On Saying Farewell to the World’s Oldest Spider by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella

To honor the spider, leave flowers at the destructed remains of her trapdoor: lilies, hyacinth, and gladioluses. Let no other spider live in the wake; the cornhusk of her body torn asunder now houses nonpaying tenants – but don’t let any other spiders live among her remains. A good neighbor would never dream of moving into the abandoned tunnel, they would allow the threads of her home to become the mourning cobwebs of a life now over.

16, her given name, was a mystic. Her hoary crone body, hairy and deific in the tropical underground lair, manifested futures: an absolute god. 16 is the number of perfect completeness, and 16 the spider was composed of flawless measures, flecks of silk made up her headdress – 16, wreathed in her own majesty. With a heightened consciousness, she resided underground – but her soul lived in the Tower.

Ganesha, the lord of beginnings, is the primordial source of all existence. Nothingness became somethingness: the forms and appearances of God are all one and the same. And just like the OM-faced lord of hosts, 16’s solitariness was all-ness and oneness. With no man or master, she watched Watergate, the rise of the personal computer, and the start of the World Wide Web from the hollows of her den – ever the removed, she detached herself from humans cannibalizing themselves. Living in the lining of her protective nest, 16 was God as a reality, ambushing prey from behind her camouflaged door.


When a spider lives without a master for too long, opposing gods of war always seem to manifest around her. Like how Skanda, the god of severity, would skirmish with Ganesha, god of mercy. Brothers against one another in perpetuity. How long can a god remain alone?


The number 43 is introspection. 43 is analytical. 43 is pragmatic.

At the age of 43, a parasitoid wasp parasitized the lid of 16’s lair. The trapdoor penetrated, she came to an untimely and violent death in the middle of god-years more life to live. Attacked and paralyzed, punctured and impregnated, 16’s body became a living tomb.

Who knows how long wasps live? Not long, most likely. They’re too rushed, too unsustainable. Consume and destroy, pillage and theft and assumption and seizure. 16 turned into a living incubator for the wasp’s wasplings, her form no longer her own. Fecund with wasply predation, 16 burst open with unfamiliar babies decanting from her body. A god parasitized.

16 in her absence is formless, her nonexistence is absolute.

Deliver a last kiss to the beloved dead – throw the buss into the air to touch her body in absentia. To honor the spider light a candle, make a memorial quilt, plant a tree, sponsor a bench. 16 is her own sepulcher and the world is her mausoleum – the hollows of the den a shrine for a god gone gone. In her wake, as we’re tasked to carry on with our lives, ensure that the trapdoor is closed forever.

The world’s oldest spider was a golden sunburst with 16 rays buried beneath the earth – removing obstacles for her spiderlings and then replacing those obstacles to ward off trespassers. Once her children left to create their own kingdoms, she was once again the ruler of her self-contained domain. Now that she’s gone, her grown spiderlings gather in clusters and sing an epicedium, a doleful ode to the deceased, outside her trapdoor. To honor 16, hire professional mourners to watch over her body along with her beloveds. Help guide her soul with the sounds and songs of sorrow.

Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is the editor of HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit.  She received her BA and M.Ed from Arcadia University, her MFA from Antioch University, and attended Goldsmiths: the University of London and Sarah Lawrence College. She chronicles the ways she embarrasses herself at the website youlifeisnotsogreat.com.

Image: Cesar Carlevarino Aragon