Ten years ago, the warehouse that Twisted Monk had been using burned. Inside, the stock I had from first edition Shibari You Can Use was soaked under the hoses that saved as much of the building as it could, and my heart sunk. Not just for a project I had poured my heart into, instead it was more-so for a friend whose dreams had been washed away in those same waters, embedded in the ashes.
From the ashes, Twisted Monk, an amazing rope maker and his business crafting bondage rope, arose. New equipment, new materials, new inventory, new stock… and from me, new books. This was beautiful, and important, as a subliminal message to the bondage communities as well – we may be pushed down, disheartened – but we shall rise again. His first set of rope after the business got back to work was hand died a blend of red, orange, and yellow – Phoenix, he called it.
The phoenix is a bird, a being, present in almost every mythology, faith, or iconography system worldwide. It was Bennu in it’s form as the soul of Ra or Osiris in Egypt, the Huma of Persia, and the Phoenix in Greece. Garuda flew as the chariot of Vishnu in India; the Feng-huang symbolized completeness, and in Slavic and Russian mythology she flew as the Firebird. In the Middrash Rabbah of Judaism, the Chol, a fiery bird, was the only beast whom Eve did not tempt into eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and thus can not die.
In each version, the phoenix is a bird that, come the end of it’s life, burns in a fire of it’s own creation. From those ashes, an egg, or small bird, is there… waiting to be born and fly again.
We each became the firebird’s children as we let those ropes fly. Fire-colored ropes, spun by hand in the Abbey (as the space was called), by Monk and his crew. Layers of faith, story, and embedded unconscious cultural experience that dances back thousands of years… woven between the fibers of hope.
I had to buy a set when it went for sale.
Since acquiring it, I’d noticed that hit hummed in my hands. It felt like it shouldn’t be casually used. When I travel, I go to my rather extensive collection of rope and ask them who wants to travel. There tend to be a few that like being default teaching ropes – my teal from RopeExtremes, the deep pink from RainbowRope. For my own personal play, black or rainbow paracord from a local camping/outdoor shop, jute from BindMe for solo play; play with my partner calls for hand-spun rope made just for us by Kasis, rainbow-colored rope by DeGiotto, or the silver furniture trim we found at a marketplace in Bolivia.
Shortly after, I was at a gathering of spirit workers, and felt called to pack the phoenix rope. I’d only used it a few times, and there was an oddness to it. Not how it handled – it handled great. No, in how connections in scenes went. My play seemed deeper, or more resonating. When I decided to pack it for that event I didn’t know why – I had no scenes planned, but doing ordeals for people whose spiritual path called for it, I had used suspension a number of times – so it seemed reasonable. Red, orange and yellow in my hands, I slipped it into my carry-on roller bag.
What is a gathering of spirit workers? It is shamans, pagan priests, people in service to various gods from different traditions, possession workers, channels… all coming together to talk with others who “get” what they are going through. This sort of very small event is a place where rituals can be conducted, ordeals for other workers managed, and private possessory workings can be done for deities that have demanded it. Classes, skill-sharing… and of course: food and bitching. Because there are certain challenges that only your peers will understand.
While there, I was asked if I could assist with a ritual involving a deity that I had never worked with before, as a technician for the physical work involved. For those who do kink, think of it as someone doing service topping for someone else’s relationship. I pulled out of my roller bag a cloak, the rope, found two trees in the deep woods, and the crew of us hiked in at sundown.The possession happened far quicker than anyone expected, and it seemed clear that the ropes themselves had been part of that working. The next night, a request to assist with holding down someone during an intense body modification ritual. I tied the person down to a bench that multiple people then sat on. He broke the bench, the people jostled about… but anywhere that even one line touched the wood, or his flesh, nothing moved. At one point I couldn’t watch the modification any more, and walked away towards the fire… knowing, in my core, that the ropes would look after him.
Since then, I have not used those ropes lightly. At least, I have tried to remember. I asked others – do you have these? Have you found anything weird about them? A lot of people had. People whose intense connections brought them together very very fast after their scenes. Love. Heartache. Beauty. Performance displays that flew. Laughs that echoed more than other scenes.
Weird. Wyrd, the Norse term the fibers that create the tapestry of reality. That which is wyrd is tapping into those lines. Those of us that are weird tap into those lines of the Fates, the Norns, the web of grandmother spider. We are the unconscious fiber weavers, that which pulls on the web of fate.
And, phoenix magic in hand… we burn and rise again.
As S.J. Tucker sung in her amazing song “Firebird’s Child,”
Freely fly as what you are
and never walk in shame!
You must not fear to blister
if you’d live a life in flame!
In life, we use language about fiber all of the tie. Tie the knot. You’re just cut that way. You have to cut the ties you have with them. What is the thread that is woven between all of these issues. And there is a reason for that. We are all woven in that Wyrd. The fates spin our thread, measure us, cut our lives, to weave our lives into the tapestry.
Fiber magic is in every culture. Bridal veils modeled after the nets put over brides by fishermen in parts of Greece to keep the spirits away from her before her marriage. Prayers woven into each knot of a Ghost Dancing Shirt before heading into battle. Knots tied into the cingulum cords of Druids to denote pre-cast spells.
These, and so many more.
When we bind a lover, our emotions echo down those lines. As Midori has said, my arms are only so long, but my ropes can go much further.” Our physical motions echo too. I can pull this line, and it pulls you. As the bound person, I can pull on the line as well – remind our partner that we are there.
When Ayem Willing passed away, more phoenix rope came into my hands. Visiting Kasis, more phoenix rope came into my hands. I open my arms still, 10 years on, to hold these rope tight in their magic and love. Because it was woven by Monk, at the Abbey, after a fire… and know it or knot, he cast a spell. We all have that capacity, and it is important for each of us to be aware of the power we carry in both our hearts and the things we collect.
The history of any rope, just like your own history, can inform your history. Our histories do not make us, but they do inform our journey. If your rope was embedded in memory of one person, does that echo into your scenes with another? If that wedding dress, woven of dreams, have someone embedded in it – can you wear it again? Each of us have different levels of capacity for washing things blank, clean, open. But for many of us those ashes will always be there, and more than that, the nature of the flame that currently burns.
Burn with me. Each of you. Let us dance forward and pay attention to our own power. Pay attention to the power of what we create.
Be firebirds, and rise from our own flames. Dance, burn, rise again… time and time again.
If you’re brave enough to dance
then you are brave enough to fly!
Forget what’s right and proper!
You won’t know until you try!