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The Art of Ride #5 – The Spider Woman

In the early morning hours, I leave my motel in Mexican Hat, UT and travel south through Monument Valley one last time. I turn onto route 191 and pass through Chilchinbito, Rough Rock, Many Farms, and Chinle, finally arriving at the visitor center. The ranger tells me I should work my way down the south rim and try to arrive at Spider Rock about 5 p.m. to take full advantage of the light conditions at that time of year. Having just the one day, there isn’t time for a hike so it looks like this will be a drive-by. I start out, stopping at each overlook. It’s getting colder and really windy, but the sun is shining and the view of the canyon is spectacular. One of the interesting things about this place is that, although it’s part of the National Park system, 40 Navajo families still call the canyon home and rely on it for a great deal of their income. At just about every pull-off, they’re trying to sell me jewelry or souvenirs.


I spend a good deal of

time shooting crooked and deformed trees that seem to be reaching skyward, along with panoramic shots of the canyon itself, but no images from this location will make the album. By sunset I’m at Spider Rock, home of Spider Woman. According to the Navajo, Spider Woman possessed supernatural power at the time of creation when the Dine (Navajo)

emerged from the third world into this fourth where monsters roamed the land, killing many. Because she loved the people, Spider Woman gave power to Monster-Slayer and Child-Born-of-Water to search for the Sun-God, who showed them how to destroy the monsters. In recognition of her saving their people, the Dine established Spider Woman among their most important and honored Deities. According to legend, it was she who taught Dine ancestors the art of weaving and down through the


the Dine have always been accomplished weavers. As an aid to parents, Dine children heard warnings that if they did not behave themselves Spider Woman would let down her woven ladder, carry them back up and devour them. It was said that the white layers atop Spider Rock were the dried bones of misbehaving children. – Mike Ricciardi

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