The Myth of Arachne
or How the First Spider Came to Be
The ancients weaved a memorable tale that was recounted whenever one of their kind attempted to transcend their human limitations or during those rare occasions when a mortal behaved as if they were above the reproach of the Gods.
And the story they told was of a brazen girl named Arachne.
Long ago, the Goddess of both War and Wisdom was informed of a mortal’s foolish actions. The armor-clad deity learned of a girl named Arachne, who although orphaned at a young age learned to weave intricate patterns in cloth in order to make her way in the world. Arachne’s exceptional talent in this highly difficult art form became impressively skilled over time, honed by her tenacity and consistent hard work. The girl’s weaving abilities became so wildly popular, Arachne decided to showcase her masterful artistry by opening her own gallery in ancient Athens called “The Weave”.
It was at “The Weave” that the High Priestesses of the city’s patron deity, none other than Athena herself approached Arachne recommending she donate a small portion of her ever-increasing abundance as a token of thanksgiving to the divinity whom their city was named after. They explained her contribution would be put to immediate and urgent use since it would help to maintain the upkeep of the Goddess of Wisdom’s great temple called “The Parthenon” which still stands to this very day.
Unfortunately, the High Priestesses’ charitable requests were rudely denied.
Arachne interrupted their suggestion by stating what Athena’s High Priestesses could actually do for HER was to remove themselves from her gallery and never return, since it was quite obvious her magnificent weaving skills didn’t need the help of some washed up goddess with a run-down temple.
After learning of this defiant display of false superiority, the Goddess of both War and Wisdom had to see for herself if this mortal girl was indeed so daring as to intimate that she was greater than the very Gods. Upon descending from the Heavens, Athena masked her divinity and assumed human form.
The Goddess entered The Weave disguised as a kindly natured, wrinkled crone who appeared very advanced in years. As Athena slowly shuffled into the gallery in the form of a frail old woman, Arachne approached the concealed deity and asked in her general direction rather disingenuously, “Can I help you?”
“Perhaps you can, Miss” the goddess responded in a gentle, grandmotherly voice, “I was interested in weaving a lovely scene involving owls and...”
“Owls?” Arachne interrupted. “No one weaves owl scenes anymore. Phoenix imagery is what’s hot nowadays. Fire Birds are what you see on the latest models of luxury chariot and the icon of choice among the most exclusively expensive designers in tunic high fashion this season.” the girl retorted.
“That may be so”, the crone feigned in agreement, “but the owl is the favored animal of the great goddess whom our fair city is named after, Athena, and...”
Arachne once again loudly interrupted Athena in mid-sentence as she threw her head back and laughed with arrogant derision.
“Here we go again!” The girl marveled in mocking disbelief. “Yet another one wasting their time and energy trying to please those nothings from the past, the great and mighty “Gods”. Look around, Lady! This amazing gallery and everything in it is here because of me and my incredible talent and not because of some dusty old goddess or me weaving pictures of her furball coughing birds.”
The elderly woman flatly stared at Arachne, her face clearly expressing how unimpressed she was with the girl’s self-adulation.
“Fine. Owls it is, Grandma.” Arachne’s eyes rolled harder than the fastest moving chariot wheel as she loudly groaned with disdain while brusquely going behind the gallery’s main counter and through the curtain of the ancient weaving supply room. Despite being out of view, the foolhearty girl continued to rant insults towards divinity at large as she grabbed the owl weaving pattern along with the necessary materials and needles which went with it.
“Besides, why would anyone want to pay homage to a goddess that dresses like that battle axe Athena, anyway?” Arachne mused aloud from behind the supply room curtain. “You’d think with all that armor she’s got on, the Goddess of Wisdom’s really a eunuch and not even a…”
“Woman?” Athena said, finishing the indiscrete mortal’s sentence.
Arachne emerged from the supply room only to discover the decrepit old lady had now transformed into the Goddess of Wisdom, herself, glorious in her divinity and resplendent in her shining armor of breast plate, spear, and helmet.
Arachne eyes narrowed into tiny slits as she was rendered slack-jawed and motionless.
But only for a few short moments.
Much to the goddess’ shock, instead of begging for the deity’s merciful indulgence, the girl instead flung the weaving supplies at Athena’s feet. In a fit of fury Arachne looked the goddess in the eye while outwardly snorting through her nose like a raging bull and in utter defiance said through grit teeth:
“You think you’re better than me?? The great Arachne begs to differ. I challenge the goddess to see who’s the better weaver.”
Athena was so taken aback by the girl’s brazen effrontery, she began to respond in acceptance to Arachne’s weave off challenge. Upon remembering her divinity however, the Goddess of Wisdom stood back, lifted her spear high over her head and decreed:
“Hear me, vain and foolish mortal girl! You dare compare your abilities to mine and within the walls of my own city? You shall repent your boast! The great and highly skilled Arachne shall continue to weave her creations unlike any mortal, each that shall be undone by the slightest wind or the softest rain of which she is doomed to create again and again, for all Eternity.”
Arachne immediately sensed something was very amiss as her abdomen began to harden while she fell in agony to the ground. Screaming in anguish the girl’s sides began to split open with a most intensely burning pain. Numerous leg-like appendages proceeded to spring forth from her body, which of itself, shrank more and more until the former human now bore 8 legs and was reduced to the size of her formerly human hand.
The first Arachnid, or spider, had been created.
We mortals must always remember we are the vessels of divine inspiration and never the source. Surely as the spider’s web is uplifted by a balmy breeze in mid-Spring or washed away after a gentle Autumn rain.
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