A Letter to Arachne in Times of Covid

Letter to Arachne in Times of Covid

November 2021

Dear Arachne,

I learned about your story the other day. Your name in Greek means “spider” because you were the first of your kind. However, poets sang about how you were once a princess of exquisite beauty and pride, also a gifted weaver, whose fabrics were sought for from all over. The Greek goddess Athena, guardian of fine arts and weaving, eventually challenged you because she felt that your arrogance questioned her own position. And you accepted. Athenae and you both produced the most impeccable weaving. Yet, Athena’s pattern showed the power and glory of the Gods, while yours, Arachne – how dared you – detailed their failures and shortcomings. The poet Ovid tells us, that Athenae ripped your fabric into pieces and hit you with your own loom. In desperation, you took a piece of yarn and tried to hang yourself, though Athenae spared your life and instead turned you into a spider. From now on, you and your children would be the spiders of the world, weaving only in this physical shape, producing your yarn out of your body.

Arachne, you know what ?! As a European, I have heard many bad stories about spiders. I know many people who are afraid of your kind. Arachnophobia – fear of spiders, makes a popular ingredient of horror movies. But why on earth, dear Arachne?! We have so few poisonous spiders around here.  If you were still human, I would come and have a tea with you. I would tell you that I admire your courage. Maybe we would laugh about how you challenged Athenae in such naïve ways. Or; Would you still be too arrogant to even receive me? Me, who is just learning your craft? Anyhow, the place where I met you in the shape of a spider were stories about witches.

A coincidence? I am not sure about that. Though, I know that you are not as badly seen in all cultures. I know that your story tells one of wisdom valid for our days. To challenge the powerful and their followers by holding up a mirror? Isn’t that one role that art may have in society? Though, is it most effectful if done in such blunt ways, as you did, maybe a bit imbalanced towards the negative?  Arachne, in my view, Athena owes you an apology. She did not proof to be the goddess of justice, that she is, in that moment. She was furious and impulsive, rather than relying on her wisdom. Yours and Athenae’s weaving together would have created a wonderful balance. She could have been inspired by you, rather than bashing you. This is discourse. Instead you are now the one who spins a net to trap and poison your catch? Seems so much unlike you, who were seduced by beauty. There must be much more, right? If you ask, why do I write to you in these times of the pandemic, I would ask you to go back to Athenae. Not to ask for forgiveness but for balance. With all the challenges at hand; in health, human psychology, the economy, our society as a whole, we need you and Athenae to create a new type of weaving. Though, it would mean for both of you to see your power not in being right but in engaging with each other, not as enemies but as co-creators.

Looking forward to hearing back to you !