The Red Thread of our tradition
by Rebecca Lynn Scott
The Thread winds and twines, around and through and back again. No matter how complex its path, it does not snarl, though it may look like it from outside. It is the Red Thread, which connects the points of our tradition. It is the form of our egregore, the numinous construct of the body of our tradition and our practice.
I was named Klodone, the Spinner, of the Starry Bull tradition, because spinning sacred threads for sacred purposes was the first thing I ever did for the tradition. Green threads like fresh shoots for those beginning to walk the Path of the Red Thread, and white, black and red threads for greater initiates. I hadn’t even started practicing within the tradition, yet, and considered myself adjacent to it rather than a member. But the stories and ideas of the Starry Bull meshed so well with my own experiences of the divine that eventually, and perhaps inevitably, I began to include myself.
Thread is often used as a metaphor, for a great many things, but seldom by people who understand it the way that I do, simply because there are few spinners any more. But once, all women spun. Once, all women wove. In an Hellenic context, a thread is an inherently feminine symbol, because in the place and time when the roots of our traditions first grew, thread was women’s business, mysterious as magic to your average man.
A thread is not one thing, but many smaller things twisted together. Like the bundle of twigs that cannot be broken, it is stronger far as many than as one. Unlike that bundle of twigs, it has a purpose and a use in that form. A single thread may be used on its own. It may be looped and twisted many times, as in netting, or or crochet, or knitting. It may be used to tie and bind together other things, such as beads and other ornaments. It may be used to form a web, like a cat’s cradle, with its own meanings and uses, crossing and recrossing its own path. Or it may join many other threads, and be woven into fabric, playing its role in the greater whole, touching and twining with many other threads, in sight and out of it.
The Red Thread of the Starry Bull tradition does all of these things. It forms an item complete unto itself, looping together in whorls to make many connections between many various points. It binds together many disparate bits of information, and many people. It changes and shifts like the children’s game — mostly a girls’ game, again, as thread is still often women’s business — according to the wishes of the next pair of hands, forming new shapes under the direction of new people. And it provides one thread in the greater tapestry of Hellenism, and the even greater Tapestry of Fate.
There are many literal threads in the Red Thread of our tradition, plied together to make it stronger, fuller, and richer in color, as each thread brings in its own shade. Wool and silk and hemp, cotton and linen and modern synthetic, mythical and historical and present in our own hands now. All of them together contribute to the Starry Bull, pulling fiber from the distaff of spirits and heroines and goddesses, from the hands of modern spinners like me.
Arakhne’s famous tapestry was composed of many threads, most or all of which she would have spun herself, and perhaps even dyed herself; she was the daughter of a dyer. Now her trillions of descendants spin iridescent threads of their own, for webs, traps, parasails, egg sacks, and even for humans to weave with.
Spirit Spiders spin their threads, too, and teach us their dances and spells. The silk of a mortal spider is strong and tough; how much stronger, then, is the numinous filament of a spirit Spider’s thread? What in us might it trap or bind, and what might it help to soar far? Only those who work with these spirits can discover these things, and the can only do so for themselves.
There are the threads of the nooses of many of our Heroines. Arakhne, Ariadne, Erigone, Helen, and more are said to have hanged themselves in various stories. At the Aiora, part of our Anthesteria celebrations, we hang dolls from trees in their memory, and the threads of the ribbons we use for those are also a part of the Thread. The Hanging Maiden is also the Spider spirit, dancing the hempen jig at the end of her thread.
The Hanged Maidens belong to a broader group of heroines known as the Purple Thread, which I have further developed into my own cultus, and they, too, contributed to the Red Thread, adding a blue note that enriches the whole, deepening the color. Their experiences, their spinning and weaving, the threads of their stories, whether they hold tapestries or nooses, become a part of the tradition as well, explorable as a small range of the many forms of womanhood, the many shapes our lives can take.
The most important mythic thread, and a central bight of the egregoric Thread, is Ariadne’s. The magic thread she spun and gave to Theseus. Its magic was not in leading him back out through the Labyrinth — any thread would have done for that — but in its spinning by a god-blooded witch girl, close kin to Kirke and Medea through her mother Pasiphaë, and like them schooled by Hekate in secret ways. No, its magic was not in the leading of Theseus. Its magic fed the Mystery that was to be played out. Theseus himself has only a small role in this play, there to carry the thread to the center of the Labyrinth, to spill the sacred blood, and then to give Ariadne a ride to her next mark, where she will die and meet her true bridegroom.
The Red Thread of Ariadne runs through the center of the Mysteries. In the center of the Labyrinth, where the spilt blood of Asterios the Minotaur lay red and wet, there is a door, and through that door the it was Bull who carried the Thread, not Theseus. The son of Aegius was a tool of the Mysteries, not an Initiate. To reach the Spring of Memory you need only follow the Thread, and the password to the sacred spring is the name of the Bull. “I am a child of Earth and Starry Heaven. I am Starry and my name is Starry.”
Any thread is a path to be followed, through twists and turns and tangles, and our Red Thread is our guide through the Labyrinth, and the path of a Labyrinth unto itself, the curves and turns of which we walk all our lives, the end found only after death, if there. It leads to the Great Revel of Dionysos; where it leads beyond that we may not know until we follow it that far.