The other day, Margaret Neville was strolling through the garden on her farm in South Africa when something remarkable caught her eye.
There, on a branch in her lavender bush, was an insect unlike any she’d seen before: “I was amazed at first sight,” Neville told The Dodo.
And it’s easy to see why.
The beautiful bug almost looked like a delicate glass sculpture. Her wings of white and green were accentuated with an elegant swirl, while the rest of her body was adorned with tiny, purple flower-like structures.
Neville shared the photo with her friend, Kerri Martinaglia. She was equally impressed.
“When I saw her, I thought she was an exquisite work of art,” Martinaglia told The Dodo.
Neville and Martinaglia came to learn that the insect she’d found was aptly called a “Flower Mantis,” a type of praying mantis perfectly suited to camouflaging themselves in floral settings.
And thanks to that trick, the mantis Neville happened upon was clearly thriving. Before placing her back in the lavender bush, Neville gave her a name: Miss Frilly Pants.
“She has spent the entire month of September living on my lavender,” Neville said. “She is still there now.”
After Martinaglia shared photos of her online, the remarkable mantis has earned plenty of admirers from people stunned to learn such an animal is real. But not all of her new fans are human.
Recently, Neville spotted Miss Frilly in the company of a suitor:
Though mantis relationships are notoriously short-lived (as are, in some cases, the males involved in them), with any luck, this one will result in many more Miss Frillys adding their beauty to the world.
And the prospect of that alone is enough to be grateful for:
This is a synthesis of several stories from the Cherokee, who were the native people of northern Georgia and Alabama, western North Carolina, central and eastern Tennessee, and Kentucky. The stories were told to James Mooney of the Bureau of American Ethnology in the late 1800’s by older Cherokee men in western North Carolina. The principal story teller was Ayúnini (“Swimmer”), who was born in 1835 and never spoke English, although he served as sergeant in the Confederate infantry in the Civil War. He died in 1899.
When the plants and animals first came to earth, they were told to stay awake for seven nights, as in the Cherokee medicine ceremony. The animals all stayed awake the first night, and many stayed awake the next few nights, but only the owl and the panther and a couple of others stayed awake all seven nights. They were given the ability to see at night and so to hunt at night when the others are asleep. The same thing happened among the trees, and only the cedar, pine, spruce, holly and laurel stayed awake all seven nights, which is why they can stay green all year when the others lose their leaves.
Humans came after the animals. At first they multiplied rapidly, and the first woman give birth every seven days. Eventually there were so many of them that it seemed they might not all survive, and since then to this day each woman has been able to have just one child each year. Among these early people were a man and a woman name Kanáti and Selu, whose names meant “The Lucky Hunter” and “Corn”, respectively. Kanáti would go hunting and invariably return with game, which Selu would prepare by the stream near their home. She also would always return home with baskets of corn, which she would pound to make meal for bread.
Kanáti and Selu had a little boy, and he would play by the stream. Eventually they realized that he was playing with another little boy who had arisen from the blood of the game washed by the stream. With their son’s help they caught the other boy, and eventually he lived with them like he was their own son, although he was called “the Wild Boy”.
Kanáti brought home game whenever he went hunting, and one day the two boys decided to follow him. They followed him into the mountains until he came to a large rock, which he pulled aside to reveal a cave from which a buck emerged. Kanáti shot the buck and, after covering the cave, he headed home. The boys got home before him and didn’t reveal what they had learned, but a few days later they returned to the rock. With a struggle they pulled it aside and had great fun watching the deer come out of the cave. They lost track of what they were doing, however, and soon all sorts of game animals – rabbit and turkeys and partridges and buffalo and all – escaped from the cave. Kanáti saw all these animals coming down the mountain and knew what the boys must have done, and he went up the mountain after them. He opened four jars in the cave, and from them came fleas and lice and gnats and bedbugs that attacked the boys. He sent them home, hoping he could find some of the dispersed game for the supper. Thus it is that people must now hunt for game.
The boys went home, and Selu told them there would be no meat for dinner. However, she went to the storehouse for food, and told the boys to wait while she did so. They followed her instead to the storehouse and watched her go inside. She put down her basket and then rubbed her stomach, and the basket was partly full with corn. Then she rubbed her sides, and it was full to the top with beans. Watching through a crack in the storehouse wall, the boys saw all this. Selu knew that they had seen her, but she went ahead and fixed them a last meal. Then she and Kanáti explained that, because their secrets were revealed, they would die, and with them would end the easy life they had known. However, Selu told them to drag her body seven times around a circle in front of their house, and then to drag her seven times over the soil inside the circle, and if they stayed up all night to watch, in the morning they would have a crop of corn. The boys, however, only cleared a few spots and they only dragged her body over it twice, which is why corn only grows in certain places on the earth. They did sit up all night, though, and in the morning the corn was grown, and still it is grown today, although now it takes half a year.
