“In the beginning, there was the dark purple light at
the dawn of being. Spider Woman spun a line to form
the east, west, north, and south. Breath entered man
at the time of the yellow light. At the time of the
red light, man proudly faced his creator.
Spider Woman used the clay of the earth, red, yellow,
white, and black, to create people. To each she attached
a thread of her web which came from the doorway at
the top of her head. This thread was the gift of
Three times she sent a great flood to
destroy those who had forgotten the gift of her thread.
Those who remembered floated to the new world and climbed
to safety through the Sipapu Pole the womb of Mother Earth.”
~Diné Creation Story~
At the beginning of a three-year process that would change my life, I went hiking on a desert trail. Ambling with a head full of nerves, I bumped into a little monster of a friend. There in my path lurked a hairy black tarantula, and I glanced around to find odd shaped tarantula beds of silk spun in the scrub. They looked like holes coming up from the center of the earth, like the sipapu of Southwest Native American tribes. My sibyl of a friend was eager to remind me that the spider totem is symbolic of creativity and connection. Last week, right on the other side of that major life initiation, I found myself unconsciously drawn to images of webs and spiders. I was gazing at shamanic images of Grandmother Spider Woman, Earth Goddess, and I realized she had marked my circle from beginning to end. In Jungian thought, a synchronicity such as this marks the voice of the unconscious piercing into awareness, revealing the symbolic meaning wrapping life in a destiny like dream.
Spider Woman is an Earth Goddess central to the lore of multiple indigenous Native American tribes. The Diné (Navajo), Hopi, Zuni, and others have revered her in oral narrative tradition for centuries, and for this reason any seeker finds a variety of tales describing her influences. She exists primarily as an archetypal Creatrix, Goddess of the underworld from which all things were made. The underworld in this context is not hell, but a seeding dark where connection is born. Spider Woman is often a crone, referred to as Grandmother Spider Woman, though some times she is represented in midlife, and other times as a maiden. Her protection assists those in danger through rhythmic songs of creation, magical powers, and the ability to transcend trouble. Spider Woman weaves the web in which we are each connected by a unique strand, and her songs breathe life into all the hard elements in soil and water and clay. She guides souls from one world to the next; she is a guide to heroes and victims alike. While the Hopis tell of her leading people into the fourth world through a hole in the earth, the sipapu, the Diné recognize a towering rock spire located near the Grand Canyon, as her portal into this world.
In her book Women Who Run with Wolves, Jungian analyst Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés reminds us of the importance of the Wild Anima, the creative experience of feminine power whose protective capacity is beyond mere sorcery, it is a thread through the weave of daily living. “What are the soul’s needs? They lie in the two realms of nature and creativity. In these realms lives Na’ashjéii Asdzáá, Spider Woman, the creation Goddess who gives psychic protection to those who seek her.” Not only is that psychic protection informed by the passion of song, its capacity to discard what has become unhealthy, regenerate, discard, and regenerate is crucial to the passage from living habitually in one mode to renewing self in another. Though Dr. Estés speaks to the centrality of this sifting capacity in women’s lives, as an archetypal energy it should not be thought of as gender specific. For men receptivity to death and rebirth is often the generator of personal creative passion, but easily becomes an anima projection sought obsessively in women until its meaning is integrated into masculine conscious awareness. C.G. Jung spoke of the pitfalls of chasing anima in The Syzygy: Anima and Animus, Aion, CW 9 ii. For women, without remaining in contact with Spider Woman energy, creativity is drained by duty and direction, rather than woven into each experience as an expression of presence, one that acts like music in action—weaving and pulling us into new worlds.
As it turns out, my encounter with the Earth Goddess Spider Woman foreshadowed a time of passionately focused sorting, examining and discarding retrograde methods, and I found myself weaving an entirely new life song into being.
What could the Spider Woman Goddess mean for you?
Here are a few links to explore:
Spider Woman’s Granddaughters
First Peoples, Native American Lore
~ Andrea Jivan, L.M.T., M.A.
Depth Psychotherapist Intern
Blog Team Member
Jung Society of Utah
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