In addition to being viewed as a Creator Goddess and a Destiny Weaver, Spider is associated with many other aspects of life. Some of these aspects fall into what we would consider the light – the good – and others are dark dangers – the dark side of life.
Patience, Resourcefulness/Protection, Good Fortune
Though spiders have eight eyes they have very poor eyesight. Instead they have infinite patience, waiting quietly in their webs for prey.
Spider is credited with inspiring King Robert the Bruce of Scotland with its patience. A 14th century legend tells of a time when Bruce had suffered various military defeats against the English. While hiding in a cave he observed a spider trying and failing repeatedly to climb its silken thread. But it persevered and eventually reached its web. Bruce was inspired. He decided to persevere in his efforts, came out of hiding, and eventually won Scotland’s independence from England.
Spiders are important to our gardens. They eat more insects than both birds and bats.
Long ago people used spider webs to stop bleeding. Now science has discovered that spider webs contain Vitamin K – a coagulant which stops bleeding.
The Torah recounts a story of how Spider protected David, before he become King of Israel. As King Saul’s soldiers pursued him, David hid in a cave. A spider built a huge web across the cave entrance. The soldiers saw the cave but did not investigate, thinking that no one would crawl through a spider web to gain entrance.
Similarly a story from Islamic tradition depicts Mohammad hiding in a cave from pursuing soldiers. Here also a spider spun a web across the opening, protecting Mohammad.
A Hopi legend about Spider Grandmother tells how she protected a village by spinning a magical web over the whole village, which when doused with water gave protection from being burned down by its enemies.
Spider Woman of Dine (Navajo) mythology helps and protects her people. She helped them to destroy the monsters that roamed the land as they emerged from the third world into this world. She chose the top of Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly – the Dine ancestral home – as her home. Children were warned that misbehaving would make Spider Woman angry. She would cast her web like a net, as some spiders do, to catch the naughty child, bring him up to her home and devour him. It was said that the top of Spider rock is white because of the bleached bones of those naughty children.
The Celts saw spider as a helper and believed that killing one would bring bad luck.
Spider appears frequently in Chinese legends as lucky beings, bringing happiness and wealth. Spider charms are worn for good luck.
Wisdom, Interconnection, Transformation
A Hopi legend tells of Spider Woman helping Tiyo on his journey to the underworld. He begins with a visit to Spider Woman who gives him a serum to subdue his enemies. Then she accompanies him to the ‘Far-Far-Below River’ to offer advice during his trials. With her help Tiyo completes his journey successfully and returns to his people with greater wisdom and knowledge.
Egyptian Creator/Spider Goddess, Neith, often depicted veiled, wove this veil at creation to hide herself from humanity. As humans are not capable of understanding the fullness of divine mysteries the veil offers folds and strands that are thinner, allowing humans a glimpse at divine source and higher understanding.
African and some Native American stories portray Spider as a trickster god whose tales are part of a rich storytelling tradition which convey wisdom and moral lessons.
Spider symbolizes Maya (illusion) in Hindu Mythology. Vedic philosophy characterizes Spider as the weaver of the veil of illusion, hiding the ultimate truth of reality. In addition, Indra’s net, envisioned like a spiderweb with jewels at each vertex, illustrate the belief that all things are connected.
Though spiderwebs are stronger than steel, by weight they don’t usually last very long. Sometimes spiders destroy their own webs. Spider, with it eight (infinity symbol) legs and eyes symbolizes the infinite cycles of transformation as Spider continually creates, destroys and creates again, reflecting the essence of our natural world and its infinite cycles of birth, death and rebirth.
Dark Dangers – cunning, deception, intrigue, death
Only a small number of spider species are dangerous to humans with venom that can cause localized pain to a person. Further, there are only about 25 spider species with venom that can cause serious illness in humans. And yet arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is one of the most common fears worldwide.
Many folktales and myths warn of the dangers associated with Spider.
Athena, Greek Goddess of Wisdom and Handicraft was a skilled weaver. Arachne, a mortal and gifted weaver, got carried away with her talents and boasted that her work was better than that of Athena. Athena was furious and a contest was arranged between the two. Not only was Arachne’s weaving beautiful it also depicted the gods in a bad way. Athena destroyed Arachne’s work in a rage.
Arachne, ashamed to see what her arrogance had wrought, hung herself. Athena took pity on her – turning the rope into a web and Arachne into a spider. Through her death and transformation, Arachne was able to weave her beautiful tapestries for eternity.
Japanese mythology tells of the Spider Princess, Jorōgumo, who transformed into a beautiful woman and entraped men with her deception.
To Christians Spider symbolizes the Devil as the Devil prepares its trap for human souls like the spider prepares its web for prey.
When a spider is finished with its web many species roll it up and consume it.
In ancient Indian tradition Brahma, the creator of all things, was seen as a spider weaving the web that is our universe. Sacred text says that one day she will devour the web – our universe – and then weave another.
Spider calls you to transform – to imagine your world anew. A time of creativity is at hand – a time of magic – a time to manifest your true destiny. Spider reminds you that with patience you can best reach your goal.
At the same time Spider calls you to recognize the dark side of life – the ways in which you or others might be deceptive, or engaged in intrigue.
Spider reminds you of the eternal cycles of life, death and rebirth.
