Art and Creations by Imogen Smid
The beetle has been seen as a symbol of creation in many different cultures and is in fact the main character in quite a few creation myths.
I mainly knew about the beetle/creation connection in reference to the Ancient Egyptians before looking into the subject. Anyone who’s seen the Mummy movies or has visited an exhibition on the Ancient Egyptians will know they were majorly into Scarab Beetles. The Scarab represents birth and rebirth in Egyptian Mythology. The scarab beetle is a dung beetle which means it collects up dung which it rolls into balls. It lays its eggs inside the dung ball so that the beetles are born out of the balls. The Egyptians saw these baby beetles emerging from the dung balls and they made the connection with birth and rebirth. They in fact didn’t believe there were female dung beetles and that this process of laying the eggs in the balls created the beetle babies. Scarab beetles were also connected to one of their solar gods: Khepri, from the word Kheper meaning develop, come into being, to come into existence. Khepri either took the form of a beetle or a man with a beetle head. This connection presumably stems from the Egyptians seeing the dung beetles pushing dung balls around and associating this with the coming and going of the sun. The Ancient Egyptians believed that creation began when the sun rose up from the mound: the primeval earth which stood in the primeval waters before life started on the planet. Some accounts say the sun emerged in the form of the scarab god Khepri.
There is another ancient civilisation that connects the beetle to the creation myth and the primeval waters: that being the civilisation of the Garo tribe in India. Their form of creation myth follows the Earth-Diver Creation Myth structure. Earth diver creation myths follow the pattern that the earth was drawn up out of the primeval waters and brought into being. The beetle was believed to be the Earths creator according to the Garo tribe. He dove down into the waters and collected enough clay to create the earth. Being able to flying he then also created the sky and clouds. On the Earth he created plant life and man (specifically the Garo tribe).
The Cherokee creation myth seems to have similarities to that of the Garo Tribe. They believed that the Earth first came into being when Dâyuni’sï the Water Beetle, who lived in the sky realm, wanted to see what was below the primeval waters. Although he found nothing on the surface he dove down into the water and brought up mud from the bottom. The mud then kept spreading out and so the earth was created.
The final creation beetle to be mentioned here is Aksak. He was a mythological dung beetle from the Indian Chaco tribe in South America. He is said to have created man and woman out of clay.
It is quite phenomenal that this little creature has become such a strong symbol of creation in parts of the world that are so far separated from one another. The Garo, Cherokee and Chaco stories all have this in common: the beetle collecting and shaping earth to create the world and/or man. Naturally this would mainly stem from the dung beetle behaviour of rolling dung balls. Although the Ancient Egyptians don’t mention this, their myth still stems from the dung ball behaviour only then as a representative of the sun rising for the first time.
“Creation Myths of the World: Parts I-II” by David Adams Leeming