Japanese Mythology: Jorōgumo

Japanese Mythology: Jorōgumo

The Jorōgumo is known as a mythological creature from Japanese myth who takes the roll of appearing as an attractive woman in order lure her poor unsuspecting victims to a harsh and painful death. This giant shape shifting spider is based in Japanese folklore as both beautiful but deadly, just like in the real world spider that shares her name and that spider is called Jorō spider and this is a member of the golden orb-web spider genus, these types of spiders are found all the way though Japan.

The Jorōgumo falls under the category Yokai , Oni and Bakemono in Japanese folk law due to this creature being a shape shifter and a mysterious being and for the fact that she can take on a human form and also a spider form.

The Jorōgumo made it’s first appearance in literature back in the Edo period. It was most likely what people assumed that it previously existed as a part of an oral folklore tradition. The Jorō in Jorōgumo is a translated word meaning prostitute however it is also associated with Jōrō which is referred to historically to women who would wait on the female royalty.

The Jorōgumo also had other name  such as the Whore Spider, Binding bride, Entangling bride and the Harlot spider. This creature is well known for her ability to lure her victims which is completely unsurprising as she used to hide herself as a very attractive and beautiful woman before using a very deadly deadly and painful venom to kill her victims slowly.

In some stories of the what you could consider a monster it is believed that her venom gives her the ability to be able to shapeshift. It is said that the Jorōgumo is believed ti spin such strong silk that it was able to capture the men in her web and that she was able to control other spiders.

Many different pictures of her show her as a woman with spider legs or just as a very large spider. It is known for spiders to play very much a central role in a lot of Japanese folklore. The earliest text known that was surviving in Japanese text was broken down and depicted a monstrous spider, it was a picture scroll from the 14th century, it included a s story about a shape shifting Earth spider that first appears to two warriors as a beautiful woman, this beautiful woman tries to trap the men by throwing balls of silk webbing before they stab her and she flees. Later on the men they find a many legged creature who was wounded in the same area in which the same area as the woman was that they stabbed. They then proceeded to cut open the creature’s abdomen open and almost two thousand human fell out along along with spiders the size of small children. The creature in this text is called a yama-goom-o or mountain spider in the text.

This creature is very similar to the Jorōgumo and it definitely shows the association between very attractive and beautiful women and spiders in Japanese folklore.

One of the earliest stories ever written about the Jorōgumo dates back to the 17th-centurty text. It tells of a very young samurai who is forced to take shelter in an abandoned structure which is strung with spider webs. He is approached by a young woman who is seen to be carrying a young child who she insists was fathered by him. This causes the man to be instantly suspicious since the women was for one traveling alone at night in a remote place.

The child goes to approach the samurai many times however turned away each time when it sees the man sword. The man grows annoyed and impatient and then slashes the woman with his blade, this causes her to flee to the rafters of the structure. The next morning the samurai finds an attic where there was a giant two-foot long spider lays, dying from very deep cuts along it’s back, it was the exact same one that look like the ones he gave the young woman, beside the spider was a stone grave statue of a young child is there as well. The samurai then looks up and sees the horrific sight of a carcasses of all the spider-woman’s victims wrapped in her web.

There was also another tale this coming from the 18th century collection of ghost stories has a different twist. It starts on one hot summer day, Magoroku, the heir of a very wealthy samurai family, relaxes and sings on his porch. When suddenly, a woman appears looking around the age of 50 years old approaches him.The woman tells him how beautiful his singing really was and it was making her daughter fall in love with him, so much so that she wants to marry him. This lead the man to be curious and to see if what the woman was saying is true, he follows her to a large mansion. Inside he finds a beautiful young woman who begs him to be consider her as his bride, he however declines this offer due to the fact he was already wed. This leads both of the women to beg him to reconsider but he remains resolute in his devotion to his wife.

This causes him to run out from the mansion, but the second he steps outside the door it mysteriously vanishes, turning back into the bamboo surround his own house. His servants insist that he has been on his porch sleeping the entire time but Makgotoroku cannot believe that what he had experienced was only just a dream. Suddenly, he sees a female spider scuttling away, he looks around and realises his home is strung with numerous spider webs, even though earlier, he had driven away spiders away with his pipe smoke. He then remembered how the beautiful girl told him the older woman has also been driven away by smoking, Magoroku realises, to his horror that the spiders were taking revenge on him. He then orders the servants to remove the webs, and fortunately for Magoroku, the Jorōgumo never comes to him again.

But why spiders being linked to women you may ask but that part comes from the cultural idea that women are out to ensnare men with their physical or sexual appeal or because of the construction of the spider web itself. Weaving, spinning and other elements of the textile production were historically area that the women would dominate. Silk weaving in particular,was a very important cultural, religious and economic activity in Japan.

The golden orb weavers that the Jorō spiders get there name in English is believed to have supernatural powers and when they reach 400 year old they gain the ability to feed from humans, they will also be able to shapeshift into young beautiful women.

Comments 1

  1. Rooney

    Hi! I’m fascinated by the story you tell of the “yama-goom-o” – where did you find that story? Do you have a reference or source for it?



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