Appalachia Folklore Heritage


folklore about spiders

Everyone’s afraid of something, when I was growing up it was spiders for me. I couldn’t stand them. Almost every time I saw one I’d take off running and screaming.

During late summer giant spiders would build their webs in the eaves of Pap and Granny’s house-they especially seemed to like the corners. I dreaded walking by the webs when I was sent to the clothesline by Granny. On more than one occasion I’d feel the string of the clothespin bag on my back and think it was one of those spiders. I carried on so that somebody usually came out to see what in the world was going on.

Chatter inherited my fear. This time of the year-it’s hard to hike without walking through spiderwebs. Chatter makes sure she isn’t in front but sometimes that isn’t enough to calm her fears.

The same kind of big spiders that wove their webs in the corners of Pap’s house-now weave around my house.

Folks around here call them writing spiders. An old wives tales says the person’s name the spider ‘writes’ will soon die. Another one advises you should never speak someone’s name near a writing spider because you might give them the idea for their next web and hasten the person’s passing.

Appalachia is full of folklore about spiders and their webs. Things like:

  • If you wish to thrive leave spiders alive
  • If you get too close to a spider-and it counts your teeth-you’ll die (seems whoever came up with this one was afraid of spiders too)
  • If you see a spider on your clothes it means good luck (maybe I shouldn’t have run from all those spiders as a kid)
  • You should go around a spider’s web because if you tear it down you’ll for sure have bad luck
  • Spider webs will stop bleeding if applied to a wound
  • Eat a wadded up spider web to relieve asthma
  • Stuff a spider web down into a cavity to ease a tooth ache

Soon after I had the girls I overcame my fear of spiders. The Deer Hunter and Pap built our house while I was pregnant with the girls. We moved into the house 3 days before I had them in the month September.

As soon as cold weather arrived all the bugs and spiders that had taken up residence inside the walls, cracks, and crevices began to come out. Each morning I’d awaken to a new group of intruders to do away with. One day I saw the biggest spider I had ever seen in the top of our closet. Too frightened to do anything about it I called Pap to come kill it. By the time he got up here it was gone. For days I worried about that stupid big spider getting on my baby girls or me, but I determined I’d never be to scared to take care of a spider by myself again.



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  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    August 22, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Ugh, another scared-y cat here too. Except Grand Daddy Long legs. I read in a book, when I was a kid, that a pill of spider webs can sure asthma.

  • Reply
    August 21, 2010 at 7:29 am

    As a kid we played with Daddy Log Legged spiders.
    I can’t afford to be afraid of spiders these days – I live in the country, sandwiched between peanut, cotton, and timer farms – I swear just as soon as I sweep the webs out of one corner three more pop up somewhere else.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Can’t stand for a spider to get on me and the webs give me the creeps when I get into one, but I know spiders are helpful with all the insects we have so I try not to kill them. I am a bit tired of them this summer all around my deck and crossing their webs over my steps each morning.
    I have been known to spend time watching a spider weave its web. That has to be the most intricate work and to think it is done by a small creature like a spider.

  • Reply
    August 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Lynn-I’ve never seen a name-I have read about someone seeing a name-but it was a fiction book : )
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  • Reply
    lynn legge
    August 16, 2010 at 1:23 am

    yikes….. ill never sleep thats what i get for reading your post at one am..
    i love the stories about the writing spiders… but thats about it… i absolutely am petrified of spiders.. and actually felt nauseous at looking at the picture.. ughhhhhh if they stay hidden and do their job.. thats fine with me.. but i dont want to see them..
    now.. may i ask. has anyone ever seen a name in the web??
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    August 16, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Can’t say I care much for spiders. We have a lot of wolf spiders here, ya kinda get use to them. When I was in Oklahoma, I saw a large group of tarantulas crossing the highway one night. THAT will make wolf spiders seem pretty harmless!
    We always called the writing spiders “garden spiders”. They don’t seem to get too close to the house. I do appreciate the orb weaver spiders. Cool webs, and best of all, the don’t run across your floor!

