That the world is held together by a web is a precept shared by multicultural spiritual traditions as well as the most modern of scientific theory as described by quantum physics.
Spider Woman, the creatrix of the Native American peoples who populate the magic desert circle of the Southwest United States and the Northwest of Mexico, is said to have woven the world out of sun rays.
Don Juan, the shamanic teacher of Carlos Castaneda, expressed the Spider Woman world view when he described the silver filaments that extend from everyone's solar plexus and reach out to join the silver filaments of everyone else's cord, creating a vibrant living web of connection.
The Eskimos of Baffin Bay create elaborate webs in their games of Cat's Cradle. These are symbolic fishing nets, which are intended to capture the sun in order to prevent its escape. In this way, the world is saved from the vast frigid darkness.
In a very concrete sense, too, the world is clearly held together by a web. Think of the water mains and sewer pipes, the electric, telephone and television cables; the communications network systems and wireless technology; the roads, highways, and train tracks that quite literally tie us all together. Not to mention the worldwide web.
Years ago in Groningen, Holland, during a presentation of Amulet Mandala (a ritual of relationship that I have facilitated in more than 100 cities in nine countries) a woman participating in the ceremony shared a most startling and profound insight about connectivity.
"I know you won't think I am crazy," (it is amazing just how many people preface the stories and experiences that they tell me in this way. And they are right. I rarely think they are crazy.) "but whenever I feel lonely, lost, or depressed, I crawl under the kitchen sink and hold onto the drain pipes to remind me that I am connected to everyone else."
"In some mysterious and wonderful way you are part of everything, Nephew. And in that same mysterious and wonderful way, everything is a part of you." -- Nippawanock, Arapahoe
If the world is held together by a web, the web is held together by the myriad knots that secure each of its strands. Knots are highly charged energy centers, nodes, where the tentacles intersect, connect and diverge, like station depots on a railway map.
Knots are featured all but universally in the religious practices of most cultures. Jewish prayer shawls are fringed with knotted threads. Rosaries were knotted cords before they were made of beads. The knot is one of the eight sacred symbols of Buddhism.
The shrines and altars at Shinto holy places are guarded by large swags of woven straw rope hung with knotted cloth and paper, each representing a prayer or blessing. In Asia it is common for travelers to tie a knot on their own wrists and then one on the wrists of all their near and dear. The keeps their connection alive while they are separated.
Tying a knot is making a connection.
Making a connection is making energy.
Making energy is making love.
Making love is making magic.
Making magic is tying a knot.
In Ireland, women still visit holy wells to make petitions for healing by ripping strips from their skirts and tying these clooties to the surrounding trees where they wave in the wind sending their prayers out into the universe like so many Buddhist prayer flags. A plethora of knots, which represent luck and healing, are present in every aspect of Celtic culture, from the decorative arts to the folk dances.
In Hindu tradition, the three highest castes wear a cord threaded around their shoulder and torso in the shape of a double helix, an infinity symbol, which is also the symbol for DNA. The Egyptian symbol of the ankh is a knot, which represents life. The ankh is the knot of Isis, the divine Mother.
The reason I think that that knots are so widely regarded as symbols of connection and relationship is that all people everywhere have a knot at the spot where we were once joined together with another, our mother. One popular intelligence test pictures a row of ostensibly identical naked men. The question is "Which one is Adam?" The so-called correct answer is, "The one without a navel."
Every person, every mammal, comes into this world powerfully, primally, connected to the mother who bore them, the source and the resource of their life. This connective umbilical cord is cut at birth and we spend the rest of our lives seeking to replicate the comfort of feeling part of something bigger than ourselves.
More and more I am thinking of this universal web of life that connects us all as a safety net that will catch us if we fall.
"Most of the feeling we call religious, most of the mystical out crying, which is one of the most prized and used and desired reactions of our species, is really the understanding and the attempt to say that man (sic) is related to the whole thing." -- John Steinbeck