witch intending to do so would get hopelessly lost. This was the same idea as the bottle or ball filled with sand. The witch was supposed to have to count every grain. Of course, all the witches I know just ring the front doorbell to get in. However, replace the term “witch” with “negative energy” and you’re closer to the real use of these items. A ball or bottle filled with tangled thread can be charged to send unwanted energy astray or catch it in the tangle. A bit like the Native American dream catcher, allowing good dreams to pass through the center but catching the nightmares in the surrounding web.

When I was a young girl and my mother brushed my long hair, she’d refer to the tangles as a “hex” or “hexen.” In addition to being a synonym for “curse” in English, Hex is also the German word for witch – a fact that I found fascinating when I got older. When I do serious magic, I often find that my hair is very tangled afterward. Brushing before and after helps keep my energy unbound and flowing as well as my hair. This binding effect could be deliberately recreated for magical purposes, particularly in regard to a promise you make to yourself or another. Like tying a string around your finger to help you remember something, tying a knot in your hair could help you keep your promise in mind – literally binding it to your self. You can also use the binding/confusing effect of a tangle to keep someone from following you (either literally or astrally) or protect a place from unwanted attention.

Creating a tangle for magical use doesn’t require any particular skill. Your cat could probably help you just by being left alone with a ball of yarn for half an hour. Structured knots, on the other hand, do require some knowledge and skill to use. While the most basic knotting techniques require only the appropriate symbolism and intent (along with a half hitch), more advanced knot magic will use the varying character and mathematical properties of the knots themselves to strengthen the spell.

Knotting is a huge field. The Ashley Book of Knots, considered the definitive encyclopedia of knotting, lists almost 4000 different knots. In addition, the innovative knotter can create infinite variations of common knots by changing the direction or number of turns. Most knots can be placed in one of several categories, such as the splice, knot, bend, or hitch. Although there might be hundreds of examples within each area, fortunately you only have to know a few to get started.

Early on, knots got divided into two broad areas: practical and decorative. Practical knots include basic nautical knotting, net weaving, splicing, and the types of knots you’d find in the Boy Scout’s Handbook. Decorative knotting includes paper knots, hair knots, and – more symbolically -- Celtic knotwork and labyrinths. There is some overlap of course. For example, macramé is both practical and decorative. And the more advanced seamen’s knots can be used on board ship as well as for the lovely seaman’s chest, cane tops, and so on.

Magically, a knot functions as a node of energy. One common way of using knots for magic saves the mage’s energy inside the knot until it is either untied (like the wind knots of folklore) or disintegrates on its own. For example, by knotting a small piece of cord while in a particularly relaxed meditative state, you can create a stress-relief bracelet. The relaxing energy/intent is stored in the knots until needed. When you are confronted with a tense situation, unknotting one of the nodes will release the energy and have a calming effect on your or the situation. You might also rid yourself of some unwanted trait or emotion by knotting it into a piece of biodegradable material and leaving it out in Nature to rot. As the knot disintegrates, so too will the thing you want to rid yourself of.

Another technique for using knots in magic is to have the knots release their energy over time. This can be excellent for a house blessing or protection spell. You charge the knot(s) at the right time (I like the full moon for blessings and the dark moon for protection) and then allow the energy to slowly exude over the course of the coming month. You would naturally need to recharge the spell at the next appropriate time.

Because knots are both practical and decorative, you can increase the effectiveness of this type of spell by using the knot as part of the item being protected or blessed. For example, a house blessing knot could be used as part of a door knocker, bell pull, handle, curtain pull, and so on. The action of actually using the knot helps release the appropriate energy. For a person, the knot can be worn as a decorative item (wire knots are perfect for this) or used on clothing instead of buttons or clasps. Want a spell to help your car run better? Make your knot into a keychain.

A final method for using knots in magic is to draw outside energy to you and store it in the knot. We already discussed how negative energy can be shunted into a tangle. Using knots for this technique allows you to store the energy you wish to collect for later use or stop energy traveling in a particular direction. For example, a spell to draw good fortune into your life could involve a Chinese cloverleaf knot to collect and dissipate the good energy. This type of spell works well as part of a cord/knot combination, as described below.

