A brief history of Indigo, Woad and the Ancestral connection….

by Nikiah Seeds

I have long been interested in Indigo and Woad especially since Woad in particular is connected to my Scottish and Irish ancestors.
Indigo, the colour of the sky and water and the source of deep alchemical magic and revere across most of the world!
For some time now I have been gathering the ingredients and dreaming about what I might do should I set up an Indigo vat–mostly I had visions of deep Indigo drums, perhaps a shawl and of course the initiation into Indigo as seen with the classic “Blue Hands”.
Interestingly enough it is said that in India those with Blue hands were considered not of a lower caste as one might think, but rather if you were a dyer that knew the secrets of Indigo blue dying and had the tell-tale blue hands much respect was given!
I am notoriously known for my love of the colour Red and it’s deep connection to the divine feminine, but blue has captured my heart and ancestral soul for the moment, so it was fun to combine both loves by setting up my Red Tent and Indigo vat side by side for the day.

What is the difference between Indigo and Woad?

Ok so here is the run down–basically Woad and indigo are the same, AND….woad and indigo are different, how is that for confusion!?

What is the same about these two is that the compounds in the leaves, when extracted, both produce blue pigment called Indigo.

From what I understand Woad is easily grown in Europe, thus the history of use there, and Indigo although referred to as the colour produced, is also a plant grown in more tropical climates, and the Indigo that is gathered from these plants is deeper then what one is able to obtain from Woad.

I imagine that a more lush tropical climate must be the reason for the compounds that create the blue colour of Indigo to be deeper then the Woad grown in Europe, but that is just a guess…

The introduction of Indigo to Europe came by way of Asia is the middle ages they say as early as 1140, and initially it was was sold in hard lumps and used as an ingredient in paint for artists.
It was not until the 1500 that it started to be imported and used for dye which made woad dyers quite uneasy, however it seems that the use of woad for dye was slowly departed from as the darker colours of the more tropical Indigo were discovered.

It is said that where woad is a slow blue Indigo is fast, but the truth of the matter is this–both require deep alchemy in order to achieve any kind of lasting colour!

“In Europe and in the British Isles, when woad was the only affordable blue, processing began with the crushing and composting of leaves. The mixture was shaped into balls dried for storage and transport. Inside the balls, a tiny secret was at work: a bacterium, Clostridium isatidis, thriving in the interiors, using up the oxygen, beginning a transformation by fermentation that led to blue pigment.

Woad, the plant whose deep blue pigment was used as a warpaint by the ancient Britons to frighten their enemies, is to be farmed commercially in Britain for the first time in 500 years.

Large-scale production of woad, which was most famously used by the warrior queen Boudicca, finally died out in the 16th century when cheaper dyes imported from India made it uneconomic.” Source 
Woad has long been connected with the Icenci tribe and it’s famous leader Boudica who was said to have painted her face with paint before going into battle, and we now know that woad is also antiseptic and may also have been used to heal battle wounds! The thought with painting the face Blue was to frighten the enemy by having a fierce face done is a colour that would have been hard to achieve anywhere else. of course back then Urine would have been one of the magical ingredients needed to turn the green dye blue….

I could write an entire book on the ancestral connections between the magical dye and each country it was used in, fortunately there are many other wonderful and amazing books that have already done so…

From what I can understand the myth and magic of this alchemical dye has literally been found most of the world over, and ancient history shows that not only was it used for dying fabric, but also it was used for tattooing in Japan, for burial shrouds in Egypt, in trade as currency from Africa to to Central America and on and on… and it certainly not just contained to my personal European ancestors–so if this colour has captivated you as much as me chances are your ancestors used and wore it too!

Indigo was used to ward off evil spirits and the secrets of it’s facinating alchemical process were guarded fiercely by those who would eventually pass them down through the family line, or sometimes passed through secret ritual and ceremony from one dyer to another in the line.

