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Spider Grandmother (Hopi Kokyangwuti, Navajo Na'ashjé'ii Asdzáá) is an important figure in the mythology, oral traditions and folklore of many Native American cultures, especially in the Southwestern United States.



"Spider Rock", Canyon de Chelly, Arizona; legendary home to the Navajo Spider Grandmother[1]

In Hopi mythology, "Spider Grandmother" (Hopi Kokyangwuti) is the creator of humans, identified with the "Earth Goddess".[2][3]

In Navajo mythology, Spider Woman (Na'ashjé'íí Asdzáá) is the constant helper and protector of humans.[4] The Diné Bahaneʼ creation narrative of the Navajo (recorded 1928) includes a mention of "Spider Man and Spider Woman", who introduced the spindle and the loom.[5] According to the Zuni, string games were given to them by Grandmother Spider.[6]

In Pueblo tradition, Spider Old Woman appears as the equivalent of "Thought Woman" (Keresan Tse-che-nako, Sussistanako): while the name of "Thought Woman" was reserved for sacred ceremonies, Spider Woman would be used in the context of everyday discussion or teaching.[7]

Karl Taube in 1983 tentatively connected the South Western "Spider Woman" mytheme with the pre-Columbian Teotihuacan "Great Goddess" known from pictorial representations.

Other regionsEdit

The Ojibwe people (Chippewa) of southern Canada and northern US speak of Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi,[8] as a helper of the people, and inspiring mothers (or other close female relatives) to weave protective spider web charms.[9]

In Lakota tradition, the (male) trickster spirit Iktomi appears in the form of a spider.[10]

In the Northwest, the Coos people of Oregon have their version of a Spider Grandmother traditional tale.[11]

The Choctaw people of Tennessee and Mississippi tell the story of Grandmother Spider stealing fire, then after animals refused it, bringing fire to humans.[12]

Susan Hazen-Hammond (1997, 1999) compiled numerous tales collected from various tribes.[13]

In popular cultureEdit

Murray Mednick wrote seven one-act plays called The Coyote Cycle with the same four characters: Coyote, Coyote trickster, Spider Grandmother and Mute Girl.[14] These same characters come from traditional Native American stories and myths.

Alice Walker's feminist novel Meridian (1976) references the Spider Woman narrative.[15]

Gorg Huff & Paula Goodlett's fantasy novel Warspell: The Merge (December 2018) references the Spider Woman narrative. In the novel characters from a popular roll playing game merge with the normal humans who play them in the game realm and the mythological creatures from the game including Spiderwoman came to Earth with them.[16][17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Tobert, Natalie; Pitt, Taylor, Colin F. (eds.) Native American Myths and Legends (1994), p. 35.
  2. ^ Spider Woman Stories, published by The University of Arizona Press, 1979. ISBN 0-8165-0621-3 "Kokyangwuti". MythologyDictionary. Retrieved 23 November 2012. A creator-goddess of the Hopi. Daughter of Sotuknang
  3. ^ "Spider Woman / from the Hopi people". Resources for Indigenous Peoples' Religious Traditions. John Carroll University. Retrieved 23 November 2012. This story is taken from Leeming, The World of Myth, 36-39; Leeming cites G. M. Mullett, Spider Woman Stories: Legends of the Hopi (Tucson, AZ: 1979), 1-6.
  4. ^ "Legendary Native American Figures: Spider Woman (Na'ashjéii Asdzáá)". Native Languages of the Americas. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  5. ^ O'Bryan, Aileen, The Diné: Origin Myths of the Navajo Indians (Hastiin Tlo'tsi Hee, "The Age of Beginning", transcribed 1928). Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 163 (1956), 37–38.
  6. ^ Allan and Paulette Macfarlan (1958). Handbook of American Indian Games, p.189. ISBN 978-0-486-24837-0.
  7. ^ "Some confusion is sometimes created concerning Tse che nako and Old Spider Woman, especially in secular discussions. Kere holy men hesitate to mention Tse che nako's name, especially for purely secular discussions; Thought Woman's name is reserved for use only in sacred ceremonies. In secular discussions and teachings, Tse che nako is often symbolically referred to as Old Spider Woman or Spider Woman. "Purley, Anthony F. (1974). "Keres Pueblo Concepts of Deity," American Indian Culture and Research, 1, no.1: 31. Quoted in: Buell, Lawrence (1996). The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture, p.518-519., n.27. Harvard. ISBN 9780674258624.
  8. ^ Bingham, John Pratt (2010). God and dreams : is there a connection?. Eugene, Or.: Resource Publications. pp. 65–66. ISBN 9781606086674.
  9. ^ Densmore, Frances (1929, 1979) Chippewa Customs. Minn. Hist. Soc. Press; pg. 113.
  10. ^ "Legend of the Dreamcatcher". Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.
  11. ^ Leo J. Frachtenberg (1913). Coos texts. California University contributions to anthropology (Vol. 1), "Spider-Old-Woman". New York: Columbia University Press. p. 61.
  12. ^ [1] "Grandmother Spider Steals the Fire" story[unreliable source?]
  13. ^ Timelines of Native American History Penguin Group (USA) 1997 ISBN 978-0-399-52307-6, Spider Woman's Web (1999) ISBN 978-0-399-52546-9
  14. ^ Mednick, Murray (1993). The Coyote Cycles, Padua Playwright's Press. ISBN 978-0-9630126-1-6
  15. ^ Snodgrass, Mary Ellen (2013), "Spider Woman and feminist literature", Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature, Infobase Learning, ISBN 1438140649.
  16. ^ ISBN 978-1-948818-23-0
  17. ^ ISBN 978-1-948818-22-3

External linksEdit