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Deguwitchrose

Spider Divination

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I'd never heard of divination by spider being an actual practise until Jevne suggested that I look at some of the African divinatory techniques which are known to use spiders in their work. I researched it a bit and it's fascinating stuff.

 

The native Mambila people (living in the area of Nigeria and Cameroon) don't use pet or tame spiders - what they do is look to find a hole in which a spider is actually resident. They clear the area around the hole and then place a pot with the bottom cut off over the spider's lair. Inside the pot they place a stick and a stone at opposite sides of the hole. From a pack of divination cards, two are selected and placed over the hole with the remaining cards in the pack set beside the hole.

 

After a period of waiting in which the spider (referred to as the witch as the people of Mambila

believe only witches can be involved in divination) the spider is inspected. The findings can be read in several different ways. Sometimes the spider has made a “choice” and moved one of the cards covering the hole onto the stick or stone (both of which have been given specific meanings in relation to the working being undertaken) and sometimes the spider has disturbed the cards so they are “pointing” at the relevant item. The shapes that the cards make are also considered to be relevant. Sometimes the spider will disturb the pack of cards near the hole, in which case the pattern and spread of the disrupted cards is also seen as significant and interpreted accordingly.The procedure is known as Nggum.

 

African divinatory cards are often replaced with light shavings of tree bark, with the pattern the spider makes in disrupting the stacked pile yielding the answer to the question being asked.

 

Apparantly divination by spider is even common enough to have its own name – Arachnomancy. The ancient Incas used to place a large spider in a cup and then withdraw it before undertaking any form of divination. The spider's legs were taken as an indication as to whether the circumstances for undertaking divination were favourable. If the spider's legs were bent, it was an indication not to proceed, if the spider's legs were straight, the Incas would proceed to the next stage which was placing the spider on a dish of leaves, letting it move them around and then reading the pattern of the leaves the spider left behind to foretell the future.

 

Spider webs in China were also used to predict omens. A spider was captured and held captive overnight. If it span a web the future looked good, if it didn't, the spider was considered indolent and there was a suggestion that good times would be slow to arrive.

 

Ancient Greeks used to observe the behaviour of spiders to determine the future. There is a particular method (I've seen several claims this comes from Ancient Greece but the link is hard to establish conclusively) where the spider is placed underneath a glass or jar and the glass is then broken, frightening the spider which runs madly at objects and cards placed nearby. The objects it chooses and the order it chooses them in form the basis of the divination.

 

The shed skins of spiders have also been used to predict the future. The time a spider chooses to shed, the position in which it does so and the shed it leaves behind can all be linked to divinatory purposes. Generally a full complete shed would be taken as a positive omen.

 

And other witches are still using prophetic spiders today in modern times. I didn't know this but apparantly it is not uncommon to use a pet spider in conjunction with a ouija board (guess what I'm doing tonight...). The idea is that the spirit finds it easier to work through a living creature than it does an inanimate object.

 

Really interesting to see how important this creature has been to witches and magical practitioners throughout history and into modern times. 

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Very cool stuff!  I've never been a spider person but this has me wondering if there are similar practices with snakes... 

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Great info!  I never knew how common this was/is.  The only divination I've used with spiders is I was taught that seeing a spider or killing a spider indicates rain.  I have found this to be very true.

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Rose,

 

Based on your research would you consider doing a Forum Piece on this ?  I'm one who is amazed at the skills and talents of Spiders and look to them for signs and changes in my Path. I found Your research fascinating. Thank you, plus One.

 

 

Regards,

Gypsy

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Now I'm curious to try this with my snake...  Or hell, even the dog or cat. My dog is very sensitive to energies (usually resulting in him barking or acting wigged out). However, he's responsive to it, so perhaps it's worth a try...given it doesn't tweak the poor guy out :\

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Rose,

 

One aspect of this process of spider divination has me in a bit of a conundrum . . . the domesticated (pet) spider versus wild spider.  I can see distinct advantages to using a animal, which one has a relationship with, but I would consider results from a wild animal to be far more objective.  I can influence the outcome of a Tarot reading, so the possibility exists that I could influence the actions of a living creature that I have a relationship with, especially if the connection is strong.  In the process that you have described, the people are unlikely to have viewed the spiders as pets.  They are a means to an end.  I have no problem with that, but I would personally have to think long and hard about whether or not I would want to use a friend in such a manner.  Not that you would let any real harm come to your spider friends, of course, but I would be more interested in maintaining the relationship, so any resistance on their part would cause me to immediately cease the activity.