As you begin studying the character of various knots in order to discover their magical properties, you will want to look at both their practical uses as well as their structural properties. Splicing is the technique used for joining two pieces of rope into a seamless length. Therefore an obvious magical use is to join two people together during a wedding ceremony. A hitch is a knot used to form a temporary noose in a line or to secure a line temporarily to an object. This type of knot would be perfect for spells that are also temporary in nature, such as a get-well-soon charm for a sick friend. A bend, on the other hand is a knot by which one rope is fastened to another or to some object. This class of knots would be perfect for symbolically tying objects to a base line. For example, adding charms or symbols to the infamous witch’s ladder.

A knotted rope ladder can help the maker ascend to new heights – either spiritually or in a mundane sense. Netting is used to capture fish, therefore a hand-knotted net could easily be spelled to capture any type of positive energy or trait the magician desired. And a knotted doormat could protect your home from unwanted guests while blessing the steps of your friends and loved ones.
Macramé is probably the culmination of the practical knotter’s art. A combination of cording and knotting, the macramé mage (macramagé?) can create quite complex spells that are both highly decorative as well as potentially quite practical. Put aside your preconceived notions of 70s disco pads, cheesy knotted owl wall hangings, and that horrible hairy brown fiber. Macramé can be used to create many beautiful and useful objects including jewelry, bags, and plant or basket hangers. Made with modern materials and a more up-to-date sensibility, the resourceful mage can cord and knot their intent into each item.

If analyzing the practical purposes of various knots sounds a bit boring and non-magical, remember that some of these knots have been used for millennia. A two-thousand year old Roman warship unearthed at Pisa has a preserved knotted rope that’s very similar to the knots used on board ships today. All sailors, past and present, rely on their knots and knotting knowledge to get them home safely. And some knots are considered dangerous because, when used for inappropriate purposes, they have caused injury and death. There’s a sense of mysticism and power inherent in these knots not in spite of, but because of their practical uses.

However, decorative knots don’t have such an obvious function. These knots are praised for their beauty and complexity alone. In this case, the mage is left to infer the best use of the knot from its character and shape. The mathematics of knotting is a sophisticated and complex area of study. But even without a highly specialized background, close observation of the knot and its creation can help you determine a logical use.

The number of strands and number and frequency of inner twists or crossings may suggest a numerical value that can be used to correspond to planets, colors, tarot cards and so on. For example, the star knot is created from a five-strand cord and has an obvious pentagonal shape. The tack knot, on the other hand, is made from three-strand cord and ends up as a small round. Wall knots can be created from a cord with any number of strands and create a simple ridge or ring around the cord itself. Round knots are wall knots topped by crown knots. They can use any number of strands. These examples are all basic knots that are relatively easy to create. A bit of experimentation and research unearthed the following numerical knot correspondences:

  1. Single half hitch – the standard once over and pull knot that we are all familiar with.
  2. Blimp knot – a simple figure eight knot (technically a lanyard) with two symmetrical loops. As with a half hitch, the two ends of the cord emerge from either side of the knot.
  3. Tack knot – creates a bulbous end to a three-strand cord.
  4. Chinese cloverleaf – uses one cord to create a knot with a definite clover shape. Suitable for hanging.
  5. Star knot – almost a pentagram of fiber, this knot starts with a five-strand cord and is basically a wall knot topped by a crown knot.
  6. Mathew Walker’s knot – created from a three-strand cord, this knot ends up with three top loops and three bottom ones. It creates a little round knob at the end of the rope.
  7. Pectoral knot – meant to be worn suspended at two points from a cord. The unique mathematical properties of the number seven mean that few knots, apart from the ubiquitous wall and round knots, incorporate the number. However this asymmetrical knot has a definite seven-ish character.
  8. Mystic knot – according to Lydia Chen, this is one of the eight Buddhist treasures, also called the Pan Chang knot. (Chinese Knotting)
  9. Oval mat – creates a small, flat oval-shaped knot from a single cord whose size depends on the starting cord. The strand is traditionally doubled to avoid seeing light through the mat.

A second way of determining a magical use for a knot is through its shape. Globe knots, like round knots, create spherical shapes, but the ends are clipped and tucked in. It’s easy to make a connection to the various planets. In fact The Complete Book of Decorative Knots has four globe knots named Earth, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter (based mainly on whimsy and the relative size of the knots). While these are challenging to tie, they are also quite beautiful and would make a lovely addition to an altar (the rope version of a crystal ball).

