Buzzing to be Heard ~ the song of a well known Shadow Teacher

Voices dry as desert tears,
yet moist as rankest fen,
these Singers teach us
the patience of Zen…

“Waste not, want not!
Your trash is my treasure.
Humming, hard at work, or
strolling at my leisure…

I am winged Death!
Messenger and Janitor
of Decay
Yet, I signal blessed Release
Rapid Transformation
Prosperity in the face of Adversity
and inner peace.

You chase me from your banquet,
Yet I will feast and linger
upon the Beauty of your face
long after you cease."

Who Sings Now?

“The sick man is vexed with the flies on the wall.” proverb

“Even the lion must defend himself against the flies.”proverb

“A spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar.” Ben Franklin

Musca Domestica or the common Housefly is one of the least loved Creature Teachers, but it carries many valuable Totemic lessons. The Fly is actually a very potent Creature Teacher and well worthy of our respect. Insects are often discounted, discouraged, reviled, and looked down upon by our fellow Humans which I feel is a grave mistake. The Insect Nation is a populous and powerful force in the World and we would do much better to learn from them than scream “Eek! A Bug!” and squirt them with chemical death in a can.

Perhaps it is there nigh alien appearance and behavior, or often “gross” existence, which so repels us? Flies are not one of my favorite Creatures, and I’ve swatted more than a few in my time. However, I have also always respected them too. They are marvelously adept Survivors and do fulfill a vital role in the cycles of Life. If asked what is the most common animal found anywhere in the world? My first response would probably be “The Fly!”

Adult flies lay eggs in manure, garbage or decaying meat. They can also breed in wet flour/meal, moldy leaf-piles, or fresh, wet incinerated garbage, but not in scattered, dry garbage. Houseflies go through 4 stages of development: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Their entire life cycle can be completed in 7-10 days under ideal conditions. Adult females can lay as many as 2,700 eggs in 30 days! 350-900 eggs in 5 or 6 batches would be more average, and it takes only another 6 to 24 hours for eggs to hatch! The next phase, maggot, remains in the breeding area/“nest” for 4-10 days, feeding and growing.If their breeding environment is wet, larvae will climb to the sides or surface to pupate.

New research published in the October issue of “Clinical Infectious Diseases” found that maggots are useful in treating deep wounds without increasing the risk of further infection. Maggots work because they eat dead tissue (debridement) within the wound, which can promote infection. This treatment, ancient and even as grotesque as it may seem, helps reduce the risk of infection after surgery. The larvae are even thought to secrete substances that fight infection! Who would have thought that Fly, so closely connected with Disease and plagues, could be a healing Totem? Yet, some of the most powerful Teachers are those who display a Balance in the power, in this case… Disease and Healing.

“Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials, and throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.” Bible: Exodus 8:24

Larva have been known to crawl as much as 150’ from the nest before pupating! . There have been cases of the larva crawling a distance of 150 ft. from the breeding source in order to pupate, and pupal state only lasts 3-6 days. Adult females can lay eggs 22 days after emerging and will continue to lay their own eggs for about a month. As adults, Flies live 30-60 days during the warmest part of the year. In colder areas, flies may live indoors for several months, and recent indoor studies suggest that flies may continue to breed all year in low numbers, wintering over in places like incinerator rooms and unsanitary restaurants. As many as 12 generations can be born in a single summer! When Fly catches your attention, it often speaks of rapid transformation; an emerging influence that will most likely last about two weeks. It is important to remember that Flies seldom travel more than 30 miles from their breeding site, and Fly transformations in our lives might take up to a month to complete their cycle.

Although there are many varieties of biting flies, Houseflies do not bite. They have a spongy tube-like mouth, and must first regurgitate their saliva onto food to soften it up. Once liquid, they sponge it up. Housefly with her messy sponge, blood-sucking varieties like Robber flies or Black flies, or even the more gruesome types like Screw-worm fly all pose serious health risks for people, and our Animal cousins. For a start, Cockroaches are more sanitary in their lifestyles by comparison! More than 100 pathogens have been carried by flies alone. Diseases like malaria, typhoid, anthrax,cholera, tuberculosis and many more common varieties like simple stomach flu, have been transmitted by Fly and their near relations, Mosquitoes.

I have found that these pesky Teachers will even appear to warn you of some way in which you are endangering your own life. Infecting yourself with someone else’s destructive influence, poisoning your life in some manner or succumbing to the disease of societal apathy are very common examples. Flies have been used to represent: malice, lies, spite, curses, gossip, excuses, blame and hate. One of the many “creepy crawlies”, Flies serve as a reminder to speak as we live for we reap what we sow.

“As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.” Bible: Ecclesiastes 10:1

“Slanders are like flies, that pass all over a man’s good parts to light on his sores.” Unknown

“A closed mouth catches no flies.” Proverb

“Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead.” Chinese prover

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and Flies (like worms, rodents, amphibians, and a troup of unpleasant insects) have been used in art and literature to represent the thoughts, good or bad, that feed us. In the tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, “Mother Hulda”, two daughters follow the same strange road down a well. The kind virtuous step-daughter completes all three tasks set before her and, in one version, comes home with the ability to produce gold, pearls and precious gems whenever she speaks. The widow’s own daughter, ugly selfish and lazy, whom she had spoiled comes home dropping snakes, frogs, and all manner of creepy crawlies as Mother Hulda’s reward for her behavior.

Perhaps if she had improved her attitude, she would have shown that she finally understood that our words and actions feed the World we create around us. In removing the bread from untended ovens, unburdening a groaning apple tree and faithfully tending Mother Hulda’s housework are powerful lessons on Duty, Interconnectedness, Justice, and Karma. This “faerie lesson” has been repeated in many tales the world over. Flies can be delivers of Hard Truths, but they aren’t always bearing bad news.

