Hi there, my name is Arachne…

I’m not a weaver but I sure want to be one.

Whilst reading up on Janine Antoni’s Slumber (1993), I was given some historical context behind weaving, well – a Greco Mythological story which has really inspired me and left me quite excited!

To retell the story briefly, Arachne was a weaver, versions of the myth differ but she was either said to be a daughter of a shepard or a princess. At this art, she was most gifted and not just by the final product but the process was said to be a magical sight. People would compare her abilities to that of the Goddess Athena – the Goddess of weaving.

Arachne boasted about her gift but did not appreciate being positioned below Athena at the art. This angered Athena, but Athena gave Arachne a chance to redeem herself by meeting her in the disguise of an old woman and suggesting she repent for offending the Goddess. However, Arachne refused and welcomed challenge from Athena – she was so confident at her skill that she even said that if she were to lose, she would accept any punishment given.

Here onwards I’ve quoted from http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/arachne.html because I just really loved the way it was explained.

‘The goddess accepted the challenge and revealed her true form. The nymphs who had come to watch Arachne’s weaving shrunk back in fear, but Arachne stood her shaky ground. She had made a claim, and she was sticking to it. So the contest began, the mortal at her loom, the goddess at hers. Athena began to weave the scene of her contest with Poseidon for the city of Athens. A beautiful scene developed from the threads, showing Poseidon and the salt water spring, and Athena with an olive tree, gifts to the people who would name Athena as their patron, and their city after her. The bystanders marveled at the goddess’ work.

Arachne, for her part, created a tapestry showcasing scenes of Zeus‘ various infidelities: Leda with the Swan, Europa with the bull, Dana� and the golden rain shower. So exquisite was the mortal’s work that the bull seemed lifelike, swimming across the tapestry with a real girl on his shoulders. Even Athena herself was forced to admit that Arachne’s work was flawless. (Whether or not Arachne was actually better than Athena is still a mystery.)

Angered at Arachne’s challenge, as well as the presumptuousness of her choice of subjects, Athena tore the tapestry to pieces and destroyed the loom. Then she touched Arachne’s forehead, making sure that she felt full guilt for her actions. Arachne was ashamed, but the guilt was far too deep for her poor, mortal mind. Depressed, she hung herself.

Athena took pity on Arachne. She most likely did not expect that Arachne would commit suicide. She brought her back to life, but not as a human. By sprinkling her with the juices of aconite, Athena transformed the woman into a spider, her and her descendants to forever hang from threads and to be great weavers. ‘

So you might be asking what the interest is with this myth…
Well, to me, this myth demonstrates a lot about the empowerment of women, their strength and highly competitive nature at what they do. And of course, weaving Is considered a feminine activity which results in beautiful, delicate and sensitive tapestries. (You can see that I’m hitting on dualities here).

I think it’s equally important to consider the spider too. I hate spiders, I think they’re hideous things but they spin the most wonderful webs, in fact, I recall reading a fact about how female spiders are more aggressive than males, especially when it comes to protecting their young, their maternal instincts kick in. So I should probably give them more credit for being nature’s weavers.


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