Saturday, February 15, 2014

Spider Woman's Hands.......

  "What is the new mythology to be,
   the mythology of this unified earth as of one harmonious being?"

 Joseph Campbell
I've recently been reviewing several of the projects I' ve been doing in the past 10 years (Spider Woman's Hands, Numina, The Masks of the Goddess) and felt like taking another look at "where I've been" as I try to figure out where to "go from here".    Although, "coming" and "going" are increasingly a strange idea to me.   The whole process of  examining my bodies of work is like, in retrospect, reviewing my dreams, my meditations, and  reminds me, again, of how seamless everything is, the vast and yet intimate Web interpenetrating all.  I hear Grandmother Spider Woman chuckling, the vibration carried on some near strand.  Perhaps some other weaver draws it slowly into a warp, somewhere, some when.............

All of the work I've done with Grandmother Spider Woman has been fraught with synchronicity, I feel like adding here.  So much so that I never feel that far away from Her reminders, Her guidance and humor, and I've written about them quite often.  One of my favorite synchronicities occured in 2008, when returning from the second show of "Spider Woman's Hands" at the Creative Spirit Center in Midland, Michigan, I decided to take a detour to visit Paducah, Kentucky.  Just outside of Paducah I discovered a prehistoric Mississippian Mound, and it was there that I discovered just how ubiquitous the image of Spider and Cross was throughout that ancient world (the Gorget below, with Spider, Cross and Hands, is from that culture.  I had no idea........ the story is in a post from September 2008

Perhaps the best synchronicities are visual.  At Wickliffe Mound on that occasion I took a picture of an ancient gourd in their museum - developing it later, I was stunned to see that reflections from the floor had created an overlay of.........strands............that seemed to recede into infinity. 

Here's another of those "Spider Woman" synchronicities, caught on my camera.  This occurred when I stopped to get some coffee earlier that summer, en route to the Creative Spirit Center in Midland to see the show, which was a wall of "Icons" created by participants, each hand holding a "thread" that passed on to each other participant, and finally disappeared through the door and into "forever". I had to laugh when I saw where I had parked!

Below is a brief article I wrote about my 2004 to 2008  project about the ubiquitous "Legend of the Spider Woman".   I have always felt Her hand in my life.

A Metaphor for Our Time 
By Lauren Raine MFA    (

“What might we see, how might we act, if we saw with a webbed vision?  The world seen through a web of relationships…as delicate as spider’s silk, yet strong enough to hang a bridge on.”

Catherine Keller, Theologian, From a Broken Web (1989) 

Years ago I was enjoying a panoramic view of the Sonoran desert.   I happened to be sitting near a spider web, stretched between two dry branches.  I realized, by shifting my point of view, I could view the entire landscape through the web’s intricate, transparent pattern…..a  landscape  seen through the ineffable strands of an almost invisible web.  

What might our experience be, what kind of culture might we create, what would our priorities be, if, as Catherine Keller writes, we "saw the world with a Webbed Vision"? 

Perhaps the World Wide Web is Spider Woman's latest appearance. Pueblo mythology tells that when each of the 3 previous worlds ended, it was Spider Woman who led the people through the sipapu, the kiva (or birth canal) into the next world.  As such She is the divine Midwife for each new age.............and perhaps now we can understand how Her message is necessary for this, the "5th Age", to manifest.   With so many people interested in the “2012 prophecy”, which reached epic proportions through Hollywood, it seems strange that so few know of Spider Woman, the midwife/creatrix, who plays a key role in this metaphor for our time.   She's increasingly making visible the connections, the strands of the Web of life, whether we speak of an evolving global human culture, ecology, quantum physics, or synchronicity and integral psychology.  “Spider Woman’s Hands” was my contemporary exploration of this myth. 

 " The new myth coming into being through the triple influence of quantum physics, depth psychology and the ecological movement suggests that we are participants in a great cosmic web of life, each one of us indissolubly connected with all others through that invisible field.  It is the most insidious of illusions to think that we can achieve a position of dominance in relation to nature, life or each other. In our essence, we are one."

Anne Baring
In Pueblo mythology, Spider Woman is also called Tse Che Nako, Thought Woman. Thought Woman creates the world with what she imagines, weaves with the stories she tells.  We also participate in this imaginal power.   

"The question is not so much "What do I learn from stories" as "What stories do I want to live?"    ……… David R. Loy, "The World is Made of Stories"

Navajo rugs often have “Spiderwoman’s Cross” woven into the pattern.  The cross of Spider Woman represents balance - the union of the 4 directions.  Spider Woman is at the Center:  the 5th direction is a hologram, reflecting every other strand.   The ancient Maya used stones called ‘spiders’ to map the four cardinal directions required for ceremonies, and artists of the prehistoric Mississippian culture often depicted a spider on shell gorgets with a cross on its back.  Among the Osage, special women had a spider symbol tattooed on their hands, also with a cross at its center.  And among the Navajo, to this day, a bit of Spider Web is rubbed into the hands of female  infants, so they "will become good weavers".  Sacred and ubiquitous is the web, warp, and woof of Spider Woman, who it may be said has many names in many places and times. 

