Spiders from Mars

by Alex

Ah, October. My favorite time of year. I love the wind. I love the leaves changing (even when it’s only about a half a percent of the trees in Southern California.). I love the lengthening shadows. I love the feeling of urgency and anticipation. Fall winds bring me great things, and this year is no exception.

I don’t love the sudden emergence of spiders, but aside from the year that we had an hysteria-inducing giant red spider invasion in LA due to El Nino, I have learned to deal with it, in my way. Um… most of the time. There is one particular spider which has made a gigantic nest (and I do mean nest, this thing is as big as a small bird) in between a window and a storm window in the living room. It rarely ever emerges into sight but when it does I am either mesmerized or paralyzed with terror – I haven’t been able to identify which. It is behind glass, and so far I have not prevailed on the Alpha Male in my life to DO SOMETHING about it, because…

Well, to be honest, I’m not sure why. For one thing, I know he’d just kill it. Alpha Males are all about the direct approach. But it’s more than that. I leave it because it’s some kind of self-test, I think. Of nerves. Maybe it’s partly a research experiment – I’m taking note of my overwhelming emotions toward this creature to use them later in my writing.

But even more than that – this – thing – is just too big, and black (did I mention it was black? Black as tar. And it has the thickest legs I’ve ever seen on an arachnid – legs perfectly capable of kicking through a storm window…) for me not to think it’s some kind of cosmic sign, some vital life lesson to be learned.

(It really is walking the edge, though. I feel certain I would not survive a face-to-face encounter. If I ever suddenly disappear from Murderati, now you’ll all know why. The glass broke.)

The point is, spiritually, I have something to learn from this spider.

But what?

There are certainly no end of spider myths in world mythology. It’s one of humankind’s most enduring archetypes. You all probably remember (at least vaguely) the Greek story of Arachne, the weaver who challenged the goddess of weaving to a weaving duel.

So is it a lesson of vanity? I’m challenging the goddess? Or doomed to live forever in my own web (caught up in another book, that’s just a sounding a little too familiar…)

Witches talk about all things being connected by the web of life, an analogy that has always seemed to me a little, well, sticky, but maybe it’s something I should pay more attention to.

Carl Jung’s interpretation of a spider (he was speaking about spiders in dreams) is “a symbol of wholeness due to its circular shape.” “The spider and his web may be calling for an integration of the dream[er]’s personality leading to greater self-awareness and resulting in feelings of completeness”.

Spiders are also traditionally a symbol of feminine power – both constructive and destructive feminine power – the weaver of the world in India, the Spider Grandmother in Native American mythology, and of course the black widow as the ultimate expression of destructive femininity in our own culture.

I know some women who embrace the image… but I’ve never felt very comfortable with it. Frankly, I think I scare enough men already. But perhaps comfort is not the point. In fact, I’m assuming it’s not the point, because we’re talking about a SPIDER. Comfort has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

In Native American spirituality, a power animal, or Medicine animal, or Guardian Spirit, is one that has made itself known in dreams or visionquest at least four times, each time in a significant way.

Well, I haven’t had any dreams about the – you know – and I haven’t been on any visionquests lately, but I’d say I’ve seen the – it – at least four times, and every time is certainly significant if you count my elevated pulse.

So I think I’m going to take a deep breath and accept it as my power animal, for now, and see what I can learn from it.

That is, as long as the glass holds.

What about you all? Any unlikely guardian spirits, or interesting archetypes, visit you lately? Do you ever pursue them and see where they lead?

19 thoughts on “Spiders from Mars

  1. Jacky B.

    Shit. I’d really gone and done it this time. Woven, not painted, myself into a corner. Perhaps the final corner.

    Trapped between panes of glass, I’d quickly exhausted my meager food supply. I’d tried kicking my way out, but even though I’m big and black as a crow, my unusually thick spider-legs weren’t a match for the sturdy glass.

    I thought my prayers for salvation had been answered, when the beautiful angel began to visit. Could freedom, or at least sustenance, be in the offing?

    It’s not looking good. Yeah, there’s intelligence in the angel’s eyes, but I’m getting a bad vibe too. Fear? From an angel? Unlikely. Revulsion? Is it the color of my skin? Nah, that’s a human hang-up. Then what? My web? Does she perceive it as some tangled attempt at deception?

    Doesn’t matter. If I don’t get some grit soon, I’m a goner. Fuckin open window would be even better.

    Jacky B. (with help from the NoirSpider.)

