Unformatted text preview: Lecture
Insects in Religious
and Cultural Affairs Lecture Goals
The role of insects in religion,
culture and mythology, including:
Bees, Wasps and other Stinging Insects
Praying Mantids and other Predators
Cicadas, crickets and other singers
PiercingPiercing-sucking plant feeding insects Literature and Music
Insects as Culinary Delights The Scarab Beetle
A Central Symbol of Ancient
Reproductions of the scarab
have been discovered in
Egypt 3,000 B.C.
An embalmed scarab has
been found (dated from 700 33 B.C.) 1 What did the scarab represent?
In sacred written documents the
hieroglyph representation of the scarab
stands for creative power and is
interpreted as the god of Creation, Cheper
Associated with other gods of Creation
becoming the symbol of creation.
Came to signify the soul which was to
unite with the god of Creation.
Represents the abstract concept,
“cheper” which originally means, “to
become, to come into being”. KHEPER ''transformation - evolution - metamorphosis'' All the beetles, AKA scarabs are meant to be more than just decorative. They stand for a concept,
represented by the Egyptian word Kheper, also spelled Xeper (using the Greek 'X' Chi for the first
letter), and pronounced 'Kheffer'.
In Egyptian, 'heiroglyph' means 'sacred writings. Glyph is 'symbol', and heiro is 'sacred'. Thus,
XEPER acquires sacred significance as it is no ordinary word. It means 'becoming'. In English,
'becoming' has no sacred significance. But to the Egyptians and those of us today who harken to
their wisdom, it means the whole sphere of metamorphosis, transformation, evolution and growth
in the spiritual realm, as well as the physical realm. From: http://www.aztriad.com/kheper.html The god Cheper is one of the many outward
forms assumed by the god Ra. He is usually
represented with a scarab above his head and
in certain cases has a scarab in place of a
human head. 2 Why was the scarab used for
Biology, morphology and behavior
Extremely important in the ecosystem
wherever there is dung. Adults actively seek
h dung. Why was the scarab used for
The legs usually have ray-like extensions that, when the
raybeetle was perched on a dung ball, reminded Egyptians of the
rays of the sun.
Th legs have readily visible segments. Th tarsi h
dil i ibl
i have 5
segments, (5 X 6 legs=30, approximating the lunar month).
Behavior: Dung rolling behavior is fascinating and noticeable.
Egyptians equated this with the sun moving across the sky
during the course of a day, one of the functions of the sun god
Reproductive behavior that fit a model of reincarnation, rebirth,
metamorphosis. A ball of dung is buried. Later a perfect new
beetle arises. Why was the scarab used for these
Believed they were only males and that new life arose via “creation”
“The beetles were revered because it was believed that in them, obscure
images of the power of the gods could be perceived; in the sex of beetles
there are no females, only males, which deposit their seed in a ball formed
out of dung; they roll this along pushing it from behind, just as the sun
gives the appearance of driving the sky in the opposite direction as it moves
from setting to rising.”
--Greek philosopher Plutarch (A.D. 46-120).
“This beetle is a creature possessing no members of the female sex. It
allows its seed to fall into balls of dung which it rolls along. It does this for
28 days, until the ball is warmed through, and the next day it brings forth its
young. Those Egyptians of a warlike disposition bear a scarab engraved
upon their rings, by which the lawmaker indicates that all who fight for their
country must without exception show manliness, just as the beetle has
nothing female in its nature.” --Claudius Aelianus (160-240)
(160“The scarab is venerated because, like the creator who has shaped the
world, it too makes use of the most perfect mathematical form for its
creation shaped out of dung.”--Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 B.C.)
(427- 3 Jean Henri Fabre Born
Died December 22, 1823
October 11, 1915 Nationality French Fields entomology Types of Scarab Representations
Huge sculptures in temples.
Seals made of amethyst, carnelian, etc..and set in metal
Bearing names of kings or historical commemorations
(analogous to contemporary commemorative coins). Types of Scarab Representations
Amulets for good fortune, inscriptions in keeping with this purpose
were common: “good health”, “life”, “good wishes”, “my heart is
true”. Seemingly a fashionable custom rather than religious.
Heart scarabs or breast amulets: religious text with chapters from
the Book of the Dead (usually chapter 30). These were placed upon
the breast of the dead or the mummified heart. 4 Importance of Scarabs in
the Book of the Dead Dead man pays homage to Cheper (Vignette from the Book of
the Dead) Veneration of the Scarab in Other Religions
Classical doctrine of Gnostics (sects arising in the 2nd
century—”true Christians”—actually a blend of Christian
and Non-Christian doctrines).
