by Massimo Mangialavori and Hans Zwemke

This book attempts to explore the world of spider remedies and to distinguish the differences between the following remedies: Tarentula hispanica, Mygale lasiodora, Aranea diadema, Theridion curassavicum, Lactrodectus mactans and Buthus australis.

Many homeopaths are familiar with the work of Mangialavori and the inclusion of his research on the MacRepertory computer platform. He has come to represent one perspective in the debate on the evolution of homeopathy, challenging the reliability of old and new provings, making the claim that provings are not the only or even the most effective means of finding the therapeutic possibilities of many substances. His contention is that it is crucial to study a substance from as many angles as possible, especially focusing on the cultural, historical, metaphorical and even mythological knowledge of a substance in order to gain a more complete understanding of it. Provings may give isolated symptoms and phenomenon of a substance but by no means give a more complete textural understanding of the complexities of a substance and its interaction with human consciousness. That can only be achieved through a much more in-depth study of a substance that is to become a homeopathic remedy.

This approach is in contrast to that of more traditionally minded homeopaths and therefore has earned him some criticism in the midst of this debate within the profession.

Mangialavori has spent much time developing themes that remedies can be grouped in and identified by, and the spider family is one example of this. They are a good example of his approach. Given the paucity of knowledge of many of the existing spider remedies, Tarentula hispanica dominating the materia medica and repertory, how can we confidently prescribe other spider remedies and how can we assertain the differences between them and the individual remedy pictures of each spider? This is the goal of this book.

In reviewing this book, the reviewer does not have a fundamental issue with the philosophical position taken by Mangialavori. It makes total sense to explore a substance from as many different angles as possible. Surely if we are exploring what is objectively true of a substance, then everything about the substance that is deemed true can potentially be used to aid us in our understanding. The argument that this is just an extension of the Doctrine of Signature, which Hahnemann spoke against, does not address the type of research that Mangialavori and many other homeopaths are doing. The attempt to understand the type of synchronicities that often occur in studying the relationship of a substance to its surrounding environment and the human interpretation of this relationship as expressed in myths, metaphors and other forms of anthropological interaction can only deepen our knowledge. The only question is whether connections made in this way can be verified through clinical practice that is, can this knowledge aid us in finding the correct remedy. This is what Mangialavori attempts to do and makes the case that our materia medica is already full of information gleaned from more observational sources. However, he also states that we find it astonishing how little the homeopathic method has taken advantage of the breathtakng progress that has taken place in the other fields of science, information he feels can be vital in helping us in our prescribing. He also states that the homeopathic profession, in spite of its 200 year track record, has left an insufficient record of how previous masters really worked and how they achieved their results. This, he states, has led him to establish a strict measurement of the information gleaned from clinical practice.

His criticism of the validity of old and new provings is an interesting debate. Some homeopaths have assumed that Hahnenmanns provings are better than many of the modern ones, whilst there is evidence that Hahnemanns own methodology would be criticized today. There is ample documentation how certain provers produced similar symptoms in different provings, revealing the real challenge in proving methodology in discerning the effect of the substance with that of the person. He also goes one step further and makes the case that provings alone cannot give us the depth of information necessary for accurate prescribing. It is merely one facet of knowledge. Ultimately, well documented clinical experience is the most important thing.

Therefore, he states that he only uses cases that have been given only one remedy over a two-year period, with the same remedy being used in chronic and acute conditions. He feels that many cases presented in homeopathic journals lack the detail and depth to validate their efficacy, which reflects on the difference of approach and understanding that homeopaths bring to their work. However, the high standard of accountability that Mangialovori has set himself before deeming a case cured by a particular remedy raises some eyebrows. How long does it therefore take to accumulate enough cases of a remedy to use as evidence of its efficacy? What if a remedy works really well for a more chronic condition and doesnt work in an acute? Does that invalidate it? This last point has revealed a lot of confusion - in the reviewers eyes - about the whole notion of acute and chronic conditions. Some homeopaths believe that there is no such thing as an acute illness and any acute exacerbation of a chronic condition has to be treated by the constitutional remedy or not at all. The reviewer doesnt agree with this, finding that in cases where an acute illness takes place, mainly due to either trauma or infection, a different acute remedy may be needed, which doesnt nullify the significance of the previous constitutional/chronic remedy given. It therefore seems a rather high standard that Mangialovori is stating. How many cases do we really have that have had only one remedy given, both in acute and chronic conditions, and which have stayed around for 2 years. The reviewer doesnt have that many.

