Athenapallas's Blog

June 4, 2010

WHY I NEVER DESTROY A SPIDER’S WEB

Filed under: Athena's musings — athenapallas @ 3:03 pm
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There are not many episodes in my history that I truly regret, even the skinning of the giant Pallas to make my aegis, or the killing of the Trojans when I fought beside Achilles and Odysseus.

None of these acts of naked aggression, regrettable though they were, sit as heavily on my heart as my treatment of Arachne.

Some mischief-making nymphs came to tell me about a wonderful weaver, a peasant girl in Lydia who was considered my rival since I was also the Goddess of weaving and spinning.

I disguised myself as an old woman and went to investigate their claims. I was amazed by the vastness and intricacy of her weaves and I realised I was in the presence of a true artist.  I hung around admiring her work and listening to the praise that was heaped upon her.

You are the best weaver of all time, you have excelled you teacher Athena, were some of the exaggerated tags which she accepted so willingly. I wanted to immediately transform and thrust my spear into her heart. But I did not, after all I was a discerning and usually compassionate goddess in peacetime.

Instead I counselled her to behave with more modesty.

‘Old woman,’ she replied, ‘ how can I help it if my talent is so recognised, I have worked long and hard at my art.’

‘But surely there is no weaver who does not owe their talent to Athena ? I replied.

‘Not I, dear crone, I alone have achieved this great feat.’

With that I threw off my disguise and the contest began. She created a masterful tapestry depicting the more salacious love affairs of the Gods. I answered this with one that showed all the Olympian Gods defeating  the mortals who dared to defy them.

 She looked at me with those innocent blue eyes as if she had no idea of the extent of my wrath.  Soon she was to find out. I hit her with the shuttle of my loom and then I destroyed all of her vast gallery of unique tapestries.

Later I heard on the nymph line that Arachne had hanged herself, distraught that she would never weave such tapestries again. I was so smitten with remorse that I resurrected her as a spider so she could forever weave the most beautiful webs in the world. Some would say this was part of my revenge, and it is that judgment which haunts me to this day.

Now when I walk down the front path to my gate, I always make sure I do not disturb the spider webs, and I caution visitors to do the same.

For these webs are the examples of the most skilful weaves in the whole of nature and the are also a reminder of the never-ending consequences of pride and envy.

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