Because I am always interested in finding my own ancestral links and understandings I was fascinated by the use of Woad as a colour of warriors and in domestic use for dying wool and clothing as well as the idea of dying drums this colour for use in ceremony.

It is  said that the ancient Celtic Picts used woad for drawing on their bodies before battle and I found a fascinating book “Finding Blue” which goes into this history as well as giving a recipe and images for doing just that {see images below} but I have also read that this is not dependably accurate and so the search continued until my understanding-although not exhausted, has come full circle in that I now see that this line of my ancestors were an extremely adaptable and creative peoples {sounds familiar} and somewhere in it all lays a speckle of truth-and I am sure that speckle was Blue!

To this end I decided to ask my own helping ancestors directly and see what they had to say for it all, as they were also a pragmatic people who did not tolerate fools easily…

In the end I felt my connections deepened and I was shown a drum dark as ravens wings and used for a very specific purpose in death and grief work, which I have yet to make, as it will take more time, ceremony, and thought on my part before I even begin, as these kinds of things are not to be rushed in any way.

However, before all of this I enjoyed a few full days of dying and made a few sacred drums for sale which I have finally listed up in the Drum Shop.

​And so it was that given the dog days of summer I found myself dreaming of blue–perhaps it was the long blue skies or finding myself with a bit of time off, but either way  I wanted to set up my Red Tent in my back yard for dreaming and working in, and for my daughter to have friends over to sleep in and before I knew it a few days were set aside for Indigo dying and an invite was sent to all women wishing to pop by and dye some old clothes or just visit…
I had dreams of dying several drums the deep dark colour of Ravens wings and since spirit seemed to be pleased with my plans I went ahead and prepared both hide and fabric for the big day!
I prepared two Indigo Vats for the day and was glad that I had attended an Indigo Social the week before as it helped immensely with the process, plus it was there that I found out that the Indigo I was using came from India and was harvested on a full moon–this made my spirit happy!

The day found my teenaged daughter joining us which was also a delight and many friends dropped by for a few hours at a time enjoying company and being creative together, which I believe sits at the heart of woman’s work, priestessing and supporting one another in the most of organic and natural ways–gathering at the Red Tent to work with our hands.
And so it was that my love for Red was combined with Blue, with women and the ancestors– there is not much more that this spirit worker would want for…..

Resources for those who want to learn more:
Indigo-Egyption mummies to blue Jeans By:Jenny Balfour-Paul
History of Woad
The Secret History of Okinawan Tattoos
​Finding Blue By Catherine Cartwright Jones

Indigo–In search of the colour that seduced the world By Catherine McKinley
Dyeing with Indigo By: Elizabeth McTear

Leave a Comment





Softness, Slowness, Stillness,
I am beginning 2023 on this note, and I am also...
Ditching the Gregorian calendar for the lunar one and easing into what 2023 will bring me..
-
In part this means that I am taking it slow, sleeping and swimming and continuing to spend some time away from social media, for another week at least. I am also wanting to start this year out slowly because I am amping up for some big changes in 2023 which will take a lot of work and movement, as well as some exciting travel and other plans that are filling up the year fast!
-
One of my favourite things to do each year has been to work with a word. Last year my word was mastery, which I believe was also my word for the year before, and which will probably be with me my whole life.
However this year there is no burning sense of a word that is pushing through like in past years, and I am guessing that is because I am still in transition in many ways.
Perhaps transition is my word!
-
2023 will bring some big exciting moves, such as selling our home in Vancouver and some other exciting big things that I will share as they come into form.
Knowing this now though has me feeling a mix of excitement and also a bit of unsteadiness as I go into a new year knowing now that more change is coming, even if it is good, exciting stuff!
-
Do you choose a word for your year? If not, is there something that you like to do that supports your soul as you move into another calendar year going forward?
I would love to hear.
-
Today I am dreaming up a new line of weaving work that I am excited to begin and taking it slow...
-
Blessings for 2023 everyone!
-
Image taken by @_infinitebody_
-
#newyear #wordoftheyear #stillness #quiet #transition
...

