Harkening back to the ancient crone deities that maintain the thread of mortal life, weaving and braiding have been important aspects within magickal craft and ritual. Often overlooked in favor of herbs, crystals, or candle work, adding braiding or weaving to one’s spellbook can diversify one’s magickal knowledge. Both the creation and use of braids can be for ritual or spell work, from the moment one starts braiding to the braid’s use in a separate spell. From Penelope with her meditative weaving and destruction of Laertes’ burial shroud as she waited for Odyssius, to the modern practitioner braiding a basket to hold items on their altar, braids are a central piece of magickal work. The repetitive motion works best at an even pace and lends itself well to rituals and spell work. The modern practitioner is not just limited to yarns for their projects as many different materials can be used. If it is flexible enough that it can be bent quite a bit without breaking, then it can be used for magickal weaving and braiding.
Intention and Setting
The main component of weaving or braiding is setting intention. While this is a given for all spellwork, this is especially important with this medium. Intention must be focused on every twist or knot of the piece for it to reach its full potential. If you’re not in the right space to put the energy you want into a certain woven spell, let yourself come back to it later and create something else. It is best to save a spell for a later date then try to force it when you’re not in the space for it. If needed for a cleanse of one’s energy, braiding and weaving are very good ways to let go of negative energies. One idea is to make a braid out of a compostable material (such as long grasses or herbs and flowers) and then either burying it or release it in a body of water in order to contain and release the negative energy from yourself back to the universe to be cleansed.
The most well-known and recognizable medium for braiding and weaving is fiber, from cotton threads to chunky yarns and ribbons. The Fates and Norns are often associated with weaving, and there are many other deities that are patrons of the fiber arts. Old spell and prayer books, like the Carmina Gadelica, include charms of imbuing the weave and weft of a project to protect against evil. There are many different types of fibers and types of yarns/chords/threads to choose from, but don’t feel like weaving or braiding is less powerful without a 100% natural fiber. If you’re feeling more eco-conscious with your craft, cut up old clothes or linens into strips (1-2 inches are very manageable) to use within your projects. Remember the intention is one of the most important aspects.
A Moon Spell
Moon spells can be most powerful during the full or new moon, any time of the moon’s cycle to harness its energy. This requires braiding three cords or ribbons in three different colors (white, silver, and black) to represent the three phases of the moon. Depending on how long you want the finished spell, cut at least three cords or ribbons of equal lengths that are a little longer than you want. You can always cut the ends afterward to meet your needs. While creating the braid, meditate on your own life cycles change much like the moon. When you are done braiding you can use the new moon braid as a talisman bracelet around your wrist or ankle, put it on your altar or in a safe consecrated space, or you can bury it during a preferred moon cycle. Weaving and braiding can be purely meditational within spell craft, where the object is created and taken apart within the same spell, or they can become more permanent objects.
While most people might automatically think of spun fibers when they think of weaving magic, there are many plants that can be used for magickal purposes. Grasses, rushes, herbs, willow wands, and grapevines can be braided and woven into mats and baskets for ritual use. Using plant materials for magickal braiding and weaving has the benefit of being very compostable, so they are good for magicks that might change or need to be remade or renewed over time. Do not to pick or use plants that you do not know very well, as mistaking a poison ivy vine for a grapevine would be regretful. Collect with care and respect for the earth and the local ecosystem.
Protective Spells for the House and Self
Make braided garlands to protect the home or attract luck and good energy. A common protective braid would be made out of onions and other protective herbs and flowers that dried well. To start, take three onions that still have the long stalks and start braiding them together, adding more onions and herbs in parts at different intervals. When the braid is the length you desire, hang it in a common room or near an entrance to the house. This braiding craft can also be made with garlic or other bulbed alliums that have long stalks.
Circlets made from rosemary can be used as protection during travel or for the home. These can either be small, palm-sized bracelets or very large wreaths for walls and doorways. It is best to use the longest branches that are still very young and bendable. Include flowers, other herbs, or charms to help strengthen the energy. Use until dry and falling apart, then burn or bury it.
Bring to Your Practice
While we are still unsure of the exact origins of the witches ladder, the practice has been revitalized within modern movements as a useful tool for practicing one’s craft. They are very versatile, and they can add a very tactile element to repetition in spell work. While mainly used as a more meditative counting tool for general rituals or specific spells, they can also be used to store ritual power for the future. While many variations are available for purchase online or in metaphysical shops, they are quite easy to make out of easily-sourced materials. Try adding one to your upcoming ritual or spell work!
Making a Witch’s Ladder
The first discussion of witches ladders come from the 1887 issue of the Folk-Lore Journal in an article written by Dr. Abraham Colles. He discussed a length of rope braided with feathers found alongside some brooms in the attic of a demolished house in Somerset. Unsure of its original purpose, the laborers who found the object claimed it belonged to a witch and was used to climb the roofs. Interviews with other women in the area and letters written about the article revealed lore about other specific braided objects being used for magick, from stealing the neighbor’s milk to causing physical harm. Its use was included in the 1897 novel “Mrs. Curgenven of Curgenven” by Sabine Baring-Gould, where the witches who made them braided together brown wool and thread with feathers to cause pains and illness for their intended target.
Making Your Own Witches Ladder
Witches ladders can be made for more general/everyday use or made for a specific spell/purpose. The basic structure of a witches ladder is a length of braided material made with focus and attention, while also including a specific set of points that mark moments or repetitions in a spell. There are no hard and fast rules in making your own witches ladder, while some might feel more comfortable using more traditional colors and materials, the sky’s the limit with what you can do. Don’t feel limited by different colored yarns or strings – if you can braid and knot it, then it can be used to make a witches ladder. Unleash your creativity! This also applies to the different points of the witches ladder. While most of the historical witches ladders included feathers, feel free to branch out. Many modern variations use a variety of knots, beads, shells, stones, or charms for the spell.
Once the braiding material and objects have been chosen, decide the number of knots or objects to include in the ladder. There are variations in preference for different magical numbers (such as 3, 7, 9, 13, etc), but pick the number that works best for your own practice and the spell at hand. An important aspect of making a witches ladder is its creation as a ritual in itself. While braiding and including the objects/knots, focus your energy and intent into the ladder. You can repeat the provided incantation or one you create. As the last knot is tied, the witches ladder has the focused power within to be used while meditating or doing spell work.
Incantation for making a 9 knotted witches ladder:
By knot of one, the spell’s begun.
By knot of two, the magic comes true.
By knot of three, so it shall be.
By knot of four, this power is stored.
By knot of five, my will shall drive.
By knot of six, the spell I fix.
By knot of seven, the future I leaven.
By knot of eight, my will be fate.
By knot of nine, what is done is mine.