Spider Woman

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"Spider Woman instructed the Navajo women how to weave on a loom which Spider Man told them how to make. The crosspoles were made of sky and earth cords, the warp sticks of sun rays, the healds of rock crystal and sheet lightning. The batten was a sun halo, white shell made the comb. There were four spindles: one a stick of zigzag lightning with a whorl of cannel coal; one a stick of flash lightning with a whorl of turquoise; a third had a stick of sheet lightning with a whorl of abalone; a rain streamer formed the stick of the fourth, and its whorl was white shell." (Navajo Legend)

In Part Two, man journeys into the sky and meets another ally, Spider Woman. It is she who makes human arteries, and is thus considered to be a medicine woman. Her spiritual power, as seen in her silken web, joins the realms of Earth and Sky. In most of the Ways She is a beneficent female, a mother figure who guides mortals and can be trusted to stand up to stand up to Coyote when he performs witchcraft or enacts misdeeds. Pgs. 33, 34


The Gift of the Gila Monster, Navajo Ceremonial Tales; 1993, Gerald Hausman.

Spider Woman, in some Navajo legends, is a Kisani (Pueblo) woman who was taught the craft by a spider. In acknowledgement of their debt to Spider Woman, one of the Holy People of Navajo mythology, Navajo weavers always left a hole in the center of each blanket, like that of a spider's web, until the traders in the early part of this century refused to buy such blankets. Most Navajo weavers still acknowledge the debt by leaving a "spirit outlet" in the design. The spirit outlet usually takes the form of a thin line made from the center of the blanket to the edge, and also serves, Navajo weavers believe, to prevent "blanket sickness." The People have a phrase similar to "cobwebs in the brain" and believe that Spider Woman, to whom the tribute of a spider hole has been denied, will spin webs in the head of the weaver if the spirit outlet is omitted. Since the weaver carries the pattern of the blanket in her head from beginning to ending, perhaps blanket sickness is more real than imagined. Pg. 34

The Book of the Navajo; 1976, Raymond Friday Locke.

After the medicine woman told the people about the prayersticks she told them that there was a place in the underworld where two rivers crossed. It was called ni tqin'kae tsosi, fine fiber cotton (Indian hemp). There were two persons who brought the seed of that plant, they were spiders. They said that the people were to use the plant instead of skins for their clothing. So this seed was planted in the earth. When the seeds were planted, the plant ripe, and the cotton gathered, the people shaped a little wheel, 3 or 4 inches in diameter, and they put a slender stick through it. This was used in the spinning of cotton. When they began spinning they pushed away from the body toward the knee. Then the chief medicine woman said: "You must spin towards your person, as you wish to have the beautiful goods come to you; do not spin away from you." For it was in their minds to make cloth which they could trade for shell and turquoise beads and she knew their thoughts. She said :"You must spin towards you, or the beautiful goods will depart from you." There were two names given to the spindle, yudi yilt ya'hote, meaning, turning or shooting around with the beautiful goods. This the Spider Man suggested; but his wife said: "It shall be called by another name, ntl is yilt ya'hote, turning with the mixed chips." After they had spun the thread they rolled it into good-sized balls. They brought straight poles and laid them down; one down, one opposite. They tied two other poles at the ends, making a rectangular frame. They rolled or wound the thread on two of the poles as the sun travels, east to west, over and under the poles. The Spider Man said that the ball of thread should be called, yudi yilt nasmas agha, rolling with the beautiful goods. His wife said: "No, it shall be called ntsli yilt nasmas agha, rolling with the mixed chips." After the loom was finished the cross poles were erected and other poles placed on the ground to hold the loom frame solidly, and the loom was stretched and lifted into place. Then the Spider Man said: "It will be called yoteblitz nes thon, looping with the beautiful goods." His wife said: "From hence forth it shall be called nil tliz biltz nes thon, looping with mixed chips." Then they used a narrow stick about two and a half feet long, and they wound the yarn or thread over it, and where there is no design they ran it along. That was given the same name as the ball of thread. The Spider Man held that it should have the same name as the ball; but his wife said: "No, it shall be called nil tliz nasmas agha." Then they used the wide flat stick for tapping down the thread. The Spider Man said: "It shall be called nil tliz na'ygolte" ; but his wife said: "It shall be called nil tliz na'ygolte, twining with the mixed chips". When they got this far with the weaving, the threads of the warp mixed together and were too near or too far apart. So another kind of stick was used. It had long, narrow teeth. It was also used for the purpose of tapping down the thread. The Spider Man said: "It shall be called yote yo'golte, hoeing with the beautiful goods." His wife said: "It shall be called nil iltz yo'golte." The Spider Man said: "Now you know all that I have named for you. It is yours to work with and to use following your own wishes. But from now on when a baby girl is born to your tribe you shall go and find a spider web which is woven at the mouth of some hole; you must take it and rub it on the baby's hand and arm. Thus, when she grows up she will weave, and her fingers and arms will not tire form the weaving." To this day that is done to all baby girls. The weaving progressed, and they made all kinds of articles. They used cotton and yucca fiber and Indian hemp. These were the thread. They raised turkeys, and they used the feathers for feather blankets. They ate the turkey flesh for their meat. They killed rabbits and cut the fur into strips, and they made fur blankets. They wove different kinds of grass into mats for their floors, and also, to hang in front of the openings of their houses. There were many kinds of weaving. The people lived peacefully and were happy in working out designs in the new art. They raised great quantities of corn. All this made them grow in number; they became a very strong people and their past troubles were forgotten; but this was not to last. Pg. 37, 38

