Saturday, January 17, 2015

St. Distaff's Day

Ok so I have a new favorite holiday which was last week, January 7th.  How did I not know about this before?  I mean, really?  I have a distaff on my vintage spinning wheel, (not yet functional) but I think that St. Distaff's Day dates from pre spinning wheel days.  For those of you who do not know, a distaff is a longish tool on which to wind yet unspun fiber. Here's my antique wheel with distaff:

However a distaff can also be used to hold fiber for use of a hand spindle.

St. Distaff was not really a saint...although if you consider being done with the holidays and getting ready to start spinning again a cause for Saint's Day celebration, then St. Distaff is a saint for you.  For me, spinning is not about work but rather fun and creativity, so it is a cause for celebration for me. 

Robert Herrick wrote a poem about St. Distaff's Day

St. Distaff's Day; Or, the Morrow after Twelfth-day

Partly work and partly play
You must on St. Distaffs Day:
From the plough soon free your team;
Then cane home and fother them:
If the maids a-spinning go,
Burn the flax and fire the tow.
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men.
Give St. Distaff all the right:
Then bid Christmas sport good night,
And next morrow every one
To his own vocation

Interpretation courtesy of the book of days:

As the first free day after the twelve by which Christmas was formerly celebrated, the 7thof January was a notable one among our ancestors. They jocularly called it St. Distaff's Dag, or Rock Dag, because by women the rock or distaff was then resumed, or proposed to be so. The duty seems to have been considered a dubious one, and when it was complied with, the ploughmen, who on their part scarcely felt called upon on this day to resume work, made it their sport to set the flax a-burning; in requital of which prank, the maids soused the men from the water-pails

So, off I go to my new wheel functional Ashford wheel sans distaff.

In other findings, here's a great video about Spanish farmers still using old droving roads...this one just happens to be in the middle of one of my favorite cities, Madrid

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