Silkworm lesson 5: to molt

Caterpillars change skin five times. Shedding the dry-tight skin is about renewal, changing form, and making space for growth. Molting is letting go of dry-and-thick covers that keep worms tight. In molting, caterpillars enter a kind of ‘dreaming’ stage that allows them to crack the old and emerge again with softer, wetter, and more delicate skins, trying life anew. 

What does molting teach us…. about being messy together? 

Being messy, staying in places of uncertainty, exploration, and trial and error is to be in rehearsal for making new worlds. Re-hearcier, one of the etymological roots of rehearsal, is to plow the soil again. To circulate the compost and recompose our relations. Letting the old go and nurturing the messiness and imbrication that queer ecologies are demanding us to embrace. What needs to die for new worlds to emerge? 

In this session, we will hold death and renewal closely. In our rehearsal, we will shed, and we will change form. We will scribe what we need to let go of and transform the silk- hankies cocoons- into actual silk thread. 

What do we need to let go of so we can be messy together? 

Scribbling with mushroom ink: 

Spinning silk on a spindle (yet we will do it by hand):


rehearse (v.)

Old French rehercier (12c.) “to go over again, repeat,” literally “to rake over, turn over” (soil, ground), from re- “again” (see re-) + hercier “to drag, trail (on the ground), be dragged along the ground; rake, harrow (land); rip, tear, wound; repeat, rehearse;” from herse “a harrow” (see hearse (n.)).

hearse (n.)

c. 1300 (late 13c. in Anglo-Latin), “flat framework for candles, hung over a coffin,” from Old French herse, formerly herce “large rake for breaking up soil, harrow; portcullis,” also “large chandelier in a church,” from Medieval Latin hercia, from Latin hirpicem (nominative hirpex) “harrow,” a rustic word, from Oscan hirpus “wolf,” supposedly in allusion to its teeth. Or the Oscan word may be related to Latin hirsutus “shaggy, bristly.”

The funeral display is so called because it resembled a harrow (hearse in its sense of “portcullis” is not attested in English before 15c.). Sense extended to other temporary frameworks built over dead people, then to “vehicle for carrying a dead person to the grave,” a sense first recorded 1640s. For spelling, see head (n.).

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