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How To Make a Witch's Ladder

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A witch's ladder is one of those nifty things we sometimes hear about but rarely see. Its purpose is similar to that of a rosary - it's basically a tool for meditation and ritual, in which different colors are used as symbols for one's intent. It's also used as a counting tool, because in some spell workings there is a need to repeat the working a particular number of times. You can use the ladder to keep track of your count, running the feathers or beads along as you do so. Traditionally, the witch's ladder is made with red, white and black yarn, and then nine different colored feathers woven in.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Varied

Here's How:

  1. Realistically speaking, it makes more sense to use yarn colors that have a significance to you and your working. Also, finding nine differently colored feathers can be tricky if you're looking for them out in the wild -- you can't just go plucking feathers from local endangered species -- and that means a trip to the craft store and some oddly tinted feathers. I'd recommend using either found feathers of any color, or something else entirely -- beads, buttons (see our discussion on the magical uses of buttons), bits of wood, shells, or other items you have around your home.

  2. To make your basic witch's ladder, you'll need:

    • Yarn or cord in three different colors
    • Nine items that are similar in property but in different colors (nine beads, nine shells, nine buttons, etc)

    Cut the yarn so that you have three different pieces in a workable length - usually a yard or so is good. Although you can use the traditional red, white and black, there's no hard and fast rule that says you must. Tie the ends of the three pieces of yarn together in a knot.

  3. Begin braiding the yarn together, tying the feathers or beads into the yarn, and securing each in place with a sturdy knot. Some people like to chant or count as they braid and add the feathers. If you wish, you can say something like this variation on the traditional chant:

    By knot of one, the spell's begun.
    By knot of two, the magic comes true.
    By knot of three, so it shall be.
    By knot of four, this power is stored.
    By knot of five, my will shall drive.
    By knot of six, the spell I fix.
    By knot of seven, the future I leaven.
    By knot of eight, my will be fate.
    By knot of nine, what is done is mine.

  4. As the feathers are tied into knots, focus your intent and goal. As you tie the final and ninth knot, all your energy should be directed into the cords, the knots and the feathers. The energy is literally stored within the knots of the witch's ladder. When you've completed the string and added all nine feathers or beads, you can either knot the end and hang the ladder up, or you can tie the two ends together forming a circle.

    If you'd like your ladder to be more like a rosary string, I'd highly recommend picking up a copy of Pagan Prayer Beads by John Michael Greer and Clare Vaughn.

Tips:

  1. Author Ann Moura has a small but good photo of a witch's ladder on her website, if you'd like to see what one looks like!

What You Need

  • Yarn or cord in three different colors
  • 9 Feathers or other items to braid into your ladder

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