(The Witches Familiar)
I’ve been walking in my neighborhood
lately and have been admiring all of the Halloween decorations set about in
people’s yards. There are, of
course, Jack-O’-Lanterns, ghosts, witches on broomsticks, piles of gourds on
porches, bats, and spiders in webs and hanging from trees. Spider visited with me much this summer, so what better venue
to explore her meanings than this time of year when she is welcomed in the
windows, yards and on the porches of neighborhood homes.
There are many depictions of Spider in
myth. The most recognizable and the one from which the class of arthropods
spiders are named for, arachnid, comes from, is the Greek myth of Athena and
Arachne and their infamous weaving contest.
Arachne was a talented young peasant girl who Athena herself tutored in
the art of weaving. It had been said that nymphs would abandon their play in the
forests just to come and watch Arachne’s lithe arms and nimble fingers work
the shuttles and threads. As the girl’s talent and skill grew, so did her
pride. Someone once commented that
her skill rivaled that of Athena and that she must be one of her pupils.
In her arrogance, Arachne denied that Athena had ever taught her and even
boasted that she was the better weaver. She put forth a challenge to Athena.
When Athena heard this she was
distressed so she came to Arachne disguised as an old woman offering her a
chance to redeem herself from her haughty words. She told Arachne that with age
comes experience and she invited her to acknowledge the goddess superiority.
“Seek all the fame you will among mortal men, but yield place to the
goddess.” (Athena to Arachne. Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.30)
All Arachne saw in the disguised goddess was an unknown old woman and she
scoffed at her. “It is too long
life that is your bane… Why does your goddess avoid a contest with me?” (Arachne
to the disguised Athena. Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.37)
Athena then revealed herself and the
contest began. Both wove with speed
and artful skill. In her tapestry,
Athena depicted the gods in their splendor. She also wove scenes of mortals who
had offended the gods and the consequences they suffered. She edged her tapestry
with olive leaves and branches which to this day, are symbols of peace.
Arachne also wove depictions of the
gods, but not in their glory. She wove their lustful seductions of mortal women.
She exposed their weaknesses and folly.
Her tapestry was framed with flowers and ivy.
When the tapestries were finished, all
could see that each one was a masterpiece.
No one could find any flaws. Athena
was angered by the themes in Arachne’s tapestry and she tore it to shreds.
She beat Arachne about the head with her shuttle.
Arachne, shamed, hung herself in an attempt at suicide.
Athena took pity on the girl and did not let her die.
Instead, she turned Arachne into a spider so she could live, but continue
to hang from the ceiling and weave. In
this way, spiders were born into the world.
In Navajo mythology, the People were
taught how to weave by Spider Woman. Today, many Navajo weavers will rub their
hands in spider webs in order to absorb the skill and wisdom of Spider Woman
before they sit at their looms. Grandmother Spider is said to have created the
universe. She wove her web and when it was laced with dew, she flung it into the
air and the dew became the stars in the sky. Each day as she re-weaves her web,
she re-weaves creation and life. Other
Native American myths tell of how Grandmother Spider brought fire and the sun to
the People. Further, Grandmother
Spider is known as the “Keeper of Words.” As she wove her web, she brought
writing to the People.
Robert the Bruce, King of Scots from
1306-1329, learned a valuable lesson from Spider. After losing many battles and sore from war and toil, he hid
in a cave for some rest. He was down-hearted and lacked hope. While there, he
observed a spider as she went about weaving her web. She’d spin her silk and jump to attach it to the next spot
and she’d fall. Repeatedly she
would try and fail. Robert began to
identify with the spider because of all the times he’d engaged the king of
England and been beaten. Still the
spider labored on and finally, she succeeded.
This victory for the spider encouraged Robert the Bruce and gave him
hope. He went on to gather his
troops, win in battle and secure the independence of Scotland from England.
Allegedly, this is where the saying, “If you don’t succeed, try, try
again” came from.
