This week is National Insect Week, and to celebrate our buggy friends I’ve decided to muse about flies… partly because of the links to Loki, and also because of their sacred symbolism in Ancient Egypt.
Many people have seen pictures of golden fly amulets and necklaces and wondered, “Why?” From a human perspective flies can seem annoying, they spread germs and diseases, and they multiply quickly. Let’s now turn this around and try to see it from a mindset the Ancient Egyptians were familiar with: symbolism and sympathetic magic.
If viewed from this perspective the fly becomes persistent and tenacious rather than annoying. As anyone who has ever dealt with them knows, flies don’t give up! They keep trying, going for what they’ve set their tiny fly-hearts on, no matter what obstacles (or fly swatters) they come up against. They are tenacious little creatures, and sometimes we too need that kind of attitude.
Flies also breed in large numbers, so from a sympathetic magic viewpoint the fly could be a very useful motif to draw upon. Fertility, in various aspects, was something the Ancient Egyptians valued so emulating the abundant fertility of the fly by wearing a fly amulet isn’t too far a leap of the imagination.
Flies also spread disease and perhaps, as with Sekhmet, their amulets were worn to try to curry favour, stave off illness, and act as a protective symbol. Flies also swarm on the dead, and it is not unreasonable to reason that they may well have a ‘death’ element to their symbolism. They are drawn to rotting substances and ‘feed’ on death in that manner too.
On a more modern level of symbolism flies as scavengers can also represent those who seek relentlessly to make what they can of the opportunities that present themselves. Flies are the ultimate opportunists. No matter how many times they’re wafted off (or chased away) they keep trying to get to what they want. Sometimes this is perfectly good stuff, but other times they’re literally feeding off poo. And this teaches us something: sometimes even the messy, s*** stuff in our lives can become fuel for our future Self.
If we tie in their fertility as well then we gain a picture of a creature relentless in the pursuit of its goals, able to turn even the rubbish times into future nourishment, and able to keep producing and creating ‘life’. We could learn a thing or two from Fly, if we’re willing to look from a more symbolic, sympathetic magic, Ancient Egyptian type of perspective.
See also: Flies, Cats and Rat Traps: The Ordinary Animals of Ancient Egypt by Anna Garnett, Curator of the Petrie Museum –http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/museums/2017/11/15/flies-cats-and-rat-traps-the-ordinary-animals-of-ancient-egypt/
(c) Michelle G, Northern Tamarisk, 2018