Druid Tools – The Druid Cord
The Druid Cord is another one of those tools we don’t hear about very often. While still a tool Druids use now and in the past, it’s not as fascinating or mysterious as the others. I mean, it’s a piece of rope, so not very flashy or magical. When you’re a wannabe or playing at magic, it’s not impressive-looking enough to bother with.
To satisfy my own curiosity, I took a quick look around the Internet. And found about what I found the last time I looked for information on the Druid Cord. I saw listings for “Energy Cords” containing crystals and sacred objects woven into them and some hand-made handfasting cords, but these aren’t the same thing. I did, however, find a couple of recent (and accurate) YouTube videos, so a pleasant surprise.
Okay, so what’s the Druid Cord for?
The primary function of the Druid Cord is geometry. Surprised? It’s for laying out sacred spaces done through the creation of right angle triangles. Remember Pythagorean theorem from school? Bet you never thought that would come in handy during something related to magic or sacredness.
The earth is full of naturally occurring geometry and repeating numbers and patterns. When you start looking, it’s obvious. I got into a conversation about this a while back with my baby sister. She’s big into numerology and when I told her that the sacredness, importance and/or superstition she was attributing to some numbers actually has its roots in the naturally occurring number patterns in nature, she didn’t believe me. The numbers 3, 5 and 7 come up all over the place. You can see them in things like the leaf groupings of plants, but don’t take my word for it, go look at some plants. Anyway, that’s exactly what she did. When she started counting plant leaves – I think it was a little sister thing and she was looking for a reason to call bullshit – her mind was blown.
Neither here nor there really, but these naturally occurring and repeated patterns and numbers are out there. It’s a part of magic. Math is part of the nature that surrounds us. And around circa 500BCE, among others before him, the ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras noticed this, too, and used it to come up with his mathematical theory about right-angle triangles.
Historical references to the Druid Cord
Would you believe almost none? Well and again, it’s not a very interesting tool to look at. It also doesn’t have to do with herbalism, so our Roman friend, the naturalist Pliny the Elder, didn’t write anything down about them. To see the Druid Cord in history, the easiest way is to look at other related paths of sacredness that are still around today as well as handed-down traditions and mythology. No matter how fantastic a story is, we know each one sprung from a kernel of truth. Everything has a root.
Knotted cords are known in multiple cultures and we see the Druid Cord echoed in other special cords that came later like Tibetan prayer beads, monks’ waist cords or the Catholic rosary. The knotted cord of the indigenous Iatmul people in Papua New Guinea maps out stories of their migrations and their culture contains some of the earliest technologies on earth. The symbolism of a cord tied with knots wasn’t even a new thing in the time of the Druids and there’s evidence of sacred knotted cords as far back as the Stone Age. It makes you think. What is Man’s fascination with strings and knots?
Why knots at all? You might be surprised to know there’s an entire tradition around sacred knots. Why? In a visual and concrete way, knots, as a concept, connect us to the past and ground us in the present. Tied to everything, it reminds us we don’t operate in a vacuum.
During meditation, the hand-mind interplay of passing the hands over the knots while we contemplate is an active way to consider that connection of ourselves in the present with the past. Humans are tactile creatures, after all. Touching the knots while our brains are engaged in the related consideration helps us embed the lesson in our minds. This is one of the reasons we see the same concept come up over and over across cultures and through history.
Strings, cords and knot concepts in mythology and tradition
Multiple cultures have mythology about strings and knotted cords and you have to wonder why. Pythagoras wasn’t the only person in history to notice mathematical patterns in nature. To an ancient culture, someone noticing something like that would attribute it to a mysterious higher consciousness or power over them, and so, was sacred. Again, to make the concept easier for humans to understand, it would be represented in concrete form like a knotted cord or string.
If time is seen as a line, like a string or a cord, and your life measured out in its sections through lengths or knots, it’s an easy visual to understand the passage of time and events that happen to you along the way. You have to remember, this is very old stuff, before clocks and calendars. And in ancient times, people thought differently than we do now. They didn’t think about the “self” in any situation, there was no concept of “I”, because everyone only understand observation. The passage of time, what controlled that, and events that happened to you along the way was a revolutionary and mysterious concept to people. The mystery of it still echoes into today and is the root of the sacred traditions that use strings and knotted cords.
What does a string or cord represent?
String symbolism in every culture is about Man grappling with his destiny – it’s universal. It’s about the higher consciousness (that we can see the effects of but don’t understand) that dictates the destiny of men and even gods and our sometime efforts and struggle to control it.
In Greek mythology, the Fates, represented by 3 sisters, used a string. Clotho spun the “thread” of human fate, Lachesis metered it out and Atropos cut the thread and determined when a person’s death occurred. Norse Seidr magic has to do with reweaving one’s destiny to alter it. Chinese legend speaks of the Red Thread of Fate. This is an invisible cord the gods tie around the ankle of individuals they’re destined to meet or to help each other. Tying a red string knotted 7 times around the left wrist protects the wearer from danger in Kabbalah. Kalava is the sacred Hindu thread tied to the wrist to help us control our fluctuating moods so we can reach the pure and placid Satvik state.
