Story: Ama and the Spider

Ama and the spider. Story. Jo Cooper.
Ama had lost his mother to illness and was told by his father that she now lived among the stars with the spirits of the great ones. Ama missed his mother and wanted her to be close to him as she used to be. Her laughter by the fire, the strong and gentle hugs when he was sick or hurt, the songs and stories from days gone by. He decided that he would make the journey to the stars so that he could be with her again.
Ama packed up a few items and left his village behind. Perhaps I could ride on eagle, he thought to himself. He flies higher than any other. Maybe he could take me to the stars.
Ama found brave eagle who was hunting fish by the lake. He asked eagle if he would take him to the stars.
“I fly high, child,” eagle called to Ama “but I have yet to reach the stars. Perhaps you could ask the whales how to get there. They are full of the wisdom of the ancients.”
Ama thanked eagle and began to head toward the ocean. The ocean was vast and seemed endless to Ama. He looked at the fishermen and asked to borrow a boat to take him out on the seas.
When the fishermen asked why he told them and they let him borrow a canoe. It was old and leaky but Ama was brave, wanting more than anything to find a way to the stars and his mother.
He journeyed out from the shore, the waves growing higher and rougher but still he carried on. When he could paddle no more he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted a greeting to the whales. It seemed forever before he caught sight of a puff of water from a blowhole. The whales! He cried for them again and slowly but steadily the whales drew closer.
As they circled around he told them of his quest to find his mother who lived with the stars.
“Dear child of earth,” they gently whispered to him “We are from the stars and chose to fall back to earth to experience life here, once again.”
They looked at him with love and kindness “We cannot go back so cannot help you.”
Ama sunk to the bottom of the canoe, tears flooding his eyes.
The Whales who were compassionate and full of the love from the ancestors took pity on the tiny boy who had travelled out on his own to seek their guidance. “Travel and seek the old witch-woman who lives in the forest” they guided him “It is said that she is as old as time. Perhaps she will know the way for you.”
Ama bowed his head to the whales and thanked them. They knew he had a pure heart and nudged the canoe back toward the shore so he could continue his quest.
For many days and nights, Ama travelled towards the forest where the witch-woman lived, driven by the desire to once again see his mother.
It was dangerous to be alone in the forest as there were many hazards to fall into and lost spirits would try and lure weary travellers from the paths.
Ama’s determination to find the answers and the love with which he carried in his heart for his mother kept him safe along the way as his spirit shone as bright as the moon in those dark places.
In the heart of the forest lived the witch-woman in her cave. Many avoided her as they believed she could curse them with just one look, or have the creatures of the forest set upon them. They also knew she had great power and could cure sickness and heal wounds. If one was brave enough to seek her help.
She was old with gnarled hands like the roots of thorn trees, hair like grey, spun moss and a deep wrinkled face.
When Ama found her, she was working outside of the caves entrance, humming a wordless tune whilst washing and dyeing animal fleece.
Ama was hiding behind a bush, watching the old woman, too scared to approach. As the old woman continued her work, a jay flew into the clearing and perched on the woman’s shoulder, cackling and cawing away at her, bobbing its body up and down.
Ama watched, fascinated, as he had never seen a jay approach a human before.
The bird stopped bouncing and calling then flew to a perch on a tree.
The old woman turned towards where Ama was hiding, her eyes focussed and sharp.
“Brother Jay wanted me to know that there was a spy present” she began ” But I already knew you were there, Ama.” She straightened up, her eyes never leaving the widened eyes of the boy. “I told brother Jay that you weren’t a spy either and that you had come as a visitor. Am I right?”
Ama gulped and stood up, revealing himself. The old woman studied his face, her eyes seeming to penetrate Ama to his soul.
“I have come to ask for your help to find my mother” Ama started ” The Whales said that perhaps you have the answer I am seeking.”
The witch-woman grinned “The Whales, you say? Well, you had better come inside and tell me your story!”
Ama followed the woman inside the cave. A fire of embers was casting a gentle glow and it took Ama a while for his eyes to adjust to the dark. The woman gestured for him to sit down on a rug, laid out by the fire.
Ama looked around the cave. There were many blankets, all stacked and neatly folded. They seemed to go far back inside the cave, as far as he could see. Ama guessed that there must have been thousands here!
Ama told the witch- woman his story and as he did, the woman began to weave a blanket, all the time listening to Ama.
When he had finished his tale, he asked the old woman. “Can you help, do you know the way to the stars and my mother?”
The witch-woman stopped her weaving and looked at Ama.
” My child ” she tenderly took Ama’s hand “Look at this blanket. Is it finely woven? Look at the images carefully embroidered into the fabric. Tell me what you see.”
Ama took the blanket. As he did, the old woman slowly got up from her stool and walked over to where the stacks and stacks of blankets were.
“Tell me what you see?” She asked again.
Ama held the blanket. It wasn’t finished yet, not complete. There were images embroidered and woven into the fabric. There was a village, a family; mother, father and son. Then further on, just a boy and a man, standing by an unlit fire. Then a boy riding on an eagle. Then the same boy in a canoe, with whales around. A boy, in a forest with many eyes watching him and then a boy with an old woman and a jaybird.
“I don’t understand” Ama questioned “How can this be? It looks as if my life has been woven into this blanket!”
She smiled and handed him another blanket; one that had been completed. “Tell me what you see.” She asked again.
The blanket was beautiful. It told the story of life, of love. You could almost hear the birds singing in the weaves, taste the sweet berries on the bushes. Scent the fragrance of the flowers in the meadows and feel the warmth of the people as they danced through the fabric. Ama looked again, seeing the life of the persons blanket. It was his mothers. He cried, weeping openly at the remembrance of her embrace.
The witch-woman laid the blankets side by side. His and his mothers. You could not see where one ended and the other began, so perfect did they sit, side by side.
“My darling boy,” the woman began “Do you now see that your mother is not gone. She walks beside you. She is in the song of the birds, the whisper on the breeze. She is the fragrant rose and the taste of autumn berries. She is the light of the moon as it guides you at night and the warmth of the sun as it dawns.”
Ama looked at the witch woman and hugged her.
“Yes, I understand.” He sniffed “Her blanket is finished but it still goes on. It is carried on in mine.”
Ama slept in the cave that night and when he awoke the next morning, the old witch woman was gone. At the cave’s entrance, there was a great spider web with the most beautiful spider at its centre.
Ama tipped his head to the spider and went on his way, back to his father and tribe.
The spider smiled as he left, and carried on weaving.

– Jo Cooper


Jo Cooper visited Hawkwood for a residential counselling training with Wiltshire College, 2019. 


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