Arachne at Apple Hollow Farm


spinning a web

If you can believe in tales of Greek mythology, the mother of spiders was Arachne, a Lydian maid so sure-handed and deft that no craftswoman could match her in spinning or in weaving. But Arachne was arrogant. Not even the gods could emulate her skill, she claimed - not even Athena, protector of all spinners and weavers.

It was true that Athena was patroness of these arts of peace, but she was also the goddess of war, and she lost no time in responding to Arachne's boast. She challenged the maiden to a contest of skill.

In her offering for the contest, Arachne added impudence to arrogance. She wove a scene that showed a hideous creature - part man and part bull - pursuing a mortal woman. This, she said, represented the loves of the gods. Athena wove a scene of a mortal man strapped into a harness that supported wings made of feathers; the man had clearly flown too near the sun, for the feathers were already aflame. This, she said, was an image of human arrogance.

Then the goddess destroyed the mortal woman's work and, with a sharp command, the woman herself. At Athena's words, Arachne shrank and blackened, and eight wispy legs sprouted from her body. She spent the remainder of her brief life - as her descendants always would - spinning thread from her own belly, and shuttling back and forth across its sticky strands to weave herself a web.

Editorial note: You may wish to remember this the next time you are feeling overly proud of one of your creations!

As a member of the Arachne Spinners' Guild, this is one of my favorite tales! Thanks to my friend Pam for the idea.

The source of the image is vague, however, it has been variously suggested by visitors to our site that the Arachne painting could be by Terry Windling or Matt Mahurin although we have not been able to confirm this. The son of the late Susan Seddon Boulet has confirmed, through a visitor to our website, that it was not the work of his mother.
According to one of our readers at Adelaide University in Australia, this myth is related by the Roman poet Ovid in his epic poem the Metamorphoses, Book 6, vv.1-145.

For links to our spinning, weaving and knitting pages, or to find more fairy tales,


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MacThis page last updated: 2 June 2013

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