There are many textile motifs still in use today that can be traced back to the first known artworks created during the Paleolithic period. It has also been suggested that textile production (weaving) is a sacred act.
I have to ask myself, what is so spiritual about weaving? What is so compelling about traditional motifs that they have been held close by their communities for so many hundreds and even thousands of years? What exactly is it about an ancient motif, a motif that appears indecipherable to modern people, that carries so much meaning? And what about the act of weaving itself? Weavers in many societies have been held in very high esteem, comparable to a warrior or shaman. Why is this? I think it goes back to adaptive advantages, the roots of art and culture, and the origins of religion. I think weaving is strongly associated with altered states of consciousness. I mean that the act of weaving itself may facilitate an altered state of consciousness in which the practitioner travels between cosmic realms, much like a shaman, and maybe that the motifs on the textiles are iconographic depictions of a neurologically-generated cosmos. This could account for the special status accorded to skilled weavers. I'm not trying to say that all weavers are shamans, but that weaving may have once been a shamanic activity, and still carries much of the same mystique today.
The same neurological processes that are responsible for ASC also facilitate the very social behaviours that have enabled our species’ survival in the face of economic and environmental change: social cohesion. Wow. Trying to put this all in a nutshell blog post is kind of frustrating! There are so many things to consider...
So how exactly do the motifs on the textiles relate to ASC and the cosmos? I think we can look at/for:
- Any entoptic motifs (neurologically-generated motifs) within the textiles;
- Trance-inducing repetitive action;
- Weaving as ritual or part of ritual (cave art and ritual figurines connection?);
- Connection with dreams;
- Communication with beings from another realm;
- Representations of, doorway to, the other realm;
- Weaver as celebrant? Comparisons of status and function within the community;
- The role of weaving in regard to social cohesion.