I will add a few more bits and pieces I have collected, while I respond to to your post. I have dug out 35-40 books so it
may take awhile to sift through them to see what I can find.
When I suggested the comb represented rays of the sun, I was looking at notes I had made several years ago in which
the comb was often associated with a mirror. There is not a lot of written symbolism on the comb but there are other
interpretations I have. One of these is in regards to a comb symbolizing a vagina or womb. I will elaborate in my next post.
In Islamic tradition the weaver’s loom symbolizes the structure and motion of the universe.
In North Africa, even in the most wretched hovels on the mountain plateaux, the mistress of the house owns a loom, a simple framework of a pair of wooden rollers supported by two uprights...The upper roller is known as the heavenly roller and the lower one stands for the Earth. These four pieces of wood thus symbolize the entire universe.
Weaving is a work of creation and of bringing to birth. When the piece of cloth is finished, the weaver cuts the threads which hold it to the loom and, as she does so, pronounces the words of blessing uttered by the midwife when she severs the new-born baby’s umbilical cord. It is as if weaving displayed in simple language the mysterious anatomy of the human race.
J. Servier, who describes the symbol so admirably, goes on to draw some comparisons:
The loom came from the East, a household object carried by successive waves of migrants from Asia to the Mediterranean. Did it bear a message from wise men, providing mankind in concrete terms with the earliest secrets of the knowledge of Being? Was it mere chance which made Plato have recourse to weaving for the symbol able to depict the world, the spindle, its weights divided into concentric circles representing the orbits of the planets? (J. Servier, L’homme et l’invisible pp. 65-6)
The symbolism of the thread is basically that of the agent which ‘links all states of being to one another and to their First Cause’ (Guenon). This symbolism finds its best expression in the Upanishads, where the thread (sutra) is said, in fact to link ‘this world to the other world and to all beings’. The thread is both atman (Self) and prana (Breath). Because it is linked to a main central point, often depicted as the Sun, the thread must ‘in all things be followed back to its source’. This cannot fail to remind us of Ariadne’s thread which was the active ingredient of Theseus’ return to the light of day. One is also reminded of the strings or treads which link puppets to the central will of the person who manipulates them, as in Japanese puppet-theatre.
On the cosmic plane, distinction should be drawn between the threads of the warp and the threads of the woof. The warp is the link between worlds and states of being, while the prescribed and temporal development of each of them is represented by the woof. Shiva’s hair denotes the weaving as a whole. The Fates, or the thread of time or of fate, symbolize the unwinding of the single woof thread.
Returning to the concept of ‘breath’, we should also observe that in Taoist fashion it is often associated with the backward and forward motion of the shuttle across the loom - life-state, death-state, evolution and involution of manifestation. Unpicking at night what has been woven during the day - as in the myth of Penelope - is employed by the Rig-Veda to symbolize, once again, the rhythm of life, the endless alternation of inhalation and exhalation like that of light and darkness.
In the Japanese myth of the Sun-goddess, Susano-wo-no-Mikoto destroyed what Amaterasu had woven. Different initiation rites for women, especially in China, included ritual weaving while locked into a room, at night, during the Winter, since the woman’s participation in the act of cosmic weaving made it dangerous and needed to be undertaken in secret. On the other hand, daytime labours, in the Summer, were men’s work. The heavenly marriage of the woman Weaver and the Oxherd, is the equinox, balance and the marriage of yin and yang.
We have already seen that ‘thread’ is one of the meanings of the word sutra, denoting the Buddhist scriptures. It should be added that the word tantra is also derived from the notion of ‘thread’ or ‘weaving’. The Chinese ideogram ching, combining mi (thick thread) and ching (underground stream), denotes both warp and basics texts, while wei denotes both the woof and the commentaries upon those books. Warp and woof are what in India are designated as shruti and smriti, products of the intuitive faculties and those of reason. In the case of tantra, the weaving may be the interdependence of things and of cause and effect, and yet the tantric ‘thread’ is still that of traditional continuity, Ariadne’s thread in the labyrinth of the spiritual quest, the link to the First Cause of all things.
Threading a needle is, furthermore, the symbol of passing through the gateway of the Sun and escaping from the cosmos. It is also, the meaning remaining identical, the symbol of the arrow piercing the centre of the target. In this context, the thread may be regarded as the link between the different cosmic levels (infernal, terrestrial and celestial) or those of psychology (unconscious, conscious and superconscious) and so on.
To revert to the simplest level and the notion of the thread of fate, it should be observed that in the Far East marriage is symbolized by a celestial spirit twisting two red silk threads between his fingers - the threads of fate of bride and groom becoming a single thread. In other southeast Asian countries the wrists of the bridal couple are linked by the same thread of white cotton, the thread of their mutual fate (M. Durand, Imagerie populaire vietnamienne, Mircea Eliade,Mephistopheles et l’androgyne, Lama Anagarika Govinda, Les fondements de la mystique tibetaine, Rene Geunon, Le symbolisme de la croix, Rene Guenon, Symboles fondamentaux de la science sacree, L. Silburn, Instant et cause).
All around the Mediterranean Basin, and especially in North Africa, weaving is to women what ploughing is to men - participating in the work of creation. ‘Through myth and tradition, weaving has an equal place with ploughing, but is itself a sort of ploughing, an act of creation producing, patterned in the wool, symbols of fertility and depictions of ploughed fields. In his Nymphs’ Cave Porphyry wrote: “What better symbol for the souls descending into birth than the weaver’s loom?” (J. Servier, Les portes de l’annee, pp. 132-6).
Plato’s ‘spindle of fate’ symbolizes the fate which rules the heart of the universe.
The spindle turns at a regular rate and makes the whole of the cosmos turn with it. It is the sign of a sort of robotic movement within the planetary system, the law of the eternal homecoming. On these grounds it may be compared with Moon symbolism. The Moirae, daughters of Necessity (fate) sing with the sirens as they make the spindles turn. Lachesis (past), Clotho (present) and Atropos (future) rule the life of each individual with a thread which one spins, the other unwinds and the third cuts.
This symbolism displays the inevitability of fate. Pitilessly the Parcae (the Roman name for the Moirae) wind and unwind time and life. The twofold aspect of life is made plain. The necessity of movement from birth to death reveals the contingency of being. Necessity of death resides in the non-necessity of life.
The spindle, instrument and attribute of the Fates, comes to symbolize death.
The Palladium, the magical statue of Athene which guaranteed the safety of the city which paid worship to the goddess, depicted her holding in her right hand a spear, symbolizing her warlike virtues, and in her left a distaff and spindle, symbols of the domestic arts and manual skills.
As in the case of the Fates, the distaff is akin to the spindle as a symbol of day succeeding day, the thread of life ending when the distaff is bare. It is the reckoning of time which passes beyond recall.
Without the spindle, the distaff, a short length of reed, has a phallic and sexual significance. It not only stands for the male sexual organ, but also the thread building one generation to the next.
Elsewhere, the distaff is ‘the emblem of the virginal female sexual organ’, notably in Perrault’s tale ‘L’Adroite Princesse in which two sisters break their ‘distaffs’ as the result of the ardour of a Prince Charming. The third preserves hers ‘intact (M. Loeffler-Delachaux, Le symbolisme des contes de fees pp. 176-80). The distaff thus symbolizes ‘the dawn and beginning of love - sexual initiation.