Spiders are one animal that has people running for the hills or reaching for the nearest slipper or rolled up newspaper. I, ashamedly, used to be one of those people many years ago, but Spider comes in and out of my life quite regularly now and he has been a constant spirit animal for a few years and I no’ longer have that fear, so here is my lesson on him/her.
Spiders as we know, are arachnids, part of the genus ‘arthropods’ which also includes scorpions, ticks and mites. Spiders are found worldwide and there are more than 45,000 species and their sizes range from .011 inches to spiders with a leg span of over 1 foot!
People do fear spiders but only a small number of them are harmful to humans. Although a lot of spiders do have a venom, this isn’t a threat to us. Most are harmless and all of them, like everything else on our earth, serve a very important purpose. They eat huge amounts of insects, which if Spider wasn’t here, would pose a threat to our crops – so much so that it would put our food supply at risk.
Most spiders are meat-eaters, - insect meat, like flies or other flying insects that manage to get caught in their webs. Some spiders don’t build webs, however, but all spiders do produce silk. This silk has a multitude of uses – from making the aforementioned web to trap pray, to get from one place to another (think of a swinging rope), they use the silk to store their eggs, some make nests and it is also used to wrap up their pray so that they don’t escape.
Spiders come in many different colours and have eight legs. Most have eight eyes too, but some species only have 6 eyes. You’d think with all those eyes that their sight would be amazing but it’s the vibrations that they tune into when hunting their prey.
One spider that is probably top of the list for being feared is the UK’s House Spider – Tegenaria. These beasts can grow up to 120mm. They are usually brown in colour and their abdomen has a herringbone pattern on it. Despite their size, they are more frightened of us than we are of them. The males can be differentiated from the females in that they have two palps on the front of their heads for reproduction and they are generally smaller than the female. It's the females that live indoors for most of the time – we don’t very often see them as they are hidden away beneath skirting boards and dark hidey holes. The males live indoors too and its them that you see scuttling across the floor or in your bath when they are searching for a mate. Once he does find her, he approaches her web very carefully as any sudden movements mean she could attack him. Mating takes place frequently and he will stay with her until her eggs are hatched and then he dies. His carcass is then food for the young – nice huh?!
Myths and Stories
In Hopi Native American tribes, the Spider Woman is the Goddess of the Earth. With the Sun God, she is said to have created the first living beings.
Greece – There once lived a woman called Arachne who boasted that she was the best weaver around. The Goddess Athena wasn’t happy with this and went to look at Arachne’s weaving. Devastated that it was indeed better than hers, Athena destroyed Arachne’s work. Upon finding her work in tatters, Arachne, so distraught, decided to hang herself. Athena having felt bad for her jealous rage, stepped in and turned the rope into a cobweb and Arachne into a spider. Her beautiful work can be found around the world for all to see.
In Africa, the spider is seen as a trickster. He is called Anansi and is said to be forever causing mischief to all other animal species.
Cherokee – Grandmother Spider was said to bring light to the world. In ancient times, the people of the Cherokee tribes were not happy when the sun disappeared at night and nobody could see. They also feared that it would not return. So, the animals got together and sent both a possum and a buzzard to try and bring the sun back. Both failed, ending up with burnt feathers and fur.
Grandmother Spider decided to give it a go. She made a bowl of clay and using her legs, rolled it to where the sun was, weaving a web as she went. When the sun shone, Grandmother Spider caught it in her clay bowl and following her web trail from East to West, she bought the sun back with her, lighting the world as she came.
Britain: One species of spider that is positively welcomed is the Money Spider – Linyphiidae. It is said that if a money spider walks across you, it was going to spin you some new clothes and this, in turn, meant financial good fortune. This dates back to Ancient Roman times when Romans were said to carry coins with an image of a spider on then to keep poverty away.
I know from a child if I found a money spider on me, I had to capture it and spin it around my head to bring good luck!
Weaver of one’s fate
As A Spirit Animal:
Spider is all about creativity. Do you have ideas and dreams stuck up there in your head and you need to find a way to get them ‘out there’? Start by weaving that strong web and overcome those challenges. Spider as a Spirit Animal also may ask us to connect with feminine energy, within ourselves as well as the universe. We weave the web of our own destinies – those webs are strong and secure – there may be challenges, but like Spider, weaving the webs of our future takes patience. How often does the wind blow or an object break the web? Spider gets right back out there and continue to weave another.
There are many opportunities to work with Spider. Spiders, unless looking for a mate, are a lone species. Take your moments that you are on your own to create something – art, knitting, crochet, sewing, tapestry. Anything that you can enjoy and can have that feeling of accomplishment once completed. Sometimes life brings obstacles and problems our way. Working with Spider, you can work with your abilities to look at them with a different perspective.
Spider very often bring a feeling of aversion and fear and this is associated with the shadow self. Spider usually does not take these negative characteristics but its presence can still make us feel uneasy or to have negative feelings. Working with Spider can help you overcome those feelings. You may see Spider in a different light and may even have a fondness for them.
Make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat a few more times and as you focus on your breath, the world around you starts to dissipate. You find yourself at the foot of a door to an old wooden shed. You look up and see that the door is huge, it goes up and up and you can barely see the top of it. The hinges are huge too and you realise that you are a tiny person in a giant world. At the edge of the door is a gap which you are able to squeeze through. As you go through the gap, the inside of the wooden shed is warm and dimly lit. The sun shines through a crack in the roof, so are able to see your way forward. As you make your way forward, you notice various garden tools and boxes around you. They stretch up as far as the eye can see. In one corner by a dusty old box, is a giant cobweb. You can just make it out in the dim light. You walk towards it and notice that up close, it is beautiful. You are able to see each individual strand that makes up the whole web – it glistens and looks fragile, but you know that it is strong. “Come” a voice calls from the darkness. You look around but can't see anybody so you decide to see who or what called you. Taking a step on the web, you feel that it is strong. You take hold of a strand for balance and walk slowly forward. A dark brown leg of a spider appears followed by another, then another until she stands in the light in front of you. Totally unafraid, you smile and say ‘hello’. Reaching out to you with one of her legs, Spider hands you a packet made of woven thread. She tells you that inside is something that can help you with your dreams and ideas. It may be an item to get you started, it may be words to encourage you on your way. Taking the parcel, you thank her and slowly make your way back down the web to the shed floor and along to the gap in the door. As you go through the gap into the bright sunshine, you open your eyes and find yourself back in the here and now.
What did Spider gift you? Was it an object? or did her parcel contain words?
Ideas for Altars:
Find some spider pictures that you like or colour in one that you find on the internet. Collect some old webs and put them on your altar. Find some corresponding crystals for inspiration, clarity, new ideas or grounding. See if you can make a spider. I found a tutorial on YouTube to make one with pipe cleaners.
There are not a lot of organisations for the spider but here are some websites (no pun intended) where you can learn all about our 8-legged friends:
Rspb.org.uk - ladybird spider info
Nhm.ac.uk - spiders in your home
National History Museum
image by vidar-nordli-mathisen on Unsplash