Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Most of what we know about spiders is vague. People are frightened of them. Like the wolf, spiders are associated with the night, death, fear and horror.
I, too, suffer from arachnophobia. This type of phobia is, according to some psychologists, an evolutionary fear instead of a nursery influenced fear. Most people say spiders cannot harm you because they are more afraid of you being of larger size. Some others believe that the spider fear comes from learning about rhymes such as Little Miss Muffet, that is supposed to make a child run away from a spider. Others are beginning to think it's more than that.
Spider fear occurs before the indoctrination of nursery rhymes. The fear of spiders was noticed among small children who knew nothing about Little Miss Muffet yet except the cute cartoon spiders on TV shows and the "Incy Wincy" rhyme. Children are already scared of spiders after they just encounter them. No one has told them to be scared. People think that arachnophobia is a stupid and childish fear that has no logical sense. They believe you must get over it so they suggest councelling to tackle it. I think that arachnophobia is part of natural human intuition of many people to avoid creatures that could be venomous. Although spiders are far smaller than we, some spiders can be poisonous. It may be a genetic fear that comes from our ancestors who met poisonous spiders in early human settlements.
There is a wide belief that British spiders are "safe". A few people have been taken to hospital in critical condition after a spider bite in this country. What caused this was a particular species of British spider called Steatoda or "false black widow". This spider resembles the black widow spider and there are different types of the Steatoda in the UK. They are regarded as the most poisonous spiders found in the British Isles. A bite from such spiders can cause severe burning pain. More info on false black widow bites
There are many spiders to watch out for as they can bite but they don't attack. They like the warm weather and this is when they appear. Women and children are more afraid of spiders than grown men. The effects of many spider bites vary from a burning sensation, flu symptoms, fatigue, nausea and even death. If you have arachnophobia, please don't let other people make you feel ashamed of it but the phobia mustn't take over you.
False Black Widow
Regardless of the fear of spiders all around us, spiders feature positively in some traditional cultures. Apart from the friendly spider themes in popular kids fiction like Miss Spider, Charlotte's Web, Spider Woman and Spider Man, the spider appears widely in myths and legends. It's well known that the Native Americans believe in The Spider Grandmother who created life. The idea of the "dream catcher" derives from these stories. The Celtic Goddess Arianrhod was said to be a spider goddess, as her name means the "silver wheel" and "queen of the wheel". She has been associated with stars, mainly the Corona Borealis. In Greek mythology goes the tale of a princess named Archne. She was so skilled in her weaving craft that she was challanged by Athena, the Goddess of art. This led to Arachne transforming into a spider. There is little about spiders in Germanic mythology but I personally consider the Norns to be a close connection with the mysticism of weaving and webs. There are three Norns who are demi-goddesses of destiny, named Fate (Urd), Necessity (Verdandi) and Being (Skuld). They are responsible for the destiny of all things in the cosmos and they weave, or spin, the web of wyrd.
Not all spiders are scary. Not all of them can make webs or behave in the manner we think they do. There are some very unusual types of spiders. There is Bagheera kiplingi species of vegetarian spider, recently discovered in tropical climates. The Nephila genus includes a species of glamorous spiders called "Golden Orb Weavers" or "Banana Spiders" who spin shining gold webs. In Japanese folklore, this Nephila spider is considered a Joro Spider and "Jorogumo" is an enchanting spider that can transform into a beautiful sensual woman.With unusual spiders there are the Skytodidae or spitting spiders; Then there is Anyphaena californica the transparent "ghost" spider; The Theridion or community gathering of social spiders; The Portia is a mimic spider; The Mimetidae are called Pirate Spiders because they only prey on other spiders and attack other spider's webs. In modern folklore spiders are identified with vampires.
Golden silk spiders
The above artwork is "Spider's Soul - Aracne" by Cris Ortega