March 07, 2012

We all know the nursery rhyme in which Miss Muffet can’t finish her meal because of a surprise visit from a spider. But why are we so afraid of spiders? Is it those long legs (eight of them!), the crawling around, the web? I’ve been trying to be kinder to insects and arachnids, letting daddy long legs live in certain corners, and putting the others out the window, instead of freaking out or (heavens no!) squashing them.
I began this spider project by asking, “What if you loved insects and spiders as much as you love puppies?” “What would make them irresistible?”

While I was working on the spiders and making the video, I came across a passage in Joseph Campbell’s Primitive Mythology on this very subject. According to Freud, the arachnid as a fear-releasing sign, “whether in the nursery rhyme of Miss Muffet or in the labyrinths of modern life” comes from “an unconscious association with the phallic mother”. Anyway, that’s Freud’s point of view.

I believe we can learn to like spiders and appreciate their beauty…but I do admit that the very big ones with long pointed legs that we find in the bathtub sometimes still send me into a frenzy and I get my husband to put them outside! I’m working on it.

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