It’s that glorious time of year when there are bushels of fruit dangling in our garden. Walking among the trees we planted more than a decade ago, I feel a sense of satisfaction, completion, and gratitude for the miraculous cooperative cycles that exist between garden and gardener.
Taking care not to bruise the fruit, I place some ripe pears into a basket. Hands moving slowly and methodically, marvelling one bright green orb at a time, this time, I spot something unusual. My gaze shifts suddenly to something else glowing green, this time not a pear. And I mean really glowing, in flourescent chartreuse.
I startle to realize that there is a giant Praying Mantis sitting on my forearm! Just reclining there, staring at me, waiting for me to come to attention. An electric thrill shoots through my whole body, and I let out a yelp of surprise. Whoah! My breath quickens, my heart begins an intense pounding. Apart from some photos in a book somewhere, I’d never seen a praying mantis before. And definitely not in my own garden. Eeeek!
I’m not the type to get creeped out by “bugs.” I’m the kind of hedgewitch who sits down to watch beetles at play. I court bees and butterflies to land on me. I negotiate with the daddy longlegs living in “our” house for shared space–they know that I’ll need to clear out their cobwebs regularly, but I’ll never smack them with a slipper.
But, how in the world had she climbed up my hand without me noticing? How, indeed.
Praying Mantis are known to be masters of stealth. We do not ever just “see” a mantis, not really. A mantis allows herself to be seen when she sees fit. Invisible in her skillful cloak of camouflage, she folds her arms to wait in a posture of prayer. Yet, her piousness is by no means passive and innocuous. It is her intensive concentration that makes her strike all the more deadly.
The mantis’ prayer is the method by which she both feeds and protects herself.
Her name derives from the Greek “mantikos,” which means “prophet,” “oracle,” or “seer.” Many cultures consider Mantis to be a messenger from the Otherworlds. She bears the deep spiritual insight that we use our inner-vision for both perception and creation of reality. Her pose beckons us into the immense power of prayer—a power we now need, not just to provide “peace of mind,” but also “piece of bread,”
A fitting lesson in an era of looming food insecurity, and global epidemic of various hungers. People are physically starving to death at home and abroad, as well as dying of spiritual, emotional, and even intellectual starvation, as our current “crisis of facts” continues to worsen.
An overwhelming stream of information, propaganda, intelligence, and scientific studies, complete with attending parades of experts, can be infinitely cited to seemingly prove both sides of any contradiction, plunging us deeper and deeper into a hellscape of meaninglessness. Pundits expend precious energy on attacks and counter-attacks, damaging goodwill, and further eroding the possibility of respectful dialogue. Meanwhile, the most pressing problems of our times recede farther and farther into the mists, unresolved, and largely unaddressed.
Patiently waiting behind the hubbub, the Praying Mantis quietly beseeches us to step away from the noise and distractions of our “post-fact” era. She asks us to move into a different kind of vision by closing our eyes. To pull our practices of prayer off musty shelves, and actively turn within for Truth, instead of towards external factoids and media blather. To feel our deep-time bodies, through long ancestral legs, into our indisputable interconnectedness with all Earth creatures, with all beings of Time.
As the corrupted foundations of modern societies collapse, and a rising cloud of confusion chokes us, Mantis appears, glowing green through the dust, a beacon showing the way to Truth, through a posture of prayer.
Thank you, Mantis, for your message, in this time of incredible need. Thank you pears for harboring her Medicine in your green glow. May our gardens continue to bear the fruit of wisdom.
And so it is.
[Praying Mantis Artwork by Michael Phipps. Check out his t-shirt prints at his Etsy Store.]