The Native American Myth of the Spider Woman

The Native American Myth of the Spider Woman

Several Native American tribes have long embraced the concept of a woman as the creator of the world. To them, it only makes sense because it is woman from whom all life springs.  Among the Pueblo Indians the goddess is so revered that her real name is never spoken aloud. Referred to only as Spider Woman, the Pueblos believe that all things sprung out of her thoughts. The Hopi hold a similar belief as do many other Native American Tribes.

Although each tribe has a slightly different slant to Spider Woman’s story, one thing remains constant; that it is she who is responsible for all earthly creations. Some tribes believe that Spider Woman began with the universe itself.

As the myth goes, Spider Woman began her many creations by spinning and chanting (or singing), first developing the universe in four sections – – east, west, north, and south. Within the space sprung the birth of the sun, moon, and stars, which immediately banished darkness from the world.

Next, she took shells of turquoise, red rock, yellow stone, and clear crystal she next created the mountains, oceans, and desserts. Then the earth goddess herself became the womb from which mankind sprung over time; gradually, as is the case with childbirth. To create various races, it is believed that used many different kinds and colors of clay. Using her remaining thread, the goddess bound each of her human creations directly to her.

Several tribes, however, consider the Spider Woman to be just the earth goddess. They credit Tawa, the sun god, with the mysteries and powers of the above sky.

Eventually, the heavenly couple decided that other gods and goddesses must be created to share in their role as the keepers of mankind. Legend says that Tawa divided himself into. His duplicate became Muiyinwuh who was assigned to be god of all life germs. The Spider Woman also divided herself into to create Huzruisuhti, the goddess of all hard materials.

From Muiyinwuh sprung all of the marine life, animals, and insects of the earth that would help sustain and nourish mankind. From Huzruisuhti sprung all minerals, metals, gems, and shells that provided substance for mankind to make tools, build shelter, and adorn. Together, the four gods and goddesses taught mankind about the importance of their ties to the earth as well as how to use earth’s resources to sustain life.

The Navajo culture also credits Spider Woman for their unusually talented weaving abilities. As the story goes, a young Indian girl wandered into the dessert where she viewed a wisp of smoke coming from a hole in the ground. Peering into the hole, the girl saw Spider Woman spinning a blanket.

The woman welcomes the girl into her shelter and listens as the child explains her loneliness and her need for a specific purpose. In response, the Spider Woman decides to teach the girl how to spin cloth, intricately weaving beautiful patterns into it.

The girl returns to the village with her newly found skill and amazes the villagers with the beauty of the blankets she weaves. The women beg the girl to teach them as well, which she willing does. However, she reminds them that they must leave a small hole in each blanket. In puzzlement, they question why. The girl explains that it is a tribute to the Spider Woman for teaching them how to weave.

From that day on the girl was never lonely. She was befriended by all she encountered and she returned their gift of friendship by teaching them how to spin cloth.

Much in the same vein as Spider Woman used chanting or singing to spin her intricate webs, tribe shamans used the same technique to bring about a transcendental state of mind. Native American traditions often also included ceremonial drums and dance as a way of reaching the same kind of heightened state of consciousness.

Much of the culture that Spider Woman is credited with bringing to American natives continues to live on even today. No other culture is more closely aligned with the powers of Mother Earth than those of Native America. It’s a pity that the remainder of mankind hasn’t taken a lesson from their book and learned how accept that important bond.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Native American Myth of the Spider Woman

  1. Fascinating! Glad I stumbled in here as I’m trying to learn more about Native stories/culture and history. Thank you for posting this.

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