At Hartwood Grove’s very first circle, Z. passed around a wooden bowl full of various necklaces made of semiprecious stone beads and told each woman to put one on.
Of course, not being one to voluntarily accessorize let alone one to do so on command, I balked.
As my memory serves me, Z. sort of stared at me like I’d grown a second head before trying to spurt out some sort of reason for why I had to do so. Y., who was standing next to me, calmly put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s just one of the things we do to make the universe right.” So I put on a necklace. And I did my best to do so ever since then…though I admittedly forget more than I should.
As I later found out, this “women wearing necklaces in circle” thing is distinctly Gardnerian. The context is laid out in a section of Gardner’s 1954 book, Witchcraft Today, in a section on witch marks. Of course, these are supposed to be marks on a witch’s body where the devil branded a witch to secure his or her allegiance to him, and they really stopped being much of an issue around 1700 or so. Gardner says that he’d never seen such marks on the witches of his acquaintance, but he did outline a few marks of apparel, notably that “ladies of a certain grade are entitled to wear a bracelet with their name and grade sign engraved on it”, the witch’s garter (which he immediately discounts as much of a mark since it is not worn where it could be seen in public), and the necklace. Of this, Gardner writes:
but this [necklace] can be of any sort as long as it is fairly conspicuous. They have no story of its origin or meaning; it is merely the custom.
Myself, I think that there must be some story to the effect that the goddess always wore a necklace; I believe that Astarte always wore one and was known as the Goddess of the Necklace, being otherwise ‘sky-clad’, as they say in India. I have known one or two witches who wear talismans on their necklaces, but these are mainly astrological, being made for the owner only, and they bear no witch signs, so that I am inclined to think that the necklace itself is the important thing. (1)
Necklaces were important things both to Celt and Saxon. Some important priestess must have set the fashion. Thank goodness we are not plagued with people in the cult who are continually changing the fashions.
A basic read through gives a pretty obvious meaning: female witches wear some sort of non-talismanic necklace (that is, one of beads) all the time, not just in circle, and they do so as a signifying mark.
Frankly, I’m not really sure how this is to be a signifying mark of one’s witchiness, seeing as that beaded necklaces are basically worn by just about everyone whether they’re a witch or not. As a signifier, a talismanic pentacle pendant necklace would probably do a much better job of it.
Of course, there is one other bit of well-known Gardnerian text that links the wearing of necklaces by women with ritual. In her 1989 book The Rebirth of Witchcraft Valiente wrote of her initiation by Gardner that
One odd thing happened as I stripped off my clothes for the ritual. Some instinct told me to keep on the necklace I was wearing. I found subsequently that this was correct wear for a witch priestess, a fact quite unknown to me at the time. Had I done something like this before?
At any rate, I suppose worrying about why the Gardnerians demand their female practitioners wear necklaces in circle is a bit silly. They do, and it doesn’t hurt anyone, so why stress on it?
Knowing then that necklace wearing in circle was going to be in my future, I decided that I should probably have my own necklace. But I am a particular person. Even though I kept an eye out for pieces I liked at different craft shows and area stores, nothing really caught my fancy. So I decided to make one. Of course, I had a list of specifics.
- There would be no clasp. Nothing kills a circle mood like having your hair caught in a necklace clasp. Therefore, the necklace would have to be long enough to slip over my head.
- The necklace would not drop between my breasts. The less that happens in that part of ladyland, the better for me. For me, this means it’s got to be somewhere between 20 and 26 inches long.
- No synthetic beads or string.
- The necklace must be knotted like a pearl necklace, that is with a knot between each bead. Circle energy would be totally destroyed if an unknotted necklace broke and the beads scattered all over the space
- The necklace should look good with bright orange fabric. This means that a bright turquoise blue should be prominent.
I ended up getting a strand of howlite beads dyed to look like turquoise, some red jasper beads, some brown silk thread, a beading needle, and a pair of tweezer pliers. I have to admit, I was terrified to make this: knotting looked like hard work! So the supplies sat in my magical supplies drawer for the better part of a year while I gathered up the courage to ask for initiation.
I don’t know what I was so scared of. Once I figured out how to get the knots tied next to the beads, it took me all of 40 minutes to make the necklace. First I strung all the beads onto the silk. Then I knotted one end, pushed the first bead next to the knot, made a loop on the string, poked the pliers through the loop and gripped right next to the bead, slid loop over the pliers, and then pushed the knot flush to the bead with the plier tip. Repeat until done, then tie the ends together and trim. Voila. All done!
I’ve offered a pair of YouTube video links below. The first shows the knotting technique that I copied. The second is a video made by Harlequin Beads, which is the shop in Eugene I got my beads and materials from. I would have tried to do the second method, but was having some trouble getting the beads to string on a doubled length of the silk.