 

Jevne

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Rose,

 

Based on your research would you consider doing a Forum Piece on this ?  I'm one who is amazed at the skills and talents of Spiders and look to them for signs and changes in my Path. I found Your research fascinating. Thank you, plus One.

 

 

Regards,

Gypsy

 

Thank you Gypsy. I think it would be interesting to do some more research and write a longer post for the forum. It's fascinating how much tradition there are round these creatures. Its whet my appetite to look and see what other animals and insects have been used for specific divinatory purposes - I think someone(Aloe?) commented similar above. I might snoop around some books and see what other animals have been used in other traditions.

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Rose,

 

One aspect of this process of spider divination has me in a bit of a conundrum . . . the domesticated (pet) spider versus wild spider.  I can see distinct advantages to using a animal, which one has a relationship with, but I would consider results from a wild animal to be far more objective.  I can influence the outcome of a Tarot reading, so the possibility exists that I could influence the actions of a living creature that I have a relationship with, especially if the connection is strong.  In the process that you have described, the people are unlikely to have viewed the spiders as pets.  They are a means to an end.  I have no problem with that, but I would personally have to think long and hard about whether or not I would want to use a friend in such a manner.  Not that you would let any real harm come to your spider friends, of course, but I would be more interested in maintaining the relationship, so any resistance on their part would cause me to immediately cease the activity.

 

Jevne

 

I find this very interesting because it throws up the question of whether you can actually have a relationship with a creature like a spider. By relationship I mean an emotional bond that the animal is aware of. I tend to anthromorphasise (spelling..!) quite a lot and I personally do think my spiders recognise my voice and my scent but many people would argue that you cannot have a relationship with a spider in the same way you could for example a dog or a cat. I wonder if this makes them more suited to being used as a conduit for spirit than an animal with a greater evolved conscious would be? 

 

Having said that, many people here have spoken of relationships with plants and even minerals. For a witch it isn't a great stretch of imagination to visualise creating a bond with an invertebrate. If this is the case possibly your suggestion that the relationship would influence the usefulness of the pet for magic/divination is right. I'm not sure if I've got a definite opinion but I'd be interested to hear thoughts from others on the matter.

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I think I have mentioned this before, but I am much more comfortable taking advantage of and/or using people for my own personal needs and gains, including as tools of my many whims, than I am using an animal.  It is partly the whole innocence and at your mercy thing, but it is mostly because I like most creatures better than I like most humans. ;)

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but it is mostly because I like most creatures better than I like most humans.

 

 

 

ain't that the fucking truth!

 

Degu - I don't see why not.  I have relationships with a few plants and my rocks/crystals.  It may be a type of relationship that's alien to what we know as humans but it sounds like you already have one.  It's just difficult to put 'human' descriptors to it.

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Thanks for the info!  Interesting techniques.  I am, however, arachnophobic, so I would probably start crying hysterically if I laid eyes on the spider(s)!

Edited by TheOn3LeftBehind

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Hmmm... I might give this a try! I've seen some wolf spiders around the house, so I might give this a try but I'm concerned about getting bitten. Spiders do kinda freak me out.

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You really have to mess with a wolf spider to get them to bite.  We had tons of them in the yard when I lived in Florida.  I've heard that their bites hurt like hell but aren't dangerous except to the very young and small.

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Bumping in appreciation. Spiders have become an important part of my path recently, so I've been actively seeking information, history and lore. 

 

I consider the spiders that come to me to be under my protection, sort of. I think if I were to enlist their assistance with divination, it would have to be a "would you consent to help me with this?" situation. I can't imagine catching one of them or physically disturbing them for any reason other than relocating an outdoor spider. 

 

For anyone seeking more info on the Mambila, I found this paper (a revised PhD thesis) examining their religion: Mambila Traditional Religion: Sua in Somié. I haven't dug into it yet, but I'm hoping it will provide some perspective / context. My own interest comes from the contrast with other West African religions and folklore - in Ghana and other areas where the Ashanti still follow the Akan traditional religion, the spider brings to mind Anansi, a trickster god / folk hero. (I'm still trying to sort all that out - so much to learn, but I feel that having a solid understanding of the spider's place in things from a variety of perspectives is important to my path at the moment.)

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