One of the challenges in researching this book has been the lack of information on very basic topics. While magical correspondences of everything from animals to minerals, colors to plants have been studied and recorded, textiles have slipped through the cracks. When it comes to magical crafts, fabric has been given little if any consideration of its magical properties. Yes, fiber content isn’t as exciting as, say, feathers or shells, but I feel that taking time to consider the type of fabric you’ll use in projects can give added meaning and energy to your work.
There are some people who have given some thought to the magical properties of textiles. One such, Deborah Snavely, has two in depth articles on the subject. I have come to use different correspondences than hers below. Also, I don’t use the standard system of assigning male or female genders—I find the whole idea not particularly useful, and potentially harmful to my practice. However, I include the link to her articles as I found them helpful in my own research and as a place for others to look to for their own investigations.
Without a venerable Cunningham to guide my studies, I have had to cast my net outside the metaphysical seas into those concerning the practical aspects of textiles. The correspondences outlined below are based on my research into the origins of the fiber (where the raw material comes from) and the processes used to make the fabric. My focus is on the most basic of correspondences: the elements. I’ve also limited myself to the four most common natural fabrics. Man-made and blends fall outside the scope of this entry. Other natural fabrics: nettle, hemp, the new faux leathers made from pineapple leaves and mushrooms are best considered in another article as well. Leather, fur and feathers have been left off as their associations are intrinsically tied to the animals they come from.
With that preamble out of the way, please check out the correspondences below. Again, these are all based on my own research. So, if anything doesn’t resonate with you, ignore it. In the end, magic is a personal matter, and it is your own intuition, symbols and reasoning that fuels your spells.
Cotton fabric is made from the boll of the cotton plant. The fibers are plucked, mixed, beaten in cylinders, carded, drawn, roved and then spun into thread. As such, it shares some of the qualities of plant from which it comes: it is associated with the Earth element; it can be used magically in spells of healing, luck and protection. According to Cunningham, “Cotton is the best kind of cloth (next to wool) to use for making sachets, or for any time cloth is needed in magic.”¹
One type of cotton fabric, muslin, was once a fabric highly prized in its native India and throughout the rest of the world. In her book, Muslin, Sonia Ashmore writes, “Muslin is an open-textured cloth, thin and sheer, woven to varying degrees of fineness depending on the quality of yarn used and the skills of both the spinner and the weaver. The surface, particularly of hand-woven muslin, has a softness to the touch that has been described as ‘mossiness’.”² This description of “mossiness” along with its origin of the cotton plant, places the fabric into the Earth elemental realm.
Use cotton fabric for any project, from robes to altar cloths to spell bags. It is well suited for spell bags as it is breathable, allowing the magic to flow in and out of the pouch.
Linen is created from flax; a laborious process that includes “retting” or fermentation in water. Because of this and its water absorption properties, it is associated with the Water element. It is a fabric that suggests purity and wealth. As it was historically used for bedding, linen is used in many healing spells. One such use involves tying a strip of linen from a sick person’s bed to a tree. As the exposure to the elements destroy the strip, the illness will be similarly destroyed in the patient.
Linen is associated to the goddess Hulda through its flaxen origin. It is used in spells of beauty, healing, money, protection and psychic powers. Linen is especially well suited to robes and other magical attire.
While pure linen is expensive, there are several “linen like” synthetics available at a lesser price point. These can be used in place of the authentic fiber. These faux fabrics require less ironing than pure linen meaning they can be preferable for use in items worn.
Silk is made from the cocoons of moth caterpillars. The cocoons are soaked in hot water from which loose fibers are collected and then twisted into thread for weaving. As a fabric it is seen as a luxurious and sought after material for garments. Magically, silk is considered to deflect magic, and to protect the magical energies and contents inside it, making it especially useful for creating bags used to hold and carry tarot cards, runes, and crystals.
Caterpillars, moths and butterflies, as well as their cocoons represent transformation, thus making silk suited for spells and magic pertaining to change, movement, and growth. Because of its association with wealth, luxury and prestige, silk is a good fabric to use in money and prosperity spells.
Silk is associated with the element of Air due to its airy quality and its origin. Because of its great rate of shrinkage and loss of strength when wet, it may not be suited for spells or rituals involving the Water element.
Wool sheared from sheep is bathed in a chemical bath, mixed, spun, washed and pressed to felt it. It is known for being impervious to cold and is often used for clothing meant to protect from cold weather. Coming from sheep, it is associated with the astrological sign Aries and the planet Mars. All of these properties align it with the Fire element.
Wool is associated with protection and comfort. It can be used in protective, prosperity and healing spells. Wool felt is useful for crafts from poppets to altar decorations. Wool suiting is useful for ritual cloaks, which will keep you warm during rituals performed outdoors during colder weather.
Cut edges of wool don’t unravel, making it useful for quick circle pouches or for when you don’t have time for finishing edges in a project. And though expensive, wool is a durable fiber that will last a long time, making it a worthwhile investment for spell and ritual tools.
ETA: This information, as well as magickal correspondences for sewing tools, patterns and spells can be found in Sew Witchy: Tools, Techniques, and Projects for Sewing Magick, my book that is out December 8, 2019 from Llewellyn Worldwide.
¹ Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, p. 84
² Sonia Ashmore, Muslin, p. 8