"Spider Woman" by Susan Seddon Boulet

“Spider Woman’s themes are magical charms and growth.  Her symbols are spiders and woven items.  Spider Woman appears in the myths of the south-western Native Americans as a resourceful helper who spins magical charms and each person’s fate. No matter what problems or obstacles you face, Spider Woman creates the right network of energy to put you on the road toward accomplishment.

In metaphysical traditions, all life is seen as a network within which each individual is one strand. Spider Woman reveals the power and purpose of each strand psychically and keeps you aware of those important connections in your life. To augment this, get a Native American dream catcher, which looks like a web, and hang it over your bed so Spider Woman can reveal her lessons while you sleep. Or, carry a woven item with you today. It will strengthen your relationship with this ancient helpmate and extend positive energy for success in all you do.

 In Mexico, the Native Americans perform the Hikuli dance today, searching for peyote for their religious rites. As part of this ceremony, worshippers dance to reach altered states of awareness, honor the ancestors and help crops to grow. So, if your schedule allows, put on some music and boogie! Visualize a web as you move, and empower your future path with the sacred energies of Spider Woman’s dance.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“Grandmother Spider is an important Goddess amongst the many Native American tribes.  They call Her the “Great Teacher” and “The Creator of Life”.  She has also been called ‘Spider Woman’ which is a metaphor for She who creates from a central source. Her webs represents the matrix of our societies.  She is the guardian of everything that exists on Earth and uses Her magickal power to weave the fabric of time.  Although She can occasionally be destructive, She is almost always portrayed the beneficent Goddess who created everything that there is with Her thoughts and dreams.  It is She who brought the sun and the fire; She taught pottery, weaving, and the making of ceremonial magic.  She created the Moon.

Her legends are a part of the creation mythology for several southwestern tribes including the Hopi, Pueblo, and Navajo.  One myth says that in the beginning of time only two beings were in existence…Tawa, the Sun God, who held all the powers from above, and Grandmother Spider, the Earth Goddess, with all the powers from below.

It was Tawa who imagined all of the creatures of Earth and Grandmother spider who turned these thoughts into living things.  And, for every person She created, She spun a fine line of spider silk that She attached to their heads so they would always be connected to Her and have access to Her wisdom and Her teachings. And for as long as they kept the doorway from the top of their heads open, to let the spider silk in, they would be protected by Her.” [1]

The legend of Spider Woman in the Americas goes back to Pre-Columbian times. In fact, as far back as the Maya, Olmec, and pre-Toltec civilizations. Teotihuacan is an archaeological site in Mexico, and early city there, that existed from about 200 BCE until the 7th or 8th century CE (AD).  The Great Goddess of Teotihuacan (or Teotihuacan Spider Woman) is thought to have been a Goddess of the underworld, darkness, the earth, water, war, and possibly even creation itself. To the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica, the jaguar, the owl, and especially the spider were considered creatures of darkness, often found in caves and during the night. The fact that the Great Goddess is frequently depicted with all of these creatures further supports the idea of her underworld connections.  However, we know Her to be a goddess of both creation and destruction. It is possible that Coatlicue is a later version of this Spider Woman. Coatlicue is the Aztec Goddess who gave birth to the Sun and the Stars, and is the patron goddess of women who die in childbirth. She is also the giver of death, by Her knife that cuts the cords or strand of the Web that ties one to the Web of Life. She gives life, and She takes life. [2]

In many murals, the Great Goddess is shown with many of the scurrying arachnids in the background, on her clothing, or hanging from her arms. It has been concluded that the figures in these murals represented a vegetation and fertility Goddess that was a predecessor of the much later Aztec goddess Xochiquetzal. The Great Goddess is often seen with shields decorated with spider webs, further suggesting her relationship with warfare. Her nosepiece is the single most recognizable adornment of the deity, finalizing her transformation into the arachnid-like goddess.

Mural from the Tepantitla compound showing what has been identified as an aspect of the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan, from a reproduction in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

In the Tepantitla and Tetitla murals, the Great Goddess wears a frame headdress that includes the face of a green bird, generally identified as an owl or quetzal.  She is shown among several spiders and with a yellow body coloration, further distinguishing Her from other Mesoamerican deities. Her single most distinguishing feature is a nosepiece consisting of a rectangular bar with three circles. Immediately below this bar hang three or five “fangs”. The outer fangs curl away from the center, while the middle fang points down.

In the depiction from the Tepantitla compound, the Great Goddess appears with vegetation growing out of her head, perhaps a world tree or hallucinogenic morning glory vines.  Spiders and butterflies appear on the vegetation and water drips from its branches and flows from the hands of the Great Goddess. Water also appears to be flowing from her lower body. It was these many representations of water that led Caso to declare this to be a representation of the rain god, Tlaloc. [3]

If you’re interested in researching Spider Woman further, I highly suggest visiting Michelle Phillip’s site, Sacred Spirituality and read Spider Woman and Spider Symbolism.  It packed full of great information, how Spider Woman has had an impact on her life, links to Spider Woman’s many stories and Native American lore.