Folklore and Myth Gods and Goddesses Paranormal

Spider Gods & Goddesses: Arachne, Anansi, The Norns, and More

The itsy bitsy spider. Charlotte’s web. Little Miss Muffet. What do these stories and nursery rhymes all have in common? If it wasn’t obvious, it’s the SPIDER. And yes, we know there’s plenty of folks out there who cringe at the word. Some run and scream. But here’s the truth – the spider is a powerful creature and has been revered by cultures worldwide for thousands of years. This is evident in some of our pagan deities. In this post, meet the spider gods and goddesses from various ancient traditions. And you’ll begin to understand why such a tiny (often feared) creature holds such immense power.

First, Why the Spider? What’s Divine About an Arachnid?

I think we can all agree the spider is small but strikes fear in many. How many grown men have you seen jump on a table or chair at the sight of a tiny spider in the house? Sure, it could be the eight legs, but I believe it’s the spider’s formidable presence that evokes a sense of awe…even if it is in a negative light.

The spider has been revered by people for thousands of years and has been spinning webs on this planet for at least four hundred MILLION years. The spider is much older than we are, folks. And anything that old should be considered divine, IMO. The spiderweb has been associated with the concept of fate in both the pagan Norse and Greek traditions. Maybe you’ve heard of the “web of life” or “spinning the web of fate”?

Spiders spin webs to act as their humble abodes, yet these webs are multi-purpose. They are also created with which to trap food…the spider’s prey. And, just like the spider’s prey, we as humans are caught in the web of life.

But, since the spider itself isn’t a god, we can at least acknowledge that it is sacred to quite a few powerful deities. And sometimes those deities themselves manifest in spider form. Let’s get to the spider gods and goddesses now, shall we?

1. Arachne, Greek Spider Goddess

Arachne, like so many other figures in the Greek pantheon, fell under the weight of Athena’s envy. What was the skill that made Athena so envious? Weaving. There’s the obvious link here between weaving and spiders that I won’t make, because you already get it, right?

Anyway, Arachne was a mortal woman who was widely known for her weaving skills. She even claimed she was better than Athena. Which obviously led to Athena testing her skills, being out-weaved by the girl, and ripping the evidene to shreds. Arachne was so embarrassed, she hung herself. Athena, being merciful (sort of), took pity on the girl and turned her into a spider. Therefore allowing her to live and reproduce. Of course, there are variations of the tale.

Spider goddesses almost always rule over fate and were creator goddesses.

2. Spider Grandmother

Native American culture has no shortage of otherworldly spirits, even those who are connected to the spider. In the American Southwest, multiple tribes have tales of the spirit known as Spider Grandmother. Spider Grandmother is a sort of goddess that takes on the shape of a spider and is called upon to advise her people in the arts of healing and for her overall wisdom.

Just like in the tales of Anansi, Spider Grandmother plays a huge part in the creation of the world. She is likened to an earth goddess by scholars and is credited (along with the sun god) for creating human beings and breathing life into them. In other Native legends, this spider goddess aids in finding missing persons, saves entire villages from attack, and is a great protector.

3. Anansi, Spider God of the Ashanti

We see the trickster motif spread out over spider gods in many cultures including in the trickster god Anansi. A spider deity that originated with the Akan peoples of West Africa, specifically with the Ashanti people. Interestingly, and as the same with other spider deities, Anansi is a trickster yet also a creator.

Being a trickster also means Anansi is a shapeshifter. Sure, he manifests in spider form, but in many other guises. And may even appear as a spider with a man’s face or a man with spider features. Some believe Marvel’s Spiderman was originally inspired by Anansi! Learn more about this spider god here.

4. Loki, the Norse “Spider” Trickster God

Most may not realize that Loki, the Norse god of Mischief and transformation, is linked to the spider. His name is believed by scholars to translate to spider. Seeing that the spider itself is often considered a trickster in folk tales, this energy obviously aligns with Loki’s. In the Norse mythos, Loki is a friend and foe to the Aesir. He causes lots of problems for the gods, yet through those problems the gods grow. Wiser and stronger.

I believe Loki is one of those gods that shakes things up and causes destruction. Then through that destruction, new life emerges. Some believe Loki is also a creator god, since in the Norse mythos there is a character named Lodur who is present at the creation of man. In fact, he is credited with animating humans…giving them fire and passion. Lodur is only mentioned once in the Voluspa, and yet many believe this could be Loki in another guise.

Loki might spin a web of trickery, but that web is providing sustenance and shelter for the gods. And for his devotees. He brings intense transformation and surfaces one’s shadows.

Grab your set of Loki Book of Shadows pages here:

5. The Fates or the Moirai

Just like with the Norse Norns, of whom you’ll learn a little about below, the Fates in Greek mythology control fate. Their original name was the Moirai, which means “to portion” or “to share”. In their case, they are sharing time and destiny with the gods and human beings.

