Moonwinders and Thaumatropes

By Jesper Toad

Play is something that is integral to the wellbeing of the soul. However, our indulging in play is something we lose sight of in the rear view mirror as we run about adulting, dashing between career and home, working to achieve at school, taking the kids to soccer practice, fixing heart-healthy meals, and struggling to pay the bills. Add to this that the Overculture, of which all contemporary magical peoples hold dual citizenship, often teaches us that play is unproductive, a waste of time, sinful, and sometimes induces feelings of shame in us for engaging in stolen moments of play (Brown, 2009, p. 7). In contrast to this, current research suggests that the ability to engage in play is a primal, preconscious, preverbal, and biological process (p. 15). This ability to play allows us to unite the logical, language based portion of our psyche with the emotional, primal part revealing itself through images and feelings. When these two parts of the psyche work together, deep in dialogue, the sense of wonder that is integral to the world of magic awakens. This wonderment propels us across the boundaries of the familiar world into the Imaginal Realm—the place of myth, fantasy, and dreams. The Imaginal Realm is not the product of the human imagination or constructed of human fantasies: it is before and beyond the human imagination, and perceived through the organ of the human imagination. Through this organ of the imagination—the Imaginatio Vera—we can perceive the dreams, images, and mythic narratives that arise there. Engaging the Imaginal Realm through creative play and ritual is, in my opinion, a large part of the work we engage as creative Contemporary Pagans. To this end I have adapted the simple toys presented here—the moonwinder and the thaumatrope—to our magical sensibilities, intending them to engage our childlike sense of play, and ease open up these doors of perception. Additionally, these toys can be adapted for meditative or spell work.

Moonwinders, whizzers, or whirligigs have served as children’s toys and campfire diversions for centuries: Native American versions of this toy date back centuries. Moonwinders were popular toys for colonial children, and children in the Great Depression played with versions made from large buttons and thread. It is a simple game: the looped threads on either side of the body of the moonwinder are pulled, causing the object to spin. The moonwinder is known by a variety of names, including skyewinder, whirligig, whizzer, and buzz saw.

Thaumatropes were popular nineteenth century toys that featured a round piece of board or wood with pictures on each side. When twirled about by the strings attached to either side these two pictures would merge into a single image. The merging of the images is due to an effect referred to as the persistence of vision, an optical illusion that occurs because our vision momentarily retains images, and one image becomes overlaid upon another. The word thaumatrope, first recorded in the early 18th century, is a combination of the Greek thauma—a miracle or wonder—and trope—from tropos, to turn.

Materials for the construction for either of these toys requires a round circle of card stock, card board, or wood (these can be found at craft stores), a hole punch or drill, and about three feet of cord for each moonwinder or thaumatrope. Images are provided with this article, but half the fun of creating this toy is engineering personal images to twirl and spin. If using the images copy and size them to the tag board or wood disc. Using a printer, print and cut out of the pairs of illustrated circles, and glue them to either back to back—if printing on a heavy cardstock—or on either side of your cardboard or wooden disc. If making a moonwinder, the orientation of the images is not important. If constructing a thaumatrope, make sure the pictures are inverted in relationship to one another: that the picture on the back of the thaumatrope when you turn it side to side is upside down. Tiny marks have been added to the images to guide this process. After the glue has dried add a coat of spray polyurethane if you like, to seal the pictures to the disc and add durability to your toy. Next, drill or punch two holes opposite each other at the edge of the disc where indicated. The difference between the moonwinder and the thaumatrope is in the way the cordage is attached. To make a moonwinder, pass the cord through both holes and tie the loose ends together. To use, hold the cord between your two hands with the disc suspended between. Wind the moonwinder by twirling the disc around, which twists the strings. When pulled taut, the disc will spin. A simple video demonstrating the creation and use of a moonwinder type toy can be found at


The materials to make a thaumatrope are the same for making a moonwinder, except that the cordage is cut into two equal halves. Each cord is looped through a hole on each side, and the loose ends tied together. The thaumatrope is held between the hands and same manner as the operator observes the picture that appears on the face of the disc. A good video demonstrating the thaumatrope can be found at

Both of these simple toys have magical applications. I find when I am working with the moonwinder the spinning and changing tension of the strings can induce a light trance or meditative state. The thaumatrope can be used as the focus of a simple spell, as suggested by the some of the designs provided. The idea is to break the spell into two visual components, one on each side of the thaumatrope. When the images are spun together into one, the intent of the spell is triggered. The examples given show a protective spell featuring the traditional spell of the heart and pins, and an invocation for the preparation of magical work, calling upon the Plough Witch who tills the land in readiness for the sowing in the spring.