  2. J.D. Rhoades

    I’m not a fan of spiders either, but when this freakin’ huge but oddly beautiful emerald green spider built her web in my daughters window, the kids were so fascinated by it I didn’t have the heart to kill the thing, even when it hung a huge egg sac in the web. I did consider caulking the window shut. But one day it as just all gone….mama spider, web, and all the little babies. That may have rattled me worse than anything: NOT KNOWING where they were.

    You should definitely weave (heh) this into a book.

    And you don’t scare me, baby. I’ve met LOTS of women scarier than you.

  3. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Jacky B., that was brilliant, I’ll be laughing all day.

    Just to be clear, this spider is getting PLENTY to eat.S/he’s bigger every single sighting. That’s one of the things that worries me.

    Speaking of which – Dusty, you just had to bring up an egg sac, didn’t you? Good grief.

    And I know I don’t scare any REAL men. 😉

  4. billie

    Alex, what a wonderful post. Pretty much this is the kind of thinking that occupies my every encounter with nature. 🙂

    If you don’t have it already, I HIGHLY recommend Ted Andrews’ book Animal Speak.

    Spiders have a lot to do symbolically with writing and creativity. I was going to type some of what he says in, but there is just too much!

    I have for most of my life been terrified of spiders while also loving the book Charlotte’s Web. When my children were born, I decided to give up the fear so I wouldn’t pass it on to them. Since then, I’ve begun to notice and celebrate the presence of all the spiders we have here – the graceful and lovely “ballerina” spiders that seem to be in every corner of this house, the big wolf spiders outside, the “writing” spiders in the garden, and the chunky fall–colored “fall” spiders that are helping us right now with fly control in the barn.

    My guess is this particular spider has a lot to say to you – how wonderful that you’re listening.

  5. JT Ellison


    I evacuated my house when a spider that size showed up in my window last year. Seriously. Got a spray can of poison, shot it, then left.

    And just the other day, I went out the front door and something flashed into my vision — a HUGE green spider had landed on my leg. Cue screaming, wrist wrenching, flailing about, more screaming. It finally swung back off onto its web and glared at me. Glared.

    So I went to the backyard and got a VERY LARGE BRANCH, about 6 foot long, which I marched to the front to bash it’s poor arachnid head in with. When it took off running up the damn stick toward me, I threw the stick and had a bit of a panic attack in the front yard.

    And lest you think I’m exaggerating, I was on the phone at the time and have full corroboration that I acted like a girl. Problem was, I had to kill it to get back in the house. It was her or me, and I won.

    Ugh. An awful day. I’ve probably angered the spirit Gods, but hey, we all have our fears.

  6. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I knew Billie would have the goods on spider symbols – I’ve just been waiting for your post! I will get the Andrews’ book immediately.

    You’re so right about CHARLOTTE’S WEB – what a powerful book – I’m going to burst into tears just thinking about it.

    And yeah, spiders and writing… I guess we can’t escape that one. So why, why, are we all still so afraid??

  7. Alexandra Sokoloff

    JT, I just managed to pick myself off the floor. Nearly dead from laughing. I have no doubt you are not exaggerating one bit – I’ve been there. I think a lot of us have.

    Isn’t it amazing that such relatively tiny creatures have such a profound effect on us? It’s kind of mindblowing.

    Granted, I’m sure some of it is pure genetic survival instinct. Some species of this beast can do some serious damage (a dance teacher of mine had to have a chunk of his leg the size of an apple removed after being bitten by a Brown Recluse. Shudder is right.)

    But the power we attribute to these mainly harmless beings is beyond rational. It’s – well, mythic.

    Next week, snakes.

    (Kidding. I actually LOVE snakes, always have.)

  8. billie

    My sense about the fear factor with spiders is that it has to do with their mystery and what we don’t know – they are silent so we don’t know where they are around us, their bodies have the shape of the symbol for infinity, they create nearly invisible webs which feel sticky and cling to us when we pass through, many are poisonous. I have to wonder if some of the fear isn’t our own fear about the “unknown” in relation to our own lives being projected onto spiders.

    Plus I think most of us get conditioned via the responses of others to think of them as frightening.

    My grandmother, a rather amazing and complex woman, used to pluck even the biggest ones from their webs to show me they wouldn’t hurt us. I think the contrast between her behavior and my mother’s (typical shrieking, kill the thing at all costs response) is partly what intrigued me about spiders. These two primary women in my life had such opposite reactions!