Some homeopaths have taken from this position of the one remedy for two years approach that there is really only one remedy for a person, and that any other approach is more superficial and meandering in the process of cure. This issue reveals another dichotomy in homeopathic thinking. Although many homeopaths would agree that the ideal situation is to find one remedy that covers the breadth and depth of a case, how often does this really work in practice? If this idea is taken up as a fundamental philosophical doctrine does it create confusion for students and others when faced with complex cases that reveal more than one remedy picture? Whether Mangialovori believes this, the reviewer doesnt know, but in the reviewers experience, the idea that one remedy can cure all of a persons ailments is too simplistic, and not verified in clinical practice. Mangialavori also states in the book that he doesnt consider miasms in prescribing another major schism in the history of homeopathic thinking which further emphasizes the idea of the one remedy, as apposed to the concept of layers, multiple miasms, complementary nosodes, ideas expressed by Hahnemann and countless homeopaths since the beginning of homeopathy.

Both authors in the introduction define their approach and the importance of exploring information on possible remedies from every source possible, including biology, toxicology, and cultural anthropology. They make a very good explanation of why this is important. They then give some general remarks about spiders, discussing the importance of spiders in human consciousness from a psychological, mythological and anthropological approach. The description of the origins of Tarantism and its cultural significance in Greece and Italy is fascinating, exploring the symbolic significance of this ritual in these cultures and its significance to us as homeopaths when we are looking at using spider remedies, especially Tarentula hispanica. The authors state that they chose only those spider remedies that they had significant experience with and therefore couldnt included some of the other spider remedies. The remedies chosen had 10 15 cases, cured with two year follow ups. They then give some of the main themes characteristic of the six spiders studied. Some of the themes are fairly obvious, based on existing knowledge of spider remedies whilst others are not so well known and reflect the authors experience with these remedies. The majority of the themes have a psychological emphasis to them which brings up an interesting debating point when analyzing remedies and ascribing psychological personality characteristics to them.

Mangialavori criticizes the validity of some proving material, stating that they consist of isolated phenomenon not connected the holistic dynamic of an individual, devoid of the context in which they take place. In order to address this issue, many homeopaths, Mangialovori included, have identified certain psychological types and themes to remedy pictures in order to give a more comprehensive image and understanding of the remedy. However, one problem with this is that some of the descriptions can be very generalized and may come across as being too vague or generic to be of use. There can also be a tendency to make absolutist statements about the type of character that would need a particular remedy or to make personality generalizations based on a few cases. This process is understandable. From a disparate group of symptoms one is attempting to identify certain archetypal characteristics of the person who needs such a remedy. However, it is symptoms that we prescribe on, and as we know, the same remedy can be given to people of quite disparate personalities. So, a danger always exists when making such generalizations or categorizations on a remedy and how this information can be taken as true when it may be the opinion or experience of one person.

Mangialavori, in establishing such a strict measurement of a remedys action, is obviously attempting to address some of these concerns by ensuring that no other remedy is indicated in the case and therefore it is clearer to ascertain the depth of action of a remedy. He also presents his material quite discreetly, not extrapolating far from the basic themes he is suggesting are characteristic of spider remedies. However, it will be interesting to see if other practitioners confirm his following description: Tarentulas are generally less irresolute than Theridion curassavicum, less fearful than Latrodectus mactans, clearly less transgressive than Mygale lasiodora, much less sophisticated than Buthus australis, and much less organized than Aranea diadema.

Tarentula hispanica is the first remedy studied, with a brief initial overview of the themes of the remedy, followed by three cases in which the remedy has been given and acted well. All the cases show clear action of the remedy, although in two of the cases a different remedy was given to begin with. One case was a child who was also on allopathic medication for a while, but the 3rd case was the most interesting, revealing to Mangialavori more of the symbiosis of the behavior of the spider to that of the patient.
In all cases, some of the key symptoms of Tarentula were there to help confirm the remedy, but all showed a clear image of the remedy, if not at the beginning, then after the initial remedy had been given but not acted curatively.

Mygale lasiodora is the 2nd remedy studied. This is an interesting remedy, as in comparison with Tarentula with its well developed homeopathic picture and keynote confirmations there is relatively little written on this remedy in existing materia medica. A clear description of the Mygale personality type is given, which can be summarised as being a person who is indulgent, greedy, self-satisfied, focusing on an instinctual satisfaction of sense pleasure. They can be competitive and quite showy. It is stated that Mygale is characterized by a theme of transgression, to go beyond usual limits. Also, consistent with other spider remedies, there can be a them of being a victim, of being persecuted and a tendency to hypochondriacal and complaining attitude. In comparing Tarentula to Mygale it is stated that While Tarentulas are afraid of their instincts, resulting in an inhibited feeling, especially in the sexual sphere, Mygale lasidora takes the offence, finding sex and other pleasures a challenge. Their attitude is expressed, Okay, lets be a sinner and do it right. Mangialavori states that people needing Mygale are competitive, have a strong desire for pleasure and often have a narcissistic display. They can affirm themselves through affairs. Further descriptions are given which are quite original given existing knowledge of the remedy.

