Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Spiders from Mars

Ah, October.

My favorite time of year. I love the wind. I love the leaves changing (even when it’s only about a half a percent of the trees in Southern California.). I love the lengthening shadows. I love the feeling of urgency and anticipation. Fall winds bring me great things, and this year is no exception (to put it mildly!).

I don’t love the sudden emergence of spiders, but aside from the year that we had an hysteria-inducing giant red spider invasion in LA due to El Nino, I have learned to deal with it, in my way. Um… most of the time. There is one particular spider which has made a gigantic nest (and I do mean nest, this thing is as big as a small bird) in between a window and a storm window in the living room. It rarely ever emerges into sight but when it does I am either mesmerized or paralyzed with terror – I haven’t been able to identify which. But it is behind glass, and so far I have not prevailed on the Alpha Male in my life to DO SOMETHING about it, because…

Well, to be honest, I’m not sure why. For one thing, I know he’d just kill it. Alpha Males are all about the direct approach. But it’s more than that. I leave it because it’s some kind of self-test, I think. Of nerves. Maybe it’s partly a research experiment - I’m taking note of my overwhelming emotions toward this creature to use them later in my writing.

But even more than that - this – thing - is just too big, and black (did I mention it was black? Black as tar. And it has the thickest legs I’ve ever seen on an arachnid – legs perfectly capable of kicking through a storm window…) for me not to think it’s some kind of cosmic sign, some vital life lesson to be learned.

(It really is walking the edge, though. I feel certain I would not survive a face-to-face encounter. If I ever suddenly disappear from this blog, now you’ll all know why. The glass broke.)

The point is, spiritually, I have something to learn from this spider.

But what?

There are certainly no end of spider myths in world mythology. It’s one of humankind's most enduring archetypes. You all probably remember (at least vaguely) the Greek story of Arachne, the weaver who challenged the goddess of weaving to a weaving duel.

So is it a lesson of vanity? I’m challenging the goddess? Or doomed to live forever in my own web (caught up in another book, or actually, at the moment, three, that’s just a sounding a little too familiar…)

Witches talk about all things being connected by the web of life, an analogy that has always seemed to me a little, well, sticky, but maybe it’s something I should pay more attention to.

Carl Jung's interpretation of a spider (he was speaking about spiders in dreams) is "a symbol of wholeness due to its circular shape.” “The spider and his web may be calling for an integration of the dream[er]'s personality leading to greater self-awareness and resulting in feelings of completeness”.

Spiders are also traditionally a symbol of feminine power – both constructive and destructive feminine power – the weaver of the world in India, the Spider Grandmother in Native American mythology, and of course the black widow as the ultimate expression of destructive femininity in our own culture.

I know some women who embrace the image… but I’ve never felt very comfortable with it. Frankly, I think I scare enough men already. But perhaps comfort is not the point. In fact, I’m assuming it’s not the point, because we’re talking about a SPIDER. Comfort has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

In Native American spirituality, a power animal, or Medicine animal, or Guardian Spirit, is one that has made itself known in dreams or visionquest at least four times, each time in a significant way.

Well, I haven’t had any dreams about the – you know – and I haven’t been on any visionquests lately, but I’d say I’ve seen the - it – at least four times, and every time is certainly significant if you count my elevated pulse.

So I think I’m going to take a deep breath and accept it as my power animal, for now, and see what I can learn from it.

That is, as long as the glass holds.

What about you all? Any unlikely guardian spirits, or interesting archetypes, visit you lately? Do you ever pursue them and see where they lead?


JD Rhoades said...

I ain't a-scared of you.

Not crazy about spiders, though...

Although at one point two summers ago a beautiful HUGE Emerald green spider made a big web right across my daughter's bedroom window. We thought it was pretty cool. We even thought it was pretty neat when the spider laid a giant egg sac in one corner of the web, since the window was, after all, securely closed.

Then Mama Spider and egg sac vanished. We haven't had a good night's sleep since.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

I know, right? You're bigger than I am. End of story.

Oh, and I guess your own healthy self esteem has something to do with it.

But you'd be surprised...

