Apollon and the Wolf Spider

In the past I have seen discussions talked about in regards to spiders in connection with other deities, such as Arachne with Athena (a weaving type of spider most likely), and a worshiper with personal gnosis about the Spider in relation to some kind of Dionysian worship. However, I want to take a moment to speak of a very specific, non-webbing, spider that I have recently come to understand as sacred to Apollon: the wolf spider. This connection drawing from evidence at the Spartan colony Tarantum.

First what inspires me on this is the very name of the spider. The wolf is particularly sacred to Apollon (though also to Zeus), and that the Tarantum was a Spartan colony (the Spartans being a people for whom Apollon was a patron god) it would make sense that a dance to ward of death by this spider, and to cure illness in general, would be one sacred to Apollon. I am speaking of the Tarantella. Though typically tambourines aren’t associated with what we know of Apollon’s worship, it is, regardless, a musical instrument that combines the us of something like cymbals (which are used in the cult of Apollon) on the frame of a drum. But setting the instrument aside, we have to look at the purpose of the Tarantella, the healing of a venomous spider bite, and its evolution into a general healing dance. It strikes a remarkable accord with the Spartan myth of the origin of the paean, as a song used by Apollon to attempt to halt the death of Hyakinthos, just as the original purpose of the Tarantella dance was to save from death.

This would also require some rather reasonable comparison between the burning rays of the sun, and burn of venom through the blood. That Apollon’s arrows are likened to serpent-dart poetically (plausibly refering to the bite of the snake comparing it to the bite of his arrow, bring instant death) can suggest an allignment between the idea of venom and the power of Apollon. This idea of course stretches to his son Asklepios where we see the serpent in his cult used not only as venomous creature, but also symbolic of healing. Such is common with other death-repelling death functions in Apollon’s domain, such as the wolfish god who is also the destroyer of wolves, the mouse god who is the destroyer of mice, the locust god who repells the locusts and so on. The sun itself is a bringer of life, and destroyer. A role we see particularly in the homeric hymn of Apollon where the power of the sun rots away the corpse of serpent Delphinia.

Therefore we see the venomous wolf-spider and its relationship to the Tarantella dance (which is often refered to as the spider dance) forms the kind of healing-death accord that is common in the cultus of Apollon, and one that strikes a very different note from the web-weaving spiders associated with Athena in which the spider represents the higher, complex and perfect designs of heaven against which Arachne riviled the goddess and for which she was transformed into the spider. The wolf spider comparably represents something more akin death-healing functions of the serpent. In the Americas we have wolf spiders, though the tarantula (the name of which is borrowed from the wolf spider) could also be considered a kind of cousin and be related to the cultus of Apollon. Wolf spiders could also be related in kind to Apollon’s twin Artemis, who share similar functions and the wolfish epithet, for the habit of the females for devouring the males.

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6 thoughts on “Apollon and the Wolf Spider

  1. Interesting post, but “irregardless” is not a word. It is a double negation that in this case completely negates the very meaning of the word. So I’d say lose the “ir-” πŸ˜‰

  2. Pausanias, Description of Greece:

    [3.16.1] XVI. Near is a sanctuary of Hilaeira and of Phoebe. The author of the poem Cypria calls them daughters of Apollo. Their priestesses are young maidens, called, as are also the goddesses, Leucippides (Daughter of Leucippus). One of the images was adorned by a Leucippis who had served the goddesses as a priestess. She gave it a face of modern workmanship instead of the old one; she was forbidden by a dream to adorn the other one as well. Here there his been hung from the roof an egg tied to ribands, and they say that it is the famous egg that legend says Leda brought forth.

    [3.16.2] Each year the women weave a tunic for the Apollo at Amyclae, and they call Tunic the chamber in which they do their weaving. Near it is built a house, said to have been occupied originally by the sons of Tyndareus, but afterwards it was acquired by Phormion, a Spartan. To him came the Dioscuri in the likeness of strangers. They said that they had come from Cyrene, and asked to lodge with him, requesting to have the chamber which had pleased them most when they dwelt among men.

    [3.16.3] He replied that they might lodge in any other part of the house they wished, but that they could not have the chamber. For it so happened that his maiden daughter was living in it. By the next day this maiden and all her girlish apparel had disappeared, and in the room were found images of the Dioscuri, a table, and silphium upon it.

    It would seem that weaving would also be something done specifically for Apollon, and I have to wonder if there might be spider connections there too. Very, very complex stuff here. There’s something else on the edge of my mind here but I can’t quite get it to the front yet. Maybe it will come in good time. Just thought you might find this of interest.

    • Oh yes certainly there is weaving done for Apollon of course πŸ™‚ I was just remarking though that the wolf spider, as a spider sacred to him, is not a weaving spider itself. And it seems to me that acts of weaving for Apollon is a bit different than the god having a direct relationship with the art of weaving itself πŸ™‚

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