The three cases of Mygale are instructive examples of the remedy. All of them show clear spider symptomatology but at the same time, they reveal the complexity of homeopathy in that it could be easy to prescribe other remedies. The first case was a child who had a fascination with ropes and had a history of convulsions, tics and was very clumsy, all clear spider symptoms, but it was an instructive case. The second case was of a 50 year old man, with a very high sexual desire, with conseqent venereal complications with urinary pain and prostate problems. He expressed extreme restlessness and nervousness, teeth grinding, eating very little, being very skinny and having a love of lemons with salt. His presenting complaint was that his penis was bent (Perones Disease), which created pain during erections and sex. In the past his sexual proclivities would lead him to visit many prostitutes and have other affairs, even though he was happily married. He saw it as a kind of sport. The remedy worked very well, bringing back an urethral discharge, new pains during micturition and subsequently a straightening of the penis!

The third case was of a 56 year old woman, who had very intense rheumatic type pains. She seemed quite a difficult woman to treat, had been given many other remedies as well as allopathic medications. The main symptoms leading to the prescription were a history of nervous tics of the eyelids in childhood, a caustic sense of humor, pungent body odor and awkward, absurd body movement caused by the rheumatism. However, similar to the previous case, there was a strong sexual component with a history of prostitution and also working in the sexual industry. She had no desire to eat in her life, loved lemons, was very restless, grinding her teeth, a dominating woman choosing younger men, and a desire to remain young, very similar traits to the previous case. Again, the remedy worked very well.

All three cases are instructive in the action of the remedy and show clear qualities of spider symptomatology. One interesting observation of Mangialovoris cases is how many of them have a strong sexual component to them. This is obviously going to be seen a lot in animal remedies, which he has focused on, especially in the sea remedies he has discussed as well as the spider remedies. However, it is interesting how central a theme it is to many of his cases.

Aranea Diadema is the next spider remedy given, Mangialavori giving quite a detailed description of the remedy picture at the beginning, before the cases. The cases do not reveal the themes he describes as well as with Mygale. Two of the cases are children and whilst they are good cases in themselves, it is harder to see the archetype of the remedy as described. In essence, he says that Aranea diadema has a problem with with identity, they may be completely dominated and the feeling of being unrecognized and unappreciated leads them to a restless overactivity, which because of the lack of recognition makes it fruitless activity. However, given the lack of information on this remedy, this information can be a useful addition to our knowledge of this remedy and its possible differences to other spider remedies.

Theridion is the next remedy discussed. Massimo describes the key aspects of Theridion as having the same fruitless over-activity as other spider remedies, fueled by their tremendous inner restlessness. He states they have a great desire to please others, to meet the familys standards, whilst living their own life, creating a great level of tension. They feel conflicted between these opposite pulls. This can lead to paralysis and irresolution, resulting in immature behavior. This can lead to a state of complaining - a condition the authors emphasize in spider remedies - but which is only expressed to their partners, feeling too weak to express to their family directly, which is stated as being similar to that of Latrodectus mactans. Like other spiders, Theridion can express hypochondriacal moods, the physical expression however, being mainly in the neck and the ear, which is compared with Latrodectus mactans, which affects more the heart. As the conflict between two apposing impulses deepens, a more broken down state develops, with symptoms becoming more chronic and physical, the neck being a major area of affection. To quote, For the Theridion patient it represents the conflicted connection between the life of convention and the life they would rather live. The authors then discuss the characteristic sensitivity of the hearing, which disrupts their fragile and rigid state. They state that the common environment a Theridion patient lives in is experienced as suffocating and from which they try to escape, relying on being faster than everyone else. They can become competitive and get focused on sports, to obsessive levels, leading often to injuries. Other themes they mention are common to other spiders, relating to food, coldness and periodicity of complaints.

Each of the Theridion cases show a clear action of the remedy, showing the characterisitc spider qualities of an affinity for speed, action and activity and the characteristic sensitivity to hearing, motion sickness, and overall sensitivity. However, apart from the last case, a 13 yr old girl, we dont see the characteristics of a person dealing the apposing influences of desiring to please others and a desire to live their own life, and given the age and maturity of the girl, some of this can be attributed to her age and situation. However, each case is interesting and clearly shows signs of needing a spider remedy.

