Insects and the Initiation of the Self
The ghostly white moths and the persistent cicadas come to my window at night. The moths are silent as the spectres they resemble, but the fat cicadas hum and buzz as they try to find an opening in the screen to fly through the bedroom window. I didn’t know there’d be a cycle of cicadas metamorphosing into winged adults during my visit. I’ve already found a few dead ones while weeding my mother’s garden. I have seen the golden cicada of myth twice, both times at natural thresholds, of course, since it belongs to the old forest gods of crossroads and doorways. Along with the honey bee, cicadas are creatures of intoxication and ecstasy and make excellent familiars for mystics, seers, and wanderers between worlds.
Moths and cicadas symbolize change, metamorphosis, and rebirth. They belong to the moon and Old Woman. She sends them to remind me, to push me, to warn me –all things change. It’s best not to become complacent, stuck, or too accommodating as no matter what you want, hope, or expect, things will always change. Like the bees and beautiful tiger swallowtail butterflies that stalk me while the sun is up, the moths and cicadas also represent initiation. We witches like to think there’s only one initiation (wouldn’t that be so much easier and less painful?), but in truth initiation is ever constant as we continue to experience, learn, grow, and change as human beings and as magical practitioners through our varied, and many, rites of passage. Everything is a lesson, an initiation, but this is especially so of all the pain and sorrow we undergo. As with insects, you must find beauty and necessity within what causes you fear and discomfort.
Any time I get stuck in a rut or a bad place in my life, Old Woman stands at the crossroads waiting for me, reminding me that I must make decisions to be catalysts of change in my life. Old Woman guides, but Old Man is also there putting obstacles and doubts in my path to show me my strengths and weaknesses. If I choose to ignore such a threshold, choosing instead to make no choice, it will always come back to me and no matter where I run or hide, I always end up back at that damn crossroad again with the same decision to make surrounded by butterflies, moths, bees, and cicadas. After all, we cannot run from a fate we create for ourselves, now can we?
To learn about the necessary, but painful process of metamorphosis and initiation, I read about insects. If they can survive it maybe I can too and maybe they can give me some helpful hints along the way. I quickly realized I’d judged these much maligned creatures wrongly and harshly. I learned the facts I believed about insects that made me fear and dislike them were untrue. I learned they’re actually quite wonderful, beautiful, and necessary to the survival of our ecosystem. Maybe some of the things I believe about myself are untrue and maybe I have been focusing on the bad instead of the good. Old Woman says I told you so and Old Man just winks at me.
If you want to peek into the magical world of insects for yourself, I highly recommend Fireflies, Honey, and Silk by Gilbert Waldbauer, a professor of entomology who is my grandfather’s age and wrote a book of beauty, history, mythology, folklore, and natural science on his favourite creatures. And now to seek out some honey in the pantry to help smooth my way for the transition and initiation that is metamorphosis…