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Totems: Scarab Beetle

by Cie Simurro, a.k.a. Thunderbird Starwoman

Hard times bring out the best and the worst in people. You may not have outside support, but you have the opportunity to initiate yourself, bless yourself, appreciate and accept yourself – be self-generated, so to speak – the quality for which I was so revered in ancient times. I AM THE SCARAB BEETLE, source and shaper of my own destiny. Every day, the sun crossing the sky is a miraculous rebirth. Every day is a chance to make life good. What will you do with your miracles today? Will you recognize them, great and small alike? Can you put aside wearying, stultifying repasts to feast on the most primal, fecund, and vibrant? I never give up. I persevere to victory. I am a scavenger, utilizing dung, the least respected material on the planet, to create something useful and vital. I use it to house new life. That’s my magic. What’s yours?

Visiting Egypt in 1981 was magical and mysterious. For years, I had been researching both everyday and esoteric aspects of ancient Egypt for a novel I was writing, and I wanted to go there to see the quality of the light. Because a friend’s father was the chief excavator of the Giza complex, I got to experience the Pyramids and Sphinx in a way that, because of erosion and politics is no longer possible. Going up the Nile to Karnak was another amazing part of my trip. Disembarking from the boat, we visited a small village, with children running about. Usually, the children held out their hands for baksheesh, alms for the poor, but there was one little boy who stood apart staring at me, who then ran up to me with a gift in his hand. "My queen, my queen, he canted in heavily accented English, thrusting a small aqua-colored, clay scarab into my palm before running away.

In Ancient Egypt’s art and writing, the powerful symbol of the scarab is depicted by the sky god, Khepera, one of three aspects of Ra, the Sun god. In the form of the sacred Scarab beetle, pushing the solar disc above the horizon at dawn, the scarab represents the daily cycle of the morning sun rising once again. Hard, shiny elytra wings cover the softer membranous hind wings, meeting in the middle of the body, and offering protection. The Scarab is the symbol for new birth, resurrection and protection. If this is your totem, remember that sometimes when a threat is present, the best defense is that of our scarab friend: clamping down wherever you are, and waiting until it is safe to reemerge.

Khepera was not only considered the creator of life, but also the renewer of life. Often scarabs were placed within mummy wrappings over the heart of the deceased so that no evil could be weighed against the heart, and to bring them to new life in the next world. The hieroglyph means to "transform" or "come into being." While working with this totem, you are undoubtedly going through a period of intense transformation. Egyptian scarabs devoured what was transitory, the volatile element in alchemy. Scarabs first adorned royalty, then spread among the people. Egyptian warriors wore scarab rings, signifying valor. Scarabs became common on amulets, necklaces and headdresses, and were buried with the dead or given to the living, along with an ankh to symbolize long life. Many scarabs were of gold and silver; solar and lunar. Other scarabs were made of black or dark green stone to signify deep states of transformation.

As the emissary of the sun, the scarab also signifies light, growth and truth. Scarabaeaus sacer, the dung beetle of the Mediterranean Basin creates a sphere of dung up to 50x its weight. With astoundingly strong legs, head and body, the male rolls the ball of dung backwards as it hardens and gets rounder, propelled by its hind legs, always facing east toward the sun. According to Egyptian astronomy, sunrise is caused by the sacred Scarab unfolding its wings; sunset occurs when Khepera folds his wings under his dark shell. The shell was the earthly body sheathing the winged soul of the person.

Initiates were sometimes called scarabs. In Kircher’s Oedipus Aegypt-iacus, the path of the soul is alchemically depicted in a double spiral design. The initiate travels the spiral till it reaches the center where it is perfected, and then returns to Source "in the center of unity." Folks working with Scarab beetle energy are what used to be called "old souls," meaning they’ve acquired a sense of the continuity of life, and it’s not their first rodeo. These are folks who have the strength and spiritual maturity to generate their own transformation.

