Aasivak — Earth Spider
Nigjuk — Spider

The Inuit of Igloolik recognize two types of spiders: aasivak and nigjuk. Aasivak is the larger, quickly-moving earth spider. It spins webs and digs holes in the ground, known as iglu, where it raises its numerous young. It is said that when they grow up, the young spiders devour their mother. Although the Inuit do not particularly like spiders, killing one is said to bring on a large windstorm. As with any animal, inflicting unnecessary cruelty on spiders is forbidden, and results in serious consequences. Spiders are said to be very protective parents, who will become particularly upset if harm is done to their offspring (IOHP 006).

Nigjuk, the smaller spider, does not spin webs, but is often seen spinning a single strand of silk, by which it descends from the roofs of tents and then climbs back up again. When a spider is seen suddenly, appearing from the sky as if from nowhere, it is a sign that one will soon hear of someone dying, often through drowning (Randa 1994; IOHP 267). As the following story illustrates, even something that looks like a spider descending can bring the bad news.

One time, this happened in the autumnů at a time when no types of radio communications were available. A single caribou hair shaped in a coil, with some of it stretched, shaped as if a person had his arms stretched out, started to fall from the ceiling above the bed platform. As it fell to the bed it resembled that of a spider making its way down. When I noticed that I told our grandmother, an elder of the household. Look at this little caribou fur coming down as would a spider. She asked me, "Like a spider coming down"? I replied in the affirmative and pointed it out to her. She said immediately "Oh my! We will be hearing of a drowning from somewhere in the near future". At this time the strait still had not frozen over so there was no way that someone could make a trip to our place. Later that winter someone made a trip to our area. Apparently Paumi had drowned near Nirlirnaqtuuq at the time when that little caribou hair fell from our ceiling (IOHP 267).