Parallel Minds, 15–22


A Spider’s Work


In the West, myths that tell of the relationship between man, or woman, and technology are often rather tormented: from the torture of Prometheus to the fall of Icarus, Greek mythology is full of warnings against the dangers of using technology to go beyond human limits, even when this is done out of necessity or for the well-being of the community. Our contemporary sensibilities, however, are often more sympathetic to the reckless figures of these myths, who appear to us as heroes and heroines in revolt against an unjust divine arrogance. Perhaps Ovid already felt this sympathy when, in the sixth book of the Metamorphoses, he tells the story of Arachne, a woman of humble origins but endowed with a superlative talent for weaving. According to the myth, Arachne refuses to attribute her talent to a divine gift, believing that it is exclusively the product of her own ingenuity. The goddess Athena, the patron of weaving, angered by Arachne’s pride, presents herself to Arachne in the form of an old woman, recommending that she implore the goddess’s forgiveness without delay. When Arachne refuses, Athena reveals herself and challenges the defiant weaver to a contest. While Athena weaves a tapestry depicting the great deeds of the Olympian gods, Arachne, with equal mastery, weaves one showing the deceptions and violence suffered by women at the hands of the gods…