Spiders in Literature, Mythology and Witchcraft

“They suck their victims empty of fluids, leaving nothing but dead husks behind, in the manner of Vampires and Succubi” ( Judika Illes :The element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft :p 93)

Spiders…their 8 long, hairy legs, watchful eyes, paralysing venom and their delicately spun death traps are a great source of fear for many people. What is more scary than a death machine created by Nature that in my opinion has more intelligence than the average human?

What becomes more horrifying are things like these spiders that eat snakes for snacks down in Oz. (Now In South Africa we have really terrifying creatures, but Australia beats the heck out of us by a long shot!)

When I was a young child I remember having dreams about Daddy Long Legs spiders that were giant and crawled up buildings with their meter long legs. Undoubtedly in my dreams these were horrific rather than the cute little arachnids that I often greet happily.

“But still she was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of  Barad-dûr; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding on her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness” p 164 Book Four: The Ring Goes East Tolkien

When I read Lord of The Rings when I was 12 one of my favourite Monsters was Shelob. I’m not sure why she always fascinated me but perhaps, Illes hits the nail on the head with this description:

“This primal, irrational fear is evoked in the gigantic threatening spiders in J. R.R Tolkien’s  Return of the King and J. K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Shelob, the female spider in the Tolkien book, particularly evokes some kind of terrible, primal, chthonic goddess. Her hunger and ferocity transform her into a veritable guardian spirit, albeit not for Frodo.” p 94 (The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft)

Then came Aragog from Harry Potter, whom I also had a soft spot for.

Stephen King often uses spiders in his Horror fiction, much to the dismay of Arachnaphobes everywhere! Giant Spiders are also often used in games like Diablo and World of Warcraft. In the Western (and some other cultures’) imagination the spider is therefore often linked to our fears, there is something in that spidery gait, and those black searing eyes that make Spiders monstrous to our Psyche’s. The spider is of course also linked to our own Shadow, that part of us which is hidden and needs to be confronted.While spiders are usually harmless creatures of good luck (and therefore I never kill any on purpose),  when they are depicted as gigantic, the fear is all the more tangible as they threaten to paralyse us with our own fears and shadow-self and consume us slowly drinking in our life force and juices.  Because of this giant and man-eating spiders have been used in many horror films.

In Dream Psychology Spiders are both representative of creativity and maternal incest (according to Freud of course). As Female Spiders often devour their mates, they are linked with the potential danger of sex and women. The she-spider like Shelob is that all-consumptive force of Feminine power that threatens male dominance and supremacy. The Spider is the Femme Fatale which frightened men during the Cold War.

Tsuchigumo, is a spider from Japanese mythology:

“Tsuchigumo is a fearsome shape-shifting demon in the form of a gigantic, hairy, ground spider. It is expert at spinning illusions that draw people into its web so that they can feast on their blood.”   p 170 The Mythological Creature Bible, Brenda Rosen

The Spider bears a great similarity to the Goddess Baba Yaga. In its more “destructive” shadow form, like Baba Yaga, the spider initiates us and that initiation can be painful and terrifying. Like Baba Yaga, the spider consumes us, devouring our old selves and allowing a new self to be reborn. Like Baba Yaga, the spider’s realm is that psychological and shamanic Lower world, ever deeper in the forest. We enter Baba Yaga’s hut or the Spider’s cavern, and are directly confronted by our fears.

In other Cultures, since spiders are noted for their creativity they are thought of as our creators, spinning us into existence like Grandmother spider. They are also the spinners of fate like Clotho, who weave the threads of our existence before they are cut of by Atropos. They are also weavers of illusion and magic. Spiders teach us of balance according to Ted Andrews p 345:

“Spider teaches you that everything you now do is weaving what you will encounter in the future. In the tarot deck is card – The Wheel of Fortune. This is a card that has to do with rhythms – the rise and fall, the flow and flux”

As Spiders are often weavers and creators they were considered the creators of ancient languages. (Andrews: 346) The myth of Arachne and Athena weaving to see who has the greater skill, tells of how Arachne is turned into a Spider by the angry Athena. The spider’s web is often used in Halloween decor, but within many cultures it is symbolic of both the threads of life, and the threads that connect everything together. The Web is also the motif of Dream catchers and the stone that is placed somewhere inside of it is representative of the Spider.

