Thursday, 20 September 2012

Arachne's Coat Hanger



It had been many long years since the wise goddess of the storm-grey eyes had competed against a certain weaver. That weaver having won the competition had left the wise goddess somewhat cross. The result of a cross goddess, even the wise Athene had resulted in the weaver being turned into an arachnid, the first of them. Arachne the arachnid had become a creature of corners weaving her delicate webs and reduced to living on insects. No longer the vivid, bright, young woman who had delighted in fabrics and clothes. No longer the young woman who was easily persuaded to go with her friends to the market, or who drank wine and ate honey-cakes. No longer the young woman who talked, laughed, sang as she wove, loved and cursed at the changing landscapes of her life.

Athene had never forgotten that moment of anger and, she admitted to herself, spite. The young woman had been a little presumptuous, but she had won the contest fairly at least. There had been no cheating or daring to criticise the work of the flashing-eyed goddess. Indeed, the young woman had been awestruck at the goddess's work. She had admired its work and been so ashamed at her impiety and presumption that she had hanged herself. At this Athene had taken pity on the young woman, for it is often the way for the young to be presumptuous and not so bad after all. So Athene had insisted that Arachne live and weave her delicate, exquisite webs for eternity.

Still, Athene thought as she sipped her wine and looked out from Mount Olympus on the world of mortals, she had given the woman life again and that was much. Yet something niggled at her. She recalled Freud and his notion of the ego or conscience.

"Another presumptuous mortal," she murmured to herself.

Perhaps, but her conscience had niggled her until she was forced with her own wisdom to recognise her anger had led her astray. Nothing more to do she had told herself, but that was not really enough and she knew it.

That evening she put her dress in her wardrobe and put on pajamas. Wardrobes and pajamas were relatively modern to her, but she liked them. She lay upon her bed and gazed at the stars. The constellations looked down at her reminding her of past days many centuries ago. But in her mind she was thinking still of Arachne. Where was that spider now?  Was she long dead?

Athene knew even as she asked herself the question that Arachne was still living. The first spider, but also the once and future spider. The mother of all spiders, still weaving her web with the finest spun threads - perhaps even experimenting with different threads. She had always been a smart young woman, even Athene conceded that much. Her only real offence was her presumption. Athene closed her storm-grey eyes and slept. Her pale aunt Selene, goddess of the Moon rode in her chariot drawn by two white horses across the dark expanse of night singing her dreaming songs.

When rosy-fingered Eos, the dawn goddess caressed bright Helios, he awoke and Selene went to her bed. Athene awoke then and yawned. She stretched her arms and back. Throwing off the duvet (another modern invention she loved), she got up and headed to the bath-chamber to prepare herself for the day. She returned to the bedroom and removed her pajamas. Now in this morning she thought only of the things she would do this day. A young woman who was wondering how to leave a bad boyfriend, a man who was struggling with the business of living and looking fondly on death - and the rest. It's a busy life being the goddess of wisdom, war and craftwork.

Opening her wardrobe she reached into its depths and stopped suddenly. Beside her beautiful long dresses a spare coathanger was visible. Upon it in thicker gossamer was woven an exquisite pattern. Athene gently took the hanger from the wardrobe and held it up to the light. For a moment she was quiet, her mist-grey eyes softened and she wept to think of the young woman who had dared - with such confidence and courage to contend in her craft with a goddess.

She put her hand inside the wardrobe and said softly,

"Come to my hand good Arachne, hard is the lesson you have learned, come to me fair child."

A small spider about the size of a mortal's thumbnail descended from the top of the wardrobe on a fine silken thread to the hand of the goddess and stayed there, still as if dead. Athene put the coathanger back inside the wardrobe and breathed upon the still spider. Slowly she regained her form, standing in Athenes palm. Her hair was long and soft, though grey as mist. Her eyes were dark and her fair skin had wrinkled with age. A tear fell from Athene's mist-grey eye upon the woman's head and her youth came back to her. She fell to her knees, naked and radiant in the goddess' hand covered her face with her hands and wept.

Athene hushed her, gave her a new name and fine dresses and bid her live again in the world of mortals.

"You are not the foolish girl you once were my dear, be wise and think well of me. Death will come to you soon enough. Live and leave to the fire dark misfortunes. Go and weave again Arachne. We competed once, but we shall not compete again. You are a fine weaver and embroiderer, but now you are also a wise woman," Athene told her.

Arachne vanished then from the goddess' palm into our mortal world and lives among us still, unknown and much loved. She does not speak of the past for it is gone and she will be part of it soon enough. She is much loved these days. She goes to the market with her friends, meets them for coffee and cake, loves clothes, shoes, fabrics and books. She laughs, grumps, sings when she weaves, cries occasionally and when she remembers, she is still. Then she smiles to feel the blood in her veins, the warmth of her skin and she shakes her long hair to delight in being alive.

Athene too goes among us, more mellowed than she used to be and more forgiving. She pities us when we are foolish because we are but mortal. She smiles when we love and laugh. She weeps with us when we are frightened, unhappy and alone for she understands us better than once she did. Better than we ever understand ourselves and she does not care if we believe in newer gods or no gods at all. For she is the storm-grey eyed, the flashing eyed goddess, daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus and that she thinks, is enough. It will do.

2 comments:

Moonroot said...

Lovely!

madameshawshank said...

"and among them went bright-eyed Athene, holding the precious aegis which is ageless and immortal: a hundred tassels of pure gold hang fluttering from it, tight-woven each of them, and each the worth of a hundred oxen"

G, am imagining you and I at table with Athene and the young weaver...the sharing of stories from ages back...imagine the laughter...of course each would bring something for the feast...

especially love the paragraph beginning : a small spider...sooooo still it was...

thank you yet again storyteller!