Silk Rituals and Ceremonies
Posted on November 05 2018
Unlike other natural fibres such as cotton or wool, silk has penetrated deep into religious, social and cultural traditions of ancient China, Japan and India.
Silk enriches religion, tradition and ritual. Traditionally an Indian woman is married in a silk sari.
Silk is also considered 'madi' or 'aachar' - meaning it does not get tainted by touching humans. It is used in rituals and ceremonies. The most important first 'koora' sari worn by a bride is made of silk. The groom's dhoti is only made of cotton washed in turmeric. Whereas cotton does get tainted and has to be washed before it gets clean again, silk is cleaned by drying it out in the sun, not drenching it in water.
A silk quilt is the measure of a young Chinese woman’s proper dowry.
Bridal Panel and Robes in Korea
Bridal panel for an over-robe from Korea, 18th-19th centuries.Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. T.200-1920.
Bride's robe from Korea, 19th century.Courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art, acc. no. 1918.552.
A Korean panel with a length of 125 cm and with fine embroidery is housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The panel worked on has a silk ground material with gold paper thread and silk thread. The panel was used for the over-robe of a Korean bride in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries. She would wear this over-robe at her entrance to her new husband's family home.
Such panels were embroidered by the bride-to-be and her family in the months preceding the wedding. It includes auspicious motives, such as cranes, butterflies, peonies and lotuses. There is an embroidered text at the top left corner that says: "May the union of the two families be the source of ten thousand blessings.”
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, houses a bride's robe from nineteenth century Korea. It is made of silk with silk thread embroidery; the edges are wrapped with paper. It measures 114 x 174 cm.
The back panel is decorated with lotuses and egrets along the bottom, and with peonies and birds along the top. On the front of the sleeves there is a phoenix standing on coloured rocks under the peonies. A text on the shoulders reads: "It is the origin of all fortune to get two family names together."
More on silk robes worn at ceremonies and rituals click here
Silkworm rearing too has ushered in many rites and rituals in the lives of the rearing community. Silkworms are raised, cuddled and cosseted as delicate pets. Larvae should rest on a dry mattress. They must sleep, eat and work in harmony and the silkworm owner must wear clean and simple clothes so as not stir the air.
Even today, Chinese women who raise silkworms do not smoke, wear make-up or eat garlic or enter the rearing place with dirty shoes. Farmers still pay respects to the silk Goddess – in China, Japan and Korea. In India the tribal are equally fussy. The cocoon protectors do not shave or cut their hair or eat meat and do not cohabit with their wives until the harvest is made. The housewife tries to prevent nauseating cooking odours from entering the silkworm rearing area. The whole family regards sericulture as their traditional heritage and silkworms occupy a place of pride in their thatched dwellings.
In Nigeria women engaged on rearing or reeling are considered sacred and men seldom dare to cohabitate with them when they are busy tending the silk grubs or drawing yarn out of wild cocoons.
Let us today treat silk with the respect it deserves as one of the most exquisite and most durable fabrics available to man. Let us inform ourselves of mindful practices, lasting fabrics and conscious production with a purpose.