A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Monday, 25 May 2015

An essential feel better lesson from the simple yet sacred scarab

Do you ever say things to yourself like this? "I should get more exercise." Or "I should get to bed earlier." How about, "I should be more patient with my children." I'm sure you can think of a few; these are just my personal favourites.

I caught myself doing this last week. As I was putting the dishes in the dishwasher I went out the kitchen door (our back door) into the sun porch, to put something in the recycling bin. And when I looked around it started - that cascade of thoughts. "Look at all this shit. This place is full of crap! I really should tidy this sun porch! Why can't I get my shit together?" How does this make me feel, you ask? Answer: it makes me feel like a piece of shit. Are you noticing a theme here?
When we say "should" we usually end up feeling guilty that we didn't do the thing we "should" have done. How does that make us feel? I don't know about you, but it makes me feel pretty shitty! So when we are beating ourselves up and want to stop, the first step is to notice it and say, "Stop should-ing all over yourself!" A friend of mine even went so far as telling her son, "You are smearing shit all over yourself!" She says she got the idea from a motivational speaker, but I didn't find the reference when I Googled "Wayne Dwyer smearing shit." But let's think about that, "smearing shit." God, we have an almost visceral response to that! Gross! Stop shitting on yourself!

Which brings us to the sacred scarab. "Scarab" is a family of beetles with many different species, including the June bug that pings off your front door. According to National Geographic, the Egyptian "sacred scarab" is, in fact, a dung beetle.

The body of the scarab is pretty accurate
but not so much the legs or smiling face

The dung beetle works very hard collecting.... you guessed it... dung, feces, caca, poop, crap, or whatever you want to call it. The dung beetle finds a pile of dung - it has a very good sense of smell - and takes some of the... let's say... elephant patty and rolls it into a ball. A female dung beetle judges her potential mate based on the size of his balls. I kid you not. Once the female chooses a mate they roll the ball away, the female often getting a ride on top, and the male often having to defend his wife from other suitors, jealous of both his wife and his big ball. The new couple then hunkers down in a new home. The female lays an egg in the ball of dung and then the ball is buried. When the larva hatches, it lives in that ball of dung. It's a wonderful setup really. The little maggot-like larva is safe from predators. And it has a large supply of fuel. But.... well... it's living in a ball of shit!
The dung beetle rolls his dung ball with his hind legs;
he frequently gets off-track but uses the Milky Way to navigate

The larva feeds on the dung until it forms a pupa and emerges as an adult beetle. Not quite as lovely as a butterfly, but it's the same kind of metamorphosis. And then that adult beetle digs its way out of the ground.
For the ancient Egyptians, who didn't know all this was happening under ground, the sudden appearance of completely formed beetles, just coming out of the ground, was quite magical. They believed that these were a result of spontaneous creation, and the scarab became a symbol of self-generation and rebirth.

A scarab on an antique brooch in my collection

To the Egyptians, the scarab was as sacred as the cross for Christians. And like the cross, the scarab was used to decorate objects, even made into jewellery. The scarab was worshipped as the embodiment of the great sun god Khepri, known as the god of the rising sun, or the creation god. They believed that Khepri, being reborn each morning as a young sun, emerged out of the earth with the great "sun-disk," which he rolled out onto the horizon and across the sky, like the dung beetle rolls its dung ball. Khepri buried the sun each evening, and it emerged the next morning, born anew.

Pandora's scarab charm can represent the Egyptians' belief that the the scarab was imbued with particular protective powers that warded off evil and provided good things for the owner, for this life, and also for the next. But for me the sacred scarab charm has a little less mythical, and a little more mundane meaning. We may have been raised in a shitty environment. We may have had shitty things happen to us. But, like the scarab, we can use that, to fuel us, to grow, and to be reborn - and to emerge as a newly-formed adult. Just because we were born in shit, doesn't mean we need to stay there, in that ball of shit. And we certainly don't need to be spreading it on ourselves! Our history, our past, can fuel us, and get us rolling. We can't control where we were born, or how we were raised, but we can control where we are, and where we're going. Choose to stay or choose regeneration. In other words, "Shit or get off the pot! And stop should-ing all over yourself!"

My all-silver bracelet with my timebead and a variety of novelty charms,
each with a lesson I need to remind myself of every day