Spinning spectacular yarns

Spinning spectacular yarns

FOLKLORE

Spinning spectacular yarns

Have you ever wondered why the spider is such an excellent weaver? With fine threads, the spider designs an intricate web in which insects get caught.

How  does it manage to be such a magnificent spinner? A very long time ago, there lived in Greece a girl called Arachne.

She came from a poor, humble family. Arachne was matchless at spinning and embroidery. Her work was so artistic that people came from all over to watch her weave magic with her spindle.

Her fame spread far and wide. Nobles and merchants flocked to her cottage and paid high prices for her work. With the money that Arachne earned, the family was able to lead a life of ease and comfort.

All might have been well if fame and fortune hadn’t gone to Arachne’s head. She became so arrogant that all she could think of was her own greatness.

She went so far as to say that she was even better than Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and war. Minerva’s hobby was tapestry or embroidery in wool. It was this Arachne referred to.

When Minerva learned of this, she was far from pleased. She decided to visit the conceited Arachne to find out what made her so boastful. She changed herself into an old, feeble woman, hobbling with the help of a stick. She entered the room where Arachne was spinning and joined the throng of admirers around her. She was amazed by the girl’s skill.

When she heard Arachne say that she could beat Minerva, the goddess was  annoyed. She said, “As an old and experienced person, I advise you to be satisfied with being the best among humans. Don’t challenge the gods or you will regret it.”

Without fear, Arachne answered, “Let Minerva compete with me and I will prove I am better. She is scared to compete with me. That’s why she doesn’t come.” Minerva then shed her disguise and declared, “Here she is!” The crowd fell back in awe. But Arachne was unruffled. “Come on, then. Let us start the competition.”

The two sat before empty looms and began to spin while the people around watched in stunned silence. The figures on Minerva’s loom told the story of a contest between the gods and the humans. Each corner showed the fate that had befallen people who had opposed the gods. This should have warned Arachne, but she didn’t heed it. Her nimble fingers spun with frenzy to create life-like images of birds, the sea and the sky. Very cleverly, she depicted that even gods could sometimes make mistakes.

When both put down their spindles, Minerva had to admit that Arachne had won the contest. But this only made her more furious. Arachne realised that she had gone too far when she saw Minerva’s angry face. But it was too late to change anything. Minerva grabbed Arachne’s work of art and tore it to bits.

Then she struck Arachne three times on the head with the shuttle. Unable to bear the humiliation, Arachne snatched a rope that was on the floor and tried to hang herself. 

Minerva was quick to prevent this. “No, no!” she cried. “You shall not die but live. Now onwards, you shall hang from a thread. All your descendents shall do the same forever and ever.” At once, Arachne turned into a spider and began to spin.

In dusty corners and among the leaves of plants, you can see spiders spin lacy webs, as cursed by Minerva! That’s why the species is called ‘Arachnid’.

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