Snaring Time & Space


String figures have been found in almost all of the cultures of the world and new ones continue to be created. Most people remember the games of Cat's Cradle, Cup and Saucer and Jacob's Ladder but there are thousands more. Intricate geometric patterns are revealed as the movement of the hands dance to a rhythm of motion. A universal motion in time and space.
The weaving of patterns from a simple loop of string is an ancient art. Stories of Grandmother spider spinning net-like webs and studies of alignments, navigational star charts and grids form our understanding of the interrelationship between myth, art, science and mathematics.
Early man looked to nature in developing his knowledge of the world about him. The natural world is the canvas for straight and curved lines. The navigators were well aware of the straight line of the horizon. The makers of containers were observers of the curved lines of the moon. The human body also reflects the proportions used in measurement. The length of the string we use in making string figures can be measured from fingertip of one outstretched hand to the fingertips of the other and when joined together they form the string loop. In addition to string used as a tool for measurement, knotted cords were used as mnemonic devices and for tallying. Sequences of knots held the memories of people while strengthening connections to their ancestors. Knotted cords were held in prayer.
Through the making of string figures we are weaving a tapestry that connects the strands of art and mathematics. We work with both hemispheres of the brain as the symmetry of left and right hands weave patterns in the string.
Art has a right brain function working in the realms of images, form and space. Mathematics has a left-brain function that deals with number, time and sequence.
Integrated they provide a harmony of motion in time and space.

A simple exercise exploring the use of string figures to teach temporal and spatial concepts:

What do you see?
Hands - left and right
10 fingers - They all have names
The hands have a front and back and two sides
Palm, back, near side, far side
But what do you see?

Count 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8
I see 8 spaces
We often look at the lines in this case the fingers
But it is also important to look at the spaces between the fingers
The spaces are called voids
Voids are said to be empty
But are they?

Put your hands together and then open them like a book
Simultaneous Reversible Dualism
What you have on one side you have on the other
Only reversed
The spine of the book is the pathway of the spider
The closing of the book is the folding of the universe

Now what do you see?
A string
Yes a string with a visible beginning and an end
A span that can be measured
Can you find the span of your hand?
Yes from your outstretched thumb to your baby finger
An imaginary line that can be measured

Your body has many spans
Can you find the span of your arm?
Yes from your outstretched fingertips to your shoulder
From your outstretched finger tips to the center of your body
From the outstretched finger tips of one arm to the outstretched finger tips of the other arm
This is called a fathom
Strings were measured in spans
Have you ever heard the phrase
"Span of time"
Could strings be measurements of space and time?
What do you see?

A circle
String Figures use a loop of string
With no beginning and no end
Remember to look at the space not just the lines
There is a space on the inside of the circle
Do you see the space that is on the outside?
Look up, Look down, Look left and right, Look all around, Look within
Where is the beginning and where is the end of this space? What do you feel?

The making of string figures involves movement
Movements to the left and right
Movements above and below
Movements that pick up and release
Movements of rotation
Movements of tension and relaxation

Energy is movement
The power of string figures is in the present moment
They are made and then they are dissolved
The patterns are moments in time
Here and then gone
Changing rhythms
Like seasonal cycles of nature
Active and still

What is the language of string figures?
The syntax and semantics appears hidden
Not easy to see
A coded language
Broken only by the smiles of the weavers
The healing spirit of the figures

Do you feel the magic?
The weaver holds the power of the patterns
The power to journey in time and space
The power to journey within
To enter dreamtime
To communicate with Spirit

What does this mean to you and
What are you going to do with it?

The truth lies in its effectiveness
Weave the string
Make the patterns
Listen to the story it has to tell
Hold this time machine between your hands
and see where it takes you

© 2011-20 Lois & Earl Stokes