Mama Afrika: South Africa's Pagan Spirit
North is South, Winter is Summer and widdershins is deosil. The South African experience of Paganism is topsy-turvy compared to our Northern brothers and sisters; but much like the Afrikaans saying, “ŉ boer maak ŉ plan,” Pagan South Africans make do with what they have and make it their own.
The Spider and I
Yesterday I did what I normally do in the afternoon- bring the laundry in from off the wash-line. I reach for a shirt, and there is a spider that has spun a delicate web between it and another shirt. Grabbing a small stick, I carefully pick it off its web and place it on a branch. See, I’m not scared of spiders.
Getting to the final bit of laundry, I unpeg a long black skirt off the line and drape it over my arm. Out the corner of my eye I notice something large and greyish rubbing against me. I think nothing of it. As I plop the skirt in the laundry basket, the greyish thing moves and realisation dawns.
There’s a shrill scream of some choice ‘French’ and I do the heebie-jeebie dance one naturally does when an eight-legged mammoth has rubbed up against you. Ok, I’m scared of spiders- but only when they are the size of dinner plates (I’m exaggerating, the size of saucers). However, I didn’t kill it. I just grabbed a big stick, and from an overstretched distance, flicked it off on to the ground… and then grabbed my laundry and ran for the door. However, the Gods were not done with me yet…
This morning I walked home after dropping my daughter off at school. The morning was rushed and I still felt tense from a spot of debating the night before. So I took the walk back slow so as to drink in the full beauty of the morning.
Oak trees line the street, their leaves in a final blaze of Autumn glory before succumbing to winter. The light mist is illuminated by the rising sun and even though the street is bustling with people rushing off to work, I feel a sense of peace sinking in. I continue to walk, slowly, methodically, allowing the subtle charm of the morning to wash away my tension.
Approaching a thick pin oak, I reach out my hand, placing it on the trunk to feel and draw on its strength and… DEAR GODS! A GIGANTIC SPIDER! I snap my hand back and quicken the pace homeward, but before I reach the garden gate, I finally ‘get’ the message.
You see, for the last few days I have felt a little bit lost and weary, and unsure of what to do next. So I turned to my faith for answers. I called on Arianrhod, my patron deity who has been the gentle illumination in the dark for so many years. She has never failed to guide me and offer me a nudge in the right direction, so I asked Her once again for insight and She answered with spiders. Big, hairy, scary spiders.
Now spiders have a rich history of symbolism in just about every culture from around with world. The meaning hidden within my spider encounters could be any number of things, and all I would need to do is a quick google of spider symbolism. However, that would only leave me with generic interpretations on what is a very personal answer. It is only fitting that I look at the message from my own perceptions if it is meant for me.
The first thing that strikes me is that spiders are weavers of intricate webs, just as Arianrhod, while not linked to spiders in recorded myth, is a weaver of fate. From that I gain the reassurance I am on the right track, so I dig deeper.
Although shudder-inducing, spiders also have a definite beauty in their grace and spindly legs. They are creators, weaving individual gossamer strands of great strength to make a purposeful whole. And they wait. Spiders are patient, passive hunters that know if they create in the right conditions, and apply patience, they will find what they seek; and they always find what they seek.
Within that I see my answer to cultivate patience and gently tend my web, laying down new strands if necessary and mend the broken ones. Then to wait, knowing that I have set things in motion and what I want will fly into my ‘web’ eventually. And of course, cultivating a bit of grace couldn’t hurt either.
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