Cirlot on spiders
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
A Dictionary of Symbols – J E Cirlot
The spider is a symbol with three distinct meanings; sometimes they merge or overlap, sometimes one or the other predominates. The three meanings are derived from:
- the creative power of the spider, as exemplified in the weaving of its web
- the spider’s aggressiveness
- the spider’s web as a spiral net converging towards a central point
The spider sitting in its web is a symbol of the centre of the world and is hence regarded in India as Maya, the eternal weaver of the web of illusion.
The spider’s destructive powers are also connected with its significance as a symbol of the world of phenomena. As Schneider points out, spiders, in their ceaseless weaving and killing – building and destroying – symbolise the ceaseless alternation of forces on which the stability of the universe depends.
For this reason, the symbolism of the spider goes deep, signifying as it does, that ‘continuous sacrifice’ which is the means of man’s continual transmutation throughout the course of his life. Even death itself merely winds up the thread of an old life in order to spin a new one.
The spider is a lunar animal because the moon – owing to its passive character, in the sense that it merely reflects light, and because of its waxing and waning phases, taking these in the positive and negative sense – is related to the world of phenomena, and on the psychic level, to the imagination. Thus the moon, since it holds sway over the whole phenomenal world (for all phenomenal forms are subject to growth and death), weaves the thread of each man’s destiny. Accordingly, the moon is depicted as a gigantic spider in many myths.