Written by Jacqui Bushell.

img 0779Song of the Dark, A Journey with Spider

One of our magpies, who happily explore our house for food droppings, came in with a beak full of funnel web spider the other day. Luckily she had a firm grip around all those legs and hairy, black belly. Jane had spotted the tunnels in our lawn, perfect round, dark entrances lined with silk, angling down into the dirt. I knelt down close to peer in one, seeing nothing but a faint shimmer of the web and the dull shadow of cool earth. Silence within. I’d hoped to see eyes or a scurry of legs, but no, only the awareness of ‘danger lurks here’, and my tight belly clench as I imagined meeting one up close.

Funnel web has a totally different energy from other spiders. They are earth dwellers and night seekers. Sky spiders create shimmering homes of gossamer threads, bridging air, twig, grass or leaf, mandalas of connection that often span seemingly impossible distances. Spider is so often linked with women, like the Spider Grandmother stories of the Hopi and Navajo. Like spider, we weave threads from our own being, from our experiences and life stories out into the world. Sky spider women are bright jewel spinners, empowering others through inclusivity, creating communities and networks that bridge inner and outer worlds.

                   Funnel Web Spiders are the shadow gifters, bringing the energy
                   of the dark mother.

The spiders that live under the ground are different, scary and poisonous. Their web weavings don’t arc out into the world, but line dark tunnels into the belly of the earth. They’re the shadow gifters, bringing the energy of the dark mother. The dark goddesses are the ones depicted with wild expressions, bloody swords and decapitated heads. They are the bone dancers, howling banshees, sexual Lilith and the fierce, deadly gaze of Medusa. Western culture generally shies away from their power, from our dark shadows. We prefer to quick fix, sedate or avoid them. Our language is ripe with pithy statements urging you to follow your bliss, to be loving and happy. There’s a pervading belief that an angel will fix things for you, that technique x will shift your disease, boost your 32 strand DNA, make you eternally happy, and be able to manifest your dreams. While it is wonderful and needful to anchor yourself in the love and beauty pervading the universe, it can also suppress or invalidate the potential richness inherent in your challenges. I see clients and students concerned or guilty that they are not ‘spiritual’ when they experience anger, jealousy, fear or frustration. To be loving and compassionate does not mean having no clear boundaries and a constant understanding smile.

We are in danger of being truly ‘light workers’ only. The concept of spirit being carried within light and ‘higher vibrations’, whilst bringing our awareness to the radiance in all, keeps us fixated on the light, ignoring the balance of shadow and the hidden mysteries. Grace too, exists in the dark.

I love Wendell Berry’s poem, To Know the Dark

                                To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
                                 To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
                                 And find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
                                 And is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.1

Sometimes your life rug gets pulled away with illness, confusion and pain, landing you in a deep place of stasis, where there is no bright illumination, no easy joy, no quick processing it away with affirmations, activations and hope. These states too, are holy mystery needing to be respected and honoured. These are times to douse the light, crawl into the cave and rest there, to lose your known self, your habits of behaviour and beliefs. Through this alchemy of ‘unbecoming’, discover what else you harbour, what else soul and great Mystery would like to nurture and bring forth. It’s time to find Medusa and meet her gaze.

                                  It’s time to find Medusa and meet her gaze.                                         
                                  The shadow too, is holy Mystery

Later, on the same day magpie brought in the funnel web, a client was curled on my massage table, hugging a pillow to her belly. She was vulnerable in grief while I was rocking her body like a lullaby, a gentle holding for one who doesn’t usually allow support from others. She was grieving a loss in her life resulting in a reframing of her sense of self. I was aware of not wanting to push her body, which was in great pain from spasming in her back. I wanted to offer her an ocean of tenderness. Suddenly, I felt the energy presence of a great spider hunching over me, fierce and insistent. She was a black funnel web. Startled, I ignored her as I felt the need to remain gentle. This spider felt fearsome and disruptive. She came in again a few minutes later and once again, I said no. The third time, the sacred law of three, I knew not to ignore. Her presence merged with mine and I moved with the energy of this dark spider. She was strong and direct, certainly not soothing, but surprisingly compassionate and loving, just not emotional.

                    I felt the energy presence of a great spider hunching over me,
                    fierce and insistent but suprisingly compassionate

There was a sense of ‘enough’ from this spider, ‘you have done enough grieving. Stop burrowing into yourself and confronting your patterns, shadows and stories of what has happened. Now stop. It is enough.’ My hands flew over my client’s body, carried by the spider’s focus, prodding insistently at particular points on her spine. She began to sob. My fingers dug in, pinching her vertebrae. She howled and wailed and I hung on. I was taken aback at how forceful this spider was. She pushed my client hard and I felt concerned it would be too much. My hands scurried and scuttled over her body like the 8 legs of this great weaving spider. Suddenly, my client’s cranial rhythm changed and slowed immensely, even while she continued to cry. It felt like a long tide pulling back further and further, miles back, exposing the ocean bed. Then came a pause, like holding a great breath. Longer, a moment of immense stillness, then the tide turned and was suddenly released, rushing back over corals, shells, rocks and sand, pouring back up the shore. Her breath released and so did her muscle spasm. She howled loudly, but this time she was breathing deeply with it. My fingers continued to fly over her body, web spinning now, supporting this new state, anchoring and reweaving her auric field. Then, as suddenly as she arrived, the funnel web left.

To be effective, compassion isn’t always cuddly soft, sometimes fierceness and direct strength are required. Sometimes, you get trapped in the pattern of your wounding. Sometimes your bones need to be rattled to make you aware of what else you are. The dark mother teaches this; to step forth in clarity and wisdom, offering what is needful, whether it’s appreciated or not. She endangers your safe orderly life by undoing polite niceness and habitual smallness. She restores authentic power.

                  Sometimes, you get trapped in the pattern of your wounding.
                  Sometimes your bones need to be rattled 

Funnel web spider has taught me about timing, directness and listening deeply. What kind of guide and friend do you want to be? What kind of guide or friend do you want around you? One who soothes and avoids confrontation, one who doesn’t speak up but is everyone’s ‘nice’ friend? Funnel web brings fierce compassion and love for our greatest good, she disturbs our equilibrium, our stuckness and avoidance of the hard places. She brings no sweet relief or reassurance, no guarantees of safety. Instead, she insists on presence, accountability and self awareness, shaking up your core so you may be more true, more authentic and come home to your core of power.

              ‘She is not withdrawn. She is alarmingly present. Like a tuning fork 
                  her truth shatters hypocrisy. Others in her presence 
are released 
                  into what is true in themselves. Or flee.
Marion Woodman

Marion Woodman sums it up beautifully. ‘She is not withdrawn. She is alarmingly present. Like a tuning fork her truth shatters hypocrisy. Others in her presence are released into what is true in themselves. Or flee.’2 The dark mother is the crone woman, bone woman, paring things down to the essentials. She steps in when your woundings and fears keep you small. The world doesn’t need more safe players, it needs strong women rising. Will you step up and bring your fierce love into action?


1. Wendell Berry, Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, Counterpoint, 1999 

2. Marion Woodman in Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted, September Pub, 2017, p. 374

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