Knot magic, also called cord magic, involves casting spells using the physical act of tying and/or untying knots to bind or release the spell(s).
Generally, knot magic requires a piece of string. A witch may choose to use twine, yarn, thread or ribbons, anything she has on hand. Any piece of string may be used. Some witches have a dedicated stash or you can use any old bit you find around, though it is a good idea to cleanse it first to make sure it doesn’t have any energies that could interfere with your spell. Some witches use bundles or braids of string.
Many witches will choose a cord (or ribbon, etc.) in a color that corresponds to their purpose, but some just use one color (usually black or white) for all purposes. Often, the cord is tied nine times, but not always. Sometimes a number is chosen using numerical symbolism and sometimes it is chosen to represent a specific concept or amount (like some, a bit more, a lot). Sometimes many many knots are tied as a sort of meditative practice. As each knot is tied, the intention that you are meditating upon is further bound to the cord. These may even be decorative and worn as jewelry or hung in the home.
There are as many different specific methods for casting a knot magic spell as there are magic-users. The defining factor is that at least one knot is tied in the course of the spell and the knot serves as a representation or container for the spell.
Knot magic spells are often binding spells as the symbolism of tying a knot suits the symbolism of restricting or controlling activity quite well. One may use the tying of the knot to symbolize tying the hands of an individual whose actions are helpful, or binding someone’s mouth shut. For these spells, a piece of string from a person’s clothing or even a braided lock of their hair can be used. But binding spells aren’t as often used against individuals as ideas and natural phenomena, like the weather, disease, etc.
For example, knot magic can be used in healing spells to bind pain or inflammation temporarily to allow the patient to get some rest or to be moved or fed. Once this is achieved, the knot can be untied to allow the natural healing processes to resume.
In many cases, the knot serves as a sort of container for magic. When the knot is untied, the magic is released. While tied, the knot may serve as an amulet, containing the magic in its immediate vicinity as well as within itself. Or the person in possession of the knot may benefit from its residual energy. When the knot is untied or cut, the magic is either lost or released into the Universe to do its thing.
Since a knot can be untied, a knot spell can therefore be given an “off” switch by its creator. Simply untie the knot and the spell is broken. This must be specified upon its creation.
Magic Knots of History and Folklore
Knot magic has traditionally been used by sailors to bind winds, untying a knot to stir up a wind. Generally, three knots were used. The first, untied, would cause a gentle wind, the second, a strong wind and the third would release a hurricane. This spell is still in use today. One example I have seen involved going to a high place, and speaking a chant declaring the intention of the spell while tying the first knot, blowing once upon the knot once tied and then repeating for each of the three knots, blowing twice upon the second and thrice upon the third.
In the story of the Gordian Knot, Alexander the Great untied (or cut) the untie-able knot and released its King-making power from the descendants of Gordias to himself.
The Knot of Heracles (the reef knot or square knot) is said to have great healing powers. If the bandage surrounding a wound is tied with this knot, it is said to heal faster.
… There is a child’s fairy tale that I remember being told in which the protagonist is given a knotted chord that he unties, one knot at a time, to help him throughout his adventures. I cannot find this, nor remember the name of it or the overall story. If you know the story of which I speak, please let me know in the comments! (Note: A reader has commented that the story was called The Drummer)