In some cultures, the spider is
portrayed negatively. In some
eastern cultures the spider is seen as a trickster. Maya, the Hindu Goddess,
means weaver of illusion and is associated with the spider.
Spiders have found their way into
nursery rhymes and superstition in more recent times.
I found the following on a website, spiderzrule.com:
When a man fyndeth a spyder upon his
gowne it is a synge to be that daye right happye.
If a spinner creepe upon him, hee shall
have gold raine downe from heaven.
When a Spider is found upon our clothes,
we use to say. Somme money is
coming towards us. The moral is
this, such who….Imitate the industry of that contemptible creature… may by
God’s Blessing weave themselves into wealth and procure a plentiful estate.
Other lore from the site includes:
*If you step on a spider, you’ll bring
*Superstitious people probably don’t
kill spiders because it has been
unlucky since a spider spun a web over baby Jesus to hide him from Herod.
*If a spider crawls into your pocket,
you will always have money.
*If you walk into a spider web, you will
meet a friend that day.
*If there is dew upon the spider web in
the morning, it will be a beautiful day.
*If you wish to live and thrive, Let a
spider run alive.
Spiders are arthropods: arthro->joint,
pod->foot. As above, they are
arachnids. Arachnids are a class of
arthropods with a duo-sectioned body, the head/thorax, which are fused, and the
abdomen. Unlike insects, they have
eight legs and pincers around their mouths with which they inject venom into
their prey. Most spiders spin round
webs, resembling wheels. They
re-spin their webs every day just as Grandmother Spider re-spins the universe
and life every day. After they spin
their webs, they lie in wait for their prey.
They are very agile creatures, able to balance themselves on the thinnest
silk thread they spin.
When we look at a spider’s web, we see
that it is circular, resembling a spiral and/or a wheel. In the study of symbols, the circle represents infinity, the
universe, the All. In Egyptian
Hieroglyphics, the spiral represents the process of creation and is a symbol of
cosmic energy. The wheel represents
the wheel of life, the wheel of the year, cycles of life waxing and waning,
giving birth and dying, and giving birth again.
The number eight has also been
associated with spiders. They have
eight legs and their duo-sectioned body resembles the numeral eight. The number eight laid on its side is the infinity symbol.
Eight in numerology represents patience, perseverance, goals and earthy
When Spider appears in our lives we need
to ask ourselves some questions. Is
a cycle of our life beginning or ending? Are we about to give birth to something
new, or is something in our lives about to die? Are we too much in a hurry and is that leading to failure?
Do we need to sit back and wait? Do
we need to persevere, or is what is happening in our lives the end of a cycle?
Where do we need to create? What
do we need to create? What do we
need to communicate as Spider has given us words?
Or, are we being deceived, by our own
selves, or by others? What is our
truth, my truth? Do we need to set new goals and work towards them, or reaffirm
goals that have already been set?
Spider was with me a lot this summer.
As I was painting my house, I had a clean brush that I’d brush the
spiders out of their crevices with. Not
ten minutes later, if I hadn’t painted there yet, the spiders would be back.
This summer we opened a new nursing unit
at the hospital where I work. Before
we opened I was touring the unit with one of the pharmacists.
We went into a patient lounge area and there on the window were three
spiders, a sign of new beginnings. New
beginnings for the hospital, and a new beginning for me.
Perhaps the closest you’ll get to a spider this season is the one in a neighbor’s window or a plastic one that someone sneaks into your lunch as a Halloween joke. Pay attention, though. Spider speaks softly, but has much to teach.
A Dictionary of
Symbols J.E Cirlot, pgs 51, 75,182,379
First published in The Controversial Cauldron - the group newsletter of Email Witches
October 2009 © Lillian Norman
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek
Mythology) / Esbats &
Full Moons / Links
to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft
Resources / What's a spell? /
Circle Casting and
Sacred Space / Pentagram
- Pentacle / Marks
of a Witch / The Witches
Power / The Witches Hat
esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders and Elders)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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