Spiders may be responsible for one of the most common human fears, but spiders also have a rich history of being personified in the lore and belief systems of ancient societies. During high school, many people learn about the ancient Grecian mythological figure known as “Arachne.” Arachne was a mortal with an amazing talent for weaving, but upon demonstrating her talent to Athena, the goddess destroyed her beautiful work. Understandably devastated over the destruction of her best work, Arachne was changed into a spider by Athena. In addition to Greek mythology, spiders were referenced in the Holy Bible. While such tales provide an interesting glimpse into how past cultures viewed spiders, it can certainly be understood that spiders have always had a significant impact on people throughout history.
During the seventeenth century a saying caught on concerning the negative consequences of killing a spider that a person finds on their clothes. It had been considered bad taste to kill a spider in any circumstance, as we fail to recognize their beauty through their ugliness. Instead of killing spiders that we find on our clothes, it was recommended that people throw them over their left shoulder in order to bring good luck into their lives. The proper conduct concerning a person’s treatment of spiders was quite specific. In addition to finding spiders on your clothing, if you find a spider in your home that you want to kill, you must first take it outside to be killed, otherwise you will lose your home will fall to the ground. At one point in time it was a common belief that crossing a spider in your path would bring bad luck. Strangely, people considered the sudden appearance of white spiders as signs that a person would soon encounter an old friend, but if a person should encounter a black spider, that person will soon encounter an enemy.
For centuries, people living in the Netherlands considered it good luck to find a spider in the morning, but bad luck to find one in the afternoon. However, one of the most arbitrary past beliefs concerning spiders had to do with the weather. For example, if spiders are active during bouts of rain, then pleasant weather will follow, and if a spider alters its web before 7 PM, but not after, the night will be clear and inviting. The children’s rhyme known as “Little Miss Muffet” is probably the most well known spider reference in modern culture. In addition to outdated superstitions, spiders were also represented in music, literature, culinary traditions and even medicine.
Can you think of any aspect of modern culture that makes use of spiders? Such as spider imagery, or human attributes personified with spider imagery.