Arachnida as Totem and Overcoming Irrational Fear

I wasn’t intending to write another post so soon, but with it being the anniversary of the blog the other day I felt motivated to write  another entry on a topic i’ve wanted to cover for awhile.

Spiders have always fascinated me. From a young age, I can remember being simultaneously fascinated and terrified by these eight legged creatures. As a self professed arachnophobe, I struggled like many others with my crippling  fear over the appearance of these creatures.

In one terrifying instance I can remember, clearly, was when one day I put on an item as a child, without checking it. I was rewarded with several, not one, but several of the creatures crawling all over my skin, in a desperate attempt to escape from what I can only assume was a life or death situation for them. The experience of their legs crawling across my skin had me literally petrified, unable to move or swat them off until they ran off and away from my body.

As I grew up I did not really confront this fear, even due to it being mostly irrational being from a part of the world where spider bites are almost always harmless due to the cold winter conditions limiting the types and sizes of arachnid that can survive. However, I did continue to find them,  and the power they held over me, very interesting but would be unable to watch, or read about them, for prolonged periods of time.

It was only as I started on my path that I decided to confront these fears in some manner. I forced myself to research them, to observe their pattern of behaviour, to turn them from a object of repulsion into one of reverence. In my own path, their are many spirits which are spider like, or linked to spiders, and it was through this association and encountering them that overtime I was able to accomplish this goal and realise just how potent and important these creatures are both physically and spiritually.

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Inverted colour version of a picture of a Mouse Spider taken by Fir0002 (link in image)

The spider features in many myths and legends throughout the world, usually present in one form or another. Their fearsome appearance and behaviour, coupled with their amazing web weaving skills, has inspired a myriad of stories about spider spirits and gods in all shapes and sizes. They appear in a malefic form, as well as benefic, and these often cross over in many varied ways.

For example in Japanese folk belief spiders make an appearance as Yōkai – spirits known as Tsuchigumo and Jorōgumo – that would lure their victims in to be devoured, concentrating on the predatory aspect. Interestingly, the Jorōgumo, a spirit that is said to reside at Jōren Falls as guardian, is also said to save people from drowning using it’s webs.

In other instances, the web weaving and instinctual intelligence of the spider gave voice to other emanations in the form of trickster gods linked with creation. These include such revered spirits and Gods as Anansi, god of all knowledge of stories from Western African belief and and Iktomi from Lakota Native American belief, a similar spirit who was also responsible for originally inventing language and stories, names and games before being made a spider for his trouble making ways. Another example would be Nareau or Lord Spider, who is found in the creation stories of the Kiribati people. In their stories, it is this timeless spider that lived in the eternal ‘Darkness of the Embrace’, before it gave birth to the world from a mussel shell.

Iktomi

A Modern Interpretation of Iktomi by Naomichanart

Not surprisingly these spider spirits also seem to have some degree of oracular ability, able to give advice on the future or as omens as appearing as physical creatures. In the case of Iktomi, it was said he provided a prophecy that told that ‘would spread his web over the land’, which some who believe in him believe has come true in the form of the modern internet. In addition, when hiding from the English after a case of another military defeat, the future king of Scotland Robert the Bruce was apparently inspired by the spider which seemed to indicate to him his goal was attainable, due to its resilience and persistence. He would later to go on to win Independence of Scotland from England.

It’s also of note to see that that in the majority of these beliefs, the spider is not seen as a purely ‘evil’ force – but also not one that can be trusted nor necessarily understood in a transparent way by the humans with which it interacts.

The spiders web has also often been used to describe the concept of the make up of the spiritual universe or multiverse.  One example of this would be the teaching of Indras net in the Avatamsaka Sutra, which is a concept which could be comparable to a spiders web.

‘Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net that has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each “eye” of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in all dimensions, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring. ‘

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Seal of Asmoday

In my own practice, many of these beliefs are definitely present in some form or another. They are emanated in different manners, and there are many Spirits, Gods and Goddesses that can take on the form of Spiders. Examples of these would include the daemons Asmoday and Lilith, to name but a  few. Lilith is a prime example – as the ruling Goddess of Gamaliel. Gamaliel is a realm associated closely with intense physical pleasures, which can border on the extreme. As a realm known for its vampiric qualities and spirits, and described as a network of bloodied tunnels, it is unsurprising that the Goddess takes on such a form which matches her realm closely.

