“Women are going to form a chain, a greater sisterhood than the world has ever known.”
― Nellie L. McClung
“Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.”
― Robin Benway,
“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
― Madeleine K. Albright
I sat in a weaving circle today and wept with joy for the sacred space that was created. I wept with understanding and acknowledgement of the simple but powerful message taught. I wept too for the lack of such an ancient practice in my life and the desire to seek and create opportunities for more.
Women’s circles have been the basis of many cultures and traditions around the world and throughout history. For centuries women came together, in circle, to share and learn and support each other. It is a place for finding out about the world and your own nature. In circle women are united as equals for a common purpose. Today’s purpose was to learn to weave.
Our vibrant and wise teacher, Hannah Gutchen taught us a lightning weave. Using a strip of coconut palm we wove and folded each leaf over and behind the spine to create a stunning pattern. One leaf began as the leader, the other the follower. Then the roles reversed so the follower became the leader and the leader the follower and this became the gentle flow of creating our lightening pattern. We quickly learnt the traditional way of utilising both hands throughout the weaving process so no hand was dominant or favoured but both used equally. On establishing the circle Hannah told us we were all leaders and followers. We all had responsibility for watching out for the women either side of us, to work together and ensure no one was left behind.
The idea that one does not nor, perhaps, should not always be a leader or a follower was suggested and we pondered the wisdom in that. Ideas flowed and were shared unself-consciously. The conversation, like our weaving, took on a rhythm of its own. I was quite struck by the ease with which we slipped into it.
What an honour it was to sit with a group of women and develop so quickly a bond where each works with the other and checks in on the other. Where conversation and support were so freely and generously given. It got me thinking about the incredible power women have to heal and nurture. I lament that many of us have lost sight of the power of sisterhood. Too often I observe women competing with each other and disregarding each other through selfish choices. Imagine what could be achieved if women sat beside each other and built each other up instead of tearing each other down. Imagine what could be achieved if women united and honoured each other rather than taking from each other. Imagine if we could heal our individual wounds by taking up ancient practices. Imagine if we re-established practices where we helped each other reignite our dimmed inner lights ― how bright the combined luminosity would be.
I believe if we regained the ability to sit and talk and use metaphor as was taught in today’s weaving circle we would connect with each other better as well as reconnect with nature on a different level. If we could come together as communities rather than consumers we could make a difference and save this planet and ourselves in the process.
A year of inspiration: Inspired by First Nations artists Hannah Gutchen and Maryann Talia Pau and the One Million Stars to End Domestic Violence project.
Samoan-Australian artist and practising weaver Maryann Talia Pau is the founder of the One Million Stars to End Violence project and co-founder of the Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle. Hannah Gutchen, is a Torres Strait Islander traditional weaver and artist currently practising in Brisbane. Gutchen has been passed down sacred knowledge of creative practices that inspire self-expression, self-healing, sharing culture and connecting stories.