Spider Woman and the Diné

Diné (Navajo) weavers are famous around the world for their beautiful rugs, blankets, and other handwoven items. For centuries, Diné weavers have created stunning and complex woolen works of art through the seemingly simple combination of warp and weft. As described in books on Diné weaving, such as Navajo Weaving Way, this weaving is a meaningful practice with its own rituals and traditions.

 

According to legend, it was Spider Woman who taught the Diné how to weave. Spider Woman was created by the Holy Ones and told by them that she had the ability to weave a map of the universe. She was uncertain as to what they meant, but then one day she touched a small young tree and a string attached to the branches from her palm. As she touched different parts of the tree, the string crossed and made patterns and she realized that this is what the Holy Ones had intended. When the Holy Ones heard of her skill, they instructed her husband Spider Man to build the first loom and tools.

 

Spider Woman eventually taught Changing Woman to weave, on the condition that she then pass it along to the Diné. Spider Man then taught the Diné to make looms and tools for the weavers. To this day, Spider Woman is said to help her descendants, and a design known as Spider Woman’s Cross is sometimes found in Diné weaving as a tribute and prayer to the one who taught them how to weave. 

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