Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Elusive Spider Woman

Admittedly I have been avoiding this next installment of blogs.  Pressed for time by projects and frustrated by  vague information on the elusive Spider Woman of Indian lore, I have chosen procrastination.  However, in order to move forward, today I will try my best to make a little progress and a little sense for today's blog.  I did consider skipping the legend of Spider Woman.  But there are such wonderful poetic visuals;  I just can't pass her by.

There are many tribes of  North American Indians and like any culture, they all have their own twists and versions of similar gods and goddesses.  This is the Hopi Indian legend of Spider Woman who was created by the "Creator of Tokpela (The First World)."  He was Sotuknang who created Spider Woman to be his helper on earth.  Upon her creation she was given her name, Kotyangwuti, and she asked Sotuknang, "Why am I here?"

(Credit for this next passage goes to the site:  under Native American Indian Legends.  I could not possibly re-tell this as artfully as the original author has!)

"Look around you," answered Sótuknang. "Here is the earth that we have created. It has shape and substance, direction and time, a beginning and an end. But there is no life upon it. We see no joyful movement. We hear no joyful sound. What is life without sound and movement? So you have been given the power to help us create this life. You have been given the knowledge, the wisdom, and the love to bless all the beings you create. That is why you are here."
Following his instructions, Kótyangwúti took some earth and mixed it with some túchvala (liquid from the mouth or saliva) and molded it into two beings. Then she covered them with a cape made of a white substance which was the creative wisdom itself, and she sang the creation song over them.
When she uncovered them, the two beings, twins, sat up and asked, "Who are we? Why are we here?"
To the one on the right, Spider Woman said, "You are Pöqánghoya. You are here to help keep this world in order when life is put upon it. Go now around all the world and put your hands upon the earth so that it will become solidified. This is your duty."
To the one on the left, Spider Woman said, "You are Palöngawhoya. You are here to help keep this world in order when life is put upon it. This is your duty now: go about all the world and send out sound so that it may be heard throughout all of the land. When this is heard you will also be known as 'Echo,' for all sound echoes the Creator."
Pöqánghoya, traveling throughout the Earth, solidified the higher reaches into great mountains. The lower reaches he made firm, but still pliable enough to be used by those beings to be placed upon it and who would call it their mother.
Palöngawhoya, traveling throughout all of the earth, sounded out his call as he was told to do. All of the vibration centers along the earth's axis from pole to pole resounded his call; the whole earth trembled, and the universe quivered in tune. Thus he made the whole world an instrument of sound, and sound is an instrument for carrying messages, resounding praise to the Creator of all.
"This is your voice, Uncle," Sótuknang said to Taiowa. "Everything is tuned to your sound.
"It is very good," said Taiowa.
Once they had finished their duties, Pöqánghoya was sent to the north pole of the world's axis, and Palöngawhoya to the south pole, where they were jointly commanded to keep the world properly rotating. Pöqánghoya was also given the power to keep the earth in a stable form of solidness. Palöngawhoya was given the power to keep the air in gentle ordered movement, and told to send out his call for good or for warning through the vibratory centers of the Earth.
"These will be your duties in time to come," said Spider Woman.
She then created from the earth the trees, bushes, flowers, and other plants. She created all kinds of seed-bearers and nut-bearers to clothe the earth, giving to each a life and a name. In the same manner, she created all kinds of birds and animals, molding them out of earth and covering each with her white-substance cape of wisdom, and singing over them.
Some she placed to the right, some to the left, and others she placed before her and in back of her, indicating how they should spread to all four corners of the world to live.
Sótuknang was happy, seeing how beautiful it all was: the land, the plants, the birds and the animals, and the power working through them all. Joyfully he said to Taiowa, "Come see what our world looks like now!"
"It is very good," said Taiowa. "It is now ready for human life, the final touch to complete my plan."

To clarify a little, Taiowa is the Hopi version of a Sun God, the original creator who created Sotuknang. Taiowa refered to him as "nephew".  As I stated earlier, this is only one version of the Hopi legends.  There are other versions and other gods given credit for various parts of the creation.  It is safe to say that the  Hopi Indians associate Spider Woman with the creation and emergence of life on earth.  She is the teacher of survival skills to  humans.  The Navaho Indians believe the skill she gave to humans was the art of weaving and before they sit down to a loom, the Navaho will often rub their hands in spider webs to absorb the wisdom and skill of Spider Woman.  Spider Woman is said to be a metaphor for "She who creates from a central source" and her spider web represents the matrix of our reality.  According to, this matrix refers to the "Spider Web Effect"  a theory that all things originate from a central source, spiral out in a matrix, grid, lattice or web,  following the same geometric design.  All things are connected to each other and to that source.  Whatever affects one part of the web affects all parts of the web.  Very progressive thinking for an alleged primitive culture, don't you think?  This same effect is given credit for our ability to learn to be psychic and to connect telepathically.  It is no surprise that Spider Woman is also associated with "dream catchers" which are common in our culture even now.  It is said that during dream time we remove part of our consciousness from physical reality and venture off through Spider Woman's web, experiencing that which we cannot understand with our physical consciousness. 

This time around, while writing this brief and singular legend of Spider Woman, I am finding that the information is not so vague.  However, it could become a life's work due to the fact that there are very many versions of the Spider Woman and even Spider Grandmother stories.  There are many excellent sites on the web if you wish to pursue them.  Simply search Indian Lore, Indian Legends, or Myths.  The stories become exponential and you will find  many different versions by all the different tribes.  The Indian culture has a wonderful tradition of storytelling to explain all of life's mysteries in a wonderful way that imbued more mystery and awe to each subject.  The more you read them, the more impressed you will be, not only with their poetry and creativity but with their knowledge of the world, the science of it, and our place in it.  It is an understatement to say that there is much to be learned from the ancient cultures of the world.