Native American Creation Myth
Earth Day brings awareness of the precious connections of all life and to our planet. Native Americans have long known that survival depends on our treating all sentient beings with the deepest respect of kinship. Now, as so much on Earth hangs in the balance, with the crises and disasters brought on by climate change, let us learn from the powerful, age-old myths of Grandmother Spider.
Spider Woman, also known as Grandmother Spider, is a creation goddess in many Native American cultures. Throughout the Americas, she is found among the Maya, Pueblo, Hopi, and Navajo mythology, even among the pre-historic “mound builders” in the Mississippian cultures. There is evidence that the earliest Spider Woman was worshipped by the Maya, where she was named the Earth Mother.
And so, traditional stories about Spider Grandmother were passed down by word of mouth through countless generations—in some of these tales she is referred to as Earth Goddess.
“The spider woman is the wisdom keeper, the grandmother figure, the female figure.”Hopi artist Michael Kabotie
The Hopi believe that she thought the universe into existence; the Navajo taught that she was the savior of human kind. The Cherokee say she brought light to the people. No matter, the elements remain the same: Grandmother Spider is a mother to humankind, protecting and nurturing us, guiding us along our paths.
The Spider Woman appears as a wise, old woman who guides people to wisdom and knowledge, often as a powerful teacher and helper. The Hopis speak of a Spider Grandmother who, weaving her webs, thought the world itself into existence.
In these Native American myths, Spider Woman is the Creator of all things, also known as Thought Woman. She is the stillness, the creative energy before it takes shapes or form. She is all-powerful, a power beyond all imagination.
She is the sharpest, most focused thought, the clearest vision, the one with power unimaginable.
One myth tells of the Web of Creation. It speaks of the strands that are interwoven and connect everything in one matrix. When one part of the web is touched, because everything is linked together so intricately, the touch at one end of the web is felt and affects the web all the way to the other end. Nothing exists by itself, unconnected on its own. Everything is part of Grandmother Spider’s Web of Creation.
Another Hopi myth says that Tawa (sun spirit) created insect-like beings and placed them in the First World. Dissatisfied with these creatures, Tawa sent Spider Woman to lead them, first to the Second World, and then to the Third World, where they turned into people. Spider Woman taught the people how to plant, weave, and make pottery. A hummingbird gave them fire to help them warm themselves and cook their food.
However, when sorcerers brought evil to the Third World, Spider Woman told the people to leave for the Fourth World. They planted trees to climb up to the Fourth World, but none grew tall enough. Finally, Spider Woman told them to sing to a one tree so that it would grow very tall. She led the people up the stalk to the Fourth World, the one in which the Hopi currently live.
Earth Day 2021
Are we now entering a Fifth World? The fast paced, technological age of our global community has immense promise and daunting challenges—the greatest being climate change. Could it be that the World Wide Web is Spider Woman’s latest appearance?
Certainly she is becoming more visible in our awareness of the interdependency of all life and all peoples. In Pueblo mythology, Spider Woman is called Tse Che Nako or Thought Woman who creates the world with what she imagines, the stories she tells about the world.
We also possess this imaginative power: We are the storytellers.