It is from this realm where the lesser spider spirits from my own experience seem to descend when the phase of the moon is just before or after the new moon, when only the barest of threads of light illuminate the sky. These spirits are great hunters, and make no mistake, predators, which help clean the Earth of parasites of all kinds – human and non human. I believe have only ever encountered one fleetingly, in a dream state,  and it appeared to be more of the hunting spider type than one that relied on webs to catch its prey. It radiated a strength of purpose and presence, and spoke in a silkish, deep voice. Whilst not detecting any malignance, it certainly had a certain aggressive to its disposition.  It was interested in how or why I had stumbled across it, and it considered me intently for awhile, questioning me. After several minutes conversing with the thing,  it climbed away back into invisibility, seemingly satisfied with my answers and identity. I believe that these spirits could be excellently guardians if correctly approached, cared for, and used for temporary periods only and it is something that I am excited to explore in the future.

An excellent first hand account was given English writer and graphic novelist Alan Moore in an interview with Jay Babcock for Arthur magazine, in which recounted his own encounters with  Asmoday. This being appeared as a spider that was able to distort space and time within the vision which he received. He went on to detail this  :-

‘I also had an experience with a demonic creature that told me that its name was Asmoday. Which is Asmodeus. And when I actually was allowed to see what the creature looked like, or what it was prepared to show me, it was this latticework…if you imagine a spider, and then imagine multiple images of that spider, that are kind of linked together–multiple images at different scales, that are all linked together–it’s as if this thing is moving through a different sort of time. You know Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”? Where you can see all the different stages of the movement at once. So if you imagine that you’ve got this spider, that it was moving around, but it was coming from background to foreground, what you’d get is sort of several spiders, if you like, showing the different stages of its movement.

Now if you imagine all of those arranged into a kind of shimmering lattice that was turning itself inside out as I spoke to it, and I was talking to my partner at the time and sort of saying, This thing’s showing us it’s got an extra dimension I haven’t got, and it’s trying to tell me that it’s good at mathematics. [laughter] It’s vain. There’s something fourth-dimensional about this. This is all stuff I was actually saying at the time, while I was having the experience, which was pretty extreme.

Anyway. Over the next couple of weeks I started researching Asmodeus and found out that actually, yeah, he’s the demon of mathematics.’

asmodeusalanmoore

Asmodeus by Alan Moore (1994)

As a form which has held so much power over me, with the ability to both inspire and terrify me in equal measure, has recently seen me begin to take on the Spider as a source of power, as a worthy totem. I do not mean this in the modern interpretation as a spirit guide – whilst it is certainly possible for a familiar to take this form I cannot claim to be working with one that does.

Instead I mean it as an icon that i have identified with, a body form I have also once or twice attempted to take the form of in dreams to become, to gain power through association with these incredible creatures and spirits. This has seemed to be a natural process, something I have been drawn to which is an inherent part of my own psychology and soul make up.

So that to that end I continue to research this avenue of experience and go in search for the humble spider, and encourage others to do so as well. They have much to offer, and much to teach, and an important role to play in both the physical and spiritual world. I wish more people would treat them with respect, rather than simple reactionary abhorrence. Whilst they still have the power to startle me, it is great that I can finally accept these creatures and spirits into my life.

To this end i encourage others to also turn their own fears into strengths where possible through internalisation, whether that fear is is arachnophobia or some other  phobia.  Through encountering these and making them a source of power rather than allowing them power over us, our growth is rapidly expanded. Through such a process the journey empowers us, and may allow us to reconnect to an area of experience and encounters denied to us by our inability to overcome ourselves.

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Another stowaway hidden in my martial arts clothes

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Further reading on Spiders and Moths

I hope this has been an enjoyable entry, as as iterated it’s an important one to me i’ve wanted to highlight for awhile. Anyway, back to writing the essay for so it can be submitted in good time so wish me luck!

Best regards,

~S~

2 Responses to “Arachnida as Totem and Overcoming Irrational Fear”

  1. We are on the same 🙂

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