Named for its “praying” posture, the praying mantis is a common symbol of serenity, maturity, and focus. This insect is known as a voracious hunter as well as a beneficial inhabitant of gardens which manages pests. In this article, we’ll examine some of the symbolism attached to the praying mantis as well as this insect’s role in myths and folk traditions around the world. Whether you’re already a praying mantis fan or whether you’re trying to conquer your insect fears, read on to learn about all of the wonderful ideas connected with this fascinating bug!
Table of contents
- Praying Mantis Symbolism and meaning
- Praying Mantis Native American Symbolism
- Praying Mantis Eastern Symbolism
- Praying Mantis Christianity Symbolism
- Praying Mantis Celtic Symbolism
- Praying Mantis Medicine
- Praying Mantis in Dreams
- Praying Mantis Encounters and Omens
- Praying Mantis’ Mythology and Folklore
- Praying Mantis Spirit Animal
- Praying Mantis Totem Animal
- Praying Mantis Power Animal
- Praying Mantis Tattoo Meaning
Praying Mantis symbolism and meaning
Praying mantises are slender and elegant with long limbs and bodies. They are often used as symbols of acuity and focus because of their incredible hunting style and abilities. Mantises ambush their prey by waiting in complete stillness until the unsuspecting quarry moves within striking distance. This ambush style associates the praying mantis with patience, balance, and victory. (1)
Praying mantises are twice-named for the unique “praying” posture which they assume. This is the origin of the “praying” part of their name as well as “mantis” which comes from a Greek word for “prophet.” For this reason, the praying mantis is often associated with faith, devotion, inspiration, and divinity. (2)
Female praying mantises have a serious reputation for violence. In many mating encounters, the female is known to destroy the male after copulation and remove his head. The female eats the male and uses the nutrients from this cannibalistic act in order to produce as many healthy eggs as possible. Because of this gruesome mating ritual, praying mantises are often connected with domestic violence or discord, “femme fatales,” or general aggression. (3)
Praying mantises are exceptionally powerful hunters. While they may be small and delicate-looking, it is not entirely uncommon for mantises to capture and eat animals much larger than themselves. In fact, praying mantises are often recorded eating birds! While birds naturally prey upon most insects, the mantis is capable of occasionally shaking up this natural food chain. For this reason, mantises are connected with power, determination, and underestimated or unexpected strength. (4)
Praying mantises are thought of as good luck charms in a number of cultures. They eat harmful pests and are even sold in egg form at garden stores in order to manage pest populations. The mantis may represent cooperation, purification, justice, or vigilantism. (5)
“From whence arrived the praying mantis?— Ogden Nash (6)
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
glimpse the grin, green metal mug
at masks the pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.”
Praying Mantis Native American symbolism
Insects, such as the praying mantis, and arachnids like Grandmother Spider, play a multitude of important roles throughout the myths, folklore traditions, and artistic motifs of Native American peoples. Many sources allege that the praying mantis is seen by Native American peoples as an envoy of the Great Spirit and an ancient friend to mankind.
I hesitate to make any such claims due to the fact that I cannot find any reputable sources which back this up. What I can say with relative certainty is that many tribes associate insects in general with witchcraft and supernatural forces. (7)
Praying Mantis Eastern Symbolism
Mantises are connected with the strength, courage and fighting spirit of a warrior in much of Chinese philosophy. The Chinese philosopher Chuang Tse has much to say about this insect:
“Don’t you know the story of the praying-mantis ? In its rage it stretched out its arms to prevent a chariot from passing, unaware that this was beyond its strength, so admirable was its energy!”— The Praying Mantis In Chinese Folklore
By Berthold Laufer (8)
“When Chuang-tse was wandering in the park at Tiao-Hng, he saw a strange bird which came from the south. Its wings were seven feet across. Its eyes were an inch in circumference. And it flew close past Chuang-tse’s head to alight in a chestnut grove. ‘What manner of bird is this?’ cried Chuang-tse. ‘With strong wings it does not fly away. With large eyes it does not see.’ So he picked up his skirts and strode towards it with his crossbow, anxious to get a shot. Just then he saw a cicada enjoying itself in the shade, forgetful of all else. And he saw a mantis spring and seize it, forgetting in the act its own body, which the strange bird immediately pounced upon and made its prey. And this it was which had caused the bird to forget its own nature. ‘Alas!’ cried Chuang-tse with a sigh, ‘how creatures injure one another. Loss follows the pursuit of gain.'”— The Praying Mantis In Chinese Folklore
By Berthold Laufer (9)
In life, moreover, the praying mantis pounces on a cicada. The Chinese relate that the mantis will even stretch out its feelers to stop a cart and regard it as a type of greed and pertinacity.
