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  • Writer's pictureAmber Rose Ostaszewski

On the term "Fiberwitch"

Over the course of my life in working with the fiber arts and embracing my unique perspective of the world, I have come to find that the term “fiberwitch” is one of the many descriptors that helps explain what I do to those who are unfamiliar the process of creating works with raw fiber and natural materials. For those who are experienced with processing fiber, spinning, felting, natural dyeing, weaving, knitting, sewing, embroidery, and the like, it’s not a hard stretch to see why mystery and deep meaning comes from engaging with the creative process of turning nothing into something amazing. It’s a practice of intent, skill, and will; nothing short of magical. It’s also the allegory of much of our lives--look to myths and creation stories and you’ll find that even the language we speak is built on the terms used for fibercraeft. We spin these tales in many of the classes I teach, and practice interweaving their meanings in our lives. It’s all there in the etymology of the words we choose, the “text” in textiles.

However, I’ve also found that many can be put off by the term. It might have something to do with the stereotypes and connotations around the “witch” part, which for many magical practitioners is debated today (vs. more culturally specific words like cunning folk, völva, rootworker, folk healer, etc). Personally, I am ambivalent about my own labelling, but I do think for some, reclaiming the word “witch” can be an empowering act. Furthermore, I think there’s more to this than the wording - for some the “woo” implications around the term fiberwitch are just too uncomfortable. So humor me while I breakdown my personal thoughts around why being a fiberwitch is more grounded and practical than at first glance, and why I consider this more holistic approach to the fiberarts absolutely necessary as we carry this ancestral craft into the future:

  • Being a fiberwitch entails some sort of belief in animism and accompanying practices. This means that they recognize and respect that everything around them is part of the divine and treat it as such. They harness natural materials, respecting the soil-to-soil cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The work of fibercraeft is akin to spiritual work, both on the personal and worldly level.

  • Due to an animistic worldview, many fiberwitches are grounded in working with their local resources. They honor the land and its spirits, working with local fiber, local natural colors, and local labor. They are the stewards of their fibersheds. They value the community.

  • In order to support their communities, they take actions to protect their resources. They stand up to polluters, violations of labor rights, and excessive, capitalistic culture. They fight for indigenous sovereignty, regenerative ecological practices, and protecting our planet’s air, water, and soil.

  • They revel in the slow and resilient work of creation. They embrace mindfulness and seek comfort in the process of working with one’s hands. They express their creativity, seeking joy through play and enchantment.

  • They pass on ancestral knowledge, always citing their teachers and those that came before them with reverence, retelling the tales and techniques and creating healing for the future. They are the carriers of culture, creating soft, tangible heirlooms of warmth and love for the world to come.

So tell me, do you consider yourself a fiberwitch?

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