    I had conquered the fear before we moved to the country, but it’s been the ballerina spiders here in this house that have really made a difference for me. They are so delicate and lovely, and the weaving motion they do is so much like a creative gesture I feel they’re almost making a rhythm for me to write by.

    You will LOVE the Andrews’ book – he actually has several different volumes now that I haven’t gotten yet, but the original Animal Speak is wonderful for finding animal/insect/bird totems in your life and beginning to look deeper into the meanings.

  9. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Billie, I don’t know what a ballerina spider is. Is it like Daddy Longlegs? Those are the leggy ones in California I never had any fear of.

    I really will get the Andrews’ book… now that I’m thinking about it, did a female partner of his do the Medicine Cards, about animal totems?

    That would be a great post, actually – I’d love to hear what other people’s animal totems are.

  10. billie

    The ballerina spiders are… well, actually, if I turn the blog archives back on, and I will for this, you can click my name and go to the archives – Nov. 12th – post called ‘the ballerinas.’

    They’re not daddy longlegs, much more refined and delicate and they spin, which I don’t think the longlegs do.

    I am not good with fitting long links in here or I’d have made it easier!

    And yes, there are some cards that go with his book.

    My totem for several years now has been a group of 3 crows – they are EVERYwhere I go. I finally got a photo a couple of months ago and I felt that was, in a way, the finale for this totem -time with them.

    Before the crows it was a grasshopper.

  11. pari

    My husband, when we first started dating, had two pet black widows — both named after a former girlfriend.

    They both had egg sacs and those hatched and all the little babies escaped . . . but that’s another story.

    We’re a spider-loving family. We’ve got a pet tarantula (she’s kind of a bust though because she won’t come out to see us) and will go out of our way to save arachnids in our house/yard.

    What you’re describing is probably a tarantula and it’s probably female because in the spider world girls trump guys every time — they’re prettier, bigger, stronger and usually smarter.

    Maybe that’s something to think about.

    My fear animals come from the wasp/yellow jacket family — insects that can sting without consequence.

  12. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I can’t even deal with the THOUGHT of black widows. Ugh. Just the way they move…. ugh.

    No, my spider isn’t a tarantula. It’s not that big, and growing up in So Cal, I know tarantulas. I actually had a pet one myself for a while…. my dad’s a biologist. I guess the phobia started around age nine or ten, but there really wasn’t any particular trigger.

  13. pari

    Aren’t phobias the killer, though?

    I admire you for being willing to work through this. When I see a yellow jacket or a certain kind of wasp, I just want to leave the area . . .

  14. Dana King

    Be happy for the spider. Think of all the other nasties that aren’t making it into your house because she has taken her post. I always try to keep a spider or two around key insect entry points to my house. I’m that way about bats, too. I’d put a bat house up today, if I had a proper place.

    Maybe there’s something wrong with me.

  15. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I’m with you on the bats, Dana – I think they’re cute. Have had pet ones (everyone in the neighborhood was always bringing us injured animals because they knew Dad’s a biologist. We lived in a menagerie!).

    Spidey, you know you’re my secret love.

  16. Amy Andrews

    Nah, sorry – that spider would have to go. Arachnophobe from waaaaay back.I’d spend all my nights dreaming about waking up with the damn thing on my face – ugh. I’m with JT and the big branch theory.

    I think our fear comes from the eight legs thing. Jeez, imagine having six more legs to obsess about?

    And it’s just not right that something so little can be so deadly. Down here we have the red back and the funnel web – both quite small but highly poisonous.

    Re Daddy Long Legs – not sure if this is urban legend or not but they are supposed to have the deadliest poison of all arachnids they just dont have the ability to puncture human skin…….

  17. d.a.davenport

    And here comes the party-pooper. I hate the blasted things, always have, always will. I can’t even watch them on TV, I have to turn the thing to another channel or look the other way and have my husband tell me when it’s off the screen. And if National Geo shows up with a periodic spread, I close it and toss it as soon as the family has read it.

    I once beaned my kid brother upside the head with the nearest object, a hard-back copy of Dracula (just to make the situation even weirder), when he woke me up from a dead sleep dangling a Graddy-Long legs in my face.

    The only time I forced myself to handle them was when my son was young and I was determined to never pass my phobia on to him. Actually let the creepy things run up and down my arms to prove they were nothing to fear. It worked…for him. I still feel ill to this day, at the thought of those 8 little feet walking around on me.

    Nope-got a full-fledged phobia and am in no hurry to put myself through the hell of behavior-modification just to get over it. Too bad they will rule the earth right alongside cockroaches one day.


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