The Infinite Spider: What’s In A Name?

The Infinite Spider Blog: Origin of a Name

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A common garden spider (Photo: Karen McDonald)

How the Infinite Spider Blog Got Its Name

I’ve been asked by quite a few readers to explain why I chose the name “Infinite Spider” for my blog, and what the symbol means. So in this post, I have partnered with Anne Littlewolf  to give you a bit of information about this symbol and the name of this blog.

As the Bard so rightly said, “That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet”.  But roses and spiders seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum of human emotion.  Roses make us fall in love, spiders send us into a screaming panic (OK, sometimes the two resemble each other) searching for shoes, rolled up paper, fly swatters and other such ammunition.  It’s guaranteed to get you lots of adoration if you rescue your partner from the dreaded Arachnidus Superbadus.  So why name this blog after a spider?  And why do we have such loathing for spiders and their kinfolk?  Yes, they are small and hairy, and they have far too many eyes and fangs… but really?  Most are less than ¼” in size?

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From time immemorial, spiders have been represented in mythology as gods, tricksters, and bringers of light, and wisdom.  From a purely gardener’s standpoint, they are a real help in the face of other insect invaders.  The Greeks told of Arachne, a woman who messed up her life because of her vanity, but was rescued and turned into a spider.  The Cherokee Nation tells of a spider who was wise enough to devise a way to bring the sun to the world and allow humans to flourish after others tried and failed.  The Anansi of Africa is a trickster, as is the Iktomi of the Lakota, here to teach us wisdom learned through folly.  Navajo (Dine’) people say that Grandmother Spider brought them weaving and have an important ritual for their infant girls to ask the blessing of skill in weaving.  Native elders even spoke of the day when the world would be enveloped by an unseen “web” that would surround us and keep us trapped in its power.  Next time you type “www”, think about that.

So where does the name “The Infinite Spider” come from?  Well, you must admit it gets your attention, but maybe there’s more to it than that.  Here’s the specific symbol for this blog:

The Infinate Spider logo

Infinite Spider Blog logo, Designed by Karen McDonald

It is a mix of the infinity symbol turned to the vertical position and the arms of a spider holding prey.  If you look at the anatomy of a spider, it has two distinct body parts.  All arachnids have a fused head and thorax, into what is called the “cephalothorax.”  The posterior segment is the abdomen.  These two segments, when drawn in outline, form the infinity symbol.  It is this never-ending symbol that inspires the idea that spider represents never ending patience, and the ability to sit and wait.  Web building spiders sit in the center of their web, using their eight sensitive legs to feel for vibrations.  This is symbolic because it means being in touch with life’s vibrations, from the wind to a moth.  Again, it’s no coincidence that we represent the connectedness of information on the internet as the world wide web.  On your computer, you wait, “tug/type on the strings” and expect data to appear. To find what you want, you “vibrate” or touch your social networks.

The eight legs of the spider are said to represent the eight directions and sub directions, North, South, East, and West; but also, North East, South East, South West, and North West.  In many belief systems, there are three more directions, Above, Below and Within.  The spider’s two body parts sit above and below, in balance, and the “Within” in the center of the web.  This balance, in the center of the web, and the spider's infinite patience are why I chose this symbol.

On a biological level, spiders do amazing work, quietly, largely unseen, keeping the balance going.  For 130 million years, they have shown us the value of patient work and waiting.  Over 43,000 species have been accounted for and all of them are graceful, ferocious, beautiful, dreadful and useful (Remember Charlotte Spider and her friend Wilbur Pig?).  They are responsible for controlling myriad other insects and really prefer to go about their daily business without interference from people.  Getting squished really isn’t one of their favorite things, and really, very few species are harmful to humans.  Pretty much they would far rather walk away than having to stand and fight.  They don’t ask us to make them pets, they do not ask us to feed them; instead, they help feed us by keeping pests from our vegetables, their webs can be used as an antiseptic on an open wound (no kidding, look it up!), and at the same time, are works of art.  Hummingbirds even use the webs as a type of "glue" for their nests.

So the next time you see a spider, stop and say a tiny thank-you to your new friend.  Without them, our life would be far more complicated.  Take that spider outside on a piece of paper and gift them to your flower bed; allow the cycle to continue.  They are infinitely more fascinating and wise than they get credit for.

 
Posted in Insects, Invertebrates and tagged , , on by .

About Infinite Spider

My name is Karen and I am currently the Education Program Coordinator at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, working with students K-gray and doing outdoor science education based on Smithsonian research. I have also been a curriculum developer for the Smithsonian Science Education Center and a contract curriculum writer for the Discovery Channel. In my spare time I love to explore nature topics that I want to know more about, which has lead me to blogging here on "The Infinite Spider" (Infinitespider.com). I've designed it to be a science and nature blog for every-day people, naturalists, and outdoor educators. Currently I live in Annapolis, MD. If you have questions you can reach me at greathornedowl76@gmail.com. Let me know if you enjoy the blog or if you would like to see a particular topic covered. Thanks for reading!