As anthropologist Carol Patterson-Rudolph has written, to the Navajo,   Grandmother Spider Woman ((NA ASHJE’II ’ASDZÁÁ) represents initiation into a mature way of being.  The "Web" becomes visible within an integral, relational paradigm:   a "webbed vision".   Spider Woman thus is a bridge between the mundane, mythic, and sacred dimensions of life.  Like a spider web, her transparent, circular strands exist on multiple levels of meaning.   
In his book on Hopi religion, John Loftin writes that:

Spider Woman was the first to weave. Her techniques and patterns have stood the test of time, or more properly, the test of timelessness.…..…..Weaving is not an act in which one creates something oneself – it is an act in which one uncovers a pattern that was already there.”

I believe Spider Woman has  profound meaning for our time,  offering a "Webbed Vision" in a world that urgently needs to see  life as a shimmering web of  relational interdependency and fundamental unity.   My own need to  need to explore and "re-member" over the years became public web-weaving rituals, the creation of many  masks, with the hope of collaboration,  for ritualists and theatre, community art projects, and sculptures.  In  2007 I received an Alden B. Dow Fellowship which allowed me to create a community art project called “Spider Woman’s Hands” in Michigan,  and in 2009 I created “Weavers” for Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.  
 Tse Che Nako, Thought-Woman, the Spider
 is sitting in her room thinking up a story now
I'm telling you the story she is thinking. “ 
Keresan Pueblo saying

 May we all rub a bit of Spider Web into the palms of our hands. 

View more presentations from laurenraine.

    Loftin, John D., Religion and Hopi Life, Second Edition, Indiana University Press
    Keller, Catherine, From a Broken Web (1989), Thames & Hudson
    Patterson-Rudolph, Carol, On the Trail of Spiderwoman, 1997, Ancient City Press
    Franke, Judith   A., The Gift of Spider Woman,  Dickson Mounds Museum, THE LIVING MUSEUM         volume 61, No. 2, 1999


Gail said...

This is lovely. I am sure wherever you go from here will be thoughtful, eloquent and artful.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Your work is breathtaking, Lauren. And I love all the synchros, but especially the wall and webs!

Wes Hansen said...

I love your artwork Lauren, especially the very expressive masks you create/discover! You know, it's interesting the idea that the weaver uncovers a pattern which is already there. In his new book, "The Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality" (, MIT physicist, Max Tegmark, argues that the Universe is, at a fundamental level, a mathematical structure. Mathematics is the study of general patterns, Ha, Ha, Ha . . . A mathematical structure is a grand pattern, a web of relations!

You know, in the excellent book by philosopher, Rene Weber, "Dialogues With Scientists and Sages: Search for Unity in Science and Mysticism" (, Stephen Hawking tells Dr. Weber that those scientists who resort to mysticism, i.e. David Bohm, just don't understand the math! But the more mathematics I learn the more convinced I become that mathematics IS the language of mysticism! It distills out that which is absolutely fundamental, the "Grin without the Cat."

The John Templeton Foundation ( gave Dr. Tegmark a good bit of money so he could found the Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) ( which explores the foundational questions of life with emphasis on physics. Every year FQXi hosts an essay contest open to the public. This year's question is, "How should humanity steer the future?"

Now I know Spider Woman finds such a suggestion presumptuous to the point of absurdity but I figure, what the heck, if folks are going to entertain illusions we should do what we can to influence those illusions in a positive way, right? So I submitted an essay, "Binary Operators in Harmonic Oscillation: An Exploration Beyond Time" ( Each essay has a forum section so people can comment and discuss each essay; you can also rate the essays although I believe one must register with FQXi to do either. It's early in the contest submission process so there are currently just a handful of essays submitted but they usually generate 200 - 400 entries. Perhaps you would like to read and comment, or, better yet, submit your own thoughts . . .

lauren raine said...

thanks Wes! Alas, I never was able to learn how to multiply past 5 - my mathmatical abilities are nil, but I see what you mean, perhaps, about pattern.

"How should humanity steer the future?" seems a rather presumptous idea. For one thing, humanity is pretty diverse in its capacities, circumstances, and opinions about what matters. And, being a strong proponent of Gaia Theory, I think the intricate, interwoven intelligence of our very planet.........might have a lot to do with the steering.

Congratulations, none the less, for taking such a task on, I'm sure it's fascinating.

Patricio Yrarrázaval said...

Where does the image at the head of "spider woman's hands" come from?

lauren raine said...

Hi Patricio,

The image is mine,a sculpture I made as part of my exhibit in 2007.