SPIDER ROCK AND THE NATIVE LORE OF SPIDER WOMAN
The sandstone monolith known as Spider Rock stands 800 feet high from the canyon floor at Canyon De Chelly, where its formation began some 230 million years ago.
Navajo lore tells us that Spider Woman—one of their most honored deities—chose the top of Spider Rock for her home. It was Spider Woman who taught her people the art of weaving, and through many generations they have remained accomplished weavers.
But it was the stories the elders told to misbehaving children that made their eyes widen in fear. The elders told the children if they did not behave, Spider Woman would let down her web ladder and lift them to the top of Spider Rock and devour them. The children also heard that the top of Spider Rock was white from the sun-bleached bones of misbehaving Navajo children.
One day a Navajo youth was hunting when an enemy chased him deep into the canyon. Looking for a place to hide, he stood in front of the monolithic Spider Rock wondering how he could climb it to hide—he was tired and afraid. Just then, a silken cord hung down from the top of the rock. He grabbed the strong, magic cord and tied it around his waist and, with its’ help, he climbed the towering rock and escaped his enemy.
When he reached the top, he discovered eagle’s egg to eat and night’s dew to drink—and Spider Woman! To his surprise, Spider Woman explained how her magic web-cord had rescued him, and when his enemy was gone, the young man thanked Spider Woman and descended to the canyon floor with the help of her magic web-cord. He ran home as fast as he could with his story of how Spider Woman saved his life.