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Housefly, Part 3 of 3

by Cie Simurro, a.k.a. Thunderbird Starwoman


Fly imagery appears in literature, both ancient and modern, in religious tracts, in music, and in cinema. The following are some examples that have stood the test of time:

· Most folks have heard the expression “a fly on the wall,” but do you know where that image comes from? It comes from Richard Chopping’s, The Fly. It’s the story of some London office workers whose lives are witnessed by a housefly that plays the part of a lascivious voyeur. (Chopping was also famous for illustrating 9 James Bond book covers).

· And then there is the horror movie, The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. Goldblum is a research scientist who persuades Davis, a science magazine reporter, to witness his demonstrations of inanimate objects taking a spin in his telepod, which theoretically can transfer matter through space. The plot thickens when the scientist himself enters the telepod, unaware that he is sharing it with a live housefly.

· In the Bible, flies repeatedly appear in Exodus, Chapter 8, between verses 21 and 31, where the Egyptian people and beasts are inundated with flies because Pharaoh will not let the Hebrews go.

· Flies appear in Greek myths. Zeus sent a fly to bite Pegasus, the mythical divine horse, causing Bellerophon, a Greek hero who defeated the fire-breathing monster, Chimera, to fall back to Earth when he attempted to ride the winged steed to Mount Olympus.

· In an ancient Sumerian poem, a fly helps the goddess Inanna when her husband Dumuzid is being chased by demons.

· And in graphic art, flies appear on old Babylonian seals as symbols of Nergal, who was the god of death.

· Many different cultures in Mesopotamia wore fly jewelry, like fly-shaped lapis-lazuli beads.

· Aesop told multiple fables featuring our friend, the fly: The Fly and the Moth; The Bald Man and the Fly; The Ant and the Fly. Check them out, and share them with your kids.

· In William Blake’s 1794 poem, The Fly, Blake expresses similar sentiments to J. Allen Boone as expressed in Housefly, Part 1: “Am not I, a fly like thee? Or art not thou a man like me?”

· Emily Dickinson’s1855 poem, "I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died" refers to flies in the context of death.

· In William Golding’s 1954 novel The Lord of the Flies, fly is a symbol of the children involved. One of the boys declares himself the leader of the new tribe of hunters and organizes a hunt with a violent, ritual slaughter of a sow. The hunters then decapitate the sow and place its head on a sharpened stake in the jungle as an offering. Later, encountering the bloody, fly-covered head, another boy has a terrible vision, during which it seems to him that the head is speaking. The voice, which he imagines as belonging to the Lord of the flies, says that he will never escape the Lord of the flies, for he exists within all men.

· And… ta da… the master of all writers, the Bard, Shakespeare writes of the poor harmless fly… that came to make Titus Andronicus (Act III, Scene 2) and Marcus merry – but Marcus has killed the fly, thoughtlessly.

· Among western composers, Edvard Grieg is said to have been inspired by flies in his musical composition, “Said the Gadfly to the Fly.”

· Bela Bartok’sFrom the Diary of a Fly” for piano, depicts the actions of a fly caught in a cobweb. It is from the fly's perspective — supposedly related from its diary. There are buzzing sounds in the piece, signifying the fly's desperation to escape.

Big Fly, known as Do’tsoh in Navajo tradition is also called Sacred Fly or Little Winds because it is the guardian of Navajo sandpainting. Oftentimes, Big Fly will sit on the painter’s shoulder while he is working and answer questions sent down by the elders. For Southwestern peoples, flies were messengers. In Navajo mythology, Big fly is an important instructor-helper, and is quite literally a large fly. Big Fly can go anywhere, mediating between humans and deities, and often gets the hero out of difficulty in Navajo tales. In sand paintings, Big Fly is often portrayed at the eastern end, or opening, of the painting. Flies were also credited with bringing the first Fire to the People.

