A Greek Myth
Arachne was a beautiful maiden and the most wonderful weaver that ever lived. Her father was well known throughout the land for his great skill in coloring. He dyed Arachne’s wools in all the colors of the rainbow. Since Arachne and her father lived far out in the countryside, she set her loom up outside so that she could be inspired by the birds, the flowers, and the sky.
People came from miles around to watch Arachne weave and to admire her work. They all agreed that the goddess Athena herself must have taught Arachne how to weave.
But all the praise that Arachne had received went to her head. She proudly said that no one had taught her how to weave, and that not even Athena could weave more beautiful tapestries. Her father warned her not to compare herself to the goddess, but Arachne paid him no mind.
One day Arachne was putting the finishing touches on a new piece. As she worked she bragged of her skill to the many people that surrounded her room. An old woman stepped forward to praise Arachne’s tapestry.
“Your work is beautiful,” said the old woman. “But do not be so bold as to claim that your work is better than Athena’s.”
Arachne just laughed at the old woman. “Go away, old woman. What do you know? If Athena’s weavings are so beautiful, then I challenge her to a contest! If I lose I will gladly take the punishment, but Athena is afraid to weave with me.”
Arachne had no sooner said these words than the old woman threw back her cloak and revealed that she was actually Athena in disguise. She said to Arachne, “Come, foolish girl, you shall have your contest!”
The people in the meadow surrounded the two women and their contest began. Both went quickly to work and for hours their shuttles flew swiftly in and out.
Athena, as usual, used the sky for her loom, and in it she wove a picture too beautiful to describe. Just look in the western sky each day when the sun sets and you will see an example of Athena’s work.
Arachne was so sure of her skill that she had not been frightened by Athena’s sudden appearance. Even Athena was amazed by the grace and beauty of Arachne’s creation. But when Arachne lifted her eyes to Athena’s work, she instantly knew that she had failed. She was so ashamed and so upset that anyone could weave better than she that she threw herself upon her loom and hid her face in the tapestry.
Athena took pity on her and said, “Your pride has brought you down, Arachne. But you shall continue to do the work for which you are best suited. You shall be the mother of a great race which shall be called spiders. You and your children shall be among the greatest spinners and weavers on earth.”
As she spoke, Arachne became smaller and smaller until she was scarcely larger than a fly.
From that day to this, Arachne and her family have been faithful spinners, but they do their work so quietly and in such dark places that very few people know what marvelous weavers they are.