Where are the Spiders?

Garden Spider

by Tim Titus

Last winter I posted an article about the bizarre winter we had in southern California. We had very little rain, and the daytime temperature rarely dropped below 75 degrees. Every cause has its effect, and I was concerned that our warm winter months would lead to some unfortunate side effects in the fall. We may be seeing those side effects now.

Our spiders have disappeared. Normally, late August brings the big, beautiful garden spiders to our suburban yards. They spin durable, intricate webs that hang from trees, eaves, and rain gutters, then they sit in the dead center and wait for their prey. I can spend all day just studying their web design as they glisten in the sun.

Some may recoil at the idea of missing our normal eight-legged autumn visitors, but everything is connected. Our most common summer insect is the housefly. They start buzzing around in mid-spring. By summer’s end, they are pretty heavy. Flies serve their own purpose, but as anyone who ever enjoys a meal in their backyard can attest to, in large numbers flies are quite a nuisance. The appearance of those big brown garden spiders heralds in a welcome new predator ready to kill off those annoying flies.

Without spiders, we’re still full of flies. Flies that want to help themselves to a taste of my lunch or a sip of my wine. Flies that are usually all dead by now. Something isn’t right.

Whatever is going on, it’s probably related to that unseasonably hot winter I mentioned. It’s well known by now that California is suffering a severe drought. All up and down the state’s major highways, traffic signs alert us to the lack of water and plead with us to conserve. Disturbing pictures of our reservoirs before and after the drought were recently circulated around the internet. They show a water supply that has dwindled to levels that can make you start to treat every drop like your own blood. You’d expect spiders would love to be where the flies are, but maybe their thirst is a more powerful motivator. Flies are abundant; water is scarce.

As we grow on the path on the Witch, we become more and more in tune with the patterns of the natural world. I have strong childhood memories of staring at garden spiders while walking to my first day of school. I learned early to connect them with the fall. But up until the past few years, I’m not sure I would have connected them to the disappearance of the flies at around the same time. Nor would I have considered how water levels may play a role in any of it. I was a suburban kid, surrounded by manicured lawns and gated communities, completely out of tune with actual nature.

As we continue through the turning of the Wheel, more and more of the the world’s mysteries open up. You don’t need sabbat rituals or occult books to tell you that spiders eat flies, but the deeper connections both in the natural world and within ourselves continue to reveal themselves as we experience the cycles in a magickal way. That goes for any number of facts about the natural world – you can understand them intellectually from a sixth grade science education, but the esoteric, personal meanings they carry for those of us on the Witch’s Path take time and experience to understand.

What is the spider’s mystery for you? Do you find yourself neglecting your normal practice in any way? Are you experiencing your own drought? Are you surrounded by spiritual flies? Like the missing spiders – or the missing waters – that previously vital, but now neglected, part of you could be damaging you in ways you don’t yet fully understand, allowing those energetic nasties to enter your life. As we approach Samhain, now would be a good time to do some cleansing work. Meditate. Talk to your guides. Just as spiders spin webs to catch their prey, seek the places where your web isn’t fully cast. Seek the holes that are letting in the flies. Seek sustenance while eliminating the habits which don’t serve your spiritual growth.

One of Scott Cunningham’s Thirteen Goals of the Witch is to “attune with the cycles of the Earth.” While that goal is partially about understanding nature, it’s also about discovering their deeper meanings for you, your life, and the development of your soul. The more we attune, the more we re-tune, and the healthier we become in all the worlds. We just need to bring back the spiders.

Tim is a Witchcraft V student and the co-leader of the Temple of Witchcraft Healing Case Study Group, a service of the Virgo Ministry. He writes at his own blog, Intersections, which focuses on the crossovers between science, art, and mainstream culture from a Pagan perspective. For more information on joining the Healing Case Study Group, contact him at healingcases@templeofwitchcraft.org.