In Hopi, and other southwest pueblos, Kokopelli, the hump-backed flute player is very important in SW cultures and spiritual traditions. The image of this Kachina has become ubiquitous in mainstream America as well as for First Nations peoples of the southwest. What you may not know is that Kokopelli is a robber fly Kachina, and as such has all the qualities of robber fly as a totem. Robber flies are blood-suckers and very aggressive predators. For example, a robber fly uses its legs to swoop in mid-air at victims like bees, grasshoppers, wasps, or dragonflies, grasping them firmly between its forefeet. Its sharp beak stabs the victim, releasing neurotoxic saliva that acts as an anesthetic, so it can allow digestion of the prey’s bodily contents as they turn to liquid. Like the hump-backed flute player, robber flies also have pronounced humps. This explains the petroglyphs and pictographs in the Four Corners area of the American southwest. Robber flies indulge in minimal courtship behavior before copulating. The male pounces on the female much like he acquires prey. Before Anglos “cleaned up” the sexually explicit behavior of Kokopelli, besides the hump, there was an erect phallus in addition to the flute he carries. In traditional culture, there was a male Kookopolo and his female counterpart, Kokopolmana. Infertile Hopi women often prayed to this symbol of life force and fertility. At least, this aspect of Fly Medicine continues. No one can deny fly’s potent life force energy, and certainly, the numbers given previously as to their reproductive capabilities will attest to their fertility.

It was the humble fly that was the means by which a new branch of zoology called entomology (the study of insects) arose. In 1668, Francesco Redi, a celebrated physician and poet (talk about a balanced human!) from Arezzo Italy began to wonder if the worms in meat might not arise from the seed of flies alone, and not from the rotten meat itself. His experiments cast new light on insects – and all thanks to our friend, the fly.

When scientist Brad Lister returned to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years, he made an appalling discovery. Ninety-eight percent of ground insects had vanished. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. Up in the leafy canopy, eighty percent had vanished. The most likely culprit by far is global warming. Nearly half of all insect species worldwide are in rapid decline and a third could disappear altogether, according to a study, warning of dire consequences for crop pollination and natural food chains. Flies are on the list of insects that we can’t do without, along with bees, ants, dragonflies, grasshoppers, cicadas, beetles, and butterflies.

The recent decline in bugs that fly, crawl, burrow and skitter across water is part of, what many scientists feel is a gathering of a “mass extinction” – only the sixth in the last half-billion years. “We are witnessing the largest extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods,” the authors Francisco Sanchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney and Kris Wyckhuys of the University of Queensland in Australia reported. 252 million years ago a Permian end-game snuffed out more than 90% of the planet’s life forms, while 66 million years ago the Cretaceous period saw the demise of land dinosaurs in an abrupt finale. At present, a third of all insect species are threatened with extinction.

It is essential that each one of us who loves Mother Earth and her creatures, even the housefly, does everything we can to change the course of events on our planet. Hopefully, this series on Housefly is giving you some ideas on how to do that. Be persistent like fly totem.

If creating heaven on earth is ever to be a reality, we must learn to DO NO HARM.

Here is my prayer for Flies, and the Nation of Insects:

To all those who live in the air, the soil, water, and those who embody fire energy – we appreciate you for creating new life from within the old, for the beauty of your flight, your night and day songs, and for help pollinating, so that life may flourish. We honor the changes you make through your various forms. You are miracles. Forgive us for trying to eradicate you, poison you, swat you, make you suffer, and destroy your homes. Even those of us who try not to, often harm you and your homes without meaning to. We vow to be conscious of your presence, try to stop causing you suffering, and send you love as a vital creation of the Spirit in All That Is. We send compassion and love to those who still act violently toward you, that their hearts, and the hearts of all, be transformed into action by which all live in peace. A-ho. May it be so!

Wisdom Magazine archives contain Parts 1 & 2

Cie Simurro ~ Thunderbird Starwoman has been bringing forward the healing arts and ancient universal wisdom for 45 years, through writing, healing work, and teaching. She has been a Healer, Writer, Minister, Advocate and Steward for the natural world. For 19 years, she has been a contributing writer to Wisdom Magazine. For healing for you or your animal, spiritual training, or to buy a print or e-version of Totems for Stewards of the Earth go to: CieSimurro.com, or send $22 to PO 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370. Phone: 413 625-0385 or email: cie@ciesimurro.com


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