Today, we spend a bit of time with Goody Alsop and take a field trip to Mortlake in search of Ashmole 782. Get your familiars in hand and let’s get moving.
“That your firedrake broke free is merely a symptom of a much more serious problem.” Goody Alsop extended a bunch of brightly colored silken strands, knotted together at the top. The ends flowed free like the ribbons on a maypole and numbered nine in all, in shades of red, white, black, silver, gold, green, brown, blue, and yellow.
As near as I can tell from (admittedly dubious) internet research into witchcraft, the weaver’s cords in the All Souls Trilogy closely resemble the “Witch’s Ladder,” a tool for spell casting that relies on knotted cords to “store” and concentrate a spell’s power. An internet search for color symbolism in modern Wicca suggests the following meanings for the colors in Diana’s cords:
- White – purity, healing
- Red – strength, luck, protection, vitality, desire
- Brown – nature, natural wisdom
- Yellow – learning, happiness, completeness
- Green – prosperity, fertility, romance, friendship, harmony
- Blue – idealism, wealth
- Black – new beginnings, the afterlife
- Silver – vision and intuition
- Gold – integrity, happiness, mental strength
I would be curious to see if any of our pagan listeners have other thoughts — the text certainly suggests that some colors mean something slightly different in the world of All Souls, but I’d be interested to hear what other people think as we go along.
My knot-making skills were still clumsy, but I found this part of weaving oddly soothing. When I practiced the elaborate twisting and crossings with ordinary string, the result was something reminiscent of ancient Celtic knotwork.
Celtic knotwork is a form of stylized graphical representation that relies on interlace patterns to ornament everything from early manuscripts to jewelry. The interlace style of decoration likely came from the Romans during the third and fourth centuries C.E., but the influence of Christianity led the art form from its spirals, step patterns, and key work into elaborate illustrations of plants, animals, and biblical verses. The knotwork we associate with Ireland likely originated in Italy before migrating to the British Isles… and becoming part of popular tattoo designs in the 1970s. If you’re inclined to learn to draw basic knotwork, calligraphy-skills.com has a pretty good tutorial.
Whether for propriety’s sake or to avoid his disorderly brood, Dr. Dee was strolling in his brick-walled garden as it it were high summer and not the end of January. He was wearing the black robes of a scholar, and a tight-fitting hood covered his head and extended down his neck, topped with a flat cap.
Ah, John Dee. A complicated early modern figure whose work contributed to mathematics, astronomy, navigation, and philosophy, John Dee was a noted collector of books and a student of the occult. Did you know that he signed his work 007? This odd detail reportedly inspired Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Although Dr. Dee had one of the largest libraries assembled in 16th century England, his collection scattered after his death — in 2016, the Royal College of Physicians assembled an exhibit that brought 47 of the 100 surviving manuscripts together again for the first time. According to this article, Dee’s 4,000 or so manuscripts were raided after his death — and later owners tried to obscure the origins of their stolen books by bleaching or erasing Dee’s nameplate. You can explore a digital manuscript of the contents of Dr. Dee’s library here.
You know what’s fun about Dr. Dee and her library and this exhibit? Our own Deb gave a talk on Dee in 2016.
If you’ve watched A Discovery of Witches 1×01, the parallels between this presentation and Diana’s opening scene are pretty great. It’s a very good lecture — and I’d say that even if I didn’t love Deb.
We’ll do a bit more historical tourism in London on 28 January before we head to Prague. If you like the Real-Time Reading, consider following us on Twitter @chamomilenclove. You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook. If you like what we do, consider becoming one of our Patrons!
See you soon,