NonRepresented scarabs on amulets. Often three scarabs in a row,
interpreted as a symbol of the Trinity. In front of them 3 falcons
were usually represented as souls of the just, behind them 3
crocodiles or snakes representing the souls of the wicked.
wicked. In the Israelite religion, kerub, the Guardian of
Paradise, mentioned in the old testament, is sometimes
derived from a pockmarked scarab (species who are
covered with indented spots). The Prophet Ezekiel
wrote of the cherubim: “Their entire body, neck, hands
and wings were full of eyes.” The Scarab Beetle As Medicine
Egyptian Papyrus Ebers, dating from 1500
B.C., formula for exorcism: “Split the (living)
scarabaeus down the centre with a bronze
knife, take the left half of it and tie it to the
As the symbol of the Sun God, scarabs were
a remedy for the four-day fever (malaria?)
fourProtection against bewitchment
Often added to snake oil and provided to
patients who consumed it for various ailments. 5 The Scarab Beetle As A
Symbol of Evil
Arabian civilization (1300 AD)
Considered medicinal, but also feared.
Arose from dung, considered deadly.
Dreams including a beetle considered a
sign that a deadly enemy would appear.
Scorned scarab cults
Ridiculed in Greek comedies (445-386
(445BC) Christianity (medieval times)
Symbol of a sinner
Arise from dung, thought to be
se o du g, t oug t
defiled with the stench of heresy.
Balls of dung thought to be evil
thoughts and heresies created out of
wickedness and foulness. Bees, Wasps and Other Stinging Insects
Revered and used as symbols in religion,
religious items, totems and as family heralds
Numerous and fierce in their attack
Persistent in defending their homes
Inflict painful wounds
Industrious, skilled architects and
Symbols of virginity, mating was never
observed as it takes place in flight.
Associated with providing honey 6 Bees, their products and behaviors were
known to the Prophet Mohammed (570(570632 AD).
The Koran-Koran-Surah 16, An-Nahl
An68 And your lord inspired the bee saying “Take
bee, saying, Take
you habitation in the mountains and in the trees and in
what they erect.”
69. “Then, eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of
your lord made easy for you. There comes forth from
their bellies, a drink of varying colour wherein is
healing for men. Verily, in this is indeed a sign for
people who think. Stinging/Biting Insects: Bees, Wasps, Flies
Fierce, dangerous, persistent, capable of
inflicting pain, driving away the most powerful
Egyptian heiroglyphs (back to 3100 BC)
Founder of the first dynasty, King Menes, chose
the hornet, V
t Vespa orientalis, as th symbol f hi
i t li
b l for his
kingdom. Respect for the destructive powers of
insects as a protective force
ie. God of the Philistines--Beelzebub, lord of the
flies. Powerful, foretold disease. Later, in the
New Testament Beelzebub is the prince of devils. Beelzebub (more accurately Ba‘al Zebûb or Ba‘al Zebûb,
appears as the name of a deity worshipped in the
Philistine city of Ekron. It is later the name of a demon
or devil, often interchanged with Beelzebul.
In ancient context, there may be little meaningful
distinction between Beelzebub and Ba‘al the ancient
Semitic god. In Christian writings, either form may
appear as an alternate name for Satan (or the Devil) or
may else appear to refer to the name of a lesser devil.
As with several religions, the names of any earlier
foreign or "pagan" deities often became synonymous
with the concept of an adversarial entity. The
demonization of the ancient deity led to much of the
modern religious personification of Satan, as the
adversary of the God.
From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beelzebub 7 In Solomon's Clavicules, Belzebuth appeared as a
So o o s C av cu es, e ebut appea ed
enormous calf or a goat with a long tail, but with the
face of a fly. Belzebuth appeared to Faust 'dressed
like a bee and with two dreadful ears and his hair
painted in all colors with a dragon's tail.' The
Marechal of Retz described him as a leopard. He
breathed fire and howled like a wolf when angry. Butterflies and Moths
Metamorphosis as an apt metaphor for life,
death, and resurrection
The Greek word “psyche” means both butterfly
and soul. Butterflies appear frequently in Greek
writing. In Egypt, the b
h butterfly was the symbol of
b l f
Osiris, who was supposed to have been
confined after his death in an oak coffin until
he rose again, with renewed life. The
butterfly symbol also appears in Oriental and
Moths often associated with an impending
death. Praying Mantids
In Africa, the praying mantis plays an
important role in religion of many tribes.
Northern Swahili call it kukuwazuka or
“fowl of the ghosts”.
Thonga b li
believe it t b an emissary of
Forbidden as food items (would be eating
Asian culture, Kung Fu, respected for
fighting skill, defensive movements 8 Cicadas, Crickets and Other Singers
Cicadas are in many creation myths (eg. The
Ancient Chinese regarded cicadas as symbols of
rebirth and immortality.
