So Tennyson leads us on a romantic journey in his poem, The Lady of Shalott. Spiders are immediately called to mind, with their webs hanging from ceilings, or seen in profusion in Blackberry bushes, bordering the fields in Autumn. Most of us can't help shuddering at the thought of these insects, and Tennyson knew that this mention of a web would make a tingle run up the spines of his readers, thus appreciating still more the bygone age he tried so successfully to recapture.
Despite numerous offerings on T.V., and popular periodicals of the day, spiders do remain the one subject we nearly all shy away from. Unlike some other insects which we have become used to accepting, these species still retain a veritable horror for us. We have recently had programme-offerings of them adroitly climbing trees, scrambling about in a nonchalant way amongst remote sand-dunes, and even filmed swimming athletically in a forest pool, to reach bracken on the verges. We still can't quite accept these large and furry legs, struggling along in the turgid water. The sight of one of these creatures making double-time across our lounge floor causes temporary paralysis, followed by fear, in most of us.
Most of us that is... except, some of us!! Nuns are said to be tolerant of spiders, and declared they can be amusing and interesting companions. Indeed, the Pope himself is said never to drive one out, if it appears in St Peter's Basilica. St Francis had a pet spider which lived behind a drainpipe, and was called Dominic. One of the Franciscan Order, who was unusually agile, used to catch flies and feed them alive to him, insisting that Dominic knew him, and always came to his call and St Francis, I'm sure, would have believed him.
Irish legend has it that it is unlucky to kill a spider, and various little doggerel verses have evolved to this effect. "If you want to prosper and thrive, let a spider run alive"; "Spyder, spyder, in the wall, how much gold, will I call", are but to give one or two examples of these folk rhymes. Then, or course, there was the old couple heard of recently who let Fred, their six-legged beastie as he was called, always settle on top of their T.V., and who would not be quiet and still unless cream-crackers, which had to be Jacobs, and cheddar cheese crumbs were spread about the top of their set.
There are various other kinds of spiders. If you get a money-spider on you, you must twist it three times around your head to bring you good luck. Garden spiders will jump, if you say something to them, comment on the weather and the like. The indolent Harvest-Man will pick his way carefully through your herbaceous border, if disturbed on a sunny afternoon. If one is found in a stack of disused flower pots, however... beware!! It is wiser and safer to let them go without trying to tame them in any way. It does take a long time before the stage of first-names is reached.
We are all familiar, of course, with the recent case of a black-widow spider found in some grapes. This will go into the record books along with a tarantula found in some bananas, and some golden-legged spinners, a Mexican species found in a case of pineapples, and a rare white alpine spider thought to have arrived in some lucky person's hand-luggage from Alaska.
Fr Malcolm often recounts tales of the spiders he encountered during his visit to Australia, and a favourite offering to his incredulous listener, is when he quite literally chased a fully-grown Tarantula down the hallway of his residence there. It seems this particular specimen was most reluctant to leave the Vicarage there, and had got used to hearing the scriptures read. Fr Malcolm assumed it was calming to it to hear this sound, but no amount of Radio substitution would suffice, apparently. In the end, it got his marching "orders", and to this day, nothing was heard further about it. It may have gone next door, or taken up permanent residence in the garden shed. It was not given a name, only "spider".
The Alfa-Romeo Italian car company have produced a sports car named "The Spyder", but it is not a soubriquet usually granted to a manufactured item. Suffice it to say, we none of us need to be reminded of the speed these creatures can travel at!! I believe some toys called "wall walkers" were brought out a few Christmasses ago, and sacred parents rigid by their clockwork wall-climbing, accompanied by screams of delight from their offspring.
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