Spider Woman

Encyclopedia Article


Also known as Grandmother Spider, Spider Woman is a powerful figure in various Native American mythologies. In many creation and migration stories she appears as a helpful teacher, guide, and protector. In the Acoma emergence account, for example, she gave the People seeds and showed them how to grow food. According to Zuni legend she helped the warrior twins destroy the Cloud Swallower monster, and in Cherokee and Choctaw tradition she is considered an important hero who taught the People how to make pottery and brought them fire. In Hopi lore Spider Woman assumes the role of the creator of all living things, including humans. In the Navajo tradition, Spider Woman appears in many tales as a heroic helper and wise adviser who protects the innocent and restores harmony. She taught the Navajo People the art of weaving and agriculture. Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona is considered the sacred, legendary home of Spider Woman.

Although in his 1980 novel PEOPLE OF DARKNESS Hillerman refers to Spider Woman as a star constellation (the Navajo equivalent to the Greek/Roman constellation of Aquarius), there is no indication that such a constellation indeed exists in Navajo tradition.

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"Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona" by Daniel Schwen is licensed under CC BY-SA.

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