Sacred Scarab

When considering the messages of beetles, it would be impertinent to ignore the sacred scarab beetle which was revered in ancient Egypt for hundreds of years.  Within the discussion of the scarab it is also vital to understand that it is actually a dung beetle and therein lies an interesting dichotomy; the sacred scarab and the mundane dung beetle. Perspective is clearly what matters here.  The way you view your world, shapes your experience of that world.

This seemingly straightforward creature is deceptively complicated.  When most people talk about the scarab beetle in terms of being a symbol, they are talking about the sacred scarab beetle associated the ancient Egyptians.  The sacred scarab beetle is one of the species in the dung beetle family which in turn is part of the Scarabaeidae family, which is commonly referred to as scarab.  See the confusion?  For clarity, here I am talking about a sacred scarab.

For ancient Egyptians, the scarab beetle was a common and important symbol and images of this significant creature have appeared carved into bone, ivory, stone and on precious metals.  Scarabs were placed on the heart of the dead to help them move on to the afterlife.  It was also used to ward off dangers after death.

Associated with the god Khepri, the rolling of the dung ball was likened to the action of the god rolling the sun across the sky.  As the sun dies and is reborn on a daily cycle, the scarab became a symbol of transformation and rebirth.  Interestingly, whilst not all dung beetles roll their balls, those that do get their cues from the sky, be it the sun, the moon or even, in one case, the milky way.  This orientation of self to the universe is one I find myself compelled to unpick.  Could it be an invitation to explore astrology? To turn your eyes to the skies for advice and omens?  Is it asking you to consider your place in the world, your purpose and your reason for existing?  Another option is that it’s a reminder we are all made of stardust, or that we are tiny on the stage of the solar system.  If we recall the myth about the beetle who accidentally created the milky way we add another dimension to some of these questions.

One of the beliefs surrounding the scarab was that they reproduced only from males.  Ancient Egyptians had observed young beetles emerging from the balls of dung and thought that the male beetle had injected his sperm into the ball and thus female beetles were superfluous to the process.  This had parallels with the god Atum whose name is thought to come from the verb tm, meaning to complete or finish.  Associated with the creation or the world, and the end of the world, he is a self created god who is linked with pre and post existence.  Along with Khepri, Atum was a sun god, representing sun set where Khepri represented sun rise.

If we consider the metaphorical implications of the scarab in the context of Khepri and Atum, we find ourselves asking questions about how we start and finish projects, what we are starting and finishing at the moment, what we should be starting and finishing.  The endless cycle of death and rebirth also comes up, a theme that is echoed by the metamorphosis of the beetles, the nature of regeneration, resurrection and immortality.  The process of metamorphosis brings with it ideas and questions around transformation, the letting go of one self to make space for another, a process which cannot come without pain; a phoenix rising from the ashes must first go through the pains of fire.

Naturally we also have themes of recycling, of cleaning, of the importance of small creatures in keeping the world functioning and as such it would be worth reading the general beetle post as well.

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