And what these horrible little ones may teach

Talking Stick, Summer 1995, Reviewed March 2000

By Lishtar


Just a couple of points before I start:

1) No, I do not have an insect as a totem or familiar (but got one after I finished writing this article);

2) Being brought up in the Brazilian countryside, in the Southern plains more specifically, I was not exactly on a friendly basis with bugs, flies, fleas, cockroaches and ants, but had a soft spot for bees;

3) My relationship with these bloodsuckers and stinging ones has not changed so far. As they are not endangered species either, I do not hesitate to exterminate them with terminator's glee when need be.

Why am I writing about insects then? Well, no serious contributor to the great Talking Stick mag would certainly think of them, right? Then I realized insects and bugs could be a good metaphor for humankind, that they could be used to raise some issues about the coming Millennium.

Basically, insects and humans share some common characteristics. For starters, insects and humans can be both a blessing and a plague depending on their numbers, eating habits, proliferation of the species, hygiene and how they try to stay alive and kicking.

In large, disorganized numbers, insects can destroy - and so do humans. When clouds of locusts are hungry, they eat all grass and crops, to the extent of doing enormous harm to the environment. I will not extend on this: is it a mere coincidence that both insects and humans share unbridled consumerism, senseless development programs and greed?

Insects proliferate very easily, with no birth control or family planning available known to them. The poorest countries in the world still deny their women and men the right to informed contraception on religious or political grounds. These children will normally grow up in appalling conditions, and many will die before their teens. So do insects, which proliferate much, because the survival rate of their young is too low.

How some insects basically survive? Take fleas and mosquitoes, for example. They bite and drink your blood. They wait until you are fast asleep and then attack. And fly away with enormous speed to escape a heavy hand. Worse still, some die without ever being caught.

Now, I was confronted with a dilemma. As magicians and priest/esses, we know that all life is sacred, that there is no such thing as the above not being the same as down below. What on earth (and on heavens!) could insects teach us, despite possible scratches and itches?

Perhaps there was a clue about the little horrible ones in mystery and sacred writings.

I turned to Apuleius' "The Golden Ass" and lo and behold! There were the ants teaching Psyche to sort out the grains in her first task to win Eros back. Sorting out the grains is like finding one's own spiritual path, heart's desire in order to flow with what inspires! With a mix of wonder and surprise, I acknowledged that Psyche's ants knew about discrimination, the first virtue on the path, if you still remember your Caballa!

Who told Inanna/Ishtar the whereabouts of Dumuzi/Tammuz, when he tried to escape from the demons of Ereshkigal, who wanted to take him to the Underworld? A fly, a holy fly did so. I quote:

" Then a fly appeared. The holy fly circled the air above Inanna's head, and spoke:

If I tell you where Dumuzi is, what will you give me?

Inanna said: If you tell me, I will let you frequent the beer houses and taverns,

I will let you dwell among the talk of the wise ones, I will tell you to dwell among the songs of the minstrels.

The fly spoke: Lift your eyes to the edges of the steppe. There you will find Dumuzi. There you will find Geshtinanna's brother, there you will find the shepherd Dumuzi.

Perhaps the holy fly, the bloodless and so seemingly without substance, is like that part of ourselves that may know some truths, if we only pay attention to it more closely. It is not a glamorous part of ourselves, but under the right influence and circumstances, it can flourish and thrive, like the fly, who was given by the Goddess access to beer houses and taverns, where the wise gathered and the musicians performed their crafts. Jolly people the Sumerians!

Daryl Kamm sends us this brilliant insight:

" The image of the fly occurs several times in Sumerian mythology. Black and Green's book on Gods, Demons and Symbols of Mesopotamia (British Museum Press, 1992) has that the goddess Nintu touches her necklace of fly jewels then swearing that she will never forget the terrible event of the Flood. Also that there are temple inventories which mention fly jewelry, and that when Ziusudra, the only survivor of the flood makes a sacrifice to the gods right after setting foot upon the shore, the gods sniff the savor and buzz around like flies. It seems that flies seem to symbolize the watchful eyes or presence of the gods. Thus, whether one is a pauper or a king the fly is always there. So keeping an image of a fly reminds one of the presence of the gods..."

Finally, if we turn to bees and ants, we can easily observe how they work together and how clumsy they look at close range. Perhaps this is one of the lessons we can learn from insects now that the millenium is so close. Work together within our communities, pagan and otherwise, to prepare the ground for the generations to come, trusting the integrity of our Inner Circles and casting the Larger One. Perhaps (and why not?) we could also be like butterflies and dragonflies soaring uncharted skies after being ugly larvae, maturing before the time was ripe.

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