Spiders and Halloween seem to go hand in hand. As soon as October arrives, supermarket shelves are filled with spider-themed snacks and treats; and how many kids parties have you been to and found yourself surrounded by a sea of spider-related decorations? But what exactly is the connection between Halloween and spiders?
Halloween and spiders
Historically it seems spiders association with Halloween is linked to their connection with witches. Spiders, along with black cats, bats and rats were believed to be evil companions of witches during the Middle Ages.
Reinforcing this image are the iconic landmarks associated with Halloween such as haunted houses, graveyards, dungeons and creepy caves, all of which house their own array of spiders and spider webs.
As well as the scary connotations, in many countries around the world spiders were regarded as mystical creatures due to their web-making abilities! In folklore they are described as storytellers and oracles of fate, wealth, and sometimes death.
Because of their connection to the supernatural, there are countless superstitions around spiders. For example, my grandmother would always say that – spiders in your house is a sign of a happy home.
We’ve all spotted a spider in our homes at one time or another, but were you aware that the colour of the spider can represent different things?
For example if a white spider has set up its home above your bed you will have good luck. However, if a black spider has decided to move in then you’ll be in for some misfortune.
This spider superstition harks back to the arachnid’s connection to witches. As spiders were believed to be evil companions of these iconic Halloween figures, it was thought that if a spider fell into a candle-lit lamp and got consumed by the flame then witches were near by.
Not all spider superstitions are associated with bad happenings. For example, spiders are believed to be omens of good luck (well, apart from tarantulas and black widows). Seeing a spider in your home could mean that good fortune is heading your way, and in particular money! The bigger the spider, the bigger the reward!
Because of the mystical powers spiders are supposed to have, there are a few superstitions around causing them harm. Did you know that stepping on a spider is meant to be bad luck? Well, not necessarily, more of an annoyance. Why? Well, one superstition is that stepping on a spider will result in a downpour of rain.
Some spider superstitions are based on them being able to cure illnesses. One superstition is that taking a spider with a syrup will cure a fever! I’d be far more inclined to consult a chemist or your doctor.
One thing that has kept spiders linked to Halloween is people’s fear of them. Arachnophobia, as the name suggests, is a phobia of spiders and other arachnids such as scorpions.
However, arachnophobia is thought to be a result of evolutionary psychology? Back in our early evolution, coming into contact with venomous spiders was very common. Because of this a fear of spiders was developed as a survival instinct!
Spiders and horror films
Our fear of spiders has lead to them being used as tropes, as well as the main antagonist, in countless horror films since the 1950’s.
Not only have they been used to connote darkness and evil by inhabiting countless haunted houses, vampire lairs, and dungeons (to name a few), but they have also come in the form of giants and mutants, exploring society’s fear of atomic radiation and nuclear testing.
Spider bites in the UK
Spiders are most likely to enter your house in the autumn in search of a warm place to spend the winter. The majority of spider infestations are simply an annoyance – particularly their webs. The most effective way to control spiders is to limit their food, by clearing away dead flies, woodlice, millipedes, centipedes and other crawling insects.
Bites from British spiders are uncommon but occasionally species such as the False Widow spider (the common name for a group of species in the genus Steatoda), may become a possible issue as they have the potential to bite if they feel threatened. It is unlikely but if they do the affect is similar to a bee sting, so anyone with allergies should be cautious.