  • Reply
    August 15, 2010 at 11:13 am

    How funny! Makes you wonder how folks come up with all those old sayings. I don’t like spiders of any kind. Don’t know a good one from a bad one, so kill everyone I find.

  • Reply
    August 15, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Not scared of them, just don’t want them creepy crawly things touching me.
    Once I tried to kill one and it bit me. So for a long time I would just watch them walk by, no matter where they were.

  • Reply
    Misty Taylor
    August 15, 2010 at 7:45 am

    I’m OK with everything but Wolf Spiders. I had a real life panic attack the other night after seeing #3 in my bedroom. Writing spiders & even black widows are fine by me, so long as they are outside.

  • Reply
    August 15, 2010 at 1:35 am

    I am one of the few that think spiders are cool. I had an orb spider that wove her web around the only window I could open and it didnt have a screen, but she sure kept the skeeters out. I have taught my kids and grandkids about how many insects they eat and when we go walking, we try to see how many different kinds we can find. I also used to watch black widows for hours as a kid.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    August 14, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    All spiders are venomnous but not all spiders are especially dangerous to humans; in fact, most are not. We have brown recluse or fiddleback spiders and black widow spiders here in Indiana but they are not as common as most other spiders. Most people have been bitten by the brown recluse and remember the small, round, painful and persistent sore and scar that results. Often the bite is on the foot as the spider hides in shoes. I always beat my shoes like crazy before I put them on … if they’ve been out in the garage.
    I have a strong fear of the possibility of spiders and getting bit if I, say, have to crawl up under a floor. I don’t, however, kill spiders; especially common house spiders (I catch them and put them out). Spiders are very beneficial creatures to insect control.
    When I was a kid in East Tennessee, I and all my brothers and sisters and everyone I knew believed that a writin’ spider would count your teeth if you opened your mouth around one, and they would write your name in their web and you would die. I still don’t smile when I see one (and I know better) and we get a lot this time of the year in our bushes and garden.

  • Reply
    Greta Koehl
    August 14, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    I don’t mind little spiders, but the really big ones creep me out. I’ll never forget when I came out to Texas to be with my mother; as we were driving home to Seymour from Wichita Falls we passed an old building, possibly abandoned, with the hugest tarantula on one of the windows. Nightmares! My younger daughter learned about spiders in her junior kindergarten class and won’t let me kill them.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    August 14, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I like spiders, think they are such an amazing creatures, as long as they stay off of me!! I like watching them. My husband found a huge one last week, it’s web on his out building, we were looking at it and a huge hornet came along and started stinging it. I love watchign things like this. We have ones that build their web on the ground and theres a little funnel they sit in and wait for somethign to walk over the web. So cool!!
    Charlotte-in Charlotte’s Web, was a writing spider!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    August 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I do not like spiders either….
    We have those big wolf spiders here…and the big brown spiders…Lordy, I hate to have my hand in the garden and one of those big browns run across or near it..ewww!
    We have “kilt”…a few big shiney “Black Widers”, you know the one with the red hour glass on her belly…one just missed my husbands fingers as he was moving our birdbath…I just happened to see it under the edge of the concrete bathtop..ewww..It was a “biggie” and could have bitten him, causing a horrible, painful bite….
    We also have the Brown Recluse here….I say all brown spiders are Brown Recluses…but my husband says, NOT! LOL…It is now “spider time” in Tennessee until a good freeze…and walking into a web with a big brown is scary as heck. Since we have motion lights now and not constant night lights…it has helped keep them from building so close to the house to catch their prey…When I was a girl and in the late summer we would watch the big yellow writing spiders and always try to figure out the name on the jagged web in the center…the only way to get a good look was to catch a little grasshopper and throw it in the edge of the web..the spider would race to it and wrap her web around it…then we could hopefully see the name of the person in the web….

