Appalachian Lore: The Spider That’ll Write Your Name

Photo courtesy of Deisy Mendoza
Photo courtesy of Deisy Mendoza

Though I was no older than six years old at the time, I can still vividly recall the time I was first introduced to the Argiope aurantia, more commonly known as the yellow garden spider.

My mother always ensured the entrance to our home was lined with flowers and all types of indescribably beautiful plants.  Which attracted bugs, which attracted spiders.

There was one spider in particular that I remember well.  She named him Ralph.  He had the most beautiful black and yellow body I had ever spotted on a spider and though there was a part of me that trembled at the very thought of him, I couldn’t help but find him to be ever so fascinating.

One day, being a typical mean, mountain boy, I grabbed a stick and made my way toward Ralph’s very impressive web.

As though she could predict the future, my mother exclaimed from the porch, “Don’t you knock Ralph’s web down!”

I kinda laughed and made as though I was going to do so anyway, when she added, “If you do, he’ll right your name in his web and come bite you while you’re sleeping.”

Not believing her in the least, I proceeded to run a stick through part of his web then made haste to rejoin whatever yard game was going on a few dozen feet away.

By the following evening, I had completely forgotten all about the spider’s web incident, until my mother came and got me out of my room and said, “Come out here, I want to show you what I said about Ralph’s spider web… He wrote your name in it!”

Stepping onto the porch, I saw the spider’s web.  It had been patched back together in what my tiny eyes perceived to be in the letters of my name — cursive that is!

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a wink that night and every tiniest tickle or scrape against my skin was that of Ralph coming to bite me and not convincing of my mother to the contrary would satisfy me!

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate these garden spiders and can’t help but think about one of my earliest childhood memories!

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  1. I remember them , not the story that if I disturbed the web, but the part where they write your name… if the write your name you will die….

  2. The story that I remember about the writing spider is that when it wrote a W in its web that it was predicting war. I was born during WWII and was in my first years of grade school during the Korean Wars. Even though I was very young at the time, I was fearful of seeing the letter W because my father and all of my uncles served in the war.
    We children were told if asked granddaddy long legs to tell us where the cows were that he would point his leg in their direction. We asked him often because we thought it was funny and also because we kind of believed that he could tell us where the cows were.

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