Globe knots are circular and some of the larger ones require an inner core to remain stable. Usually some kind of sphere or Styrofoam ball, for spellwork the inner core could be a bundle of relevant herbs, rune engraved knot of wood, or small wad or role of paper containing a written spell. The knot is wound and tied around the inner part of the spell, hiding as well as protecting the heart of your working (more on this technique in the section on cording below).

The Chinese cloverleaf is shaped very much like a four-leaf clover – a symbol of luck and good fortune. As the number four is associated with the Earth and practical matters, the good fortune would most likely be material in nature. Use this knot then to bring luck to your house or garden or to draw literal prosperity (cash!) into your life.

Some knots are symbolic rather than literal. Celtic knotwork, as carved on ancient stone monuments or reproduced in the Book of Kells, is the art of representing three-dimensional knots in two-dimensional form. The repeating motifs of these beautiful works of art lend themselves to magical use and interpretation as much as any other knot. In fact, with patience you could recreate a pictured knot with actual cord. Or simply learn to draw the knots yourself to lend power to a spell on paper or fabric.

Another highly symbolic knot is the labyrinth. While each individual knot has a purpose and character all its own, a labyrinth is a much more profound and universal symbol. Labyrinths, and their cousins the spirals, have a body of meaning, myth, and iconography that spans all times and cultures. Cyclical time, death and rebirth, courage, and initiation are some of the interpretations of this archetype. Working with the labyrinth for spiritual or magical purposes is a broad area of study in itself. You might begin by finding a labyrinth in your area and walking it. You can also create a labyrinth out of cord to walk with your fingers. Creating such a knot can be challenging – it’s not easy following all the twists and turns from a picture – but even little labyrinths can induce altered states of consciousness when used for meditation.

Once you’ve knotted your spell, it can be handled in many ways. A knot in the middle of a string already has handy ends for hanging or tying – you could hang it inconspicuously in your home, wear it tied around your wrist or ankle, or include it as part of a charm or amulet bag. You can also sew a knot onto or into a piece of clothing. For example, the good fortune cloverleaf knot described above is flat. It could easily be stitched onto clothing as decoration or to use as the button loops for knot buttons, as traditionally seen in Oriental clothing.

Knots can also be buried. This would be perfect for spells to bind an unpleasant habit that are then left to “rot” in the ground. Knots made from less degradable material can be used for spells to fertilize or protect the land where they are interred. However many knots are too beautiful to hide or destroy. They can be displayed as art objects or altar tools and no one need know their real purpose.

Individual knots easily function alone as spells. It’s a simple matter to knot your intention into a cloverleaf or blimp knot and you might carry a piece of string for these purposes. However, individual knots can also be combined with cording techniques for more sophisticated magical purposes.

The art of cording can be considered a relative of both weaving and knotting. The common three-strand hair braid is the simplest version of what can be a very complex art involving any number of strands in different colors. This type of cord is known in the nautical world as sennit. A typical braid consists of individual strands woven together by a series of regular overlaps. Unlike weaving however this type of cord has no warp and weft. For all their ins and outs, each strand moves in the same direction.

This trait causes magical energy to move along a braid’s length from end to end and makes woven cord perfect for spells to draw something to you or create a connection between two things. For example, if you wanted to draw more love into your life you could braid a “love leash.” Tied to your bedpost with a heart or charm knotted onto one end, it can be used to connect you with those you love or draw loving energy to you. Note that the emotion you want to encourage will travel from you as well as to you. That’s because, while most braids of this type do have a top and bottom, the energy can run along them in both directions equally. This means that the ends of braids are as important as their length. A knot at the end of a cord is not only useful for keeping the cord from unraveling (and unraveling your spell along with it) it’s also great for storing the energy of the spell.

Since woven cords are stronger than their individual strands, they can be used by covens and groups as symbols both of their combined strength and unified direction. The Maypole is one interesting example of this type of cording. As the dancers move around the central pole, they weave their individual ribbons into a powerful symbol of the integration of different parts into a whole (traditionally for Beltane, the integration of male and female, either directly through copulation or symbolically as a union of opposites within).

The Maypole is an example of a braid that uses a central cord or pole as a stabilizing device. On boats, both braiding and knotting techniques are used to cover items. A slippery handrail is made both safer and more beautiful by the application of coachwhipping, bracketed by running turk’s head knots. A rope fender (the bumper that keeps a ship from damaging herself against a dock) needs a central core to keep the structure of the cord from collapsing.