I LOVE that spider story. Yes, these are the things that keep us up at night. It can't be just that there are a couple of spider species that are poisonous - I mean, how many fatal spider bites have you ever heard of? How many people do you know have even been bitten?

There's just something about that particular creature that sets us off, as a race. I think it's fascinating.

Becky LeJeune said...

Spiders creep me out. I have a problem killing them, though. I feel some sense of guilt about it.

We had an enormous one by our back stoop - large enough that my SO and our roommate were watching it for hours. I asked, many times, that they do something about the massive web (looked big enough to trap our yellow lab!) and their response was that it would just build another. One day I dumped a pitcher of water over the web. No spider in sight when I did it, but I think it got the picture. I haven't seen the web since.

As for guardian spirits and archetypes, I rely on my cats. I'm a firm believer that if anything evil or paranormal were ever to visit, that they would protect me. In reality, my Hemingway would just roll over for them to pet her belly and my tortie would probably run.

Jake Nantz said...

Ugh, I hate spiders. Arachnophobic to a degree. Unless I have good footing and I'm sure he doesn't see me, I get freaked and frozen.

We keep getting Recluses in our garage. But guilt about killing them? Oh hell no. Long as he doesn't see me? Lift boot, aim, drop foot. Hate the little bastards.

We had a writing spider at the beach, sucker was two inches in diameter, legs included. I almost walked into the web before I saw it because it was dark. Gave me nightmares for a week.

As for a power animal, I rely on my Plott Hound. They're pack hunters (bear) but even by herself she's mean as hell to strangers, and I've seen what a plott can do to unblemished skin. Loves my wife and me, though..."good girl!"

the walking man said...

I find that Fred, our resident spider, is better than a sign for keeping people away from the porch. Come to think of it maybe we should rename the spider Frederica.

For the past five years or so, Fred..errr Frederica or her progeny, which are about the size of a half dollar has built a rather large web across the front door. I think her eyes are bigger than her stomach though because at best she catches a few fly's, no humans have been caught in the web...yet.

While I don't love Frederica or her race of web spinners I also don't mind that they take up residence at the front door. I never thought I would be prosperous enough to have a downstairs maid to accept deliveries and such.

No UPS driver gets close enough to attach the yellow slip to the door they just slide the package onto the porch and (I hope) get Frederica's leg print.

While Frederica is no spirit guide for me, I also see that the crows, which are, do not try to pick her is after all a fairly big web.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Becky, I can't kill them, either - except black widows, which are way too common in the Calif. desert.

That's funny about your cats protecting you from supernatural entities. You are 100% right. When I first moved into my house in LA there was one bedroom that just felt funny to me - it was always cold and I hated to go into it at night. One night I slept in there (WITH someone!) and I had a very disturbing dream about a small and angry feminine energy rushing out at me from the closet - one of those hyper-real dreams that doesn't feel like dreaming.

But the first week I got my two cats, that energy completely disappeared, and so did the coldness in the room.

Swear to God.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Jake, I'd be scared of Recluses, too. A dance teacher of mine was bitten by one and had to have a tennis ball sized chunk of his leg removed - luckily no major muscles and it didn't affect his dancing. But can you imagine?

I don't even NEED to know about writing spiders. That is bigger than a spider ever should be.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Walking Man, that is a great story - illustrates exactly what I was trying to get at. We fear them, but it's kind of an awesome honor to have one like Fred...erica take up residence.

But please let me know what state you live in so I make sure never to visit. Half dollar sized spiders... uh uh.

Helen Ginger said...

I'd probably kill it. Or at least douse her web with the water hose in hopes she'd move.

Not fond of spiders. But I do release tarantulas that we occasionally find in our garage. Would have release the most recent rattlesnake, but ran over him with the car without seeing him. He was small, hardly a foot long. No, come to think of it, I would have killed him.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

I steer clear of rattlers, of course, but snakes I actually love. We have three of them, and assorted exotic lizards.

Tarantulas are way too big to kill. I grew up partly in a semi-desert and they didn't bother me when I was a kid - now they give me the cold chills.

Gayle Carline said...

I have a spider story that I'm not going to tell because you'd lock yourself in your bathroom and never come out. Instead, I'll talk about my spirit guides.