Appear decorating pottery, in ancient
manuscripts on ceremonial axes jade cups and
Many jade carvings were funeral jades, amulets
of death, tongue amulets--placed in the mouth of
the deceased to help their passage and
reincarnation. It is interesting that the latter
practice was also conducted by the Mayans.
Appear often in Japanese poetry and medicine.
Crickets as pets, elaborate cages. The mythology associated with the
humpback flute player was
widespread in the Anasazi and then
Navaho cultures. These
mythologies are a vital testimony to
the high degree of familiarity that
early peoples had with their
Top: Petroglyph from Chaco
Canyon, New Mexico, showing
flute players, planting sticks and
Bottom: Flute player effigy pitcher
from the Anasazi culture resembles
the exuvium of a cicada nymph. Behavior and Metamorphosis The humpbacked flute player is the human form of the cicada and plays a central
role in the Navaho creation (emergence) myth and is found on pottery, murals
and in petroglyphs. Also found on Hohokam and Mimbres pottery. Reputed to be
a fertility symbol, harbinger of new plant life, creator of warmth (by playing his
flute). Sometimes mistakenly called Kokopelli.
Kokopelli. 9 Hopi and Related Pueblo Tribes: Kokopelli Kokopelli is the Hopi interpretation of the
humpbacked flute player, but they are not
completely equivalent. Kokopelli is derived
from a robber fly model (above).
Robberflies are predators, they do not sing,
but they bite. The Kokopelli kachina (left)
shows many of the attributes of the robber
fly. Evidence that the Hopi definitely made
the distinction between a robber fly and a
cicada is found in the fact that a cicada
kachina, called Mahu, appears in spring
dances. Insects and Aboriginal Art Left: this design depicts the honeypot ant, a favorite food for the Aboriginal
people. Pigments were derived from ants nests (limonite) and bees wax. Right:
Didjeridu is a wooden wind instrument made from tree limbs previously hollowed
by termites. Sculpture by Michael Lucero 10 PiercingPiercing-sucking Plant Feeding Insects
Lac, used in varnish (shellac), insulation, playing
cards, chocolate glazes, polishes, inks, etc. Derived
from a scale insect, Laccifer lacca. Produce a resin
that binds huge populations of breeding females to
trees and other plants. Most is produced in India (40
million pounds annually).
Cochineal scale: cultivated on Opuntia (Prickly Pear
Cactus). 25,000 insects = one pound of cochineal
scales. 3 pounds insects = one pound of dye.
Scales in the desert are a source of nutrition-nutrition-honeydew. Manna that rained from heaven to sustain
the Israelites was actually the honeydew of the scale, Trabutina mannipara.
mannipara. Literature and Music
The Hungry Caterpillar
Insects Are My Life
Flight of the Bumblebee
Madame Butterfly Insects As Culinary Delights
Have long been eaten:
Leviticus 11: “You may eat of all winged creeping things that go
upon all fours which have legs above their feet…”, continues to
describe different locust stages.
Mohammed ate locusts--permissible under Muslim dietary laws.
locustslaws. Why eat i
t insects as f d?
Abundant--efficient harvest (migratory grasshoppers, Mopane
Efficient with regard to resource allocation and energy
conversion (don’t necessarily need to eat the same food we do, e.g.
beef require grain that could be eaten by humans
Convert their food to biomass we can eat at a rate roughly 6X
more efficient than beef or sheep (efficiency of conversion, 100# of
chicken feed = 38-40# of chicken; 100# of cattle food - 10# of
38beef) 11 Insects As Culinary Delights:
At least 500 species of
insects are forming a regular
part of the diet of people all
over the world. Kcal/100g Protein/g CA/g Phos/mg Niacin/mg Macrotermes
(termite) 613 14.2 .438 9.5 Pork 333 12-25 0.011 .270
12- 5.8 Chicken 166 15-31 0.011 .265
15- 10.7 Shrimp 92.3 8 Honey Bee --- 15.2 Emperor Moth
(Mopane Worm) 370 28 African Palm
Weevil 561 0.04 7 Unifying Principles
Insects have been dominant forces in the
lives of humans since the time of the first
Their creative activities are readily
noticeable: web spinning, building of hives,
Their morphology and size can be
Their life cycles provide excellent
metaphors for metamorphosis, resurrection,
The intricacy of the songs they sing are
compelling and readily noticeable. 12 ...
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- Fall '08
- beetle, dung beetle, scarab beetle, Scarabaeidae, Scarabs, Scarab Representations