August 22nd – The Festival of the Silken Tree

There’s a huge weeping willow down on the edge of the City, sat on the inside of a bend in the Moway river that cuts through Buentoille. It’s long teldrilous branches dip into the water, and are a favourite place for lovers to steal a moment alone; there is a boat hire place just down the river and the little rowing vessels part the foliage like a curtain as they pass into the private space within. A cycle path gives the tree a wide berth, avoiding its roots and creating a nice space for picnics on the rabbit-mown grass. Trains pass intermittently on the railroad that the cycle path runs alongside. This evening, an three hours before the sun sets, a strange group will gather beneath the ponderous curtain, in that private space.

The Intricate Web are a loose association for most of the year. They are a religious group, apparently, although they don’t seem particularly interested in talking about their beliefs or in gathering new members (new members, when they do come, usually seem to have sought them out rather than vice versa). As a result not a lot is known about their worldview, except that they seem to believe that there is a very large spider in the spiritual realm behind ours which causes important events by pulling on many interconnected threads that it laid long ago throughout its world. Tonight they will cross the mantle between these worlds, but first they must prepare.

You can recognise the Web by the many little boxes they carry on their belts. You might occasionally see them drop a live grub or insect into each box, or perhaps you’d be lucky enough to see them in the process of weaving an article of clothing on the tram or underground. Out of each box comes a long thread of spider silk, almost like a fishing reel, which is then wound around thin birch twigs to make articulated, armour-like garments. The gloves they make are somewhat disturbing. This evening they will set their many captive spiders to more ceremonial use.

The first thing they do is weave a number of threads into a rope, which is still only the thickness of a cotton thread but far far stronger. They attach these ropes to many of the willow tendrils, a couple of hundred each, so that when the ropes are pulled, the tendrils raise up, like puppets at a show. They devise complex systems of pulleys and load-bearing structures, a task of fine engineering completed in the three allotted hours with seeming ease. As the sun begins to set, each member of the Intricate Web (or each Fly, as they frequently call each other) will climb into position: the Flies will have created a sling from the tendrils, large enough to hold a human body horizontally, just off the ground.

They lie on their backs and pull on the ropes they carefully set up beforehand. If you were to walk upon them, to cycle past on your way to a friend’s house, at this point, you would be in for an unsettling spectacle. As they pull on the ropes, they are raised into the tree by the willow branches, wound upwards and cocooned, as if there were some great invisible spider living in the tree. In the morning the tendrils will once again distend downwards in the curious motion, but until then the Flies will remain in the tree, ravelled and asleep, dreaming their way into a world beyond ours, where strings are pulled with unerring precision and design.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Dutiful Daughter
  • The Release of the August Balloons
  • The Festival of the Entombment of the Eight