Beetles: More Than Just Creepy Crawlies

Beetles: More Than Just Creepy Crawlies

Beetles might be small and misconstrued as creepy, but they've played quite a notable role in art and culture throughout history. From ancient Egyptian mythology to contemporary design, beetles have been used as symbols of everything from rebirth and transformation to good luck and prosperity. So, let's take a closer look at the fascinating world of beetle symbolism!

Ancient Egypt: The Scarab Beetle

In ancient Egypt, the scarab beetle was a big deal. It was associated with the god Khepri, who represented the rising sun and the cycle of life. Egyptians used scarab beetle images in all sorts of things like amulets, jewelry, and art to symbolize rebirth and the cyclical nature of life. The scarab was also linked to the god Ra, the Egyptian sun god and ruler of the gods. According to Egyptian mythology, Ra was reborn every morning as the sun rose, just like the scarab beetle emerged from its cocoon and took flight.

China: Beetles Bring Good Luck

If you're looking for a little extra luck, you might want to look to Chinese beetle symbolism. Beetles like the rhinoceros beetle (aka the "unicorn beetle") and the ladybug are believed to bring good fortune and
prosperity. In Chinese art and design, you can find beetle motifs used to ward off negative energy and bring back the "good vibes" to your life.

Native American: Beetles as Symbols of Transformation

For Native American cultures, beetles represent transformation and renewal. Different types of beetles have different meanings, but they're all centered around change and growth. The scarab beetle, for example, is associated with transformation and rebirth, while the dung beetle represents perseverance and hard work. It rolls its dung ball across the ground in order to survive, reminding us that hard work is a necessary and honorable facet of life.

Medieval and Renaissance Europe: Beetle Mortality

In Europe during the medieval and Renaissance periods, beetles were used in art and literature to symbolize mortality. Beetles crawling over skulls or other symbols of death were used to remind people of the fleeting nature of life. But don't worry, not all of Europe was down on beetles. In some cultures, beetles like the ladybug were seen as symbols of luck and protection.

Contemporary Beetle Symbolism: Fashion and Design

Today, beetles continue to play an important role in art and design. In fashion, designers use the bright colors and intricate patterns of a beetle's exoskeleton to create unique and eye-catching pieces. The beetle motif has been used in everything from dresses to bags to shoes. Contemporary artists use dead beetles to create sculptures that explore themes of mortality and the cycles of life, like the work of artist Damien Hirst.

Jewelry designers also use the beetle as a symbol of transformation and rebirth. Pieces like Bibi van der Velden's scarab beetle-inspired jewelry use diamonds and other precious stones to create intricate and
detailed pieces that embody the idea of renewal.

So, the next time you see a beetle scurrying across the floor, remember that it might just be a symbol of something much bigger. From ancient Egypt to modern fashion, beetles have left their mark on art and culture in fascinating ways.
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About the Author

I’m Ilana, and I'm the artist behind Pine + Palette Studios. I’m a Wisconsin local with a soft spot for misunderstood species, tall midwestern pines, and the way the sun sets over The Great Lakes.  As a former middle school teacher, science, conservation, and education have always been my passion.