The Fates were born to Nyx, the goddess of night, and are not mentioned to have a father. Later myths give them other parents, but Nyx as their mother makes the most sense to me. The Fates are three female spinners who are assigned as ruling over a period of time – Clotho who rules the past, Lachesis who rules the present, and Atropos over the future.

In some depictions, they are beautiful and young, seductive women. In others, they are old and hag-like. Interestingly, they lend their personas to the Norse Norns. Or perhaps they are one-in-the-same?

6. The Norns

In Norse Cosmology, the world tree is known as Yggdrasil and acts as a pillar for the nine realms. Gods, giants, dwarves, humans, ancestors, and elves all live in different realms of the Norse Cosmos, with The Norns living somewhere near the roots of the tree. They are three female entities who water the roots of Yggdrasil from the waters of a sacred well to keep it alive and therefore keep the Universe from tumbling down. The Norns are frequently depicted as keepers or rulers of fate and spin, weave, and cut the threads of life. Though I believe this is a somewhat new perspective, rather than based on the Eddas.

Some sources claim The Norns are giantesses (originating from the Jotunn), while others claim they are even older and more powerful than the gods themselves. They could be elves, Valkyries, or even ancestors. There is no solid consensus of their true nature. We do know the Norns are the beings who control the Universe’s fate. They control the gods’ destiny. How are the Norns considered spider goddesses? Their name, Norns, is believed to translate to “to twine” which refers to the threads of fate and the Norns domain over these threads.

There is talk of Norns being many and assigned to multiple families and bloodlines. Yet the “main” Norns as mentioned in the Eddas are Urd (which is akin to the words weird and means fate), Verdandi (to become or to turn), and Skuld (that which should occur). The Norns aren’t directly linked to the spider, nor do they manifest as spiders. Yet their role as weaving, cutting, and twining the threads of the universe inadvertently link them to this tiny creature and its web.

Spider gods create and destroy. And create again.

7. Uttu, Sumerian Spinning Spider Goddess

Uttu is a Sumerian goddess and part of the comparative myth of the spinning or weaving goddess. It seems the spinning goddesses aren’t limited to just European deities but worldwide.

This fascinating deity is featured in a few prominent myths including Enki and the World Order. She was mentioned in Babylon in the temple of Esagil, which was the main temple for the Babylonian state god Marduk (also known as Bel). Why is this important? Marduk was the trusted protector of Babylon, so any goddess linked to him must also have been considered a protector of the people.

In the myths, Uttu is akin to a spinning goddess and a spider, and is believed to become the goddess Inanna by some. Or perhaps is an aspect of Inanna from the very beginning. To others, she is a separate deity is aids Inanna in the spinning of yarn which is a symbolic practice for time, fate, civilization, etc.

8. Neith, Early Egyptian Spinning Goddess

Once again, we have a spinning spider goddess from Egypt who was credited with creation. Her name is Neith and translates to the “terrifying one”. Neith is one of the earliest Egyptian deities whose cult arose from Lower Egypt in the first dynasty. Neith’s domain is over the Universe – she controls fate, war, love, and is considered a guide to the Underworld. Or psychopomp.

And, once again, I can’t find a direct link between Neith and spiders, yet there are a few depictions of her as a spider. I believe this is because of her domain over spinning and fate, just like the Norns and the Fates.

How do we honor these ancient spider gods in modern times?

We see the similarities between these creator and trickster spider gods and goddesses. But how do we honor them in modern times? Obviously we don’t have large pagan temples from which to worship and celebrate Uttu or Neith. It’s called adapting and making your own way!

  1. Instead of killing spiders in the house, trap and release them back outside. Conversely, if they are in a corner of the room and catching insects in your home, leave them be.
  2. If you plan to honor any of these spider gods, create an altar and include images of spiders and/or spiderwebs. There is fabric that looks like spider webbing that could be used as an altar cloth.
  3. Study spider symbolism and how it relates to fate / destiny. You might unravel something profound (pun intended).
  4. Keep a page or section in your grimoire dedicated to the spider god you’re working with. Draw or paint an image of the spider and its web.

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5 Comments

  1. Tanya Kretschmar

    March 21, 2024 at 3:32 pm

    I’ve always known spiders were special. I’ve always tried to avoid squishing them. We had one beautiful spider last year build a HUGE right outside our front door every night & by morning it eould be gone only to do it again the next night. It’s like she was sharing her art with us.

    1. kitty fields

      March 22, 2024 at 4:57 pm

      I love that! And I too find spiders beautiful.

  2. Missa

    March 18, 2024 at 6:15 am

    I rather recently learned that spiderwebs are like dairy entries (somehow) they write down there thoughts and experiences in there. The same article also said that young spiders communicate with each other, before the grow up and become all territorial.

    1. kitty fields

      March 20, 2024 at 8:45 am

      Wow! That is truly amazing.

  3. DragonBlue

    March 17, 2024 at 4:01 pm

    This article about spiders is fascinating. Thank you for the read and information.

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