It’s more difficult to see cobwebs now, what with there being so much sun. (Boooo!) I have to look much harder to spot them, and usually need to squint to make out the delicate, glinting spider silk that’s set like steel.
I miss the autumn months when I’d get up early and rush out into the forest, to admire and catch photographs of the webs, adorned with morning dew drops, their beauty emphasized by the gloriously, gloomy weather of thick fog and low, skies.
I miss the winter months when I’d stagger out into the forest, snow pilling over the tops of my boots, to admire and catch photographs of the webs, so brilliant with frost, so still in the freezing air.
For all of my life, I’ve had a fascination with cobwebs, and with the magic and mystery they represent in our world (and the worlds beyond our own.) Going out to photograph them is – as you’ve probably already guessed, one of my very favourite things to do. More often than not, when I’m out capturing cobwebs, I don’t notice the time and I’ll return home three or four hours later thinking I’ve only been out twenty minutes. Times doesn’t exist when I’m out in the forest, when I’m out finding cobwebs.
Spiders haven’t always used their webs for hunting purposes. When they moved from water to land, they first made silk to protect their bodies and eggs. It was only gradually that they started to use it to catch prey.
Fascinatingly, spiders have different glands that work to produce different sorts of threads. For example, they create sticky silk for trapping prey and fine silk for wrapping it up. In its lifetime, a spider is capable of producing up to eight different sorts of silks.
To make a web, is, of course, a very energy draining process, so it’s very common for a spider to eat their web to recover the energy they lost spinning it. A spider tends to build a new web every day, usually around evening time.
Something that I’ve always heard, ever since I was a little girl, is that cobwebs are excellent at stemming bleeding. Also, that it’s bad luck to kill a spider when it’s in your home.
There is a Cherokee tale that credits Grandmother Spider with bringing light to the world. And in the Hopi creation story, Spider Woman is the goddess of the earth. In Navajo mythology, people were taught how to weave by Spider Woman and still today, many Navajo weavers will rub their hands with cobwebs in the belief that they will then absorb her skill and wisdom.
In some folk magic traditions, it’s said that if you put a black spider between two slices of buttered bread and eat it, then you’ll inherit great power. Another myth suggests catching a spider and carrying it around in a silk pouch around your neck to help prevent illness. There’s also an English folk saying that reminds us that if we find a spider on our clothes, it means money is coming out way. There are variations of this, one of which is that a spider on your clothes means that you’ll have a good day.
One folktale that I find particularly interesting is the Eastern European story The Legend of the Christmas Spider. It’s said to explain the origin of the tinsel we adorn our trees with. It’s a tale that’s most prevalent in Ukraine, and at Christmas time, Ukrainians hang small ornaments in the shape of webs and spiders on their trees. The tradition is said to date back to the last 1800s, though there’s every possibility that it’s based on an older European superstition that says spiders bring good luck.