There is not a person out there that would doubt the power of a spider. They strike at the very essence of our primal fear. A creature so potent and deadly that we, the human animal, 1000 times larger than it still cower in fear of its bite. Perhaps it is the spider bite that we fear. Perhaps it is the patience it has in waiting for its prey. Perhaps it is the dark wisdom that seems to follow it throughout cultures. The spider is part of the arachnids (containing also scorpions and ticks). There are over 30000 species of spider throughout the world, but they are all made up of the same pattern. They have 8 legs, and two body segments: a head and a belly, cephalothorax and abdomen. Many people incorrectly label them insects but this is false. Insects have three body segments and 6 legs. Spiders have 2 body segments and 8 legs. Their legs are quite amazing. They have bristles near their feet called scopula which help them cling to smooth surfaces like ceilings and walls. Other bristles are used for sense of tough and smell. Their legs have no muscles, so moving them is done purely with blood pressure. Spiders may also have up to 8 eyes. Their eyesight may be either fair (if they are a hunting spider) or poor (if they are a web building spider, or non existent (in terms of a cave dwelling spider). Spiders come in a variety of colours from grays, browns and blacks to yellows, greens and reds. They may be furry like the tarantula or sleek like the black widow. Spiders range in size from the size of a pin’s head to 25 cm long with legs extended (That is nearly 1 foot!). Spiders can live from one year to up to 20 years depending on the species and climate. Although spiders live in a variety of climates, they prefer it where it is a bit hotter and a bit more humid (although some like it dry and cool).
One really special adaptation of the spider is its ability to weave spider silk. Spider silk is five times as strong as high-grade steel by weight. It does not dissolve in water and is the strongest known fiber in the world. This is quite incredible. Think about the practical applications if we could produce spider silk. We could build a car that we could carry on our backs. We could make tents that were many times stronger than any house built in the city. The spider uses special organs on its abdomen called spinnerets to produce spider silk. It uses these organs to weave silk and ultimately create the majestic webs we see all over the place. It can be used for other things as well. They use it to float through the air like hot air ballooning, to line their burrows, to make egg sacs, etc. Spiders have up to 3 different glands in their bodies to make three different types of silk. The silk it spins can be sticky or not. Spiders often weave it in patterns where only they know which parts are sticky. That is why they never get stuck in their own webs. The spinneret’s work much like a weaver’s fingers to manipulate the substance excreted from these glands. A spider always has a line of silk, which is called a drag-line. If it is in danger it can drop from its web on the drag-line until the danger has passed. The intricacy of the webs themselves is also quite amazing. Wherever a web is woven, you will find a perfect balance of tensions and stresses (including gravity). Many computer programs have tried to simulate more optimal patterns but they have failed: The spiders weave is always optimal. Some spiders live in their webs, situated to catch their prey in a high traffic area. Others live in a nest made in a folded leaf, underground, or under rocks or logs.
Spiders are predators by nature. Some more patient than others. Their natural prey includes crickets, flies, bees, grasshoppers, moths and butterflies. Although the large tarantula can prey on larger insects or animals: big beetles, toads, frogs, small birds, snakes and lizards. Many spiders are web builders. These spiders patiently wait for their prey to come to them. When it does, they can feel where in the web the prey has landed based on the vibrations. They will then rush over and either devour their prey or wrap it up for later. Hunting spiders are quite different. They are predators in the more traditional sense. Wolf spiders chase down their prey. Jumping spiders pounce upon their prey. Fisher spiders walk on the water and eat water insects. Bolas spiders spin a sticky line and lasso their prey just like a cowboy! In whatever manner a spider catches its prey, all spiders they eventually kill and eat such prey. They generally kill prey with venom. Venom is injected into the prey through fangs. Most spiders have poison glands, but few have poison dangerous enough to harm a human. Even the feared brown recluse and black widow bites are not an immediate danger to ones health. Generally a bit from these spiders will just irritate the skin. A spider is very unlikely to bite a human anyway. They usually have to be agitated to bite. A spider sprays digestive juices on its prey and then sucks it up with appendages on its mouth that act as a straw. A tarantula can reduce a mouse to a pile of hair and bones in about 36 hours by digesting it in this method.
Spiders have a few natural enemies: Birds, Fish, Frogs, Wasps, and other spiders. The wasp is among the deadliest of the spider’s enemies. It makes for an infrequent occurrence in nature. The wasp is the prey of the spider and the spider is the prey of the wasp. Spiders have many defenses and strategies to deal with predators. They can escape via their drag-line. They are well adapted in camouflage and can hide easily in their environment. As a last defense a spider will use its poison. Most poisonous spiders are brightly coloured to warn their enemies to find lunch elsewhere. A spider will only use its venom if it has no other choice.
