Mine is a story of jealousy that started the moment I passed a
thread through that silver needles eye. I have no need for
needles now; it has been such a long time since coloured thread
passed through fingertips.
It came so naturally to me in my youth,
stitching the cloth, as easy as naivety. Beneath my fingers the
needle would become a silver fish darting in and out, over waves
of rolling silk, crashing into shores of cotton.
My loom would be my instrument, more silent
than the lyre but it spoke more volumes than Homer ever could.
And She became jealous, or that is what I told myself.
She came to my door adorned as an old peasant
woman, her fingers little more than bones under a loose film of
skin. She warned me against my art and ran her beady eyes over my
loom. She shuffled over my doorstep and bent to touch my work. I
cannot help it if her fingers were too clumsy. One can never have
too many needles.
She howled with rage, as did I, when a little
ruby sprang from that withered finger and fell onto my threads. I
hurried to pick them up, I remember, to try and rub the accursed
stain. But by then it was too late.
The old woman became no more, her skin pulled
and stretched, it grew transparent then milky-white. Her bones
clattered together, rubbing so hard that they became ebony so
carefully sculpted it seemed a crime to have them hidden beneath
that holy flesh. Her greying hair lengthened and curled, darkened
to the colour of rustic earth and was carefully swept away as her
bloated hood sharpened and became helmet. Her robes, so tattered
before, twisted into the purest cotton, pinned sharply against
her noble breast by the armour. Her wooden walking cane became a
spear, her battered bag, a shield. Loath was I to have angered
She stood in my room, her head held high as if
for battle and stared me down. She set me a challenge I could not
have refused and her shield transformed into a loom of gold, her
spear, a needle of diamond. And I, foolish like a child, drew my
loom opposite and set to work.
She told the tale of her battle with Poseidon.
The loom leapt and the picture flowed. A castle, a fortress of
impenetrable stone with Athena, naturally, at the head.
Poseidon's waves breaking upon the sides, exploding in the silks
of aquamarine and royal blue. Sharks danced in the carnage, their
grey muslin body's thrashing up sprays of lace. For their teeth
she stitched on opals, sharp and true and for the seaweed she
drew wet tresses up from the very depths, a present from
Amphitrite, and wove them stoically through. For herself she took
the ruby, she readily shed, and placed it in her eye.
I did not look at her piece, I too told of myth
and legend. I picked at her bones, or rather, the bones of her
father. My threads spoke of Zeus and his mistresses. I stitched
Leda shying away from her swan. Nimbly I took the feathers of a
white goose and wove them in, pulling into the thread until they
were buried like little knives in the folds of damask. I stitched
the terrified Europa as she clung to the back of the tossing
bull, whose eyes were the colour of the blackest coal. Finally I
told of Danae, and with my scissors I cut off my own golden locks
so that she may be shown. I twisted my braids and finely threaded
beads of gold and amber. It was as if the shower was not of Zeus,
as if the shower was of stardust all ensnared in her hair.
We wove for three whole days until the
knowledge of the world began to lapse without Athena and my
fingers grew bloody. Outside my home the nymphs of the forest
came. They did not dare stray too close for fear of Athena, but
Pan played a lament to my foolishness.
For it was only a moment that I had told him
that I could best the Goddess of Weaving. Spirited by the rushing
wind in the forest I had called at the sky, promising that if She
could best me at weaving She could punish me any way she wished.
And lo, what a punishment befell me.
As I knotted the last stitch, running the fine
rope through my fingers, I felt her watching me. She stood and
the nymphs, too afraid to be called to assess our work, vanished
into the forest.
"It is fine work." She said, her fingers
lingering, fingertips stroking Danae's hair "But…" She said,
rolling her fingers over the marble feathers "…it is not as good
And she broke my loom in two.
She shredded my tapestry, and tore at my silks,
she breathed on my cotton and it rotted under her breath. She
snapped my silver needle into so many pieces that it was dust to
the wind and before she left she cursed me.
Never was I to spin a cloth of any colour;
never was I to touch a thread without it snapping. Were I ever to
take a seat at a loom the moment I used it, the moment I pulled
back the bar, all my bones would snap. Athena left me a broken
The nymphs mewed sadly through the door. They
brought me the finest their forest would offer in their hope to
make me weave. Buttons of acorn, threads of ivy, patches of gold
sycamore, but all I touched turned to dust and my loom lay broken
on the floor.
In the end, I couldn't stand it anymore and
asked Pan to bring me a stretch of rope. At first he brought me
silk but when I touched the cords it twisted into thorns and made
my fingers bleed. I tied one end to a beam and took the loop over
my head and as I was about to tighten the last knot I would ever
tighten Athena appeared to me
"Are you repentant Arachne?" She asked
And I watched myself nod in the shiny mirror of
"Then will you do my bidding…" I bent my head
in service, ready for the humility to wash me to oblivion "…and
show the world, for ages long to come, what a talented weaver you
And she changed me. She did not lift the curse
and you will find me now on any dewy morning as the sun crests
the horizon. On my weave I hang the most beautiful of diamonds,
their brilliance glittering in the sun, my thread so fine and
transparent you would barely see me there. But no other creature
can do as I do, never so intricate a pattern or so gentle a
For I am the spider, and I weave a Gods tale in
nature's lace, there never will be as finer weaver as I, never
one to take my place.