A fragment on insect mythologies

Slightly edited repost of: https://simorgh.de/niceswine/fragment-on-insect-mythologies-and-representations (2014)

A fragment on insect mythologies and insect representations, and why symbolism is not sufficient to explain the relation

Insects in mythology are mostly explained as a phenomenon that stands for a “symbolism”. It seems that authors/researchers find it hard to imagine that for instance the Scarabaeus (attributed in the Egyptian pantheon to the God Kheper), a “dung beetle”, was appreciated for more than just that, what humans attributed to him in terms of their own anthropocentric concept of the earth, its meaning and the universe.

What if for instance the early Egyptians did see a world of unique value in the life and activities of the scarab beetles?

It could likely be that it was fascinating to observe, how the beetles rolled this ball of soil and dung, to think about what meaning the beetles might have given to their existence on earth overall. Maybe it was that ancient civilizations/cultures had an ability to take nonhuman animals as cultures? A small beetle that rolls a ball like a planet, from which new insect life would spring forth … .

A typical thought you find on the topic of nonhuman animals and nature in mythologies is, that humans would imbue nature with meaning. Quite contrarily, people could have felt that nature did in fact have meaning, and that nature (being) is meaning in itself.

As far as I could find out now, the most prominent mythologies about insects and alike, evolve around: bees, butterflies, spiders, scorpions, cicadas and the scarab beetles.

If we add the heavy weight of underlying such a relationship in mythology to our today’s definition of “symbolism” – that is if we say that i.e. such insects were mere symbols for anthropomorphic attributions – then we should scrutinize more closely the epistemological history of “symbols” and the term’s etymology to shed light on the construct that we apply here.


Decolonialism doesn’t explain forms of nonhuman objectification


Decolonialism does not explain forms on nonhuman objectification and human “ruling via definition” in regards to “(nonhuman) animality” (which in itself is yet a term to be argued about and to be analyzed).

Decolonialism is one thing, Animal Objectification has its own histories, even when problematics converge and overlap e.g. in terms of ecological, eco-social contextualities. Brining decolonialism in as the solution for forms of animal objectification puts all hope on intra-human cultural diversity and ignores the dilemma of human definition of animal identity, which is simply not considered to be a historical major mistake seen in itself.

Decolonialism applies to intra-human constellations while the schism between “animal” and “human”, as some form of great hierarchically applied identities, stands outside of intra-human conflicts.

The notion of “human“ and the notion of “animal” differs with individuals, differs in different times and in different cultures. Bringing us all together under the assumption of functionability can’t solve the source of conflict between the predominant varied human notions of “human” and varied human notions of “nonhuman and animal” which resulted in today’s settings that we persistently have with animal objectifications.

Also, the problem with decolonialism to be applied as a tool to dismantle animal objectification raises the question of why the histories of animal objectification can’t be addressed with their own complicated specifics.

Antibiologistic Animal Sociology

Animal Symbolism

Q: What do you think about totemism and animal symbolism and (as another form of symbolism) specific speciesist types of symbolism used to depict nonhuman animal lifes under specifically speciesist perspectives, like antlers … speciesist pictograms+ads, even some toys?

A:  Perhaps this can be reduced to “animal symbolism” which is probably a janus-faced story. What animal symbolism reveals, is the different localizations of how nonhumans are “projected” in different cultural contexts. The image created becomes visible, exact ideas remain unclear. That’s not to say that ideas and questions about the “images” can’t be rightfully phrased, yet symbolism always remains only a symbol (or token) and contains the ambiguities of such.

The ambiguity of the token itself might be even better to analyze than the images themselves, e.g.:

– You might have the image of impressive huge living animal body, yet a hunt might be indicated with spears, the ambiguity is that the animal body is depicted alife.

– You might have the impressive antlers of a dead animal body, the ascription might be that of the association being made with antlers as indicating to some people “nature’s social darwinistic rule, they believe they protect the wildlife whom they hunt at another instance”, the nonhuman referred to in the symbolism is one of the connotation of strength, culture and naturalness, yet the animal body represented or depicted is dead, the condition of death combiled with awe would indicate an ambiguity

– Or, human features in animal symbolism, can be “negatively” or “positively” connotated and are full of such ambiguities.

Definitely animal symbolism is a highly complex cultural phenomenon to decipher, in particular when it’s speciesist, because the disguise and twists of contents/information of the symbol-coding manifests authority and power.

Pictures or symbols of nonhuman animal bodys at Göbekli Tepe, Turkey.