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Native American Spider Mythology

Spiders play important roles in the mythology of many Native American tribes. In Southwestern tribes, spiders are associated with the culturally important art of weaving, and wise spider goddesses give their assistance to the people as culture heroes.

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On the other hand, many Plains tribes feature Spider as a rough trickster god, ranging from an inappropriate but entertaining rogue in some stories to a violent and slightly deranged criminal in others. To the Osage, spiders were a special symbol of patience and endurance. To the Blackfoot, they represented intelligence and skillfulness. The Ojibwe associated spider webs with their dream catchers, a type of traditional hand-woven Ojibwe craft meant to filter out bad dreams which has become popular among many different tribes today. And to many Native Americans, it still is considered bad luck to kill a spider today.

Spiders are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Spider Clans include the Hopi tribe, whose Spider Clan is named Kookyangwngyam or Koking-wungwa.

Native American Spider Gods and Spirits

Inktomi (Sioux)
Niatha (Arapaho)
Nihant (Gros Ventre)
Spider Grandmother (Hopi)
Spider Woman (Navajo)
Vihio (Cheyenne)

Native American Legends About Spiders

Osage Spider Story:
    Osage Indian legend about the importance of the spider.
*The Spider Woman and the Twins:
    Hopi legend about the birth of Spider Grandmother and her first creations.
*The Story of Spider Rock:
    Legends about the Navajo Indian goddess Spider Woman teaching the people to weave and rescuing a lost Navajo boy.
Legend of Ehep:
    Cree Spider legend about the first people being lowered to earth on a web.
A Spider Myth:
    Lenape legend about the origin of spiders. (We suspect that this is not actually a traditional Lenape story
    at all, but actually a Lenape retelling of the Greek myth of Arachne. Nonetheless it is a nice story.)
*The Spider Twins:
    Achumawi story about a family of spiders helping the animals to end winter.

Recommended Books of Spider Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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The Magic of Spider Woman:
    A lovely picture book based on Navajo legends about Spider Woman and the art of rug weaving.
Spider Spins A Story:
    Beautiful children's book presenting Native American spider tales from many tribes.
Grandmother Spider Brings The Sun:
    Another nice children's book illustrating the Cherokee legend of how Spider brought daylight to the world.
Insect Mythology:
    Interesting book on the meaning of insects and spiders in world mythology, including Native North America and Mesoamerica.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
    Book by a Karuk elder about the meanings of Indian animal spirits, including a chapter on spiders.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian folklore about spiders and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
American Indian Trickster Tales:
    Compilation of more than a hundred Spider Man and other trickster folktales from many different tribes.
Use discretion sharing these with kids as some of the stories contain adult humor.

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