Saturday, November 12, 2005

Illustration Friday- Strength - scarab beetle

Illustration Friday topic is Strength this week. It seemed quite an easy topic to me- at least i could think almost immediately what i wanted to draw.

I did ponder very briefly on doing an old fashioned circus poster for a strong man or lady but i quickly realised that i really wanted to show 'strength' using some sort of bug.

Insects are amazingly strong. For example; ants can carry around 50 times their weight, build massive ant hills and rival earth worms in amount of earth moved while digging through soil.

However, I didn't want to draw ants , i wanted to draw the sacred scarab beetle, Scarabaeus sacer.

Scarabaeus sacer are dung rolling beetles - they form huge balls of animal dung with their modified front legs. Then they use their back legs to push the dung ball along until they find an ideal burial spot. Once the ball is buried, the beetle will feed on and lay eggs in the dung.

The beetles play an important role in recycling animal waste and improving soil quality. Additionally, their speedy removal of dung may help prevent the spread of disease.


The ancient Egyptians were impressed by the scarab beetle's amazing strength as they could be seen rolling balls of dung many times larger than the beetle.

Here is a dung beetle pushing a huge ball of dung across the ground.




The God Khepri [aka Khephri] was the giant scarab beetle who pushed the sun across the sky by day and to the underworld at night. Kephri was also the God of regeneration or rebirth since it seemed like life had been created from dung when the beetle larvae hatched from inside the ball.

Kephri is depicted as a giant scarab [sometimes with wings] and as a man with a scarab for a head. Giant sculptures of scarab beetles were found in temples connected to sun worship.
The ancient egyptians beleived that a scarab beetle could fly with a ball of dung on its back, but this is not something that happens in reality - they are strong but not that strong.

Scarabs were very commonly used as charms and amulets - sometimes with other Gods and Goddesses carved on the bottom. The scarab above is based on a lapis lazuli scarab I once saw in a museum.

The Heart scarab was a very important amulet used during the mummification process. The scarab was inscribed with spells from the Book of the Dead and was placed inside the mummy wrappings - these spells allowed the person to pass through to the afterlife by ensuring that the deceased's heart weighed the same as Ma'at's feather. A heart the weighed too heavy was filled with evil and so would be fed to a crocodile headed demon and prevent the person's soul going onwards.











13 comments:

Caroline said...

Excellent image of strength!

And beautifully portayed too.

And I didn't know that about heart weight - interesting.

Zana Fauzi said...

I remember I used to pick up a dung beetle at school and played with it until the end of the day.

Nice explanation of how you came up with the idea.

Catnapping said...

this is a wonderful entry. i've decided to forego any jokes about competitive dung-rolling, and just tell you that this is a great illustration, and that you did a delightful job of teaching me something i didn't know.

ValGalArt said...

Fascinating and beautiful!

carla said...

Fascinating! And, as always, an absolutely wonderful illustration. I have always like the scarab charm for jewelry, and with regard to litertaure, it calls to mind the debate about what kind of "monstrous vermin" Gregor Samsa (Kafka's The Metamorphosis) awakened as. Although most people think he was a cockroach, those folks who like to research such details have determined that he was, in fact, a dung beetle. So there! Thanks for another informative and lovely IF entry:>

Chas Ravndal said...

very interesting and informative post. love it

Holly said...

wonderful illo of strength indeed. I love reading this. Thanks.

Tony Sarrecchia said...

Excellent illustration and a great read.

Twisselman said...

Great illustration of the theme. And your blogs are always a wealth of information.

andrea said...

I have used scarabs in my recent work -- became fascinated after I saw a National Geographic article of jewel scarabs. Nice, strong image, too. As for strength -- we should probably be drawing cockroaches! :)

rubio2d said...

your blog is always a good reading!
Nice work with this topic.

Laura said...

Great purple scarab. I live near a big Egyptian museum. Your post made me want to visit there again. This is the first time I've seen your blog. I clicked on your website (I'm an artist too so I was curious). I love the painting of the pearl! It was so subtle and beautiful.

constanthing said...

Insects have such amazing strength ... great image of the beetle at work, your entries are always so educational and informative.