celtic oak pillow
I think the Fae got involved...
I studied botany as an undergraduate in college but it was only after I spent a couple of years investigating nature from a more mystical and meditative viewpoint that something opened up for me. Something internal dissipated. Some creative block that I never knew was there just... left.
I had always enjoyed crafts but also followed patterns or instructions to create clothing, house decorations, and so on. Then one day, after a few years of knitting patterns I saw in magazines, I decided to design a knitted pillow- just like that. There was no internal dialogue about it. It was as if it was a task on my calendar to do and so I got some yarn and started the process.
My mind was often on nature and the oak tree is a favorite of many. But it's also a tree that was well venerated and revered over 2,000 years ago by the Celtic peoples that covered much of Europe. Starting in eastern Europe, the Celts migrated into almost all of western Europe including parts of what is now Spain and Portugal, all of France and Belgium, northern Italy and western Germany, and into Ireland and all of the United Kingdom. Before Julius Caesar conquered western Europe, the Celts and their religious leaders, the Druids, studied nature and learned many of her secrets. They were adept at mathematics and astronomy, plant uses and technology; the chariot was created by the Celts and the Romans knew a good thing when they saw it. As with most conquerors, though, the Romans destroyed without caring about what they were destroying so much is lost. For whatever reason, the Celts were more inclined to oral teaching than written although a few inscriptions remain. The classical writers and linguistics tell us the oak was among the most revered of trees in the Celtic lands. So, exploring modern Druidry myself, I decided I should focus on oak in creating my pillow. (Druidry is a modern nature spirituality that takes inspiration from the best of what we know of an ancient Celtic tradition.)
I love the Aran sweaters with their cables and various stitches creating such a richly textured tapestry. Aran sweaters were designed in a Celtic land and I thought that would be a great match for an oak pillow. So, I started knitting cables. I didn't have a pattern all planned out like the design books tell you to do but I kept knitting as if I had a pattern in front of me. I eventually needed to decide either to turn the corner or simply make strips that would be sewn together. I got lucky on my first attempt at turning a corner with the blackberry stitch (also called a trinity stitch). I kept going until the border was complete and I grafted the short edges together.
Now for the oak center. I didn't know what it would look like yet but I knew I needed to have oak leaves in there so I started trying to figure out how to make an oak leaf. Nothing in my research turned up a leaf that looked anything like an oak leaf regardless of what the leaf design was called. And I certainly didn't want to knit out one leaf lobe, cut the yarn and create the next leaf lobe. Who would want to follow a pattern like that?! My first attempt looked like a Christmas tree. The next one was even worse. I kept knitting and recording what I was doing and ripping out the yarn to try again. The seventh attempt worked and I had my oak leaf. I made a few leaves and laid them out in different ways in the center of my border. Of course, one has to have acorns as well. I played around with the yarn until I got what I wanted and made a handful of acorns to lay around the pillow center.
I chose to incorporate three leaves and four acorns for specific reasons. Three is a sacred number according to most of the world's religions. For instance, there is the Holy Trinity and the Triple Goddess, divine beings who give "light" to their people. The function of leaves is to absorb the light of the sun to make food for itself. This tree "food" is, for instance, the sap we harvest from Maple trees to make syrup in the early spring, but all vascular trees have their sap. So three leaves has meaning: the all important process of using light energy to convert carbon dioxide from the air and water from the earth in the leaves supports all other forms of life on earth. Follow the food chain of any animal and it will lead you to green plants that have used this natural process to feed all other life, including humans. And when the leaves' job is done, once the leaves fall in the autumn, they decompose and become topsoil to support the next generation of life. This is science, but it is also magic in my book. Carbon dioxide from the air, water from the ground, add a little sunlight, and the trees have made food for all the creatures of the earth.
Acorns sustain many animals and used to be a standard food, when available, for people, too. Acorns are edible and once the tannins are leached out of the nuts, they are quite delicious. Acorn flour can be purchased online and in some specialty stores.