Today I make offerings to my ancestors thanking them for this life I have.
-
I recently found out on the cusp of my trip to Ireland that my great grandmother was originally booked on the Titanic!
Sadly/happily her mom got really sick and she missed her boat, deciding to take the next one instead in order to be at her moms side.
It was because of this that I am here, and because of this she came to Canada.
-
It is for this reason and a million other things that went into my existence, that I am so grateful for all of my ancestors for.
-
I am also thankful today because both of our kids are officially here, making it in time between the winter storms taking over Vancouver and Toronto!
-
Yuletide blessings
Nikiah
...

I have been in love with this beautiful book by my friend @carmenspagnola.
-
It’s been wonderful to use it for inspiration and recipes during this Yuletide time.
-
Today I am planning to make some cookies to share with my ancestors and family as we slide into this beautiful liminal space.
-
What you you all doing? Send me some inspiration! 🌀
-
Lots of love
Nikiah
...

The longest night of the year, brings the return of the sun, also marking the beginning of the tile referred to as Yule.
-
From Dec21st -Jan1st we mark the 12 days of yuletide which I love.
For me it’s all about setting intentions, making offerings and visioning for the year ahead.
-
Each day for 12 days I might do any one of those things, as I like to keep things simple and in the realm of practical magic.
-
Today, the winter solstice I begin with intention setting and spending time with family as is the tradition in our bodies.
-
We share a big meal together, then light a fire and write either an intention for the year ahead or something we are ready to let go of and give it to the fire along with offerings and a lovely Yule log.
-
Lastly we exchange small handmade gifts and I always get everyone a new set of comfy pj’s ❄️
-
Over the years as our kids have grown I to adults they too have taken over the tradition and made it their own, so while our daughter is not here this year as she is knee deep in exams I know she and her roomies will mark the day in their own way.
-
I would love to know what some of your traditions are or perhaps if you are new to creating your own tradition here what are your plans?
-
#yuletide #wintersolstice #traditions #ritual #babayaga #winter
...

Winter Solstice shawl.
This is my last shawl of 2022 and I am thrilled with how it came out, so much so I have been deeply tempted to keep it!
-
This one invokes images of quiet snowfall, winter nights cozied in and the softness that snow can bring to the landscape.
-
I was also inspired by winter foxes that change their colour for winter, and snowy owls in quiet flight over the landscape...
-
This piece is now listed and available in my online store--link in my bip if you are interested.
Much love
Nikiah
-
#solstice #wintersolstice #sacredshawl #weaving #snowyowl #foxmedicine
...

Loom as altar.
-
Since the fall I have been going daily to my loom as a form of spiritual practise.
However it was not until recently that I have been able to find the words for it.
-
In many ways weaving has become a form of spiritual practise for me, and although I am still deepening into my own understanding of what it is to me, for now, this is what it has become in it purest most simple form.
-
Today a new storytellers shawl came off the loom and with another already in my mind to start taking form..
-
This piece holds a similar energy to one I made a few months ago, holding the essence of dragonflies and hummingbirds…
But mostly it was made for the king winter months as we cozy up by fires and in warm homes and read books or if we are lucky we tell or listen to great stories!
-
I will list this piece in my online store sometime tomorrrow..
-
In the meantime a new one shall take its place in full winter whites..
I am feeling the call of the white fox, and the white winter owl..
These two hold a kind of magic as they shape-shift from one colour into winter white so they are camouflaged against the snow…
More on that to come as the piece takes form.
-
Also I would love@to know-do you have a hobby or creative outlet that borders on spiritual?
-
Lots of love
Nikiah
-
#storytellers #hummingbirdmagic #dragonfly #sacredshawl #weaving
...

