Spiders can be scary. They have eight hairy legs with witch to creep and crawl. They surprise us by dropping down out of nowhere on invisible strings. Some of them bite with poisonous venom. No wonder they are a symbol of Halloween, along with black cats and vampire bats!
Yet, spiders are also helpful hunters, delicate strand walkers, and have two-section bodies shaped like the sign of infinity. They are weavers of intricate webs which mirror Earth’s most sacred geometry, and they generate the silky material for these masterful artworks from their own tiny bodies. These are just a few reasons why Spider has been long revered by First Nation people all over the world as a beloved ancestor. Storytellers since the beginning of time have spun tales of Spider being the Creator of the universe.
The Seneca people, after reading the lines and spirals of the spiders’ brilliant webs, also credited them with creating the very first language. Spider taught humankind the importance of recording spiritual truths for the well being of future generations. Writers and artists alike share Spider as an inspirational totem guide: a guide who reminds them that they too are time-travelers, carrying the wisdom of the ages from past to future.
Every web begins with a single thread. This represents the true nature of reality: that there is an invisible constant running through all living things and that the world is a complex web united by one force. When a spider shoots her silver thread into the air, she relies on the wind (Spirit) to carry it to a tree branch or window ledge, where it will attach to something rooted in the physical world that can serve as a frame. Creative thoughts are like this as well: we spin a thread of an idea, in dreams or imaginings, and throw it into the wind, hoping it will take hold. Many threads float away un-tethered, and we, as web-weavers, have to try and try again, waiting for one to stick. Imagine what would happen if a spider gave up after one try, or twenty. Its life depends on continual weaving. And so does ours.
The next time you see a spider, let it remind you that you too are a weaver, and God is calling you back to your job at the Great Loom. What steps can you take, RIGHT NOW, to manifest beauty and sustenance, for yourself, for the world? What color, texture and strength is your thread? What unique shapes and patterns will you create with it? And how will you weave it together with all of the webs created by others?
Spiders know that while the substance of the web is eternal, sooner or later the form will be broken and blow away in the wind. A new one will have take its place; similar, but never the same. Spiders also are expert tight rope walkers, balancing perfectly on the lines that bridge one part of the web to the next. Thus, they are symbols of life and death. For shamans and mystics who must travel between the worlds of the living and the worlds of the dead, Spider can show them how to maintain their equilibrium, and their sanity. For those in mourning, Spider gives a glint of hope for the next web to come.
Spiders make webs to meet their survival needs. Yet webs are gifts of beauty and wisdom for us all. Paula Gunn Allen eloquently describes Grandmother Spider’s power, and her desire to share it with her grandchildren:
Ooma-oo, long ago, the Spider was in the place where only she was. There was no light or dark, there was no warm wind, no rain or thunder. She was a great wise woman, whose powers are beyond imagining. No medicine person, no conjurer or shaman, no witch or sorcerer, no scientist or inventor can imagine how great her power is. Her power is complete and total. It is pure, and cleaner than the void. It is the power of thought, we say, but not the kind of thought people do all the time. It’s like the power of dream, but more pure. Like the spirit of vision, but more clear. It has not shape or movement, because it just is. It is the power that creates all that is, and it is the power of all that is. In that place where she was alone and complete with her power, she thought about her power, how it sang to her, how she dreamed from it, how she wished to have someone to share the song dream with her. Not because she was lonely, but because the power’s song was so complete, she wished for there to be others who could also know it. She knew this was the power’s wish just as it was hers. For she and her power were together and of one mind. They were two, but they were the same thing.
(From Paula Gunn Allen’s Grandmothers of the Light, 1991)