Spider awakens your memory of the interconnection of all life, allowing you to integrate problem areas into a more wholistic perspective on life and reminding you of the system of interdependency in which we live.
Sources: Ancient Origins, Cultural Depictions of Spiders, Britanicca, UniGuide
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck from Judith’s website – click here. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Wisdom. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.
11 thoughts on “Spider Wisdom – Creation and Destruction Part 2 by Judith Shaw”
Fascinating information and beautiful paintings and photos! It seems to me that spiders and their webs are among the beings that we need to emulate most at this time – not only for their patience and perseverance (I’d never heard that story about Robert the Bruce, but it is certainly relevant now!) but also because webs model a way of connection that is neither hierarchical or linear – a way for all beings, ideas, values, etc. to be interconnected, which we all desperately need to be now. I’ve been finding lots and lots of spiders both inside and outside my house recently. Maybe this is a good sign!
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They seek our homes in the fall!
Actually I discovered in my research that spiders going into our homes in greater numbers in the fall is a myth. Outdoor spiders stay outdoors. IN door spiders become more visible do to mating activity.
Here’s an interesting link that explains – https://allaboutants.net/fact-or-fiction-spiders-come-inside-during-the-fall/#:~:text=The%20truth%20is%2C%20they%20don,spiders%2C%20looking%20for%20a%20mate.&text=If%20you%20have%20a%20lot,just%20haven't%20seen%20them.
I agree Carolyn,
Spiders and their webs are intertwined in my mind and their web not only shows us the reality of our interconnectedness but also is takes the form of a spiral which is at the root of all nature and as you say is neither hierarchical nor linear or even truly cyclical as each turn of the spiral goes higher and higher.
Excellent post! I know the spider stories, but it’s good to read them again. And of course your research and your art as as excellent as always. Hooray!
Back in the 90s, I had a friend who lived in Topanga Canyon and came to Long Beach (she stayed with me) to lead women in Full Moon Walks at our local big park. One night, we came upon a huge spider web on the path. It totally blocked us. My friend looked around, found an alternate way to go, and very carefully led us around the spider web, telling us not to disturb it. I felt like the spider was looking as carefully at us as we were at her. To this day, I’m careful not to harm spiders. Whenever I find one in my bathtub, I splash water on her and she curls up, then she uncurls and scurries down the drain.
Bright blessings to you and your work.
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Your friend sounds like someone who honors Spider Wisdom – cool story!
There are so so many spider stories that my post got way too long for just one post and even with cutting it into Part 1 and Part 2, I still left out many.
I didn’t know that spiders could live in the drain. That’s good news. I get spider bites all the time in the spring, summer and fall but never really see a spider on me – they don’t hurt, just itch for a few days. Now I’m thinking that Spider must be one of my animal guides.
I’m impressed by the breadth of your research! However, i read little about the dark side of spider as devourer which surprises me. I’m struck by the fact that Athena – patriarchy’s daughter is there was one – she was born from Zeus’s head – behaved just as any patriarch would towards Archne judging and destroying her. Like light, darkness has generative and non – generative qualities… Both.
I keep spiders on my porch. They take care of hungry intruders and I have great respect for the species as a whole…
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I guess I don’t really see Spider as a devourer. Yes, spider eats its prey but as I said previously so do all other animals in one form or another.
I feel that the dark side of spider which makes sense to me and which I found in my research – cunning, deception, intrigue and death are a result of Spider as Creator Goddess being co-opted by the Patriarchy (similar to snake). What about Spider, either from myth or from your own experience, makes you see it as a dark symbol, as a devourer?
I learned from my research that Athena is most likely a later and more fragmented representation of Neith, who most likely grew out of the pre-historical Great Goddess. (So many stories and facts hit the cutting room floor in editing posts down to an acceptable word count) The Greek Gods and Goddesses seem to behave like spoiled children most of the time. The Greeks were not the original inhabitants of that land. Greek society was a patriarchal society laid on top of a much older goddess worshipping one.
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Unfortunately our culture begins with the Greeks – that’s the tragedy – as for spider as devourer there are many many stories that speak to Spider as the dark side of nature that sucks the life out of beings…. Spider doesn’t kill mercifully – her victims suffer or suffocate… perhaps you can see my point – perhaps not. I don’t sentimentalize. As a naturalist I see spiders in both a positive and negative light – both and – as usual.
I love your work with animals. This is so fascinating about spiders. I didn’t know King David was protected by a spider. Mohamed too. And both are connected with the changing over from goddess beliefs and symbolism and patriarchy. There is something fascinating in that.
The 3 Norse Norns are weavers – Urd, Skaldi and Verdandi. Do you know if they are spiders are well?
That’s an interesting observation about how both David and Mohamed were connected with the take over of goddess by the patriarchy. It is fascinating and symbolically shows how Goddess loves all her children, even those who seek to destroy or malign her. Further it is my belief that the ancient Goddess symbols like Snake and Spider earned their negative connotations from the patriarchy as it sought to suppress the beliefs and actions of the cultures they overran.
It is curious that many, many stories of Spider Woman and Grandmother Spider as a Creatrix and Protector come from Native American myth, many of whose societies were matriarchal and/or placed women in positions of power long before the Europeans arrived.
Though the Norse Norns did show up in my research as spinners of fate I found no mention of them being depicted as Spider. Norse mythology is fascinating and I hope to delve into it more deeply one day.
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