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Jesper Bio image

Jesper Toad is a Georgian and a Gardnerian initiate, and studied the Feri Tradition with T. Thorn Coyle for nearly three years. His personal practice of three decades blends elements of all these traditions, as well incorporating spiritualist, shamanic and depth psychological perspectives. These seasonal writings and images are excerpts from The Enchiridion Magistellus, A Visual Handbook of the Witches’ Art. Jesper can be contacted at

Making Art From Your Heart

by Jeanne McLaughlin

Art from the heart 2There are few things more satisfying than creating.  You get to present something completely new to the world that wouldn’t be there without you. And you get to be in charge of all the details, make all the decisions! How God-like!  How fun!!!

Whatever your medium is, please make your creations with love, and with the best (highest quality) materials you can get. Wherever possible, use earth-friendly, recycled or upcycled materials.  People respond to this greatly, and you’re doing Mother Earth a favor.  Most of all, be different!  Be unique!  After all, if you’re making/selling the same thing as 10 other artists, your sales will be dismal.

For example, in my case the medium is feathers, bones, or any other “leftover” or cruelty free animal parts.  None of my feathers are commercially bought.  The feathers in craft stores come from birds who have been killed for their plumage. Instead, mine are cruelty free, having molted naturally from live birds; most of them I’ve gathered myself.  When I use bones or skulls, they are ones I’ve picked up myself while hiking.  That in itself sets my work apart, and I also have the rule that I don’t make two of anything.  Each piece is unique, thus ensuring the buyer of a one-of-a-kind work.  Each pair of earrings, each feather wand or skull bells set is as individual as you or I.  When I make small leather medicine bags, I use “upcycled” leather from the thrift store.  You’d be amazed how much inexpensive, usable leather you can get from a $3 pair of pants or a skirt!

Please do yourself a favor – refer to yourself as an artist or an artisan, not a crafter.  Not only is this true, it raises your work several levels in the eyes of the buyer.  Calling yourself a “crafter” gives people the image of popsicle sticks and cotton ball type of items.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but you want to be taken as a serious artist, don’t you??)

Take pride in your work.  Before you present it as finished, double check everything.  Any hanging threads?  Any drips of paint or glue? Paying attention to the details elevates your quality and increases your sales.

Speaking of sales, it’s most important to decide for yourself if you’re doing a hobby or trying to earn some income.  In the first case, there are no rules and few cares.  It’s just for fun and not for business.  However if you’re creating your artwork for income there are many things you should do: get a resale number, save every single receipt (for taxes), keep a mileage log of every festival you sell at, or business errand you go on as all those miles are deductable.  Best of all is the “home office” deduction.  If you can designate one room to *only* use for your art/business, then you can deduct a prorated amount of your rent and utilities.

Most importantly of all – have fun!  After all, if you’re not enjoying your creations then why make them?  They should be something that makes your own heart sing.  And if your creations can be practical as well as pretty then you’ve got another advantage over your competitors.

I’ve submitted some pictures of some of my favorite pieces to inspire the artist in you.  My general guideline is when the piece looks like something I’d rather keep than sell, then it’s done.  😉

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Jeanne McLaughlin is a Medicine Woman who spends her life studying and teaching Shamanic ways. Jeanne’s personal practice is Animal Medicine; working with animal spirits when they pass, and making Medicine Art from the feathers & bones she finds in the wild. Jeanne can be contacted at and you can find her beautiful work for sale at Shaman Art from my Heart.