Luck has eight superstitious legs

Article published on May 31, 2007
Article published on May 31, 2007

373 million dollars. That's the worldwide takings during the first six days since Spider-man 3 hit European cinemas on 1 May, breaking all records, including figures for the last episode of Star Wars. But when he whips on his lycra spider suit, the Marvel Comics character also becomes a veritable goldmine for Sony Pictures. The Italians would say, ragno porta guadagno (‘spiders bring you fortune’). In English superstition, a money-spider brings financial joy to whoever it crawls upon to spin them new clothes.

Some might raise an eyebrow at the thought of a pesky, tiny bug bringing any benefits, much least financial. The answer can be traced in a spider's web, which in the past was used to cure injuries. Romans would breed spiders in their military camps, as their healing powers saved time and (usually expensive) soldiers. On the other hand, the Hebrew devil’s name is Belzebú, which means lord of the flies - a spider’s favourite food. It thus renders the spider as a symbol of good against evil – like Spider-man in the trilogy.

But in most European languages, a spider is an important instrument in predicting the weather. Spiders are averse to rain, which disturb their flight. In Poland, jesli zabijesz pajka bdzie pada deszcz ('if you kill a spider it will rain'). A French saying is similarly inspired: araignée du matin chagrin, araignée du midi souci, araignée du soir espoir (‘A spider in the morning for sadness, a spider at midday for anxiety, a spider at dusk for hope’).

Thus: if you catch a spider working its web in the morning, traditionally you will share the feeling of 'sadness', because there are no dew-drops which are a sign of coming rain. Spot a spider at midday, and be prepared to feel worried - they don’t weave their webs at noon! Signs show that the spider has been 'compelled to do the impossible' and hurry as the rain is coming. The evening spider brings hope, suggesting that the atmosphere will be calm. A Belgian saying also forecasts fine weather if les fils de leur toile sont longs, (‘the web’s threads are long’).

This impressive web reputation gets tangled in Germany, where people who can’t stand each other are sich spinnefeind (‘enemy-spiders’). In English, this translates to a couple who fight like cat and dog. Obviously not the case in the partnership between Peter Parker/ Spider-man and Sony Pictures. Under the Hollywood sky at least, the sun will stream as long as the dollars keep rolling in.