The Legend Of The Spider Woman Explained

The legend of the Spider Woman has nothing to do with the villain of a 1940s Sherlock Holmes film or with Marvel Comic's iconic character, but the comic and the myth do have something in common. In Native American culture and myth, just like the comic book heroine, there's no doubt Spider Woman is a superhero with great power and abilities, depending on the tribe and the story. 

The Spider Woman appears in the mythology of at least three Southwestern tribes and as a Mexican deity. She is often associated with the tribes' creation tales, and there's no surprise here, with weaving skills and crop planting. The Navajos, for example, rubbed their hands in spider webs, hoping to gain skill and wisdom from the Spider Woman before beginning their work at the loom. She makes an appearance in the tribe's creation story, too, by helping the warrior twins Monster Slayer and Child of Water find their father, the sun (via Encyclopedia).

Spider Woman is the wisdom keeper

In the Keresan myth, she is responsible for corn by first giving the corn goddess Iyatiku seeds to plant. In the Hopi tribe, it is thanks to the Spider Woman that humans are even on Earth, at least in one version of the story. In their creation myth, she led them through levels of the underworld, as did the Mexican goddess Teotihuacan, to reach the surface. Teotihuacan is depicted in ancient murals surrounded or covered in spiders and webs, perhaps a symbol of vegetation, according to Encyclopedia. Both figures are examples of the importance of early agriculture.

"The spider woman is the wisdom keeper, the grandmother figure, the female figure. When I wanted to get out from my illness, there was a spider woman in my mind who spoke to me, and she became my strength and my courage to pull me out," a Hopi artist described (via American Museum of Natural History). In other stories in the Southwest, the Spider Woman appears as a powerful teacher and in still others she shares with humans how to make webs of their own through spinning thread and weaving cloth. In all these stories, one thing is clear, the Spider Woman of ancient Native American legend is definitely a superhero by any standard.