26 April 2007


Arachne was the first atheist. It wasn't that she didn't believe in the existence of the gods, for the gods in those days left no uncertainty as to their being. It was their behavior that she did not believe in. They were rude and temperamental with constant demands for attention, and although they had not created the world, they ruled it on their whims. They had many whims, which they allowed themselves to be ruled by.

Arachne was an artist. The medium through which she worked was textiles. She was a weaver. Weaving required both skill and reason to bring about the designs she wrought. The designs themselves came from her passion. She was an artist, a creator, and she was proud. Even the gods, she said, could not do as well as she did. She said no one had taught her. Her skill came out of nowhere. She said it came of herself.

Athene, goddess of wisdom and weaving, heard these words and did not like them. She warned the girl not to be so proud, not to be so defiant. Appearing as an old woman, she advised the young girl to be patient.

Arachne saw no point in belittling herself. She told the goddess, come and see. She told the goddess, let's compete. Let everyone see.

The goddess lost enough of patience to accept the challenge.

Both women wove.

Athene showed the gods in all their glory, her triumph in Athens, and Zeus on his throne.

Arachne showed the gods in their indiscretions, Zeus and his various amours.

Angry Athene now lost all patience, destroyed the girl's work and her loom. For Arachne, the gods stopped being funny. Where was reason if the goddess of wisdom gave in to vanity? Where was justice if Athene herself forgot it?

Arachne hanged herself. She hanged herself from her own, woven girdle.

Athene had another idea. She turned Arachne into a spider, to spin webs forever, to hang from fine threads, a humble reminder that even the powerful cannot hide the truth.

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