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The Cailleach of Wool

by Dawn Wood and Beth McFarland

Once, a good few centuries ago now, there was an old woman. She’d never been young, only ever old. She sat in her round room in a tower, with arched windows, overlooking the sea. It was her job to spin wool, in a tower, in a round room.

Susan was very placid, only her fingers moved. They say that the work of the fingers is what reaches the soul. Well, that’s as maybe, it seemed that only her fingers moved. The rest of her sat in her skirts on her seat, by her spinning wheel. The old woman speaks: Susan is my real name.

People are afraid of me.

Why were they afraid of me? I had answers, they called up and I decided if they should be ignored or answered. I was a sort of oracle.

How did I know the answers?

In the wool that I was spinning, if it resisted or not, if it was thick or thin. I knew whatever I felt.

It was easy to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer; if the wool went thick, ‘no’; if it went thin, ‘yes’. Sometimes, if it went too thin and broke, that meant the extreme end of something, ‘yes’, but it would still break.

Could I get any other sorts of answers from the wool? If I spread out the wool flat when wet, I could look at the pictures in the weave, I could use my fingers to create pictures. I didn’t tell people I could create pictures with the wool. I could see deep into a scene.
Their questions were so boring; ‘yes’ or ‘no’: should I marry so and so, should I go into business with so and so.

I didn’t understand what I saw, it was the universe swirling. Like clouds. It had no meaning for my life either. I was Susan. I had no patience with these stupid people. I like to be by myself with my wheel. I was close to the heavens. I never went out from my tower room. Me and the wool, we were close to the sea.

Real things don’t speak with words. They swirl like clouds and patterns. It’s patterns that matter, not words.

Patterns are everlasting and eternal. Words aren’t.

Patterns don’t have sharp edges. If it has a sharp edge, it’s man made. Patterns have no 90degree angles, no straight lines, they swirl. Even words have edges.
Is there anything else about the patterns? The colours are iridescent, when they’re all added up, you get white. The colours can be distinguished, but the final result is white.
That’s why my wool was white, it was condensed patterns and condensed information. I could tease the wool out to get the real pattern, but people asked stupid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions.

Do the people matter? No. Nor I.

What does matter? Just the wool matters. Why? The wool is the condensed pattern; squash the pattern all up, end up with wool. Pattern is when you tease things out to look at it, that’s a human action. Otherwise, it’s just white wool. It’s just there if there’s nobody to look at it, just wool.

Is the wool to do with sheep? I was just about to say, No. It’s the reason why sheep have wool, it’s Platonic. A poor representation of real wool. Shadow on the cave wall stuff? Yes. We have sheep’s wool as a poor representation.

What is the real wool? Some kind of matter. It is physical matter. It comes out of the cradle of the universe. It comes out of black holes. People think black holes swallow things, no! real physical matter comes out of them. It’s not a religious thing. Not a spiritual thing. Not alive. We humans put too much meaning on ‘alive’, we think it means to be thinking. ‘Alive’ has no real meaning. Either a thing is there, or it’s not. ‘Alive’ is a human word. A very limiting word.  

Either it’s there or it’s not.

Susan is shaking out her apron: You’ve had more than your time. She’s given us all we need. She was a cailleach, an old woman. She didn’t heal people. She tholed them. Was Susan ever young? Susan was only ever old. Mostly she looked at the patterns, they were fascinating to her.

And Susan was her real name. She sat in her round room in a round tower, with arched windows, overlooking the sea, and she spun.

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