WHAT IS AN ANGEL? One often thinks of an immaculate being glowing the most infinite shade of gold. They often are portrayed as resembling humans. But what if angels come in different forms, with big eyes and multiple legs? What if they come in the form of an animal?
Animals are very truthful, innocent beings. They offer healing when one is experiencing difficulty. Native American tradition describes the messages of animals as “Animal Medicine.” According to that tradition, animals bear wise messages in life and in spirit. They represent particular values and personal meanings.
The animal, or insect, appeared to me three times in the form of the praying mantis.
Have you ever felt as if you were leaving your body, watching yourself undergo troubling times? I did, last year. Spiraling downward into what Friedrich Nietzsche had baptized “the abyss,” I was unsure of who I was and what I was meant to do. At the time, I was taking a Native American Medicine class to find answers. The odd part was that I didn’t even know the questions; I just wanted some semblance of a beacon in my life, so I could say, “Ah-ha! That is why I am here!”
My first sighting of a praying mantis came one night after class.
Atop my car was a bright green mantis with wide onyx eyes, staring at me. He began to dance all over the roof of my car, his feet gallantly peppering the roof. I felt warmth in my heart. My sadness had vanished for a few moments, thanks to this little messenger. I opened the classic Ted Andrews book Animal Speak, and it told me the praying mantis represented, “stillness.”
Stillness? How did that apply to me?
A week before I went off to a treatment center for my chronic depression, I encountered a second praying mantis. Unfortunately, this beautiful creature was dead, still attached to the front of a dirty black pick-up truck in a parking lot. How I noticed this, I don’t know.
What did death represent to me? The first mantis was dancing and jovial. The second mantis was not. “What are you trying to tell me?” I whispered.
The third praying mantis came a week and a half later when I finally accepted the fact that I was receiving help for my depression. During the first meeting of the morning, I looked out the window across from me and saw a brown praying mantis. From afar, it appeared still, perhaps dead. Fifteen minutes had passed, and I found myself spacing out, doodling in my battered notebook. I looked up at the counselor to recount her last message, and then I was struck with a feeling of joy.
The praying mantis was alive! He was crawling all over the windowpane, his energy as radiant as the sun. I truly smiled for the first time in several months. This angel in the form of a praying mantis was alive. I rushed out of the building shortly after the meeting to find him still positioned at the windowpane. He looked at me with milky eyes. He still possessed the ability to see me, even if his eyes had faded away from a glossy onyx to a pearl white. What I thought had been a dead mantis had resurrected, dancing with as much energy as the first mantis.
What message were these insects trying to convey? Life. Death. Resurrection. And what of the “stillness?” The message given to me was that I had to be patient with myself. I may not have had an inkling of who I was, and what my purpose was, but the praying mantis had communicated that, in time, I would change. This change would be painful. And yet, after the pain came a new perspective. Hope.
Angels appear as balls of light or even as human beings. My angels? They come with multiple legs, big eyes, and take joy in dancing all over my car. Regardless, I love them dearly, and am always grateful for insightful messages.