Spiders seem to be everywhere I look these days: on the beach, along the trail, in the yard and in the house. Clusters of baby spiders hang from the vines near the front door where they’ll make their home. In the evenings, they’ll have plenty to eat as insects are attracted towards the front light.
A fear of spiders, arachnophobia, is common among humans. Among phobias, it shares top billing with fears of death and public speaking. I’ve never understood this fear, as spiders do us such a tremendous service by consuming a large number of insects.
An ancient myth tells the story of how a maiden with an amazing talent for weaving caught the eye of Athena, goddess of wisdom and skills. The girl, Arachne, refused to acknowledge her teachers and proudly stated that she was better than everyone, including Athena. She boldly accepted a challenge to out-weave the goddess. Though her work was excellent, she used her skill to mock the gods and her defiance cost her dearly. Her master work was torn to shreds by the angered goddess and she was driven to hang herself in despair. Taking pity, Athena changed her into a spider so that she and all generations after her could continue their weaving work.
What if, instead of fearing spiders, we saw them as reminders of Athena’s lessons:
- don’t define yourself by your work, and
- the greater your talent and skill, the more important it is to practice humility.
The story of Arachne can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book VI