In these early days, the plants, the animals, and the people all lived together as friends. As the people multiplied, however, the animals had less room to roam, and they were either slaughtered for food or trampled under the humans’ feet. Finally the animals held a council to discuss what to do. The bears experimented with using bows and arrows to fight back, but they concluded that they would have to cut off their claws to use the bows. The deer held a council and decided to send rheumatism to any hunter who killed a deer without asking its pardon for having done so. When a deer is shot by a hunter, the fleet and silent Little Deer, leader of the deer, runs to the blood-stained spot to ask the spirit of the killed deer if the hunter prayed for pardon for his affront. If the answer is no, Little Deer follows the trail of blood and inflicts the hunter with rheumatism so that he is crippled.
The fish and reptiles likewise met, and resolved that the people would suffer from dreams in which snakes twined about them. The birds and smaller animals and insects all met too, and talked long into the night about how they had suffered from the humans. Eventually they created all sorts of new diseases to afflict humans, which have since become a scourge to the animals’ oppressors.
After this the plants met, and they resolved that something must be done to counteract what the animals had done. That is why so many trees and shrubs and herbs, and even the mosses, provide remedies for diseases. It was thus that medicine first came into the world, to counteract the revenge of the animals.
James Mooney, 1900, Myths of the Cherokee: Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology for 1897-1898, Part 1, p. 1-576. (J84.SI2.1 pt. 1 1897-98)
Tonight the Cherokee creation story was briefly shared with me. The Arch is not what many think it is. The Creation story is very long, so I will simply start here, and move forward. Please note: the Creation story varies somewhat from nation to nation, yet the gist of it remains the same. Please be careful to not get caught up in the details of a story, (ie: whether the corn falls from Corn Maidens arms, or from her skirt) … widen perspective, see the similarities, and concentrate upon those things.
Cherokee creation story
The earth is a great island floating in a sea of water, and suspended at each of the four cardinal points by a cord hanging down from the sky vault, which is of solid rock. When the world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again.
“When all was water, the animals were above in Gälûñ’lätï, beyond the arch; but it was very much crowded, and they were wanting more room. They wondered what was below the water, and at last Dâyuni’sï, “Beaver’s Grandchild,” the little Water-beetle, offered to go and see if it could learn. It darted in every direction over the surface of the water, but could find no firm place to rest. Then it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud, which began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island which we call the earth. It was afterward fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one remembers who did this.
At first the earth was flat and very soft and wet. The animals were anxious to get down, and sent out different birds to see if it was yet dry, but they found no place to alight and came back again to Gälûñ’lätï. At last it seemed to be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and told him to go and make ready for them. This was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the buzzards we see now. He flew all over the earth, low down near the ground, and it was still soft. When he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap and strike the ground, and wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and where they turned up again there was a mountain. When the animals above saw this, they were afraid that the whole world would be mountains, so they called him back, but the Cherokee country remains full of mountains to this day.
When the earth was dry and the animals came down, it was still dark, so they got the sun and set it in a track to go every day across the island from east to west, just overhead. It was too hot this way, and Tsiska’gïlï’, the Red Crawfish, had his shell scorched a bright red, so that his meat was spoiled; and the Cherokee do not eat it. The conjurers put the sun another hand-breadth higher in the air, but it was still too hot. They raised it another time, and another, until it was seven handbreadths high and just under the sky arch. Then it was right, and they left it so. This is why the conjurers call the highest place Gûlkwâ’gine Di’gälûñ’lätiyûñ’, “the seventh height,” because it is seven hand-breadths above the earth. Every day the sun goes along under this arch, and returns at night on the upper side to the starting place.
There is another world under this, and it is like ours in everything–animals, plants, and people–save that the seasons are different. The streams that come down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the doorways by which we enter it, but to do this one must fast and go to water and have one of the underground people for a guide. We know that the seasons in the underworld are different from ours, because the water in the springs is always warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the outer air.
When the animals and plants were first made–we do not know by whom–they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights, just as young men now fast and keep awake when they pray to their medicine. They tried to do this, and nearly all were awake through the first night, but the next night several dropped off to sleep, and the third night others were asleep, and then others, until, on the seventh night, of all the animals only the owl, the panther, and one or two more were still awake. To these were given the power to see and to go about in the dark, and to make prey of the birds and animals which must sleep at night. Of the trees only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, and the laurel were awake to the end, and to them it was given to be always green and to be greatest for medicine, but to the others it was said: “Because you have not endured to the end you shall lose your hair every winter.”
Men came after the animals and plants. At first there were only a brother and sister until he struck her with a fish and told her to multiply, and so it was. In seven days a child was born to her, and thereafter every seven days another, and they increased very fast until there was danger that the world could not keep them. Then it was made that a woman should have only one child in a year, and it has been so ever since.“
W. Powell, Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1897-1898, Part I (Washington: 1900), 239-240.
There is much more to this story. I will be posting portions as time goes.
The upholding of creation is every man, woman, and child’s responsibility. The saving of it does NOT fall upon one individuals shoulders. No, it is in the maintenance and caring of that which supports life, the responsibility of ALL.
Changes must be made, by ALL, if the ropes that were spun are to be held in health, which in turn ensures our very survival. This is everyone’s responsibility.
The idea that one person is coming along to “make everything right” is a way of excusing this very bad behavior toward the earth and all life upon it, which we ALL participate in.