Arachne and Athena (A Bloody Myth #1)
The poor Arachne
There was once a girl in Greece named Arachne. She came from a poor family and they lived through the toiling of her father. But one day her father caught an illness that rendered him unable to work for days. They almost died due to starvation had not an old woman helped them to survive.
The old woman took pity on poor Arachne who was so young and adorable. She taught her how to weave and gave her some wool and silk so that she might be able to earn a living for her family while her father was sick.
At first, Arachne’s work was rough and only a few people bought from her. This inspired her to get better and to get more creative. In time, all the people who saw her work were struck by awe with the beauty that they beheld.
“This is such a magnificent work, young girl!” One woman praised Arachne one day. “Your skill is impressive. I don’t see any room for any more improvement! Might it be that the goddess Athena herself taught you how to weave?”
Arachne smirked at what she heard. “Athena? No, Madam. All of these are my work and mine alone. I learned my craft through my hard work and through practice. What you see in front of you is the product of my creativity. Athena, goddess though she may be, had nothing to do with it.”
“But the wisdom that you used to create such heavenly beauty must have come from her.” The woman insisted. “A goddess is with you here because what we see here is divine work. Athena has blessed you and all of us must thank her for that.”
Arachne was enraged by what the woman said. “I assure you, Madam, that it was I who has toiled for these, who has stayed up all night to create these. It was I who worked hard to perfect my craft. It was my fingers who got frequently wounded just so that you might see the beauty that you behold right now. If you want to thank someone because of my handiwork, then you have to thank me. The goddess Athena had nothing to do with it.”
With this, the old lady went away. She never forgot what Arachne insisted and she would spread word about this later on to her friends.
Athena reveals herself to Arachne
Arachne continued her weaving even after her father recuperated from his sickness and since she produced such lovely items, she sold enough that their life was far better than it used to. People continued to praise her and so she held pride in her work and that made her happy.
Meanwhile, word spread that Arachne regarded her craft more than she was grateful to the goddess of wisdom, Athena. This did not evade the ears of the goddess. Furious, she wanted to check if the rumor was true.
That is why one day, Arachne was visited by the old woman who once helped their family survive and who taught her how to weave. “How have you been, child, since we met?”
“I have been well, Madam, thanks to your help. I have been weaving since you taught me and now everyone who has seen my work has nothing bad to say about it.”
“It is thanks to Athena, the goddess of wisdom herself, that we mortals are able to think of ways to advance our crafts. You would have to thank her too, dear.”
“I refuse to believe that. It is I who worked hard to improve my output. The design I use in my work is produced through my creativity. I have advanced due to my perseverance and I have never depended on a goddess.”
“You are an ungrateful mortal!” With her rage, the old woman shone with great resplendence. She changed her appearance to be the most fair lady Arachne had ever seen.
“I am the goddess Athena. I am the same goddess who took pity on you when your destitute family was in need of my help. I pulled you out of poverty and gave you wisdom to pursue your craft, which I and no other has taught you. Without me, you would not even start to weave. I have pitied you before for your poverty but now I pity you for your arrogance not to even accept that you took help from someone other than yourself to pursue your crafts.”
Arachne was awestruck and the goddess shone even brighter and her voice reverberated even louder. “I challenge you now to create something that I, a goddess, cannot create. I call on the god Zeus to judge this contest. If you win, then you may keep the gift that I have given you. But if you lose, then since you cannot offer the world nothing that I myself can offer, I will take away the gift that I have bestowed upon you.”
With this, people crowded around to see the outcome of the contest. Then a rainbow shone on the sky. Iris showed herself to indicate that Zeus is watching. Her presence marked the beginning of the contest.
So Arachne began to weave. She weaved with skill and precision. Every move she made was with a happy heart. When she finished everyone marvelled at the work of her hands. It was colorful and its beauty neared that of Nature herself.
But then Athena began to weave. As she weaved everyone gaped as she was faster than the wind. And her skill is something that no one can surpass. Her unbounded wisdom guided her hands and when she finished, Nature herself admired her divine work. A butterfly that was passing by was veered away from its course and rested upon Athena’s handiwork.
The people who saw the goddess’ work thought that what she made was alive. And when they looked back at what Arachne made, they laughed at it.
“Compared to what Athena has made, this girl’s work is nothing.”
“Indeed! Clearly we know who won this now.”
“There’s no doubt Athena won.”
“It is true that no mortal can surpass what a goddess can do.”
Arachne was defeated by Athena
With what the people said, Arachne was overcome by shame. She had always thought of her work as superior but now she could not even begin to weave for the fear that she might create another ugly thing to see. She stopped going out of the house because she was ashamed of the people. She never became happy again as the root of her happiness was her weaving.
One day, she could not take the depression that she felt any more that she decided that she end herself.
“If my heart feels this kind of sadness right now, I cannot take it. Let my heart not feel anything at all! Let it stop its beating that only hurts me with its every sound.”
And so one day, because he has not seen her for the longest time, her father decided to check on her poor daughter Arachne. He went inside her room just to see her above the ground, her head holding on to a rope. She was like a spider on its web.
The Myth of Arachne
The myth of Arachne is one from a collection of the rich Greek mythology. In the myth the goddess Athena challenges the arrogant Arachne to a contest of weaving. Some stories say that Arachne won and some say that Athena did. But all of them end up with Athena being angered and Arachne being transformed into a spider.
Notes and Trivia
1. Arachne is the Greek word for spider.
2. Arachnids are a class of arthropods that have eight legs. They include spiders, scorpions, harvestmen, ticks, mites, and solifuges.
3. Athena is the goddess of wisdom. She is called Minerva in Roman mythology. Her main base of worship was in Athens in Greece. She is often called Pallas Athena in some texts.
4. Pallas is a daughter of Triton and a childhood friend of Athena. Athena accidentally kills her and due to her guilt kept the name Pallas for herself in honor of her friend.
5. Iris is the Greek goddess of the rainbow. She is considered as the messenger of the gods. The element iridium was named after her.
6. The word iridescence, from Iris, means a play of lustrous and changing colors.