In Japan, the praying mantis “kamakiri” is an emblem of bravery and a symbol of autumn. The Japanese name for this insect refers to the cutting motion of a scythe. (10)
Praying Mantis Christianity symbolism
Prayer is a major aspect of the Christian faith. Mantises are not major biblical symbols, however the connection between these insects and the act of prayer is an obvious one.
“If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind)”— 1 Kings 8:37-39 (11)
Perhaps because of its “praying” nature, much of the world considers it bad luck to kill a praying mantis. (12)
Praying Mantis Celtic symbolism
Praying mantises show up a lot in modern art and media as a surreal or supernatural force. I have read claims that this insect is connected with druidism or magic in Celtic symbolism. Unfortunately, I have not found trustworthy source material with which this can be verified. What I can say is that the praying mantis is quite often connected with springtime and transitions. (13)
Praying Mantis Medicine
Praying mantis medicine is used to hone one’s focus and to foster introspection. The praying mantis is a creature of balance which relies on timing and acuity to succeed. With the right timing, the mantis can accomplish feats of unimaginable strength. Call upon the praying mantis when you nee help choosing the correct moment to act.
Praying mantis medicine fosters patience and maturity. When one’s path feels to distant or difficult, the praying mantis reminds you that everything happens when it is meant to.
Praying Mantis in dreams
Dreaming of the praying mantis may refer to focus or longing. To dream of this insect might mean that you feel driven towards pursuing a particular goal. While the mantis embosies patience, dreaming of one might mean that you are overly stressed about timing or struggling to be as patient as you need to be. Allow the mantis to guide you and remind you that good things come to those who wait.
A praying mantis dream might also be related to romantic woes. As we previously discussed, praying mantises are not the most romantic of animals. Female mantises often destroy and consume their mates following copulation. Dreaming of a mantis might indicate that one feels anxiety or mistrust in their romantic relationships. Such a dream might be a sign that the dreamer is struggling with a fear of being vulnerable. (14)
Praying Mantis encounters and omens
In most cultures, a praying mantis encounter is a good luck charm which foretells a period of good fortune on the horizon. Some traditions go further than this and suggest that harming a mantis, either by mistake or on purpose, will bring about an extended period of misfortune. Superstitious individuals may want to be respectful towards these insects. (15)
A praying mantis encounter can act as a reminder to banish fear from your mindset. Mantises may be small but they can take on prey that is much larger than you would expect. Consider the mantis the next time you find yourself afraid or apprehensive. Do not underestimate your abilities.
Praying Mantis mythology and folklore
For certain South African cultures, the praying mantis is the most significant and sacred animal around. The god Kaggen is represented as a praying mantis and is recognized as both a divine creator deity and a shapeshifting trickster. Kaggen is said to have been the first animal and to have created the other animals and fed them with honey. Kaggen is also said to have hung the moon in the sky. (16)
Common folklore suggests that praying mantises can be used to guide one’s path. In some European traditions, a maiden who holds a praying mantis may find her future husband by walking in the direction in which the insect points. (17)
Praying Mantis spirit animal
If your spirit animal is the mighty mantis then you are likely a focused and calm person who doesn’t sweat small concerns. The praying mantis spirit animal is mature and patient, which allows this insect to succeed in matters where others would expect it to fail.
The praying mantis spirit animal is fearless, but never reckless. People with this animal as their spirit animal know what they are capable of and are willing to take necessary leaps of faith in order to follow through on their potential. The mantis spirit is a fighter and does not back down from a challenge. (18)
Praying Mantis totem animal
If the praying mantis is your totem animal then you are likely especially gifted when it comes to flexibility and balance. No matter what life throws at the mantis totem, this insect keeps its cool and rolls with the punches. The mantis totem animal is adaptable and dexterous in both body and spirit.
Someone with the praying mantis as their totem animal is likely to be very level-headed and analytical. People might find the praying mantis totem to be cold or robotic, but this is not due to lack of emotion. The mantis totem knows that even the most powerful emotional experience will pass with time. The mantis totem is patient and does not react unless necessary. (19)
Praying Mantis power animal
If your power animal is the praying mantis then you can rely on this animal’s support when it comes to the incredible gift of timing. Timing may not seem like much, but this is an important factor for success. People with the mantis power animal are exceptional at using their time wisely and succeeding against the odds.
Call upon the mantis power animal when you unsure if the time is right to act. The mantis guides you down the path of least resistance. (20)
Praying Mantis tattoo meaning
A praying mantis tattoo can have a wide range of meanings from good luck to focus to balance. For a Christian, the praying mantis tattoo can act as a reminder to focus the mind on prayer and purity.
A praying mantis tattoo may also represent purification, justice, strength, or courage. The ethereal beauty of the mantis sits in sharp contrast with its unexpectedly ferocious strength.
Praying mantis symbolism is vast and varied. As a creator deity, the praying mantis is intimidating and strange. As a garden insect, the praying mantis is helpful and cooperative. Praying mantises fill a variety of roles in the lives and cultures of mankind.