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Plait the Hair – An Erythraean spell

One day a raft appeared with an image of Herakles the Dactyl on board, halfway between Chios and Erythrae. A tug of war resulted as the men of Chios and the Erythrean men both struggled to draw it to their own shore, but neither could prevail. Phormion, who - like Stesichorus - was blind, dreamt that the Thracian women of Erythrae, by plaiting their hair into a rope, could draw the image ashore, which they duly did. Afterwards the rope was laid in a sacred house; Phormion visited it and was cured of blindness.

Encyclopaedia Goetica, Volume 2 - Geosophia - The Argo of Magic, Jake Stratton-Kent

This spell weaves a magical rope of legendary strength out of ten people’s hair. The rope can be directed towards any visible target upon sea or land (not air), though the further it goes, the harder it is to control and the greater the toll it takes upon the caster. Secluded settlements have been using the spell to pull ships (and their cargo) upon rocky coasts.

Apart from the main caster, the spell requires ten long-haired persons (each called Clotho during the ritual), two aides in charge of braiding (each called Lachesis), and one person (Atropos) who holds the sacred scissors with which the hair are cut when it is time for the spell to end.

Ritual Procedure: The Clotho aides are hang upside-down in nets, their hair dangling. The caster moves to a spot that provides a line of sight towards the target, and sleeps there by use of potion, herb or magic. Then the Lachesis aides start braiding.

The spell begins to work as soon as the first braids are completed, slowly but steadily extending the length of the hair. As soon as all braids are united, the rope is ready. It is then that the dreaming caster starts guiding the rope with her will. Once the rope finds its target, it starts coiling around it. If the target is animate, or controlled by animate beings, a grappling battle begins (treat the rope as a sea serpent or a kraken tentacle immune to non-magical damage). Otherwise, the rope is wrapped tightly around the target and starts pulling it where the caster directs it.

When this is over, the Atropos must cut the hair of all the Clotho people with the sacred scissors, at which point the spell ends and the caster awakes, alas bereft of vision for one month per kilometer traveled.

The rope is coiled by the Clotho aides, and transferred and stored to a holy place (a house of gods in the case of Erythrae). During the months of the main caster’s blindness, all other blind people who touch the rope are cured.



  • The rope is unnaturally thick, roughly two meters in diameter.

  • The rope can pull any item as long as it isn’t part of the earth. Thus a huge ship can be pulled, while a stone lying half-buried in the earth (that has not been excavated by human hand) cannot.

  • The rope’s speed is roughly one kilometer per turn/10 minutes.

  • For each five kilometers (beyond the first five) traveled by the rope the caster is required to make a suitable test, spell check or saving throw with a steadily increasing difficulty. If she fails it, the control is broken and the rope swiftly coils back to its source, where it unravels, each braid trying to suffocate the person it originates from. If the Atropos aide is not fast enough with the scissors, the Clotho ones die in a matter of minutes.

  • Due to the risk involved, most casters do not guide the rope beyond 5 kilometers.

  • Cutting the hair without the Atropos scissors is not an easy task. For the duration of the spell they are hard as steel wire.

  • After the spell’s completion, the rope loses its extraordinary flexibility, though it gains the power to heal blindness as mentioned above. Also, it can be used as a fishing net in times of need, if the braids are sufficiently loosened. This can happen only once for each rope; afterwards it becomes useless. Fish and other sea beings caught in the hair provide unnatural sustenance but also tend to whisper long after they have been eaten – they may reveal sea secrets but they also make concentration and sleep hard for a month.

20 Sep 2019

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