  • Reply
    August 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    I didn’t know those were called Writing Spiders. Neat name. We have those around our house. Kind of creepy, but they are amazing at the same time.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I hate spiders! I have those writing spiders (and lots of other kinds) in my blackberry patch. I usually have my husband come and kill them. I’m afraid I’m going to stick my hand on them while reaching in to pick. I shudder just to think of it. when I was growing up, we used to say not to let a centipede count your teeth.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    We have those writing spiders in our front bushes. I think they’re pretty and creepy at the same time.
    I just posted a picture of a huge spider living on our porch. I’ve never seen one like it before!

  • Reply
    August 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    For some reason, spiders never scared me. Slugs and centipedes, oh my those things are ick and scary!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I’m not afraid of the spiders but I do wish they would go somewhere else to live just because they are a nuisance. I occasionally get a spider bite that itches dramatically for days to come.
    I ask them politely to leave my house then if they don’t I kill them…end of story and end of problem

  • Reply
    Ginny Hartzler
    August 14, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Hi, I’m Ginny, and Sandra told me I just MUST read your post today. That is because I am well known everywhere for my fear of spiders. And my mom and her mom befor her. Even though this post horrifies me and the photos are hard to get through, It held an awful fascination. and I just love all the folklore, especially about weaving someone’s name in the web! I’m all about folklore. I have written quite a few posts on spiders. Here is one that even says how spiders weave webs in spece.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    not only am i scared of spiders so is my hubby who is scared of nothing in this world, not snakes that slither or 2 legged snakes. but he does not like spiders. he does come to my rescue though when i call for help. we have these big old ugly spiders down here in the woods and once we drove for about 3 miles and they were hanging by the hudreds from the power lines. i nearly freaked out. in florida there are spiders that are as big around as a tarantuala but a lot thinner. my grandmother would not let us kill them in her house, she said they ate bugs, i said give me bugs. when i was about 12, there was a big one on the front walk, for some reason i overcame my fear and stepped on it. about 5 million baby spiders exploded out of it, they carriy their young in a pouch. never stepped on any spider again

  • Reply
    August 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Tipper, I AM one of those who are scared of spiders–of all sizes (especially those BIG ones)… BUT–I have walked through a bunch of spider webs in my life –while hiking… ha
    What is the belief that it will be a hard winter if spiders build their webs near the ground??? I think that’s it….
    Have a great weekend.

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    August 14, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    This is a great posting about spiders, but I don’t like them very much. One old-time home remedy for bleeding was to put a spider’s web on the place to stop the bleeding. All kinds of superstitution was found in our Blue Ridge Mountians, some still exist. I always enjoy visiting your blog. It’s very interesting.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    August 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    I like spiders and try to avoid breaking their webs. Amazing critters. And I’ve used spider webs to stop bleeding — it works extremely well

  • Reply
    August 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    I like Writing Spiders… my kids do too… we even let one make her web right near our front door and we fed her grasshoppers and cabbage moths. I don’t like finding them in the woods when hiking though – I usually carry a stick and wave it up and down if it’s a close trail.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I can honesty say that I HATE spiders. They just creep me out. I hate seeing them and then freeze up when I know I have to smash’em. Ha! I just know they will jump on me when I try to swing. Funny aint it. Here lately I have had those huge spiders you know that old brown kind that just jump everywhere. We call’em wolf spiders dont know if thats what they are or not but they are HUGE!! And those writing spiders like in your photos….. eewww!!! Cant stand’em!!! Im gettin better at gettin rid of them though, sad aint it???

  • Reply
    Vera Guthrie
    August 14, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I still have a terrible fear of spiders. We have what my husband calls “Wolf Spiders” at our cabin and they are huge and I can scream loud enough that it is heard on the River Bottom. I do not like a Writing Spider for the very reason you said if it writes you name you will die. I am glad to know that I am not alone in my fear of spiders. Thanks for sharing!

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