“The image and name of the humpbacked flute player, Kokopelli appear on everything from jewelry and t-shirts to nature trails and string quartets. Malotki finds that the figure’s popularity developed through cultural misunderstandings and linguistic corruptions that have blended and confused several elements: a prehistoric rock motif from the Four Corners area, the contemporary icon based on this rock art, the Hopi kachina, Kookopolo, modeled on the robber fly, who has a hump and is associated with fertility but never carries a flute; a maahu, the cicada, whose flute playing warms the earth and ripens crops. In addition to discussing these ethnographic elements, the author presents six Hopi oral tales that demonstrate the contrast between the traditional material and today’s ubiquitous mythical flute player of the Southwest.” Science magazine

I found this connection to the Trickster, Kokopelli, to be quite intriguing. This figure is over 2000 years old, a long time in human perspective. Carrying his sack of plenty and mischief wherever he roams, Kokopelli is much admired as a cheerful Evoker of Fertility and Abundance. Fly is seldom greeted with this kind of enthusiasm though!

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” Napoleon

“Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never. Never — in anything great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Winston Churchill

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Winston Churchill

Flies can also symbolize Abundance/Prosperity especially in the face of adversity! Persistence, thriving on chaos, and turning a tragedy into a triumph are all Fly messages. The “Golden Fly of Valor” or the “Order of the Golden Fly” was an Ancient Egyptian medal of honor bestowed by Pharaohs for acts of Valor, Excellence or overwhelming achievement. More often than not, Fly is pestering me as I toil up the hills of my life’s path with my cart in tow. It is an effort to hear his, “Keep pushing! don’t give up! Almost there!” encouragement, when all I want to do is stop my progress long enough to wave his dirty presence away from my face! It takes Balance and Patience to transcend this almost Physical need, allow the Fly to simply be, and maintain my chosen course. Flies are very good at goading us, but what might we achieve if we truly focused and directed well the energy that Fly goads us into releasing? Hmmm, an interesting question!

“I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places, am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. You will not easily find another like me, and therefore I would advise you to spare me.” Socrates

“Laws are like cobwebs where the small flies are caught and the big ones break through.” proverb

“Scriptures cannot transcend reason and truth. They are intended to purify reason and illuminate truth. Every formula of every religion has, in this age of reason, to submit to the test of reason and universal justice if it is to ask for universal assent. Error can claim no exemption even if it can be supported by the scriptures of the world.”Gandhi

There are over 120,000 species of fly. They are great opportunists, master transformers, and survivors. The best we exhibit of Fly would be triumph over adversity, prosperity, abundance, rapid change, necessary growth, mindful living. The worst might be opportunistic bottom-feeders of society, those who encourage chaos, decay and death because they feed off of it. Destructive or constructive, much of Fly is how you look at it, how you approach these things in your own life.

Flies are everywhere though, and an important food for many other species. These evoke-rs of rapid change feed fish from minnow to salmon, spiders, frogs, toads and other amphibians, bats, birds from sparrows to turkeys, snakes, lizards, other insects like dragonfly and preying mantis, certain plants like flytraps and sun-dew. All of which may feed larger things in their own turn. Flies are on this Wheel along with the rest of us, and have their purpose.

“Flies on the wall” are privy to secrets un-guessed. Our woes might multiply like flies if we aren’t careful, and the industry of the Bee is certainly more dependable than the audacity of Fly. However Fly can also speak to us of Healing, the release of a destructive aspect in our lives, or the ultimate Transformations of Life, Death and Rebirth that results in Immortality. This is one of those Teachers that often leads me to another Teacher, a bridge-maker between two lessons or periods in my life. As always it is important to look at balancing energies too.

I found this frightening article on in which scientists are making fly-eating “ecobots” as part of a “release and forget” program! I dare not guess what other “helpful” robots people have come up with, as I would not wish to see a World deprived of this wise and necessary Teacher. While I am all for keeping my home environment as reasonably free of these disease-carrying Critters as possible, I am also in no hurry to eliminate the species. It is from the persistently buzzing fly that we learn the Patience necessary to continue on a good road. How does this Teacher appear in your life?

Better a handful of bees than a basket full of flies. Moroccan proverb

“Flies and priests can enter any house.” Russian proverb

“The biting fly gets nothing by alighting on the back of the tortoise.” African proverb

" Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." Groucho Marx

Buzzing to be Heard ~ the song of a well known Shadow Teacher

Quinn Blackburn

Bethel Park, United States

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Artist's Description

Each Who Sings Now? poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; tree, stone, animal, plant, etc. All Our Relations are still willing to teach anyone willing to gratefully listen. Nothing is ever truly lost as long as there is still someone willing to look for it.

The Singer featured here is not a well liked critter, usually a pretty good indication that the Teacher in question is an excellent Shadow totem or guide… the best explanation of a Shadow Guide I have ever found is right here… a site I highly recommend for those interested in beginning to learn about the Totems of the Native Traditions…

“The Shadow Totem is that Animal Spirit that embodies our alternate Self, or our Personality Center. When the Shadow is not integrated, it is the repository of our fears, frustrations, temptations, impulsive/compulsive reactions and our anger and unresolved pain. Perhaps because our modern society has denied the existence of the Shadow Self, or conversely has exerted an over abundance of effort in nurturing it, we have also learned to fear this extension of our inner Self.”

While this little Teacher has not been a Shadow guide for me personally, I can easily see that he is for many people around the World.

Artwork Comments

  • lianne
  • Quinn Blackburn
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