Insects were important religious symbols in ancient Egyptian culture and mythology. They were featured prominently in hieroglyphs, seals, and carvings. Depictions of insects were used as talismans for protection, and even placed in burial tombs. To the ancient Egyptians, these tiny creatures were powerful symbols of resurrection and eternal life.
The scarab beetle is an interesting little insect that rolls a ball of manure into a perfect sphere in the direction of east to west, the solar route. The ancient Egyptians associated the ball of dung with the sun. The scarab was personified by Khepri, a sun god. The deity, Khepri is depicted having the head of a scarab, and symbolizing the morning. Khepri was also associated with the sun god Ra, and the creator god Atum. Ancient Egyptians believed the scarab would ward off evil and protect the owner. Scarab talismans were placed in burial chambers as a symbol of eternal life. Scarabs were also a symbol of good luck and prosperity.
The jewel beetle is another sacred insect of ancient Egypt. The jewel beetle has a brightly colored appearance, and comes in shades of green, gold and reddish-purple. The symbolism of the jewel beetle remains somewhat obscure; however, it may have been associated with Osiris, lord of the underworld. According to Egyptian myth, Osiris was tricked by his brother Seth, and became trapped in a tamarisk tree. Isis split the tree open, releasing Osiris. The jewel beetle may have been a symbol of rebirth because it emerges from split logs.
Click beetles are common in Egypt, and are named for the clicking sound they make when they jump. Click beetles were associated with Neith, the goddess of protection. Ancient Egyptian artifacts and carvings depict the click beetle. Although the symbolism is unclear, the beetle may have had some religious significance.
Honey bees played an important role in ancient Egyptian society since honey was the main source of sweetener. Honey was also used in medicinal preparations. The Egyptians used beeswax for purposes such as forming molds, and for paint and varnish. Honey was such a valuable commodity in ancient Egypt that it was used for payment. Both bees and honey were considered sacred. Honey was given as an offering to the dead. Honey was a symbol of protection and resurrection. Honey bees were associated with the sun god Ra, and the protective goddess Neith. According to Egyptian myth, honey bees were Ra's tears.
In ancient Egypt, flies represented courage and tenacity. Stone carvings in the form of flies have been found and dated to approximately 3500 B.C. According to Egyptian mythology, flies protected against misfortune and disease.
- Insect Mythology; Gene Kritsky
- The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore; Hilda M. Ransome
- Museum.UNL.edu: Ancient Egypt
- Insects.org: Beetles as Religious Symbols
- The Mythical Zoo: An A to Z of Animals in World Myth, Legend and Literature; Boria Sax
- Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society; Robert G. Foottit, Peter H. Adler, eds.
- Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images