The body of the scarab is quite remarkable. Okay, let’s get this over with: yes, it really is dung, better known as fecal matter that they are rolling into huge balls. They extract nutrients and water from the plant matter of the herbivores making the deposit. Let’s move onward! If this is your power animal, you may be highly sensitive. Vibration-sensitive hairs are all over the bodies of scarabs. Antennae on males are more elaborate than females because to mate, males must seek females from afar. Hey, you men seeking your lady fair, would you initiate a sacred quest for the love of your life?

Their legs are amazing. Each of the front legs has five teeth, and there is a single claw in each of the hind legs. Imagine the Scarab beetle’s Herculean labor, rolling the dung-ball backwards, hindquarters in the air, over every kind of terrain, and you will see why those claws are necessary. The balls get stuck on thorns and twigs; they must be rolled over stones and debris, and sometimes lifted over the next obstacle. Dozens of times, the ball falls back downhill, only to be pushed uphill again, until all obstacles are vanquished. We can see the perseverance and strength of this insect’s medicine.

If the dung ball hasn’t been hijacked by another male before reaching its destination, it is then eaten, a process that may take several days. Scarabs can digest and excrete almost their own volume in food in 12 hours. Though people with this totem go through lots of change/crap, they have integrity, and make something good come from it all. The female selects and molds especially fine-textured dung to make her brooding ball, digging a large, deep chamber for it (a shovel-shaped head with 6 prongs helps the digging). The ball looks like a vase, with a round bulge in its neck that stretches out eventually into a pear-shape. In that cavity she lays a single large egg. Typically, a female Scarabaeus sacer will produce only about a half-dozen young in her life, perhaps because she only has one ovary on the left side. She then seals the cavity. When the larva emerges 28 days later looking like a mummy as a pupa, it uses the dung for nourishment. Scarabs go through stages of metamorphosis to reach maturity, like the person with this powerful spirit mentor. Look for your most intense times of transformation to last for about a lunar month. If this is your totem, you are monogamous and are really into having a family. Mom and Dad scarab both stick around to raise their young though everyone hibernates in the winter. Scarab folks tend to work better alone or with their spouse - perhaps a family business?

People with this totem are also renown for their heightened sense of smell. It helps them sniff out the truly valuable in life. In scarab beetles, it helps them find the dung. Often, they react to the smell before it hits the ground. They return the favor to the dung-providers by removing their excrement, thereby keeping things more hygienic, especially by reducing the number of breeding sites for flies. When they bury the ball of dung, it fertilizes the soil. That is, if man doesn’t do his thing with sprays and pesticides, upsetting the balance of nature. A single mass of fresh elephant dung may hold 7,000 beetles. Within a day or two they will have all of it buried.

Scarab beetles enter and pollinate giant Amazonian water lilies, which themselves are a remarkable aspect of nature. The pads measure six feet across, with spines on their underside to prevent fish from eating them. Their beautiful flower measures a foot across. Its amazing beauty is of short duration. The white blossom appears one evening, emitting its pineapple-butterscotch perfume, then closes at night and for the entire second day, meanwhile flushing pink. The next evening it opens again in its pink garb, closing forever after one short evening. It is during that brief perfume phase that the Scarab beetle arrives bearing pollen from other water lilies, with which to fertilize the host lily. When the lily closes for the night, the beetle is dramatically buried inside for 24 hours. When the lily reopens, the captive beetle is released, free to find another fragrant white flower to continue cross-pollinating the species.

For almost 40 years, Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been bringing in the healing arts and ancient universal wisdom through her writing, healing work, and teaching. For 12 years, she has been a contributing writer to Wisdom Magazine. For healing for you or your animal, spiritual training, to invite Cie to give her presentation: "Our Partnership With Nature" in your area, or purchase her book, Totems for Stewards of the Earth ($22 to PO 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370), call 413 625-0385 or email: cie@ciesimurro.com

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