The spider is death and rebirth, and they molt their exoskeletons. They are really incredibly delicate creatures, who remind us to tread lightly. When my mother’s Tarantula molts she goes onto her back, this may look like the Spider is dead, but it is not. Here is a good article on what to do and not to do when your Spider is Molting.

Christopher Penczack became acquainted with the spider’s message of  confronting fears of death and rebirth:

“And if the spider were poisonous, I could die. If I really believed in my path-I believed in a life after death, and reincarnation-it would not be the end of “me,” just the end of my middle self, my ego. My spirit would continue, and that is what is important.” p163 The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft

Here are some close up pictures of jumping spiders, they make adorable little “monsters” in my opinion and someone needs to make these into giant “Teddies”.

According to Rosemary Ellen Guiley, imps during the middle ages, which were associated with witches, would disguise themselves  in the form of a spider. p172 (The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft)

The spider is often worked with in witchcraft as the weaver of magic, and spinner of fate, so any spells where “fate” needs to be changed or a new course of action needs to be taken, the spider spirit can be invoked. The spider can also be worked with in order to bind and hex due to their sticky trapping “binding” webs and their venomous paralytic bite. In the movie world, the lost son of Ipswitch in The Covenant uses spiders as part of a curse. The Spider is also worked with in healing spells. Spiders are also great protective spirits and can be worked with in Protection magic, and protection charms.

Cited Texts:

J. R.R R Tolkein Lord of The Rings :The Ring Goes East (1999 – 7 volume edition) Harper Collins

Christopher Penczack The Shamanic Temple of Witchcraft (2005) Llewellyn

Judika Illes The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft (2005) Harper Element

Brenda Rosen The Mythological Creatures Bible (2008) Octopus Publishing group

Klaus Vollmar Little Giant Encyclopedia: Dream Symbols (1997) Sterling

Ted Andrews Animal Speak (1993) Llewellyn

Rosemary Ellen Guiley The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft (2008) Facts on File
All Blog Content is Copyright 2012 of Nightshade Author of Thepurplebroom.wordpress.com unless otherwise stated

Here are the other fantastic bloggers who are participating in the blog hop!

Show your monster spirit

1. Annie Walls 15. Horror Author Vanessa Morgan 29. blackdragon
2. Little Gothic Horrors 16. Cayce @ Fighting Dreamer 30. Jurassic Goth
3. Pensive Pumpkin 17. It Came From The Man Cave 31. Monsterfink’s Midnight Monster Spookshow
4. Queens of the Wild Frontier 18. It’s On Random 32. Residentgamer
5. Lady Bethezda 19. Not This Time, Nayland Smith 33. nitebyrd
6. Le Professeur Gothique 20. Artwork By Living Dead Girl Nicole 34. Everything You Want
7. wicKED 21. Metamorphosis 35. Kweeny Todd
8. Shingle Creek Manor 22. Crafts and Creations with KMOM14 36. Ghost Stories and Haunted Places
9. Daph’s Dark Little Corner 23. skarlett 37. Jess @ Wickedly Bookish
10. Jenny Krueger 24. Dani Harper, Paranormal Author 38. GingerRead
11. Holly’s Horrorland 25. Manvshorror 39. Lynoire
12. blackwood 26. Horror Shock Lolipop 40. HorrorSmorgasbord
13. Punk You 27. Bob @ Beauty in Ruins 41. The Purple Broom
14. Kharisma Rhayne 28. Precious Monsters 42. Rabbit Library

(Collection closed)

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4 thoughts on “Spiders in Literature, Mythology and Witchcraft

  1. I live in Australia, so I know all about monster spiders! I’m in Melbourne where we get huge Huntsman spiders, but they get even bigger and scarier the further north that you travel. Loved your post and I’m so glad you were able to join the May Monster Madness fun!

    1. Thank you for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you for sending my request through to Annie. It’s been really fun and I’m delighted by everyones posts 🙂

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