The first is my grandmother, who was an outgoing, gregarious storyteller, who raised a shy OCD daughter, who then raised me as a quiet observer. Grandma and I were very close, but after she died, I found myself more outgoing every day, more gregarious, and more apt to tell stories. It's the strangest damn reincarnation.

My second guide is my horse, Frostie. I was 43 when I told my hubby I wanted to write; he bought me a laptop. When I was 45, he bought me horseback riding lessons. A year later I bought Frostie. That's when I started writing. She's my equine alter ego.

Bobby Mangahas said...

Spiders from Mars? Sounds like half a title. Spiders from Mars, Flies from Venus perhaps?

Some spiders fascinate me for some reason. I like to stop and watch if I see one building a web. Although, the larger ones are kind of creepy.

I'm often visited in my dreams by a cartoon borzoi by the name of Victor, mostly because he's one of Jessi's trademark cartoon characters (as am I apparently).

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Three things, two spider and one not.

I was the pitcher on a softball team years ago, and we chose the name Spiders From Mars. (We didn't want no stinkin' name like The Rays or the Puffs or whatever.)

I'm not much for spiders, too many yucky legs and they can move too fast-- but I do like to look at their webs. You have to admit, those astonishingly inricate and symmetrical and massive webs are inspirational. The determination, you know? One little thread at a time.

As for the non-spider thing. I have spirit guide, too. It's a moth. So, Alex, I'll wait til you write about moths.

And hey--congratulations on the NYTimes story.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I have been known to name the spiders that make their way into my log house. Fred was the latest and one day he just left without a note, doesn't write...crap.

The bug that I can't stand, that I have to FORCE myself to even write the word, and when I see them on commercials, I turn away in UGH UGH ...nasty ugh.....when I lived in swampy South Louisiana, I would scream like a girl when one of those big ass C-----o==c---k--r====o -etc's scurried by on the road, in the leaves, whatever....ugh ugh.

Wolf is a totem for me. Owl. Hawk. My great great grandmother was full blood blackfoot- and I have some CHerokee on my dad's side, but my skin is white ass white. Anyway, one night I think my GG Grandmother sent a warning wolf to me in a dream.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Gayle, thanks for sparing me that spider story. It think it's wise.

I love the story about your grandmother, though. I believe it absolutely, and how wonderful that she lives in you like that.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, Hank!

You're right about webs. Maybe that's why spiders hold that particular thrall... because we're in awe of something so fearsome making something so beautiful.

A moth, hmm? That's a story.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Oh, God, Kat. Me too on the ---- roa--
thing. Sheer horror. There are a lot more of them in the South than in Calif., too.


Now that makes total sense about your Blackfoot Great Great Grandmother. I would love to hear the wolf story, sometime. That's a totem animal I wish I had, but it seems not.
Snake, rabbit, hummingbird. And of course, the cats.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Thank gawd there are no ..r...o...a...c...h..e....s in the mountains - never have seen a one of them! yayyy! in the city maybe they have them, but most people say they're not a problem in this area.

I wish I knew more about my GGGrandmother - no one wants to tell me about that side of my family - dang it all. I'll have to make it up.

Anonymous said...

I'm not afraid of spiders... not really. I just don't like them crawling on my bedroom walls. Especially Daddy Long Legs ones. I hear they're tremendously poisonous, even to humans if bitten on a raw cut. Since I'm so 'clumsy on the point of retardation' that terrifies me just a little.

But what makes me squawk and scream in the middle of the night are moths and butterflies, moths particularly. Yes, I'm lepidopterophobic and everyone loves to laugh at me but they are positively the scariest things ever.

Imagine being on a train with a moth right in front of you, larger than your own house (slight exaggeration, perhaps?) Worst feeling ever.

And of course, co---c--k---r--o .... etc. They're terrifying. What disgusts me so much is that f there is ever a nuclear explosion, everything dies - except for them! And they can live 10 days without their heads! *scream* In my last science exam, they told us to write an experiment regarding the creepy things and I was on the verge of barfing on my test paper, just thinking about it. My friend drew a picture.

I'm not quite sure if I have anything to learn from insects/arachnids but I swear that I've seen some shape for form of the paranormal late at night and I've learnt my lesson of staying up late.