Magically, this type of cord with a core can be used to cover a wand or staff or create a type of standing spell. In this case the core would symbolize the item you wanted to attain, while the surrounding cord indicates the individual aspects needed to attain it. Alternately, the cord could symbolize an item you wanted to protect and the outer wrapping the protection you weave around. In addition, cording can be used as a kind of container to hide the spell within. For example, you might cut a twig and carve the purpose of the spell on it. The outer cording would then hide your intent from outside eyes, allowing you to use the wand openly.

Because braiding involves multiple strands, it can be used to combine different types of energy into a seamless whole. For example, the three strands of the simplest braid can represent the waxing, full, and waning moon. The finished braid is magically tied to the complete lunar cycle and could be used in magical working with a lunar component (dream work or intuition development) or to spiritually connect with the moon or a lunar Deity. Another example might be creating a household spell for health, peace, and prosperity. The finished cord would be hung in the entry of your home (perhaps to suspend a wind chime or as a bell pull) to draw those energies inside.

A different type of cording involves combining the strands by a long series of knots. Your junior high friendship bracelet or macramé hanging planter are cords created by repeating individual knots. This type of cord often has a continuous twist, either sunward or widdershins. Instead of traveling straight along the length of the cord, the energy will twist around on itself through the knots in a spiral. Since knots have the property of storing energy, these kinds of knotted cords are perfect for channeling the stored energy outward and into the environment.

The traditional witches’ ladder is a cord with items knotted along its length. In many covens, the girdle or belt is also a cord with knots – symbolizing the person’s measure or used as a marker for drawing an appropriate sized circle. In this kind of knotted cord, the number and spacing of the knots is as important as the type of knot used. A Goddess cord could be woven from nine strands, three each of black, red, and white, with seven wall knots spaced at nine-inch intervals, plus a round knot at each end. The finished length of the cord would be seven intervals of nine inches, or 63 inches – a number that also adds to nine (6 + 3 = 9).

The arts of knotting and cording can also be combined for less esoteric magical purposes. For example, you can make your own wind chimes by attaching small objects to a series of cords strung from a stick, ring, or other sturdy hanger. Fresh energy moving in the wind is captured in the objects and channeled up and around the cords in order to dissipate on your porch or entryway. Obviously, objects that make pleasing tones (bits of crystal, metal disks, or short tubes) can increase the magical pleasure and effect of this kind of spell.

Because knots and cords combined can create these kinds of practical household objects, your spells can be hidden in plain sight. Plant hangers for health, pot holders for plenty or safety, a nautical rope mat to ward off unfriendly guests and Jehovah’s Witnesses – all will do their work in your home without anyone being the wiser. Macramé jewelry or decorative wire knots can be worn daily or for ritual and look as good as they are useful for spell work.

As with many types of magic, the two primary things you need to create a knot or cord spell are your intent and the correct correspondences for the item you want to create. Intent is simply a matter of raising and focusing the appropriate energy while tying or braiding. Correspondences, however, can be more complex.

As discussed above, numerology lends itself readily to being used as a magical correspondence for this type of spellwork. The number of strands in a cord, the number of twists in a knot, the number of inches – all can be used to help target your working.

Color is another way to symbolize what you want from your spell. String and fiber of different types can be purchased in a rainbow of shades. Spinning and/or dying your own lengths of line will integrate more of yourself into the working. However, if you are willing to experiment with more modern materials, you can include iridescent and metallic cords in your spells as well.

Still, natural materials are typically recommended for magic. For cord and knot magic, that means cotton, wool, hemp, silk, or the like. Cotton is a very absorbent substance while wool and other mammal fibers are insulating (which is why you wear wool in the winter). Silk is both cooling and warm and is, pound for pound, one of the strongest materials. Think about these characteristics when deciding what to use for your spells. Magic to collect and absorb a certain energy or influence would be best in cotton. Wool would lend itself to protection spells. And a spell for balance or strength would be perfect in silk.

