The Real SpiderWoman

Recently during a children’s message, I used my I pad, to show the children a picture, and I asked them if they could name the person shown?


Obviously, they all guessed Spider Man.   When I showed the below picture; not a hand went up.

(I felt a bit of shame that my own kids couldn’t recognize Spider Woman, despite the fact that I there are still thousands of comic books throughout my home.   I believe it may be time to pull them from storage and introduce my girls to the world of the drawn story.  That may be material for a future post.)

Not guessing Spider Woman, I was positive that they would have no clue over the next picture, which was in reality a trick question.

This is the real Spider Woman, of Navajo fame.

The Navajo Indians believed that it was Spider Woman, who, along with her husband are responsible for all men and women on the planet.  For the Navajo the pair is the equivalent of Adam and Eve, but in the case of the Navajo the woman has what seems to be the most important role in the creation story.

In their traditions, Spider Woman, was considered the most important of Gods, because without out her we would be nothing but clay figurines.  Apparently, Spiderwoman gave birth to men and women but unfortunately when they arrived they we made of clay.  It was Spider Woman who reached down and grabbed the clay figurines and clutched them to her chest.   In an act of love, she sang to her children and in the music of her voice the clay found life.

In Arizona, there is a special rock called Canyon de Chelly (actually pronounced de shay), where she is said to have taken up residence. 

But Spider Woman is not content in watching what is going with her children from atop a high rock perch.   Spider Woman wants to be involved and active in their lives.   She wants to be present.

Just how active Spider Woman is in one’s live can be seen in the many stories that the Navajos still tell. This post involves one of those legends.    Many thousand year ago, a young Indian girl wandered into the dessert where she viewed a wisp of smoke coming from a hole in the ground.

A little curious, the girl peeked into the hole, a she saw the Spider Woman spinning a gorgeous blanket.

At first the girl is terrified at seeing one of her Gods in a hole, but instantly calms down when Spider Woman welcomes her into the home.    The Spider Woman wants to know why the girl has wandered so far out into the desert.    Reluctantly the young girl explains.

She is made fun of, she is lonely, and she has no friends.   She wanders out to the desert to give up.   She has no gifts like the rest of the children in her tribe, and she has no unique blessings.   As she talks it is clear to see that the young girl is heartbroken.

Feeling for the heartbroken girl, Spider Woman offers a gift.   She teaches the young girl how to weave.   While Spider Woman uses her silky web, the young girl uses threads and string.

Eventually the two of them finish, and all of sudden the girl realizes that she finally has something that makes her unique; she can weave fabric like no other.

Eventually the girl makes it back to her tribe, and as she arrives her people are amazed at the sheer beauty of the blankets she weaves.   The women beg the girl to teach her how to do it too.   Deep down inside she knows that she will never reveal how she accomplishes such great works of beauty.   She is afraid that if she gives the secret of her gift, than she will no longer be unique.

With each passing day, she worries more and more about the people learning her secret, and eventually decides that the gift cannot be shared.   Instead she decides to sneak away in the night back out to the desert.

Finally, several days away from the tribe, she settles on the ground and tries to fall asleep in her new home.    As she slowly starts to nod off, she hears a little voice, very faintly in the distance.   At first she thinks it’s someone trying to steal her gift, but eventually decides it is her imagination.

After returning to her sleep, she is awoken by a sharp pinch on her arm.   She looks down to see a spider having just bit her wrist.    As she is about to swat the spider away she discovers that it is this spider voice she faintly heard a few minutes earlier.  

In that “still and small voice” she realizes that it is her friend the Spider Woman.

After rejoicing again in one another’s company, the old Spider Woman gives her a piece of simple advice.

In Giving of your Gifts, you make room for blessings on the way.

The young girl knew instantly, what she needed to do.   Without much hesitation, she said good bye to her dear friend the Spider Woman, and headed home.

Immediately upon her return she taught to all who would listen.   Everyone tried to learn all they could from her, and she was more than willing to teach.    She liked to say that she had to pass on her gift to make room for more…

She soon realized the great gift she received only by spreading her knowledge of weaving.  From that day on the girl was never lonely. She was befriended by all she encountered.  She was considered one of the most loved and wisest people of her nation until the day she died.  She was unique and was blessed with many special gifts.

The Navajo still make incredible weavings and they are worth a small fortune today.   In the weavings today, they still remember the Spider Woman. Each and every Navajo weaving has a flaw in it.   It is intentional and done on purpose.

Its called a Spirit thread, or Spirit Line…

Some say that, It’s a reminder that our gifts are holy,…but too often we get trapped inside them…    The line is a way for our soul to keep from getting trapped, and too remember that little girl and remember exactly the way out.

They also remember the Spider Woman in their day to days.  In their travels if they ever see a spider scurry by, they stop and listen.   They try to remain still enough to listen to what nature and their Gods have to say to them.   They hope that the small spider is the same Spider Woman who means so much to them as a people today.

I reminded the children in that moment, as I do to all the readers of this post, that not only is there a wealth of wonderful stories and truths that we have available to us via  the faith of others, I  hope that we remember the story of Spider Woman.   I pray that we all take time to stop and listen to what God has to say to each of us, and remember, that the Gifts and the blessings that God has bestowed on us, are temporary.   

If we are smart enough to take the lesson of a little girl, we will remember, giving them away will make room for more….

(The Spiderman and Spiderwoman photos are products of Marvel Comics, and the Spider Woman – Navajo is art by Susan Sheddon Boulet)
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