GIVEAWAY EXTENDED TILL MONDAY!
WINNER IS @copperwildpottery
This is just a little reminder of our awesome giveaway that is happening right now and ends on Monday Dec 12th!
-
@carmenspagnola and I have paired up to give away a copy of her fabulous new book @thespiritedkitchen and I am giving away another of my 10” Red Drums.
-
Here is how you enter:

1. LIKE this post and leave a comment tagging a friend-or two for extra entries!
2. FOLLOW @redmoonmysteryschool + @carmenspagnola
-
And for even more entries:
SHARE the Podcast episode 'Embracing Sovereignty at Midlife with Carmen Spagnola and I /Nikiah that was released on June 10th 2022. {Link in bio}
Be sure to tag us so we can see! (You can do this by taking a screenshot of the episode in your podcast player or sharing directly from Spotify to your stories)

TERMS & CONDITIONS:
- Only one winner will be selected
- Giveaway will run until 11:59 EST December 12th 2022
- Winner will be randomly selected and announced on our stories by Dec 12th 2022
- Giveaway limited to US and Canada
-
#giveaway #ancedtralhealing #kitchenwitchery #reddrum
...

I had a little “reel” fun with this one, especially using this song :]
Anyways this is a little update on my Earth Ochre shoulder stole/Altar cloths as I have made two more which are now listed on my site.
-
These pieces are inspired by my time in Ireland and the stunning red ochre I saw there while on the coast of Northern Ireland in an area called the Giants Causeway.
-
These two pieces were created to be worn either as a shoulder stole for ceremony or beauty, you get to decide, and are easily transferable to your altar, for ceremony or beauty-haha you decide!
-
Each comes with a small vial of hand ground red earth ochre in a vial, which can be used for making paint, or using in ceremony. Your package will come with a recipe for making earth ochre paint.
-
Hope you love these pieces as much as I do!
Nikiah
-
#ochre #redearth #ceremony #altar #priestesspath #weaving #ancestors
...

Weaving another red ochre earth alter cloth/shoulder stole on my Saori loom.
-
These looms are from Japan and their name Saori, in Zen means beautiful imperfection. “Sai” means everything has its own unique dignity and “ori” means weaving.
These looms were designed to support more humans weaving in a counter to all of the machine made cloth. They were designed so that they were accessible to every body, meaning that folks with disabilities can use them with as much success as able bodied folks which I love.
The whole point is Saori weaving is to be the antithesis of machine made cloth, and to embrace the perfect imperfection of human made beauty.
This to me is my kind of loom, and philosophy.
-
My teacher Yukako has been slowly teaching me the ways of this loom for the past couple of years and I am loving how different it is from my rigid heddle loom.
-

SAORI's 4 Principles

1. Consider the differences between people and machines.

2. Be bold and adventurous

3. Look out through eyes that shine

4. Inspire one another, and everyone in the group
-
I have a few beautiful wall hangings listed in my online store in celebration of earth ochres if you fancy a peek and this one will be listed next week at some point as well.
-
Have a beautiful weeekend everyone!
-
Nikiah
-
#redochre #earthochre #saori #weaving #ancestralwisdom
...

Ochre has fascinated me for years now, from the vast amount of colours and shades that occur naturally depending on the mineral make up of the soil to how we as humans have used it over the centuries, from body point, to fine art, from sunblock for the skin, to cave wall paintings...
-
However it was not until I travelled to Africa and saw the deep red earth there that I actually understood and began using it in its many applications.
It was from that trip where while staying with family I scooped up a large handful of red soil from outside my cousin-in-loves house that had been exposed due to construction and really had a deep look at it, and in turn she helped me to make offerings and then pack it away in a small zip lock bag so I could bring some small piece of this sacred earth home.
-
From that soil there were many ceremonies and of course paint was made and used in turn was given away to my students as we worked through a year of ancestral healing for which red ochre was used in a powerful ceremony of forgiveness...
-
So you can imagine my delight when I was recently away in Ireland on an ancestral journey when I came across the stunning swath of open red and black earth along the coast of Northern Ireland in an area called the Giants Causeway.
-
Once back home I found myself in a liminal time of flow and creativity in particular with my weavings...
-
Interestingly enough I had already started a weaving before I left using black and red yarns that reminded me of earth ochre, so upon returning home this piece {which is now listed as an altar cloth in my online store} was what started it all...
-
For this piece though, I wanted to weave layers that represented the layers of earth, and how when the earth opens up we are able to see all of the many things that go into making soil such as plants, insects, sea creatures, mammals, and abiotic materials factors, like minerals, water, and air and how each one will create a different colour of soil.
-
I now have a small and growing number of altar cloths, and wall hangings available in my store all affordably priced so folks can enjoy them, or perhaps gift them as we slowly make our way into the giving season.
...

