I have always loved the idea of “casting the clew” (a ball of yarn) for divination. This practice is associated with the Goddess Nicneven, the Queen of the Witches and Faeries in Scottish lore. In “The Flytting Betwixt Montgomerie and Polwart,” written in 1621, it states:
“Then a clear Companie came soon after closs,
Nicneven with her Nymphs, in number anew,
With Charms from Caitness and Chanrie in Ross,
Whose Cunning consists in casting a Clew…”
While there is very little known about Nicneven and the practice of casting the clew, it is believed to be a divinatory practice involving throwing a ball of yarn into a dark room or corner. As you pull the yarn back towards you, the future is gleaned. It is thought that the future would be drawn out of the darkness and revealed.
Working with the fates has always been associated with threads, string, spinning and weaving. Casting the clew may stem from such ancient associations.
But what does any of this have to do with Imbolc (Feb. 1st – the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox)? Nicneven is believed to ride like a storm with her band of witches, nymphs and faeries, not just around Samhain and Nicneven’s Night, but also between Imbolc and Lent.
This makes sense as some consider her to be the same as Cailleach – the Irish and Scottish goddess of winter and weather who sometimes ventures out on Imbolc to gather wood. If the day is sunny and pleasant, Cailleach will collect firewood and extend winter in order to use it. But if the weather is bad, she will remain asleep through Imbolc and spring will soon arrive. If this reminds you of Groundhog Day on February 2nd – you would be correct!
Imbolc is the perfect time to try “casting the clew.” This practice can be done in your mind’s eye or literally by sitting in a dark room or facing a dark hallway and throwing the clew (a ball of yarn) into the darkness. As you slowly pull back the string with your hands or in your imaginings – see what appears out of the darkness. Before casting, light a candle for Nicneven and set strong intentions for what you are trying to glean. Ask a specific question or set intentions that the images drawn out of darkness reveal what is coming from Imbolc through the spring equinox. Give this simple divination a try!