The silence of the desert landscape was shredded by a hard crash-landing in the center of the desert clearing. A giant cloud of yellow-orange sand rose up into the air, until it was sucked up by a passing dust devil. The dust devil then started to swirl and morph uncontrollably. It spun into a fully-fledged tornado and rose even higher into the sky. It ripped deep into the land and tore apart the desert agave, snakeweeds, and local native king cup cacti that stood immobile. The raging tornado continued on and swallowed up the blue sky and yellow sun. All that was left was a red haze across the land.
Then, just as the tornado approached a small, indigenous desert honeysuckle shrub, it stopped. It stopped, and died out just as quickly as it had formed. The sand dropped to the desert floor below along with the torn up cacti. The sun turned back to its usual yellow color and the sky turned again to it regular hue of blue. Everything was silent once more.
From underneath one leaf of the small bush peered a pair of red eyes. Another pair opened up behind the first. And then a third and a fourth pair of the same red eyes, one behind the other. Out of the darkness under the leaf crept out several pairs of thin, spindle-like legs—it was a tiny spider. But this was no ordinary spider.
This was Grandmother Spider, the Spider Woman of the tales in the Old Navajo Oral Tradition: the Woman that Brought Thought into Being. But for now she was still fairly young, give or take a few millennium. After all, it was still only the beginning of humanity. Grandmother Spider didn’t know it yet but somewhere on the other side of the world Adam and Eve had just been expelled from the Garden of Eden. She didn’t know it yet but she would meet another from that world as well, very soon in fact.
Now, while Grandmother Spider was fairly young her wisdom was nonetheless the greatest in the land. She approached the crater carved deep into the desert with care. She crept around the crater first and then took a peek inside. She allowed only one row of eyes to look into the crater at a time.
Inside, she saw what looked like a snake, sprawled up against the sand. It was bleeding profusely from its side, and its mouth hung open in an awkward gape. It was breathing but with great difficulty.
True, Grandmother Spider had seen snakes before and had known to avoid them, but this one was different somehow. Its eyes were full of fear, not hate. She had never seen this before. So despite her own caution, she approached the snake with curiosity. Once she was close enough she saw that the wound was indeed deep. So she began to spin her web around the wound to stop the bleeding and help the snake.
It didn’t take long for the snake to notice the spider weaving its thread. It realizing what the spider was doing, and so it waited for the spider to finish. But once Grandmother Spider was done, the snake attacked in a flash.
But Grandmother Spider was too quick for the snake. She missed the snake’s bite by the hairs of her spindle-like legs and jumped to a high rock. “Why did you try to bite me, sister snake?”
“I am no sister to you!” hissed the snake. “You are my food. You are mine!”
“Mine?” A smiled carved on Grandmother Spider’s mouth. “There is no mine, or yours here. You have left all of that behind. There is only ours here.”
The snake looked up at Grandmother Spider and then for the first time, closed her eyes and exhaled calmly. Her shape began to change from a scaly snake into a young woman with glowing, white skin and eyes that shined with the silver of moonlight. The silk that Grandmother Spider had crafted around her wound as a snake had unraveled, showing that her skin had healed perfectly. But the same could not be said of what was inside.
Grandmother Spider looked at this human-like creature very carefully until she arrived at a decision. She then herself transformed from a tiny spider into an old woman, with braided grey hair and many deep lines that carved their way along her facial features. Each deep line bore a tale of its own. “Tell me, child, who are you?” asked Spider Woman.
“I am Lilith, first wife of Adam,” responded the being, dropping her head and letting her black hair droop over her eyes and shoulders. She tried to cover herself with Grandmother Spider’s torn piece of silk web but it was too small. It was beginning to grow dark now and the icy winds of the desert were starting to pick up.
“No, my dear,” Grandmother Spider chose her words wisely. “You are Lilith, first free woman. Come, let me weave you something to keep you warm.” She gestured for Lilith to follow her. Lilith followed, leaving behind a molted snakeskin inside the crater.
The ‘Legend of Lilith’ is a series of short stories, its publication spanning FEM and Ha’Am Newsmagazines. The mythological short stories depict a fictional representation of Lilith, a female demon mentioned in Jewish texts, as the First Wife of Adam, and how she interacts with various figures in history and in the creation myths spanning various different cultures.
Check out the other ‘Legend of Lilith’ Short Stories:
Legend of Lilith Part 1:Midnight Artemis
Legend of Lilith Part 2:Vision of Golem
- Silko, Leslie Marmon. Storyteller: with a New Introduction and Photographs. New York: Pengruin Group, 1981. Print.
- Spider Woman’s Web, published by Penguin Group (USA) 1999 ISBN 978-0-399-52546-9
- Spider Woman Stories, published by The University of Arizona Press, 1979. ISBN 0-8165-0621-3