It represented the goddess, standing in the stiff archaic style, holding a spear in her right hand, in her left a distaff and spindle or a shield.
In his sanctuary on the Quirinal, the foundation of which was celebrated on the 5th of June, there were shown the distaff and spindle of Tanaquil, the wife of Tarquinius Priscus, and in the, eyes of Roman matrons the embodiment of all wifely virtues.
This deputation led to the recall of Narses in 567, accompanied, according to a somewhat late tradition, by an insulting message from the empress Sophia, who sent him a golden distaff, and bade him, as he was not a man, go and spin wool in the apartments of the women.
It remains uncertain whether a small Madonna with distaff and spindle, which the correspondent of Isabella Gonzaga reports Leonardo as having begun for one Robertet, a favourite of the king of France, was ever finished.
Before the introduction of machinery applicable to the spinning of silk waste, the refuse from cocoon reeling, and also from silk winding, which is now used in producing spun silk fabrics, hosiery, &c., was nearly all destroyed as being useless, with the exception of that which could be hand-combed and spun by means of the distaff and spinning wheel, a method which is still practised by some of the peasantry in India and other Eastern countries.
After the birth of a child, the tonalpouhqui or;sun-calculator drew its horoscope from the signs it was born under, and fixed the time for its solemn lustration or baptism, performed by the nurse with appropriate prayers to the gods, when a toy shield and bow were provided if it was a boy, or a toy spindle and distaff if it was a girl, and the child received its name.
The first is a very graceful poem presented together with a distaff to Theugenis, wife of Nicias, a doctor of Miletus, on the occasion of a voyage thither undertaken by the poet.