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The Heroine's Ropes, Sketches in Wool by Alice Starmore

The Heroine

In Gaelic legend there was an era called An Aois Òg (The Young Age) when the Earth was far different from what it is today, and land bridges existed across oceans. The fact that this concept is close to geological reality is something that I find quite staggering.

On Hiort, Taigh na Bana-Ghaisgich (The Heroine’s House) is situated close to the Well of Virtues in the Gleann Mòr on the North-West of the main island. It was later known as the Àirigh Mhòr where the women resided in summer whilst tending the cattle. According to a legend of Hiort, the building was the home of the Bana-Ghaisgeach (Heroic Woman) who in the Young Age went hunting deer on horseback over a plateau that stretched from Hiort, forty-odd miles across the ocean, to link with Harris.

I love this grand legend – it immediately conjures up visions of this heroic woman who, if she and her companions could scale monumental sea cliffs, would think nothing of galloping on horseback over a plateau of her own creation to hunt large creatures never seen on Hiort. I see her dressed in gold and green to command these creatures of the Harris hills and she surely would bring with her some strong ropes, as these have always been essential to survival on Hiort.

Early ropes were made from carefully prepared hide. It required a great deal of skill to cut a single long strip, beginning from the outside and cutting deiseal (clockwise), spiralling precisely to the centre. Three of these strips were then plaited together before the whole length was enclosed in a peilid (sheepskin). The most precious heirloom a father could bequeath his son or daughter was his rope, which was considered worth at least two of Hiort’s very best cattle.

I made the Heroine’s ropes by twisting my Hebridean yarn of Golden Plover, Lapwing, Bogbean and Machair. I made sure I did this clockwise and to enclose them, I knitted and felted a cover in my Celtic key and knot pattern, which I then secured with a rope decorated with felted beads embroidered with antler and eternal knot designs. Her costume will begin to form from this beginning.

The Great Glen on St Kilda
The Great Glen on St Kilda
The Heroine's Ropes, Sketches in Wool by Alice Starmore
A Dream Of Trees, Sketches in Wool by Alice Starmore

stuff about trees, or the general lack thereoff

A Dream Of Trees, Sketches in Wool by Alice Starmore
Gift of the Glen, Sketches in Wool by Alice Starmore

Something about the heroine also being the guardian of hearth and home when not out hunting

The Great Glen on St Kilda