A while ago, I wrote about a magic carpet I made, a blanket spun from the midnight sky and legends. I mentioned that I wanted to spin moonlight and make it into a shawl. If I could no longer sit upon the midnight sky, perhaps I could drape myself in moonlight while I wrote. A little signal to my unconscious mind to release itself in a powerful way, packed with symbolism of the moon. A signal to my inner muse.
Occasionally, I will dye and spin wool into a tangible metaphor, something much more than a simple scarf or hat. The entire time I work on it (the blanket took a year), I contemplate a theme I wish to associate with the project. Then, every time I use the item, I remember its creation and subject. It’s a constant reminder of an extended daydream designed to help me achieve my goals.
For instance, once I dyed wool with coffee and made a thinking cap. If I had problems concentrating during finals week in college, I would wear my literal thinking cap to use in a metaphorical way, tricking the subconscious into helping me instead of wandering to and fro. Of course it worked, or I wouldn’t be talking about it. I was about to fail a class unless I passed a test I didn’t understand the material for, and I got a B. I wore the hat, I was answering complicated algebra problems that I didn’t understand, I was showing my work without knowing what I was doing or why, and I got a B.
In other words, it’s magic. Whether or not it is done by tricking the mind.
To those unfamiliar with the symbolism of pagans, understand that we do not study from a sacred book. We study the patterns found in nature, and use those as a metaphor. Our students are encouraged to spend time meditating on the elements and forces of nature, to use them to find wisdom and meaning in their lives. We look into nature as a mirror, our spiritual experiences are viewed as subjective and a reflection of our unconscious, a primal method of understanding our minds and healing our own psychology.
So when I set out to spin a shawl from moonlight, I looked to the moon as an archetype and thought of ways to tie it to my storytelling, telling myself that I would be more easily inspired and my writing would have more depth when I wore the finished project. The fibers in my hand continually set my wandering mind back to my purpose, the way some religions do with beads they hold as they pray or meditate.
All of my wandering thoughts were framed in the light of the moon. Times away from my knitting, as I cooked and cleaned, ran to the store, watched movies with my love, my thoughts were still colored by the day’s contemplation of the moon and how it ties into story.
The moon is the lover of the sun, transforming the sun’s harsh rays into something softer, more gentle. Traditionally, this is seen as the union of man and woman, woman taking in the light of man and transforming it into something new and delivering it to the world. Action and reaction, cause and effect. We see the moon grow round and pregnant, and then shed its gains and wither, and in that we see the life cycle of woman, we even recognize her tides as connected to the moon’s.
The moon controls the movements of the ocean, therefore the moon has dominion over water. Our blood is mostly water, water is life. It nurtures and relieves us, and it is our tears. We feel a connection between the rise and fall of the tides and the rise and fall of emotion in our lives, we feel our hearts fill with emotion like a shivering puddle, rising to overflowing.
Water as the realm of love, holds shadowy depths where we find metaphors for the unknown, the subconscious, madness, and despair. Sometimes we drown in feeling. We swim through emotion in the light of the moon as the tides pull at our heart, calling us into dreams and reveries under the stars.
This is not just the realm of love, it is also the realm of prophesy, predators, and fear. Under the illusions of moonlight, sometimes we sit alone even in the company of others, falling into a quiet madness. Sometimes the madness will not come fast enough, so we encourage it with the help of a little drink, or perhaps a pill, or both. Through madness, drink, or natural sleep and dreams, the moon is often a gateway to other worlds.
We can become lost in the dark, hunted upon, as the world becomes distorted in shadow. But the path of the moon also brings peace, a quiet and gentle reflection, a time of healing and growth. Some are comfortable in the light of the moon, feeling no fear from the shadows. Though perhaps it is delusion, and perhaps sometimes it is the confidence of one who knows they are the largest monster in the forest.
The moon has all of this symbolic wealth and more, a bounty that any writer can enjoy. The path the moon took me down was pleasant. I jotted down many new ideas and polished up old ones; spending time letting my fiction swoon with emotion, letting truths be spoken through shadow, distorted by mists and moonlight.
My results are a little gory. That would be entirely my fault, and is not the fault of the moon. If I started this exercise as a romance writer, I’m sure I wouldn’t have ended up eating beef heart as part of my research in how to cook a human heart. Though that actually is a love story, I promise.
In fact, the whole Valentine’s day thing has done strange things to me in general this year, and I blame the shawl. I can think of no other reason why I would be designing greeting card covers and playing around with dark love sonnets. I’m even seriously toying with the idea of offering a line of Valentine’s Day cards next year. One that might feature a still life I have planned, if I can get my hands on a photogenic enough pig’s heart.
P.S. – The beef heart. Oh, that enthusiastic slab of flesh was so ready and willing to be a perfect metaphor. I now know that if you cook heart without slicing it thin enough, you will end up with a range of words like blackened, charred, or cracking (that pair lovely with the idea of a wounded human heart), and yet when the meat rests it will still weep blood. This heart in particular was cooked twice and still bleed, I had to slice it to cook it a third time. I believe the thing was auditioning to freak out a murderess.
The end results were wonderful, like steak without getting fibers stuck in your teeth, even the wary men of the house tried some and wanted more. The dogs were thrilled. Next time, I’ll slice thinly before throwing in the skillet.