Arachno-SCARY! Eight Legged Demons
As monsters experts, we have had run-ins with quite a few “scary” things, and come out the other side alive with our shiny armor only slightly dented or smudged. However, there are those things that even we…are concerned with.
To note: @DCMcGannon‘s more, um, terrifying experiences mostly include creatures that many other people fear as well.
DC McGannon: “It’s true! I was once accosted by a flying spider. People don’t believe me, but I can assure you it flew, and it spoke to me in a smoky-smooth voice declaring it had arrived to collect my soul. On another occasion, I woke up to two, flaming red eyes glaring at me from the other corner of my room. I had all manner of explanations that came to mind, but as I approached closer…the eyes were attached to the body of a hideous wolf spider – one of the biggest I’ve seen (people have tried to convince me the “flaming red eyes” were due to the way the light was hitting them…I think it was because it had just returned from HELL!)
Once, I witnessed a “momma” spider release all of its spawn from her back, which crawled in the thousands (millions, perhaps) in every direction, running after me. Those who were with me say the “spider” became frightened that we came too close when trying to open a door it was perched on, and the babies scattered. I say the alien beast was waiting for me and released its minions to devour me.
So when people ask me about my fear of spiders, well, it’s not really spiders I’m…concerned…about. It’s that I have had close encounters with demons and aliens that DISGUISED themselves as spiders and attacked me! There’s a big difference, and I stand by my…concerns.”
From Japanese Culture
Spiders are not uncommon in folklore and legend. The Japanese jorogumo and tsuchigumo are of particular interest. The jorogumo is a monster woman (see kuchisake-onna, nure-onna), a courtesan who haunts waterfalls and entices men into her silk webs. And while she is a dangerous yokai, the tsuchigumo is the one we are more worried about here.
There’s a story of the famous Minamoto no Yorimitsu, the same man who killed the demon-king Shuten-Doji, passing through the mountains and spotting a flying, flaming skull. He and his men followed the apparition until it disappeared. Not long after, a beautiful woman appeared to them, but guessing it was deception Yorimitsu attacked the woman, who also disappeared but left behind a trail of blood.
The samurai followed the blood to a cave in the mountains, finding a giant, tiger-striped spider with a demonic face. They killed the beast, cutting him in several places. From his opened neck poured the skulls of nearly 2,000 victims, and from his sides came several smaller demon spiders.
(Ladies and gents, I think @DCMcGannon just left the room.)
Keep in mind that spider-monsters are seen in many cultures, and just like the tsuchigumo they are tricksters, displaying strange visions and attempting to deceive historical and legendary figures. But they were not all bad. In fact, two stand out for being gods of creation.
From Lakota Mythology
In Lakoto myth, Iktomi is a spider-god, and the son of a creation-god. Iktomi is friends with the Coyote, also a trickster, and together they stir up quite a bit of mischief, with Iktomi occasionally harassing other gods or controlling humans like puppets with his webs. He is a protective spirit, though, guarding the Lakoto from true evil and helping them to progress their culture.
From North African Lore
Similarly, in North Africa we have Anansi, a spider-god who is attributed with creating certain celestial bodies. Anansi is also the son of a sky-god and uses that inheritance to protect people from wildfires, bringing rain. Perhaps our favorite part about Anansi is that he is a god of stories, and the knowledge of stories.
Legend and myth aside, why are we afraid of these eight-legged freaks? After all, only a fraction of a modicum of a percentage of the spider population is actually dangerous. There are a few that give horrible, lethal bites, but most won’t bite, and even when they do it is a small and insignificant thing.
“They have strange bodies, strange coloring, and move in twitchy ways that are difficult for the human eye to predict. In essence, they embody a bit of the unknown.”
So what’s the deal?
From A Psychological Perspective
It goes back to culture. Many scientists believe that it is simply the gross-out factor that spiders embody. They have strange bodies, strange coloring, and move in twitchy ways that are difficult for the human eye to predict. In essence, they embody a bit of the unknown. @MichaelMcGannon likens it to how he feels about cockroaches and flies, “They’re just gross.”
In fact, according to London City University psychologist Graham Davey, this is it precisely. Looking back to the Middle Ages, many “urban myths” of the time were similar to that of a fly landing on food. If a spider landed on your food, the food was considered poisoned. If it fell in your drink, throw that beverage OUT. Spiders were associated with the spread of diseases and plagues, and their bites caused all sorts of malicious symptoms that, we know today, are falsely connected.
So, what we’re saying is that it’s all psychological. Except for those cases where the spiders are tsuchigumo, demons in disguise, or flying evil spirits.
So carry on with your arachnophobia.
Happy Halloween 2014!