To weave my own Picture

March 2014
assistant: Katlan

Arachne is a Greek myth about how spiders originated. Arachne, a girl known for her skill and artistry at weaving, did not acknowledge Athena, the goddess of wisdom, just warfare, arts, and skilled craft, as the deity that granted mortals such gifts. Taking offense to the girl’s human pride, the two entered a contest of weaving, where both created two beautiful tapestries: Athena’s depicted the gods Zeus and Poseidon in majestic glory along with herself. In the four corners, she added four scenes of other contests between mortals who dared challenge the gods, all of whom suffered misery, as a warning to Arachne. In response, Arachne used her tapestry to depict the crimes of gods, mainly the rapes that Zeus and Poseidon performed on mortal women. Athena, unable to deny the beauty of Arachne’s weaving and infuriated at the bold display of the gods’ crimes, tore the tapestry and struck Arachne. Unable to bear this, Arachne hung herself, and Athena, in pity, gave the girl life again but cursed her and her descendants to live as spiders.

In continuation of last week’s photo in the series, I noticed how Kali is often depicted with numerous arms, which made me think of insects, spiders, and the story of Arachne. This story has always caused me to feel greatly unjustified. Typically, I like the stories about Athena and how she is usually shown as a rational and just goddess of wisdom. However, there are stories like this one where she behaves just as childishly and rashly as the other gods (Zeus especially comes to mind). I find that it’s these stories of the Greek gods that shows their humanity, something quite ironic to me. In this story, I think Arachne did suffer because of her hubris but, just as she depicts in her tapestry, the gods are far from perfect beings, so what reason is there to emulate them? In many of the stories, especially when reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses, they just seem like immortal humans with far too much power and boredom. Arachne may have been ignorant of what she was getting herself into and may have been too outspoken and opinionated for her time, but I can’t help but commend her for her daring and defense of her own beliefs. I think this story would have had a much different reception if born in modern times.

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