Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


Esoteric and complex philosophical thought have been expressed by using textile terminology in India. The concept of time for instance is conveyed in the Rig-Veda, the oldest philosophical text, as the weaving of the warp and weft and thus the creation of days and nights. Tantra comes from the word tant, warp, and signifies that which stretches beyond. It is in this context that I present my paper, "Woven Incantations". The act of weaving in itself is a powerful act. The loin loom used by women throughout the world is strapped to the waist and the tension created by the body is linked with the inner rhythm. As the weaver inhales the tension is built and the weft is beaten into the warp and as she exhales she lifts the reed creating a shed for throwing the warp thread. One of the oldest looms used in Southern Laos uses the human body as the loom. The weaver sits on the floor with her legs stretched in front of her. The outer warp beam is stretched by pushing it out with the feet while the weaving end is strapped to the body. It is an extraordinary skilled operation, which uses the human body as a living yantra, the ancient word for the loom. The very act is like a form of yoga, which controls the bio-rhythm through controlled breathing and disciplined movement of the body, which goes into a state of "dhayana", meditation brought about by the rhythm of weaving echoing that of the body. The woven patterns emerge as a manifestation of introspective concentration. It is no wonder that the act of weaving is very closely linked with their rites of passage.