Planetary correspondences can be used to enhance almost any spell. Color and number are already traditionally associated with the various planets. For example, you can create globe knots representing the planets by using the appropriate size and number of strands. You can also create your knots from metal wire with the appropriate planetary connection. Copper (Venus), tin (Jupiter), and iron (Mars) can be purchased at hardware stores, lead (Saturn) from chemical outlets, and gold (Sun) and silver (Moon) from specialty jewelry suppliers. Bending a cord or knot out of wire would be perfect for magical jewelry or hair ornaments as well as altar sculptures and your most permanent spells.

Another medium that lends itself to magical work is paper knotting. A branch of origami, paper knots are created from long strips of paper (ticker tape for example) folded into a series of flat knots. Beautiful shapes can be created, including long paper “cords,” multi-pointed stars, and solid and open globes. A spell could be written on the paper and then folded into a beautiful and powerful shape. It could then be displayed, hidden, or even burned – depending on the nature of the working.

As mentioned above, hair can be a very personal medium for knot magic. If you have long hair, you can braid and knot the spell right onto your head. For both short and long hairstyles, other materials can be attached to or woven in with the hair. Narrow lengths of silk ribbon would be attractive as well as easy to remove without damage (using twisted yarn or wool would tend to trap your hair into the twist) and can be easily obtained in any appropriate color. Hair weaving would lend itself perfectly to confidence or beauty spells, glamouring, and spells to enhance your intuition or mental processes in some way.

Another way to enhance the symbolism of your knot or cord spell is to use essential oils and scents. Cotton will readily absorb the scent of both oil and incense smoke. Oiled knots can pull double duty as air fresheners as breezes pass through and release the odor. For example, a spell to purify your home could use the scent of lemon or pine to also purify and freshen the air within it.

Anything that can be braided or knotted can be used as a medium for your spell. This leads to very interesting and off-beat ideas. For example, fuse cord could be knotted and then lit as part of the casting. Or flashpaper could be cut into strips and knotted in order to be tossed – woosh! – into a fire. Even long grasses, wheat stalks, or vines of any type can be used. Corn dollies and Brigit’s Crosses aren’t exactly knots, but there is a connection. For dried grass, you’ll want to soak in water to soften the stalks. Green grass can be knotted and then allowed to dry into shape.

The materials, colors, scents, length and so on all depend on the type of spell you want to do. The following are some basic suggestions for combinations. But remember, these symbols must be meaningful for you – and backed by your will, skill, energy, and intent – for the spell to work.

Memory Charm
This is a variation on the old ‘string around the finger’ reminder trick. When you need to remember something important, you can knot the memory into a string. A simple square knot will work fine, associated as it is with earth and material matters. Tie it with intent while announcing, out loud, the thing you want to remember. Then carry it with you until you need a reminder. Then close your eyes and unknot the spell by your ear to “hear” your original announcement.

Solar House Protection Spell
Use three lengths of yellow cotton, in three bright shades, and tie the ends into a Mathew Walker’s knot (associated with the number six). Then braid the three lengths together until you have six inches. You can weave six gold beads into the braid if you choose. Then anoint with orange oil, charge in your normal fashion, and hang in the entrance to your home.

Love Leash
Double a length of cord in an appropriate color (green for Venus or red for another traditional color of love). At one end, tie a loop to be hooked over your bedpost or a nail above your bed. At the other end, add a pectoral knot. This heart-shaped knot is associated with the number seven, for the planet Venus. Anoint with rose oil or twine a small living or silk rose into the knot. Charge and hang above your bed to draw love into your life.

Justice Knot Spell
Start with four lengths of thin cord (like embroidery floss) in four shades of deep purple and blue. Braid together with a series of square macramé knots. Add four amethyst or turquoise beads: one at the end and three more equally spaced. Knot into a loop to be worn around the wrist. Charge by passing through the smoke of oakmoss and sage on a Thursday and wear when you need to deal with legal matters, particular those associated with money.

Lunar Wisdom and Intuition Charm
Begin nine days before the full moon with nine silk ribbons, three each of white, grey, and black. Knot them at the top with a globe knot and then knot each ribbon around a ring or hoop (from 4 – 6 inches across) – a silver or silver-toned hoop would be the best. The ribbons should hang down, evenly spaced around the edge of the hoop. At the end of each ribbon, add a lunar charm such as: silver rings, round crystal or moonstone beads, crescent-shaped charms, and so on – whatever symbolizes the moon best to you. Do all this work at night, and wrap the charm in black silk during the day.

