On Sunday, while walking along one of my favorite paths, I spotted a familiar shape—though it took a moment to register: Praying Mantis. Gently and without hesitation, I held out my hand and she gracefully accepted the transport from heavily-trod trail to the safe refuge of a sugar maple’s trunk.
In Kalahari tradition, “Mantis” was a Bushman, according to Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak. Like fables, “there are abundant tales that speak of Mantis and his adventures….Whenever Mantis got himself into trouble, he would go off and hide. He would then go to sleep and dream a solution to his problem.”
“This epitomizes the keynote for this insect— the power of stillness.” Andrews explains. “Through learning to still the outer mind and go within, we can draw upon greater power—physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. That stillness can be simple contemplation, a meditation, or even sleep and dreams.”
Andrews description continues on to say: “We can learn to use the stillness in varying degrees— whether for creativity or for healing— and this is part of what the praying mantis teaches.”
How is it that I stopped along the path on Sunday? Stopped at that specific spot?
How is it that I saw the praying mantis, so perfectly camouflaged in the fall leaves?
And how is it that I could quickly recognize the perils of a busy path for it, and not for myself?
“When we pay attention to and acknowledge a nature totem,” writes Andrews, “we are honoring the essence that lies behind it. We are opening up and attuning to that essence. We can then use it to understand our own life circumstances more clearly. We can share in its powers or “medicine.” Nature totems…are symbolic of specific kinds of energy we are manifesting and aligning with in our life. The animal becomes a symbol of a specific force of the invisible, spiritual realm.”
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Copies of Animal-Speak can be purchased here.
Praying mantis and moon, by Ohara Koson, Japanese, 1878–1945, Woodblock print; ink and color on paper.
Out-of-focus photo of Sunday’s praying mantis by Jen Payne.