Month 10 – the tricky weaver snares a farcical fly on the wall
see previous posts
the Spider begins the end for the myth and the year, as the dissolution of the social order descends into farce.
Anansi, originally a trickster from West Africa was brought through the Caribbean to the Southern US States as ‘Aunt Nancy’. The tales are thought to have originated from the Ashanti in Ghana, and have take root elsewhere, such as in Anansi and the Tar Baby from Jamaica.I was introduced to him through Joseph Campbell.
Although I can’t find the original quote, Campbell tells of Anansi wearing a four-coloured hat: red on the left, yellow in front, blue on the right and white at the back. He wanders along a road and calls hello to two farmers, one on each side. After he walks out of their sight, he turns his hat around, and walks back, so that the same colours are showing to the farmers. The farmers get to discussing this unusual visitor, and one describes his hat as red, the other as blue. The two farmers argue and it escalates into fisticuffs. The two are hauled in before a judge to explain themselves.
Anansi is in the courtroom, and reveals the trick he’s played, explaining simply that he enjoys sowing strife.
Now that’s the spirit for a proper farce.
In China Mieville’s outstanding Perdido Street Station, he introduces us to the Weaver. The characters are reluctant to ask for its assistance, as it is multidimensional giant spider that can’t be understood by human logic. It seeks to beautify the world web (which only it can see), and what it decides is beautiful is anybody’s guess. Occasionally, it means dismemberment (it had a fascination with scissors for a while). It represents the incomprehensible nature of the subconscious in many ways.
Old stories would tell how Weavers would kill each other over aesthetic disagreements, such as whether it was prettier to destroy an army of a thousand men or to leave it be, or whether a particular dandelion should or should not be plucked. For a Weaver, to think was to think aesthetically. To act–to Weave–was to bring about more pleasing patterns. They did not eat physical food: they seemed to subsist on the appreciation of beauty.
It recites what sounds like stream-of-consciousness poetry, and as such, it may be this aspect that works most effectively in a farce setting.
the Black Widow
No spider has received more attention than the black widow. Its hour-glass design suggests the end of time (at least for those poisoned to death). Its name suggests a femme fatale, and in our little myth of the year, this may well be a role she once again assumes. The northern black widow is found in Canada (and well south of course), and weaves a web, both qualities important for the Myth of the Year.
Although the black widow’s bite is not necessarily lethal, it certainly is uncomfortable to say the least (especially since they like to hide under outhouse seats). The neurotoxin travels through the lymph into the blood where it makes its way to the nerve endings in the muscle tissues, causing forcible cramps and contractions.
In no small way, this action is similar to the end phase of a civilization, as the forces that refuse to let go (the cramping & seizing) are at odds with the forces that accept the end and look forward to the renaissance (the relaxation).
The spider is inseperable from its web (sorry wolf spiders, we’re not talking about you). In the case of the farcical decline of a culture, (such as the state of the ‘West’), there is a period of writing everything down. I suspect in no small part this is what the Internet is for (remind me to print hard copies before the end of modern technology). As a spider can sense what occurs within it based on vibrations, so we can sense what occurs in the world through ripples in the Internet (call it viral videos, or repost (riposte?)). Nevetheless, this sense of weaving stories for later is in no small part tied in with the image of the spider web.
At least as far as I’m concerned. But there’s an even larger web to consider.
the Vedic god, Indra‘s net is a metaphor used in Buddhism. It is an infinite net (or web, for our purposes), in which there are gems at every junction of thread. Each gem reflects every other gem.
Imagine a multidimensional spider’s web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the universe in an image. —Alan Watts
Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each “eye” of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars in the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring. –Francis Harold Cook
Buddhism uses a similar image to describe the interconnectedness of all phenomena. It is called Indra’s Net. When Indra fashioned the world, he made it as a web, and at every knot in the web is tied a pearl. Everything that exists, or has ever existed, every idea that can be thought about, every datum that is true—every dharma, in the language of Indian philosophy—is a pearl in Indra’s net. Not only is every pearl tied to every other pearl by virtue of the web on which they hang, but on the surface of every pearl is reflected every other jewel on the net. Everything that exists in Indra’s web implies all else that exists. –Timothy Brook
the Spider and the Calendar
As with any good farce, the social order descends into the ridiculous. The spider, as the irrational weaver sets the tone, and the droplets caught in the web reflect the players back upon themselves and one another. The end is nigh, so there’s a good dose of chicken little, Noah’s arc, conspiracy theory & dismissal, pleas for sanity, and cries of dispair.
The spider has chosen a cosy corner of the abode of the rulers, who have degenerated into orgies of self-indulgence at the expense of everything, including themselves. There is a distinct undercurrent of self-devouring. The spider bites the ruler, the poison renders him delirious, and he dies, leaving his wive a widow. The scrambling for the vacant seat of power (throne, or what have you) ensures. The spider feasts on the flies that accumulate over the dead body of the ruler, which everyone seems to have neglected.
All in all, it’s like a Thomas Pynchon scene played out by the Marx Brothers.
237 Days to Dec 21st 2012