On the ninth night, hang your charm where the light of the moon will touch it (preferably outdoors) and draw the energy of the moon into it. Then allow it to absorb the energy of all phases of the moon by leaving it over a lunar month. On the next full moon, bring the charm into your home and hang it in an appropriate spot to help your intuition (your meditation spot would work well or the bathroom, if you are prone to long thoughtful baths).

Land Blessings
These charms are meant to be buried on a piece of property you own to cement your relationship with the land. They act as a request from the land as well as a promise to it. Get four spherical balls of wood and burn or paint your blessing charms (runes, phrases, sigils) on them. Mark each one with a blessing related to the four classical elements. Now consecrate four lengths of rope as a connection between you and the spirit of the property you are working with. Knot each rope into a large globe knot, using the wooden balls as the central cores. “Beat the bounds” or your land by walking along the property line and bury your blessing globes at the four cardinal points.

Harvest Spell
This spell is particularly useful if you have a garden of your own. At the end of the growing season where you live, collect some of the last plants from your yard or garden. Choose at least some plants, like long grasses, that can be woven. You can include vines, herbs, twigs from deciduous trees, the greenery from vegetables, and so on. Braid the long plant items into one continuous strand, and weave the other items in as you go. Then carefully twist your “cord” around itself to create a wrapped wreath. The spiral of the wrapping symbolizes the cyclical nature of the seasons. Bless your wreath so that the bounty of your harvest will sustain your through the long barren months. Of course, most of us don’t live in situations where starvation is really a possibility, but the fertility of your harvest combined with the creativity of your braiding can symbolize your intent to keep that fertile, creative ground going throughout the year.


Knot and cord spells are some of the most flexible types of magic. By marrying the right knots and cords with the appropriate symbolism (and your will and magical intent, of course) you can cast a spell for just about any purpose you can imagine. Even if you stick to the simpler knots and braids, you can create beautiful and practical magical objects for your person or household. And if you choose to take the craft further, making the effort to learn and explore the more complex varieties, your magic can only be improved by your mastery of these ancient arts. Beautiful, practical, and magical – knots and cords touch some very deep symbols within ourselves and allow us to bend reality just as we bend our string into the shape we want.

The Ashley Book of Knots by Clifford W. Ashley
The Complete Book of Decorative Knots by Geoffrey Budworth
The Marlinspike Sailor by Hervey Garrett Smith
Braids: 250 Patterns from Japan, Peru, & Beyond by Rodrick Owen
The Beginner's Guide to Braiding: The Craft of Kumihimo by Jacqui Carey
The Macrame Book by Helene Bress
Hemp Masters: Ancient Hippie Secrets for Knotting Hip Hemp Jewelry by Max Lunger
Chinese Knotting by Lydia Chen

[1]  Robert G. Bednarik, `Palaeoart and archaelological myths', Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 2(1) (1992) 27-57
[2]  Alexander Marshack, The Roots of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings of Man's First Art, Symbol and Notation, McGraw-Hill, New York (1972), pp. 369-370.
[4] Knot Magick A Brief History Copyright 2002, Eliza Fegley



At November 17, 2015 at 7:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although it's outside the scope of the stuff I usually post on my blog, I note that the young (mundane, non-magical) students at my school who attend my class on string and yarn make four tools using the carpentry tools in the working room: a pair of knitting needles; a lucet or braiding fork; a drop spindle; and a basic variant of the kumihimo disk with either 8, 12, or 16 notches.

Again, without going into too much detail, I treat the drop spindle as being a tool of water — for it makes as it sinks. Likewise, knitting seems to be a tool of fire, that consumes its raw material as it comes into being — and it is always most active at its top edge, and moves from side to side. The braiding disk is a tool of air, for it makes use of esoteric knowledge; and the lucet is a tool of earth, for the simplest braid it produces is a solid square of twine or cord or yarn.

We used to build an inkle loom, too, and I think of that as a tool of Spirit. But most young people are not up to the challenge of thinking through the multiple steps on multiple days of effort.

Nonetheless, all five of these tools are well worth magical study.

There is a magic in knot and cord, indeed, and there's a tremendous wisdom and magic in the spinner, the measurer, and the scissor, as well.

At November 20, 2015 at 10:56 AM , Blogger Ivy said...

Oh, that is cool! I'm not familiar with the lucet, but your correspondences make a lot of sense.


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