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Artifacts Interview

Spinning Bracelet, Corvallis, Oregon, USA

Created by Y.F.B.S.J.C. in 1994.

Donated July 2021.

Formal Statement: 

When I was six years old some of the older women from my community took me aside and showed me how to cart wool, they taught me some songs to sing while I carted and instructed me to cart wool, they then showed me how to attach my wool to a starter yarn on a spinning wheel (this was my first time being allowed to spin, but not my first time ‘playing’ with the spinning wheel) I was guided as I spun, I don’t remember everything that was said but I recall being told that my first yarn was a magical token and that it will hold some of my magical essence. 

Bracelet sitting upon pillow made by the same creator.

Interview: 

So when I was six years old I learned to spin, as you do. Specifically I carded my own wool, and then I spun it into a yarn. There is/was a belief that a girl’s first spinning has some of her magical essences? For lack of a better word. I was being raised female at this point, this is before gender roles and I had a falling out. So my first yarn was made into a bracelet for me which is supposed to work as an external storage of my inherent magical powers? That is perhaps a bad explanation, but I was in kindergarten at the time. 

It was explained to me using chakras, because my friend’s mum is a Buddhist. I remember conceptualizing the idea of a shuraku as being similar to Buddha’s top knot being a place where he stored his extra chakra. I have absolutely no idea of the correct spelling. I was notoriously bad at spelling at that point in my life.

Can you say a little bit more about the community you were in/the tradition this was from, as you understand it?

The Corvallis Waldorf school was started by my parents and a couple other families and they, at the time, were kind of going their own way in terms of how they wanted to educate us. For reference as the school expanded and became more mainstream Waldorf the grade I was in and the grade above me (the original school) were separated out from the other part of the school and we split off again, so we were officially a Waldorf school, but the more I learn about mainstream Waldorf teachings the more I realize I was not actually taught many Waldorf teachings and I was instead taught something else. It was similar to Waldorf though. 

There was a lot of emphasis on crafts and hedgewitchery type things. We literally had field trips to go hug trees, that was a thing that happened more than once. We had storytellers from the Oregon tribes come tell us their stories, because it was important for us to know and respect the local Gods. We had the entirety of the Bible told to us in first grade. 

We studied the Nordic and Celtic Gods with equal fervor. When I was watching Midsommer, nothing in the rituals was foreign to me, other than the human sacrifice. We had a maypole at school. We learned to dance. We celebrated the eight high holidays of [definitely christian theology].

One of the founders of this group was a Basque man who, for political reasons, can’t return to Spain. One of them was a Buddhist. There was a Jewish family. Most were christian adjacent. 

Our teacher was a witch. He was definitely active in a coven, and that was reflected in the altars he would make. But the altars and the seasonal changes are a core part of Waldorf theology, so it would’ve been hard to tell from a distance.

Do you remember any of the songs?

Oh, no, well sort of, but they’re not song songs, they’re more work songs. The one song I still remember/use a lot is the yarn balling song? The song I sing when I roll a ball of yarn. 

You ready for it?

Absolutely. 

“I can roll a ball of yarn, a ball of yarn, a ball of yarn. I can roll a ball of yarn and this is how I do it.” Repeat.

When you get to the end of the verse you switch which direction you are winding the yarn. Or rotate the ball.

Did you wear this bracelet much once it was made?

Maybe for like the year I made it? But it was made for the wrist of a 6 year old. 

The reason it’s a bracelet is because it’s cyclical. It represents the cyclical nature of … Nature. You can’t make yarn without a starter yarn, which is made by the people who come before you and you (theoretically at least) pass this knowledge on to the next generation.

Like with bread, you need yeast. There is a life cycle.

We also made bread a lot in kindergarten. And strung corn. Rituals surrounding the passing on of traditional crafts. Like growing and making food (we once made bread from scratch including growing our own wheat, harvesting our own wheat, shucking and grinding our own wheat), making clothing, the preservation of folklore and folk traditions.

The Dalai lama came to our school on his first trip to America. There was an emphasis on us learning the folklore of our respective heritages, but also the folklore of the place we live in now. We played dreidel for Hanukkah. We made wax sculpture replicas of events from the Iliad. It’s difficult to explain any of this coherently. 

(About finding the spelling/details of this ritual) 

I know that a number of the rituals were customized to us specifically. I also have no idea if any of the other kids did this specifically, as it was a thing that I did on my own, and I know some of the more private rituals were not universal, or were more tailored.

(Tests and rituals)

One of the weirder rituals that I went through that I was not supposed to tell people about involves me holding a bag of rocks and they put a special gem in it, and then I was given a series of tasks to do while holding the bag of rocks and at the end the gem was supposed to still be at the top of the bag.

Did it work?

Yes, I passed, and was allowed to graduate to the next level.

The second part of the test involved me drawing an illumination of a story that was told to me, without direction as to what parts of the story was important to be illuminated. I only mostly passed that one.

I didn’t feel like drawing a person in detail so I put them in the distance partially obscured by leaves. I got told off for this and they considered holding me back I believe. I was like 7 or 8 at the time, so my memory is going to be fuzzy.

But at the same time there were rules about how much detail you were supposed to put in and like we weren’t supposed to use lines, or at least not outlines. The style of art that most comics are drawn in was forbidden.

The Waldorf style of art. This is the type of picture I was supposed to have drawn, and I did a lot of art like this over the years. We did water colors, crayon drawings, pencil drawings and form drawing.

Those were the main tests, I was also asked some questions, which I presume I answered correctly or correctly enough.