Clarissa Rizal: Alaska Native Artist Blog

Accentuating Tlingit Traditions

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Chilkat Weaving “Laws” – Part I

March 22nd, 2013 by Clarissa

Clarissa instructs Frances Joe and Marge Jackson during Clarissa’s 2nd Chilkat weaving class held in August 1990, Klukshu, Yukon Territory, Canada

Jennie Thlunaut taught me several Chilkat “laws” or guidelines for weavers and weavings.  This day in age we would call them “taboos” since most of us modern folk do not (or will not) honor the laws of old – most modern folk think that following the “old ways of thinking and doing” no longer applies to us today.  Some of us folks say that they want to follow the ways of our people, yet when it comes right down to applying those old teachings, or when it comes to honoring the elders and their guidelines, we choose to ignore.

You as a weaver, can decide for yourself which laws may apply to you.

The following list are some of the “rules of weaving.”   Jennie was quite adamant about these certain things and I learned to honor them – they include:
1). no human hands – although you can weave three fingers and a thumb, you WILL NOT weave four fingers and a thumb!
2).  Pray each morning before you weave – prayer is to always give thanks for the gift of weaving that you’ve been given, that you have your health and that you have lots of love in your family and friends,…prayer of giving thanks for everything you’ve been given, everything that you have, everything that has come to you.

An East Indian woven cloth to cover a Chilkat loom – a good protector from dirt and negative energies…!

3).  Cover your work each time you are not working on it; always cover it before you retire for the night.

Complete the closure of any eye or circle before retiring for the day

4).  When weaving a circle or an eye, always allow for enough time to complete weaving them before going to bed; so if you start an eye or a circle in the morning, and then you have other things to do during the day, you must make time to complete the weaving of the circle or eye, close it up, before you go to sleep that night – never leave it open during the time that you sleep.
5).  Do not teach (“straight”) men – if you teach “gay” men, then make sure their character is in harmony with the Chilkat spirit.
6).  Not to get big-headed about being a weaver; no room for being egotistical – keep your ego in check – especially when you are challenged by another

7).  Go to your loom with clean heart, clean mind, clean body – do not weave when you are in a negative mood.  That kind of energy goes into the robe and this is not good because the robe will carry that energy and may be transferred to the person who is dancing in the robe.

8).  Do not show your weaving to the person who is buying (or may be buying) your weaving before it is completed.

Chilkat weaving is a strong spirit.  Jennie tried hard to explain these things to me.  I was young then, however, in my experiences as an active weaver, I have come to know many things of the unseen, and I see why the Chilkat laws of weaving apply today even as they did 100 years ago…the ways of the physical reality may change, the ways in how we live may change, yet the ways of spirit do not.  I have experienced that when you apply these teachings, any or all, no matter what goes on in your life, positive and negative, there resides a strong, steady “rudder” serving as a guide of the straight and narrow path – and you will recognize all the good things that have been placed in your path – kind of like a path of righteousness.

Would these “laws” apply to Ravenstail weaving?  I do not know, however, it wouldn’t hurt to apply these things to your every-day lives!  What have you got to lose?

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