Spider Grandmother Archetype

Grandmother has always had a deep meaning for me. As I aged, and become a grandmother myself, the meaning intensified to unfold with love and expansion for its deeper meaning, taking me to a new role of matriarch or oldest of the family, smile. This made me wonder about the symbolism of grandmother and the archetypal meaning it presents. Susanne F. Fincher, psychotherapist states in Creating Mandalas that archetypes and legends from other cultures observe the spider as a weaver life. “The web is an archetypal symbol of the weaving that brings form into being. …Native American legends tell of Spider Woman the creator of the universe. Her work begins with the spinning of two threads, which she stretches north-south and east-west. As she spins, the day takes shape; with night, she undoes what she has made during the day…The spider has a similar place in Indian culture. She is regarded as the symbol of Maya, the weaver who creates the illusory reality of the world of senses.

Many versions of the oral legends of the Spider Woman are known throughout the world. Within the Hopi Indian narratives, the Spider Woman is also known as the Earth Goddess and the Spider Grandmother are narratives passed down orally from generation to generation. The Ojibwe, the First People of southern Canada and northern US speak of Spider Woman, as a helper of the people, and inspiring mothers (or other close female relatives) to weave dreamcatchers, styled after a spider web, for their infants that filters out bad dreams, allowing only good thoughts to enter.

In another version, Playwright Murray Mednick wrote seven one-act plays called The Coyote Cycle with the same four characters: Coyote, Coyote trickster, Spider Grandmother and Mute Girl. The same characters come from traditional Native American stories and myths. The trickster is the proverbial "boundary-crosser," often breaks societal rules. Tricksters "...violate principles of social and natural order, playfully disrupting normal life and then re-establishing it on a new basis." Often, the bending/breaking of rules takes the form of tricks or thievery and can be cunning or foolish or both. As we view our dreams after a night of illusory spinning, we can readily see that our dreams sometimes portray cycle of life mirroring our elusive daytime encounters. As we allow our trickster to come full circle, destroying the scripted life we have made for ourselves, we can for a brief moment insert new thoughts to live by and a script of our making to shine our Light.

Shirley Ryan, Phd is a practicing life coach and hypnotherapist.

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