Of Witches Ladders and Thread Magic- Cursing, Blessing, and Changing Fate

The Witches Ladder is a tool, or magical device used within certain witchcraft practices, most often for Maleficium. It has been recorded that witches ladders have been used to steal away milk from neighbour’s cows, and to cause death to ones enemies. Of course the origins of the ladder are rather obscure, and its true purposes have never been revealed.  A witches ladder may make use of woolen thread, cords, and hair through which knots, feathers, bones, and other charms may be woven.

Colles, A. (1887). “A Witches’ Ladder.” The Folk-Lore Journal 5

“Concurrent with this practice is the employment of cord or thread magic; the spirit road or track of power along the length of which required virtues and potencies can be drawn to one, or ones will and influence sent forth. It is also a strand of fate: either of one’s own fate, or that of a client or target of the working, altered, reformed, and influenced by the tying of knots of will and desire. The feathers tied along its length are cognate with the virtues of air and of the winds, via which spirits, virtues and the witches influence may travel and be conveyed to one or sent forth. The holed hagstone, so often co-employed with cord or thread magic, is for the folk-magician a ‘faery portal’ through which requests can be made to the spirits and Otherworldly powers, for magical desires and needs to be born forth into manifestation in this world”- Gemma Gary- The Black Toad

“The Norns”- Arthur Rackham

Thread magic is bird magic and spider magic-Fate magic. When I weave thread, I invoke The Yaga, The Graeae, Spider, and Bird-Weaver. Sometimes I wind the thread into a form, twisting and coiling my desires into that which I want to manifest. Sometimes it is more simple- different colours woven into one rope- wound with witches chants and breath.

“There’s a mare black and shining with yellow hair,
I put my fingers through her silken hair and found a stair,
I didn’t waste time, I just walked right up and saw that
Up there, there is a sea
Up there, there is a sea
Up there, there is a sea
The sea’s the possibility”

-Patti Smith “Land:/Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances/La Mer”

I thread through feathers of goose, duck, pigeon, owl, and guinea fowl- feathers to sing to, and caress, and to fly with, feathers loved by my own hands, collected and blessed and touched by witch’s fingers.

“If one day I see a small bird and recognize it, a thin thread will form between me and that bird. If I just see it but don’t really recognize it, there is no thin thread. If I go out tomorrow and see and really recognize that same individual bird again, the thread will thicken and strengthen just a little. Every time I see and recognize that bird, the thread strengthens. Eventually it will grow into a string, then a cord, and finally a rope. This is what it means to be a Bushman. We make ropes with all aspects of the creation in this way”- As recounted by a San Bushman in “What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World. -Jon Young.

These are the bonds I invoke, the bonds of familiar and ally, the bonds of the unseen and seen. These are the cords and the ropes that tie me to each being I have known- each thread, an artery of the deepest passion and love. Bind these in your own blood- the sacred fluid of life itself.

A weaving for a bird ally


Tie knots into ladders to call and bring the wind and the storms. Or create a charm to protect against the lightning. These can be made using pieces of oak wood, and tied with wool or thread. Hang on some bells to attract positive spirits to your home.


“Spindle, my spindle, haste, haste thee away,

and here to my house bring the wooer, I pray”

-Spindle, Shuttle and Needle

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Use the threads to bring back lost lovers, lost pets, lost objects. Wind them to you on a spindle thread, singing or humming songs from your heart, send your tears, and your sorrow, and your love along the threads. Use the threads to find your own way.


3 of Swords- The Wild Unknown Tarot- Kim Krans

Sometimes threads are burned to burn bridges.

“One thread for bile,

one thread for lies,

one thread for pain

I burn the ties”

Tie one knot for each day, month, or year you have known them

burn it in the flames, spitting on the ashes before throwing them out with the trash.

“I’m happy to pull my veins out and braid a rope

I don’t need hope to know that you’d die slow”

– Marilyn Manson

Ropes of vine can be used to ensnare and entangle, causing confusion and chaos- dragging your enemy deeper and deeper into the spiders web, closer and closer to their doom. Rub each thread of wool or cord or vine with poison- Datura, Brugmansia, Hellebore- to cause madness and seduce them into death. Make knots- knots of confusion, knots of pain, knot to cause mental fracture and anxiety.


Sometimes threads are wound with lover’s hair to bind. Seduction and faithfulness bound into the fibre’s of your lovers heart. Be careful not to choke out your love- with the touch of Lilith’s hair.

Attract love by rubbing the cords with honey, bring the bee’s and their delightful energy into your heart- sweeten love that has gone sour- make sure to use not only your lover’s hair but your own. Be careful- honey attracts flies and ants as well…


Sometimes Witches Ropes act as spirit traps. Nasty spirits who wish to cause harm get caught and tangled in webs, in oceans of thread. Bind the thread with evil eyes, so no harm will come to you. perhaps you have some claws or teeth, or talons belonging to your familiars, bind these on the cords as well, they will rip, and trap the spirits too. Weave thick walls of protection with bramble and rose thorn- not even princes can break into the Witch’s castle when the hedge is a thick mass of wool and spike.


Sometimes threads can be used to send messages to loved ones across the sea and across the veil- a spirit thread of communication like a telephone wire. Connecting heart to heart. Use them with your dream magic and weave dreams for your loved ones or  protect against nightmares.


“Fate be changed, look inside. Mend the bond torn by pride.”- Brave

Sometimes threads can mend broken hearts, heal broken bones, and repair broken bonds. They can be woven into healing blankets, healing quilts and healing shawls. My shawl is black- a gift from the Web of Love during the time of the last Goose Moon. A gift from sisters who know the sacred art of weaving and healing power of wool and knitting.

“Flesh to Flesh, Bone to Bone,

Sinew to Sinew, Vein to Vein,

Each to become whole again”

– Traditional

Detail from the “Mourning Spell”- Nightshade Purplebroom

Witches are weavers, working the threads of fate.We are bird-women building nests, bringing comfort and joy. We are spider-women, weaving life and death, we are healers, and wind callers, and storm bringers. We bind our magic with the threads that fate gave us, the magic that is inside our bones and our hearts, the threads which are like sinew and vein.

There are many ways of warp and weft in the sacred arts of weaving- The tales of of the gods were told by Arachne, and Athena’s wrath turned Arachne into a spider- the weaving goddesses of the old world and folklore- Baba Yaga- Holda,Frigg abound in fairy tales and the witches imagination.   But these stories are for other days.

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