Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lessons from the Plat

Because things are very slow here in Appalachia, I have been using my extra time to be crafty- and one of the things that I have taken up again is embroidery. When searching for patterns on Etsy, I came across a listing for a Russian plat.

This is the "7 powers" design.
For those of you unfamiliar with Russian folk magic, a plat is a ceremonial towel- only used for ritual purposes- never as an ordinary towel (those are called roushniks). It is lovingly hand embroidered with specific patterns for specific purposes. They are talismans, to be specific. Plat patterns were passed orally from generation to generation, like most traditional Witchcraft tools and spells. The pattern on the plat I found was for the "seven basic powers" to bless the bearer, which is a great all-around plat to use in all kinds of work. (The seven basic powers roughly translate to the elements used in other magical systems: fire, earth, air, water, spirit, with the addition of intelligence and matter in the Russian system.)

I was excited to learn first hand about this Craft, so I went ahead and got the kit. Embroidering (or any specifically magical Craft) has many magical things to teach someone who is willing to listen. The pattern itself was a mind bending jumble of numbers. As I worked the pattern, I found that it instructed me about how the world is set up- by mathematical principles. Plat patterns only use ones, threes, fives and sevens (which are all very magical numbers that mean specific things) in their stitch and skip counts. A geometrical pattern emerges that creates symbols that invoke specific principles and powers. Math has always been at the foundation of all magical systems, but as someone who only does math when required (groan!), I never really appreciated its beauty before. That has changed.

This is what it looks like reversed.
In the pattern that I made, the stitches create X-like crosses that, in turn, crossed diamonds. These are ancient agricultural symbols of a grain field impregnated by the sun's energy (or the elements of fire and earth). Water is represented by the zig zag pattern above and below the diamonds. Air and Spirit are demonstrated by the white in the design, and Matter is shown by the use of red thread. The pattern shows Intelligence by the horned diamonds- they show basic construction, like a house.

I found myself frustrated in the beginning of the project, constantly referring to the pattern and groaning when I discovered that I missed a stitch and had to re-do a row. As I progressed, the pattern became more a part of me, and I intuitively knew what stitch came next- to complete the pattern. It felt as if the elements were coming home to rest in my little plat. And that is what I wanted, a true talisman of the elements, allowing me to use the towel in accordance with nature and the Flow.

For more information on Russian folk magic embroidery, check out Traditional Russian Costume.

1 comment:

  1. May you feel and use the powers well.

    Blessed Be.



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