The Dine': Origin Myths of the Navajo Indians; 1956, Aileen O'Bryan.

The Dine' identify another design as the Spider Woman pattern. Found on bowls and other ceramics, the design is a square with triangles at the corners. Spider Woman is a goddess associated with weaving and so it is not surprising to find this same pattern on baskets and blankets of the historic period as well as pottery of the prehistoric. Some sites also yield pieces of pottery with sawtooth edges called Spider Woman by the Dine' . Its exact use is unknown, but it appears to be associated with weaving. Pg. 106

Sacred Land, Sacred View: Navajo Perceptions of the Four Corners Region; 1992, Robert S. McPherson

Then it seems the return trip was made to the Spider Woman whom (they had visited) before at the place called Among-the-sumac. She gave them all teh baskets which they needed. "If at any time anything goes wrong with it be sure that you remember me by it," she said. "In that event I shall weave four seams around in a single day before sunset, and thereby I shall make it whole again," she said. "If it is to be used in depositing (a sacrifice) you must attach a live one's plume to it, which can be identified as such," she said. "Below it you must make an imitation of a rainbow and lay it there," she said. Here it seems that happenend. Pg. 70

The Windways of the Navaho; 1962, Leland C. Wyman.

Spider Woman (na'acdjei' 'esdza') (U) plays a dual role; she is sometimes helpful to man and at others a danger so great that she has to be subdued. She is a symbol of the textile arts, having taught man weaving; she requires woven fabrics as offerings.

When the waters of the first world rose, Spider wove a web that served as a lifesaving raft. In the second world Spider Woman stole Water Monster's baby, capturing it with her web.
The Twins came upon Spider Woman on their way to their father's home the first time. They saw smoke rising from an underground house, to which a ladder with four rungs formed the entrance. There were many seats in the house. Firstborn chose to sit on one of flint, his brother on one of turquoise. In the room sat an old woman, who was very pessimistic about their venture. According to the Shooting Chant myth, when she had been overcome by The Twins, she gave them chant properties-the permanent bundle talking prayersticks, sometimes called the 'life feathers.' According to Matthews, she furnished also a formula that would quiet the anger of enemies.
Spider Woman was instrumental in fixing the flint and turquoise 'men' within The Twins to make them invincible.
Scavenger of Matthews' Bead Chant encountered a Spider Woman who had a big mouth with uneven, protruding, widely separated teeth and claws like a bear's. She told him that her 'life hoops' needed new feathers; these he procured for her from his friends, the Eagles. She said she would use them to adorn her walls. In exchange she gave him a black cane and medicine with which to fight Bees and Tumbleweeds.
In RP's Bead Chant legend, Spider Woman captured Scavenger, who was escaping from the great rain he had brought on by opening the Eagles' little blue water jars. Black God saved him. The Spider People were said to be the wealthiest of the pueblo people.
The Spider People helped the Swallows to trap Coyote after he had disobeyed the Twelve Brothers in hunting. As a reward they received pieces of his skin, which they laid on their backs, where they may still be seen.
In the Flint Chant myth, Spider Woman helped the hero through a test by stringing webs from one flint to another. With the aid of Crane's sound, do'd, he was able to walk over the flints without injury (Stephen 1930, pp. 94, 100; Matthews 1897, pp.109, 201-3, 232, 109n; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; 1939, pp. 31-4; Endurance Chant ms.; Haile 1943a, p.117).

Navajo Religion, Vol II; Gladys A. Reichard, 1950

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