Latrodectus mactans is then discussed. The person needing this remedy is described as fearful, hypochondriacal and often hysterical. Similar to other spider remedies, complaining is a key expression, but is stated to be less malicious then Tarentula and Mygale. It is stated that Lactrodectus mactans and Theridion are the most sensitive of spiders from a homeopathic perspective. In Lactroectus, there is often a connection to sudden and frightening experiences, seen often in the possibility of their own death. There can be feelings of constant alarm and a fear of death, and may have out of the body experiences as part of the feeling of a life threatening event, often connected physically to the heart. One key aspect highlighted in this remedy, which directly connects to an understanding of the species is where the Lactrodectus patient typically grow up in families where theyve had to cope with a very hard, demanding, masculine, phallic mother. This leads to individuals becoming dependent with a low self-esteem. This can lead to a compulsive, hyperactive industriousness, with a feeling of being persecuted as seen with other spiders. However, it is stated that Lactrodectus is more chaotic and disorganized than other spider remedies. Also, it is stated that the attitutude toward food is less malicious than it is in other spiders. They may have bulemia and may use medicines as a substitute for their unsatisfied need for security and stable support.

It is stated how under represented Latrodectus is in our materia medica and the first case presented examples the challenge to find the correct spider remedy for the case. However, in the case, it does example a man under the dominion of a strong woman and had a couple of keynotes that fitted Latrodectus. The second case showed a case of a 54 year old woman, who had a strong connection to death and had an antagonistic feeling toward Mangialavori as well as distinct heart pathology. The 3rd case also revealed a theme of female dominance, with a corresponding hypochondriasis and fear of death, along with restless quickness, impatience and business. The patient, a 17 yr old boy, also had a hobby of doing embroidery!! Although each of the cases was fascinating and revealing again of spider themes, it also revealed the challenge of finding the correct spider remedy, which the cases succeed in doing to some extent but not completely.

The last remedy discussed was Buthus Australias, which is a small scorpion. The authors state that the scorpion shares many characteristics with the spider remedies, but the characteristic hyperactivity and restlessness tends to focus much more on the intellectual level than the physical, an interesting distinction. However, similar to many spider remedies, there is a lack of confidence with a need to prove themselves. It is stated that they are bent on demonstrating how clever, brilliant and sophisticated they are. As they decompensate, they can becoming complaining and hypochondriacal like the spider remedies and see themselves as a victim and become suspicious. One other characteristic strongly associated with Buthus australis is a ticklishness, a senstitivity to being tickled, expressed as a psychological ticklishness. It is emphasized how they can feel like outsiders which can be compared to Androctonos, the more familiar scorpion remedy, but which isnt mentioned in this analysis but which is most likely an attribute of all scorpion remedies. One other distinction with spiders is regarding the relation to food, which is described as being more rebellious and obstinate, leading to a refusal to eat, more aggressive than the spiders.

The first two cases both reveal the intellectual restless qualities described earlier, as well as a marked ambition, hypercriticalness, sensitivity to cold and to touch and eating habits. The third case, a 15 yr old boy, showed someone with a marked rebelliousness, expressing contempt, mistrust and haughtiness but underneath an inner self-doubt and anxiety. He felt lonely and socially isolated, and also shared some key physical characteristics of Buthus and shared with the other cases, a liver pathology, specifically hepatitis and strabismus of the eyes.

The book succeeds well in highlighting the key qualities that can indicate a spider remedy. This is revealed both in the initial introduction to the remedies as well as the cases themselves. All the cases are interesting and show a clear action over a long period of time. However, as mentioned, they dont always reveal some of the key attributes of each remedy and therefore dont solve the challenge of differentiating between various spider remedies. Given that the biggest challenge in prescribing a spider remedy is to know which one to give, it could have been useful to have had a chapter given only to a differentiation between all the spiders. Although a summary of the key aspects of spider remedies is given at the beginning, any real differentiation is only mentioned in the introduction to each remedy and not as a chapter in itself. The book would also benefit from a comparison with other similar remedies, in order to differentiate spider remedies with other similar ones.

It would also have been useful to have had more description of the characteristic zoological behavior of each spider and to connect this with the remedy picture. Although some themese are discussed, it could have been done with more detail; for example, to tell which spiders make webs and which dont and generally to explore this area some more, especially given the stance the authors are taking in studying material from different sources.

The book itself is well presented though there are a number of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors which do detract slightly. Although it is not easy to make such things perfect, the book could have benefitted from a more thorough editing.

Therefore, the book succeeds well in broadening our awareness and knowledge of spider remedies and illuminates a picture of a previously little known remedy Buthus australis. The cases are all very interesting and that alone can greatly help practitioners recognize when a spider remedy may be needed. However, it doesnt succeed so well in distinguishing between the remedies and perhaps suffers from an over generalization of archetypal themes for each remedy. In order to really accept some of the themes that the authors attribute to each remedy, other practitioners will have to confirm these observations in clinical practice. However, the authors have made an significant contribution to our knowledge of the spider family of remedies.