In Greek mythology Arachne was a great weaver. She boasted she was better than Athena herself and so Athena arranged for a contest for Arachne to live up to her boast. When she couldn’t, she was turned into a spider for her insolence.Spiders feature in several myths around the world. I’ve already written about Ojibwe dreamcatchers, which were a gift from a spider to the grandmother Nokomis to catch bad dreams at night. After sharing that post, I was alerted to the legend of Robert the Bruce of Scotland and a spider. After suffering defeat at the hands of the English again, the Bruce took refuge in a cave, or a house. He saw a spider fail to climb its thread, or trying to make a connection between two roof beams and failing again and again. It finally succeeded (some say on its eighth attempt) and inspired him to continue his fight. It’s possible the whole story was made up by Sir Walter Scott.
Anansi is a trickster god who sometimes takes the shape of a spider. He is very knowledgable, clever and cunning. He was a symbol of resistance for African slaves, and kept a link to their heritage in West Africa.
All these myths laud the spider as hard-working, inspirational and skilled. So how come the modern western view of the spider has it so entrenched in the spooky, scary side?