We are home again from our epic time away in Ireland and in all my years of travel I have never once been sad to come home until now!
-
Ireland, the home of my ancestors has completely captured my heart and I felt at home the moment I arrived.
-
Now that I am back and integrating all that happened while I was away I am feeling a little blue, it was healing to sit with some of the images from our time and put together a little reel.
-
Some of the places you will see here {In order} are:
Sliabh na Caillighe otherwise known as the Hill of the Witch or Loughcrew cairns, where we were totally alone and able to connect in a way that would have otherwise been impossible.
Bru na Boinne/ Newgrange which even at this time of year had tons of people visiting the site and again we found ourselves with a smaller group which was wonderful. The Hill of Tara which in one of the photos has the stone of Destiny in, and Uisneach, otherwise known as the centre of ireland.
-
We then went up to Northern Ireland to the Giant’s causeway on the wild coastal shores and the Dark Hedges which are amazing shots of the trees.
-
Northern Ireland is where some of my more recent ancestors are from and it’s been powerful to spend time here on the land and to take it all in.
The ruins are from an old Castle called Dunluce.
-
It was a joy to plan this trip, rent a car and then drive from Dublin to Northern Ireland stopping along the way to see things as we were called, I am blessed to have been able to do that.
-
I was able to lay offerings for my ancestors and in a small way come back home to where some of them are from. I also learned a lot about my family, such as learning that my great grandmother had a 3rd class ticket for the Titanic leaving from Belfast, but because her mother fell ill she stayed close to home and as a result, I am here today and she came to Canada!
-
My heart is now a little bit here and a little bit in Ireland and I am already planning my next trip back!
-
Have you ever been altered by a place you travelled to?
-
#ireland #travel #sacredsites #ancestors #ancestralhealing
...

The Willow Tree (Salix) is one of the sacred trees in The. Magic and Folklore of Trees course and yesterday I found this ancient willow tree on the land we are staying on here in Ireland, which I just had to share!
-
Willow trees are associated with water and emotion, the moon and inspiration, which I must say seeing and being near this ancient Willow was beyond inspiring for me.
-
In the course I share some of the folklore of this magic tree, as well as practical applications such as did you know that Willow bark has been used for millennia for fevers, inflammation and pain? Chewing the bark of the white Willow tree which contains Salicin which is a chemical similar to aspirin and in the 1800’s the bark of the Willow tree was used by scientists to help them develop aspirin.
-
Willow is also associated with dreaming and it is said that if you have lost touch with your dreams making a small Willow wand and placing it under your pillow will help, or you can make a dream pillow with things like Mullen and small pieces of Willow bark to use.
-
While I have been away here in Ireland the trees have captured my heart and soul especially the willow, and hawthorn which are planted as hedges here and as such are everywhere and full of brihh go t red berries..
I will write a post on hawthorn next though as I have so much to say about what some say is the most sacred tree in Ireland.
-
If you are curious about the Magic and Folklore of trees course pop over to my site and download a free sample chapter. ♥️🌳🌲🌳
-
What is your favourite tree? Mine changes but for many years now it has been the Hawthorn.
#sacredtrees #willow #folklore #witches #ogham
...