April 30, 2013
Before Spider-Man; There Was Jorogumo, And She Didn’t Play Nice
Spider-Man, a hero from comic books and the movies, wasn’t the first spider / human mutation. According to Japanese legend, Jorogumo was a spider that could change into the form of a beautiful woman to lure unsuspecting men as her victims.
There are few different legends concerning the Jorogumo. One is where a beautiful woman would seductively lure a man into a quiet area or small building and begin to play a Japanese flute. The sound would memorize the man, and the Jorogumo would spin spider’s silk around him so he could not escape. She would then have the man for a meal.
Another legend of the Jorogumo is when a spider becomes 400 years old it will acquire magical ability. The spider would then grow enormously and transform itself into a beautiful woman.
The waterfall legend known as the mistress of Joren Falls, is where a man was resting at the waterfall and his feet became wrapped in a spider’s web. The man freed himself by cutting the threads and tied them to a stump. The stump was yanked from the ground and pulled into the water.
This incident frightened the villagers and no one would go near the waterfall again. Until one day a lumberjack from another village, who was unaware of the story, began to chop trees in the area of the falls when his axe accidentally fell into the water. He dove in to recover the tool, but a beautiful woman emerged holding it. She told him to never tell anyone about her. The lumberjack promised to keep her a secret. However, one day after he drank his fill of liquor, he began to tell of the woman at the waterfall. He became lethargic, fell into a deep sleep and never awoke.
A variation of this legend at the waterfall is where the lumberjack falls in love with the woman. He visits her every day but becomes weaker with every visit. A monk suspects the Jorogumo to be the cause of the lumberjacks weakness, so they go together to the falls. While the monk was reading from the sutra (Buddhism scriptures), a web began to form around the lumberjack. The monk shouts out the scriptures and the threads disappear. The man realizes the woman is actually a Jorogumo, but his love is too strong for her, so he returns to the water. As he returns to the waterfall he is wrapped in threads of silk and pulled into the pool never to be seen again.
In one story of the legend when the tree stump is pulled into the water, a voice is heard saying, “how clever, how clever”. This version is known as Kashikobuchi, translated to “clever abyss”. The Jorogumo in this variant is worshipped as the goddess that protects the visitors to the waterfall from drowning. A monument and a Torii have been constructed at this location.
The Jorogumo has been used in various games, books, TV series, and movies. One movie in particular is where a Jorogumo appeared in the 2006 movie Hellboy: Sword of Storms. In the first season of the TV series Grimm, a Jorogumo was featured in the eleventh episode.
Join me next time for another mysterious legend in Supernatural Endeavors.
Image Credit: Ralf Juergen Kraft / Shutterstock