Advent Calendar for Grown-ups
DECEMBER 8 The Spider & the Cave
When I was a child, my father, who is Polish, would tell me a traditional tale that he himself had been told when he was a boy.
According to the legend the three Kings stopped at Herod's Palace in Jerusalem on their way to Bethlehem looking for the new-born king that the Star had prophesied. Herod, of course, knew nothing about this new-born king, but was unsettled by the news.
In the days following the Magi's departure the perceived threat to his sovereignty grew and grew, until at last, in a fit of rage, he ordered his men to kill all new-born male children across the land. Getting wind of this from the three Kings (or Wise-Men), the Holy Family fled Bethlehem in Judea for Egypt (known as the Flight to Egypt).
At one point, as Herod's men approached, they took refuge in a cave. There a Spider, sensing who was hiding in his cave, quickly wove an intricate web across the cave entrance. Herod's men, seeing the web, assumed that the cave had been unoccupied for some time and passed on without entering.
There is no mention of this story in the Bible, but there is, I believe, a reference to it in the Qu'ran. Tradition holds that the cave in question to-day lies on the outskirts of Cairo.
The moral of the story? Don't kill spiders. And look out for small miracles.
One of my favourite carols, the 16th Century 'Coventry Carol' tells the story of Herod's slaughtering of the innocent children. Here is Alison Moyet's version.
From Paul Bommer: Illustration, design & Print-making. Used by permission.