Spiders are a worldwide ancient symbol. In Greece, the story of Arachne and Athena competing in a weaving contest was well known. Arachne was a beautiful mortal whose weaving skills were beyond comparison. She grew cocky about her skills and said she was a better weaver than Athena, the goddess of weaving. Athena came down to earth disguised as an old woman and warned Arachne that she should not anger the gods. Arachne blew off Athena. Athena then appeared before Arachne in her true form and challenged her to a weaving contest. Athena wove a beautiful depiction of the gods and goddesses. Arachne wove a tapestry portraying the gods and goddesses coming down to earth to be with mortals. She showed what happened when the gods were angered or jealous and showed what they did to the humans. Athena was angry with Arachne’s depiction of the gods and goddesses so she turned Arachne into a spider and told her she would live her life weaving and her ancestors would as well. The spider was a symbol of boastfulness and beauty.
In African Americans, the Caribbean, and West Africa Anansi is the god of stories and all knowledge. He created the moon, sun, and stars. Ansani also helped to create the first humans. He often appears in spider form. Ansani was a symbol of resistance and survival because he always managed to outwit his oppressors. The voodoo goddess Aunty Nancy is an evolution of Anansi. Nihancan, Iktomi, and Vihio are just three of the Native American trickster spider gods. These spider gods represent wisdom and creation. All of the gods are tricksters but some of them helped to create the earth.
Siberian shamans felt the spider’s web was a passage to heaven. The spider represented the messenger between humans and gods.
Ancient Hindus believed that the spider was a symbol of Maya who was the virgin aspect of the Three Goddesses. The spider is the goddess and her web is the wheel of fate. Spiders symbolize fate.
Aztecs believed the spider was associated with their death goddess because the female spider eats the male after mating with him. They also associated them with Amazonian Fate Spinners who were destined to come back to earth on their silken threads to devour all the men on the planet. They believed that spiders were the souls of the Fate Spinners.