Like many of the fokloric animals in Japan, the jorogumo is a real kind of spider which became part of mythology and superstition. According to legends, when a spider reaches 400 years of age, she gains magical powers, including the ability to appear as a very beautiful woman. The stories of encounters with jorogumo are plentiful, and differ from town to town, but they’re all pretty fascinating.
In one story, a traveling samurai is invited by a beautiful woman into a shack to hear her play the biwa. As he listened to the music, she bound him up in her webs and then ate him.
In another story, a woodcutter was chopping wood near a waterfall inhabited by a jorogumo. He accidentally dropped his axe in the water, a beautiful woman appeared and returned it to him. She made him promise never to tell anyone that he saw her, and he kept the secret for a long time. However, one day he got drunk and told the story of what happened by the waterfall — he never woke up the next morning.
In yet another story, a jorogumo became a guardian of a pool in the woods, rescuing people from drowning. The locals erected a small shrine there and worship her as a goddess.
In any case, whether she’s good or evil — or neither — she certainly makes an awesome Halloween monster!