Most spiders live for less than a year, so courtship and mating are primarily important. They often have elaborate courtship procedures. Some males may vibrate the female’s web in a way to make her take notice. Others will move their legs in an elaborate dance. Others will bring a present (like a fly) for the female. Once she has accepted his advances, it’s a bit of a strange story. The male puts his sperm on a silk platform that he creates. The female then stores this within her body and makes eggs from it. She can continue to make eggs for many months as a result of this 'stored sperm'. Although it is a popular theory, it is very uncommon for the female to eat the male after mating occurs. She lays about 100 to 2000 eggs in an egg sack, which she makes out of silk. Some females die after this, some go on, and some are active mothers taking their babies with them. If the eggs are laid in the fall, they hatch in the spring. The spiderlings immediately have drag-lines and look like small adults. They molt as they grow, with a new larger skin replacing the old skin. Spiderlings sometimes migrate in an unusual way. They climb to the top of a large object and turn their spinnerets to the sky. The air catches the silk and pulls the spider into the winds. This method is called ballooning. Sailors have seen ballooning spiderlings more than 300 kilometers from land.
From cultures across the world, the spider has a rich and diverse mythology. Universal to these cultures the spider is associated with weaving. With some it is simple weaving. Such is the case of Arachne who challenged the Goddess Athena to a duel of weaving and as a result was turned into a spider. Some see this as a punishment from Athena, but when you think of it, the spider thrived, so perhaps it was a way of making the weaver immortal. With other cultures the spider is seen as one who weaves the world into existence or as a weaver of fate. The latter is reminiscent of the Greek Lachesis the archetypal fate goddess and the Celtic Arianrhod who is rumoured to have her silver wheel linked to the spider’s web. Regardless time, fate, and pattern seem to be interconnected to the spider. With its eight legs you can almost see the spider as a living representation of the wheel of the year with a leg for each sabbat. It weaves patterns through time, fate through patterns. The spider is linked to other goddesses as well: Maya of the Hindu pantheon, Neith of the Egyptian pantheon, and the Native American grandmother spider. In this form, the spider is associated with wisdom archetypes, with magic and occult knowledge. The spider is associated with the knowledge of poisons and the occult. The spider is known as a wily teacher who often teaches by showing what not to do often resulting in pain or misfortune. On the flipside of this, the spider is also known mythologically to save some humans. There is a common myth of a man that is being pursued by his enemies when he takes shelter in a cave. A spider seeks to save him so she quickly weaves her web over the entrance to the cave. When the enemies approach they see a spider web and conclude that the man cannot be inside. This myth occurs in many cultures: Navajo, Islamic (the man was Mohammed), Christian (David), and Japanese. The spider is also attributed in many cultures with bringing fire to the people. Such is the case with the Cree and with the African Anansi, a spider god figure.
A Spider Totem will be on of those people that when you come across them, you will not be able to figure them out. You will not know why they are saying what they are saying and you will not know why they are doing what they are doing. And that confusion is exactly where a Spider Totem would want you: off guard. The reason is nothing sinister, it is simply to be prepared for any action you would take against them. A person with a Spider Totem is always prepared for any contingency. But because of this social strangeness, the Spider Totem will be mainly a loner, preferring to have a few close friends and family. A Spider Totem will often develop strong ties to those that are considered family or close friends. They are the spiders 'drag-line' or 'escape route'. A Spider Totem will seek to always to be close to these people and have them solid and unwavering in their life. They are dependent on them and they need to know that when they venture into the world that they can fall back on their dependables. A Spider Totem will be the essence of patience as well. They are forever planning and forever patient. You can never pull one over on a Spider Totem as they have been planning about 8 steps ahead of you. They are patient as they know that their perpetual planning will lead to inevitable victory. If it ever seems like you have won a victory against a Spider Totem, do not be fooled. If it appears that you won, then the Spider Totem let you win, as their eventual triumph 3 steps in the future depends on that. A Spider Totem will be quite in touch with their bodies and movement. They would excel at activities like dancing, gymnastics, and climbing being quite agile at all they do. Spider Totems will have a knack for the arts as well. Specifically, they will be adept at arts that require repetition and pattern. Things like weaving, crochet, mosaics, quilting, and black smithing. A person with a Spider Totem will be adept at magical workings as well due to their ability to see patterns. Whether it’s a visual pattern in a spell or measuring spell components, the Spider Totem will be exacting, focused, and patient. Prophecy is another gift that would be common to a Spider Totem as prophecy is simply discerning of patterns that exist in dreams and visions. In terms of careers, a Spider Totem will enjoy work in something that they can either employ their use of patterns (web weaving), precision (poison), and motion. Unfortunately there is not a career that has all of these things. Some of the analytical careers have patterns and precision such as accounting or software architecture, but they lack the artistic side. A career as a Pharmacist or Holistic Physician would have similar appeal of precision and pattern. These careers would be fine for a Spider Totem, but they would have to bolster them with an artistic hobby like Ballet to balance their life. A career as a weaver, dancer, or blacksmith may equally appeal to a Spider Totem but their analytical mind would find it lacking. By bolstering these types of career with analytical hobbies like chess or astronomy, the spider could again find balance. Whatever the career, social interaction cannot be a strong requirement as that is where the spider is weakest.
Written by RavenDreamer