In which are explored the matrices of text, textile, and exile through metaphor, networks, poetics, etymologies, etc., with an occasional subplot relating these elements to Iggy and the Stooges.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

time balls

Keeping track of ones life thru winding a ball of yarn...a Yakama custom among women. At significant moments (the birth of a child, a move to another home, a marriage, etc, the winder/memoirist would insert a knot, bead or other way of indicating "eventhood" in a thread of life. These "time balls" were called ititamats, and at the end of the yarn-winder's life the ball would be interred with her. When I googled "ititimat" (as I initially thought the word was spelled), almost all sites listed were mangled spellings of "intimate," which was quite amusing.
I came across the word at the website of Canadian writer and textile artist Susan Allen Grace, and specifically here.

The word "yarn" itself hearkens back to one that mean "animal guts," which were used for divination purposes as well as serving as the earliest form of thread to tie animal skins or sheets of bark together for garments or shelter. So from the start of human endeavor, imaginative storytelling, whether an account of the past (memoir) or the future (divination), was inextricably joined to the crafting of clothing and shelter, and acknowledges the human debt to the non-human animal (and eventually vegetable) world. Moreover, the root word is one signifying "enclosure" or binding, bringing us back to the Beit, Tiny Ark-hive in which the second letter of the alphabet, figured as a dwelling-place, is also the holy spirit, Shekinah, breath, word, life, in the beginning:

spun thread, the thread of a rope. (E.) M. E. yarn, ȝarn; 'Ȝarne, threde, Filum;' Prompt. Parv., p. 536.—A. S. gearn, yarn, Wright's Voc. i. 59, col. 2; spelt gern, id. 282, l. 2. + Du. garen. + Icel., Dan., and Swed. garn. + G. garn. β. All from the Teut. type GARNA, yarn, string, Fick, iii. 101. Further allied to Gk. χορδή, a string, orig. a string of gut; cf. Icel. görn, or garnir, guts (i.e. strings or cords). From ✔GHAR, to seize, hence to enclose, bind; see Yard (1) and Cord. From the same root are cor-d, chor-d, as well as cour-t, yard, garden, &c.

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