Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Don't put your faith in dung beetles

Ancient Egyptians had an big fascination for scarab beetles. The large, patent leather-shiny black bugs subsist on outsized balls of cattle dung. Like little boys making a snowman, the roll their shit-balls to their lairs and feast. Egyptians, who plainly had a lot of imagination as well as geometry skills, saw a connection between this and Ra, the Sun God. Daily the sun falls as if dying into the horizon then rises anew in the morning. Get it? Ball of dung equals sun, source of life. They somehow got from that tenuous connection to the beetle as a symbol of renewal and resurrection. Scarabs show up in tombs and statues and temples. Nowadays scarab necklaces, bracelets, amulets and refrigerator magnets are all the rage in Egyptian souvenir stands. I can't understand asking for bug jewelry.

At the stupendous Karnak complex of temples dedicated to the King of the Gods Amun there is a curious beetle statue around which a tradition/superstition has grown. It's like rubbing the breast of a Juliet statute in Verona or throwing a coin into Rome's Trevi fountain. But they say if you walk around the bug statue three times in a clockwise position, your wish will come true.

Of course I tried. And I can report that my wish came to --fittingly enough --shit.

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