Even the concept of soul mates stems from legend – people tied together by destiny (or an invisible string or cord) they can’t circumvent. Though stories abound of people who try. Knotted cords worn as belts were a practical means to measure the dead for burial. This also ties into the concept of destiny of which death is a part.
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg.
The take-away from the stories is, destiny and the desire to control one’s destiny, is universal. We don’t like the idea that something might control us. But this isn’t the the lesson we learn from them.
The greater massive and mind-blowing concept all these are trying to get into our heads is, no outside force actually does. We control it, us bound together with everything in the universe. Every element is interconnected in a reciprocal relationship we can’t escape, because we’re all made from the same stuff. And what we do inevitably affects everything else even when we turn a blind eye, pretend it isn’t a real thing or rebel against it.
Talk about elevating the idea of universal stewardship to a level almost beyond human comprehension, eh? This is big stuff.
What does the knotted cord represent to a Druid?
As a concept, the Druid Cord itself is the same as it is for the rest of humanity. It’s about destiny and a physical reminder of our tie to everything in the universe. As a Druid, we’re aware of the interconnectivity of everything. And more, know we have the power to affect things outside ourselves just as those things have the ability to affect us. We can’t escape that interconnected destiny. So, since we can’t escape the connection, we might as well use it to our advantage.
If you think of the Druid Cord as a tool to help us zero-in on specific energy, align ourselves or our spaces to it, if we do it with focus and intent, we can use that to do a better job moving through the destiny we can’t escape. I mean really, if you’re going to do something, better not to half-ass it, right?
Using the Druid Cord
The cord is a useful tool when building. Whether it’s laying out a medicinal herb garden, creating a sacred space to hold gatherings, or constructing your house, use your cord to make right-angle triangles as you lay out the space. If your intention is to align your space with the energy of the earth in general, use the compass points. Using a compass (or the stars if you’re good at that, a dowsing rod, or whatever tool works for you) and find north. Mark your north-south line and then it’s time for your cord.
The easiest way to create a right-angle triangle using a Druid Cord is to lay the cord on the ground. Shape the cord into a triangle along your north-south line with sides that have 3, 4 and 5 measured sections respectively. This creates a right-angle triangle every time. Pretty smart, eh? Then use the point of the triangle with the longest side to mark the east-west lines. Doing this will make your space or building exactly aligned with the compass points.
But we don’t always want to use the compass points. Sometimes, we’re looking to use other energy that goes better with the particular function of what we’re building. In this case, we want to align with the place, the location, you’re building in. Every place has its own energy. In meditation, if you tap into the energy of that space, throw your intention out there. Ask the question, can you borrow the energy for [insert your purpose] and the answer will come to you. If a direction or a spot to start becomes apparent, the energy of that place is pointing the way. Mark the spot and make your horizontal axis line from that point. Then bust out your Druid Cord and make right angle-triangles against that line to find the transecting axis. And from those 2 crossed lines mark out your sacred circle or building or garden perimeter.
There’s a really nice video of a Druid Cord in use here in Using a Druid’s Cord. It’s part of a workshop on sacred spaces from the Western Geomancy Group who study and practice dowsing and geomancy. The head of their group, Grahame, while not a Druid (though I’d say, from the way he lives his life, he’s a feral Druid and just never thought about it), is a professional dowser located in Glasgow, Scotland. He does a great job explaining what he’s doing with the Druid Cord in actual use.
Creating your own Druid Cord
You can create your Druid Cord from any material you like as long as it’s flexible, but not stretchy. Depending on how traditional you want to be, like other Druid tools, you may want to use natural, non-conductive, non-reactive materials like hemp, cotton or jute.
Knot your cord at regular intervals of equal length. Create 12 knots in total, which provides you with 13 sections to work with. The traditional length of the cord is about a yard long, the length of a belt. You’ll hear some people swear it needs to be a megalithic yard long (2.72 feet). This is because the megalithic henges and structures around the world are in that form of measure. It actually doesn’t matter. The length is irrelevant since it’s used for geometry and not as a primary form of measurement.
To allow you more flexibility to create triangles of different sizes, you may want to make several cords of different lengths. Longer Druid Cord = bigger right-angle triangles. D’uh.
And that’s the whole ball of wax. A Druid Cord needs no embellishment or decoration and should remain a functional, geometric tool.
Though it’s a fairly mundane and practical tool, never forget the weight of the lesson behind it. Whenever you use your Druid Cord, take in that reminder for yourself of your tie to everything in the universe and your responsibility toward universal stewardship.
For a more colourful demonstration of some of these Druid tools in action, check out my book, The Seer. This historical sword fantasy about a Druid in the fictional realm of Edenshire in 4th-century Britain is available at Amazon!
Check out all the articles in this series on Traditional Druid Tools!