Thursday, November 08, 2007

Here's a great "Amazing Stories" cover showing beings who resemble the unsettling mantis folk described by UFO abductees and DMT trippers alike*.





Intriguingly, the magazine is from 1937. And while insects have always served as convenient templates for science fiction artists, it's curious that present-day extraterrestrial abductors should so closely resemble beings from pulp magazines.

Is the intelligence behind the close-encounter experience using SF devices as a way of interacting with us, much how a primatologist "communicates" with an orphaned monkey via hand-puppet? If so, how to account for descriptions of bug-like entities from populations who haven't been primed to know what an alien "should" look like? Maybe the "mantis" identity is simply a costume that works, in which case one can't help but yearn for a glimpse of next year's fashions . . .

*Although "everyday" encounters in normal consciousness aren't unheard of.

(Hat tip to Elan.)

25 comments:

TJ said...

I think its just a matter of normal archetypal fear/fascination that we giant human mammals have with our tiny insect brethren.

I think insects look inherently "alien" to us because their multitude of limbs/antennae/mandibles, exotic shapes, and often hive-based society is different from our own everyday reality.

They also carry/accompany disease so we have an innate dislike for most of them.

Another common alien archetype is cephalapods and other such deep sea beasties - again because their forms are so odd and mysterious.

It's natural that when an artist back then wanted to come up with something "alien", they would first look to something in nature like insects as a starting point.

Modern designers/concept artists still rely heavily on insects/sea life for inspiration, although guys like Giger have demonstrated that there are still other aesthetics out there to be explored.

Kyle said...

I think insects are an easy choice for both conscious and unconscious surrogates for aliens because in many ways insects are our polar opposites. Truly alien by any definition except maybe origin.

We wear our skeleton inside while insects wear theirs on the outside. We have supple, articulating fingers while they have rigid pincers, claws and thorns (as those used to adhere to surfaces).

We are warm-blooded while they are bloodless and decidedly "cold" creatures.

From the earliest encounters, surely humans have considered them to be strange, alien creatures in almost every way.

Just as surely, artists, writers, poets, abductees, hallucinators and daydreamers have almost from the beginning seen insects as a natural surrogate for "aliens".

One additional point is the rather sophisticated social organization observed among many insect species.

From bees to ants to butterflies to perhaps the mantis, we tend to endow insects with a kind of "intelligence" that is also our opposite...group-think, unfeeling, centralized or instinctive hive mind, socialistic ideals.

It is really rather odd that more alien stories do not include descriptions that could be called "insectoid".

Fascinating tie-in to the DMT experience, too.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the aliens on the "Amazing" cover have insectoid bodies and even heads (complete with mandibles) but very human-looking, non-compound eyes with which to glare predatorially at the reader....

--W.M. Bear

Elan said...

Leaving DMT, McKenna, Hancock, Pickover and others aside for the moment, hundreds of animals are widely regarded as sacred in cultures around the world and throughout time. Some animals are conferred as the bearers of knowledge that advance a society. The praying mantis was credited by the San Bushmen with bringing fire to the people. The mantis was called, in some tribes, the “heavenly bodies.” In Zimbabwe, the Shona people regard the mantis and mantis-like insects as messengers. Due to the absence of a clearly defined (written) historical record, there is a great debate about the provenance of these beliefs as well as their relative age. No one has been able to provide empirical evidence that the mantis as a conveyer of advanced knowledge is hundreds or thousands of years old.
A older reference goes back to Ancient Egypt: Praying mantis
During the excavations at Deir el Medine, archaeologist B. Bruyère discovered a small, somewhat anthropomorphous coffin made of clay which contained the remains of a praying mantis wrapped in linen. Praying mantises are rarely mentioned in the Egyptian texts, but one citation is of interest to any Fortean delving into these realms: In the following passage from the Book of the Dead, the mantis is the gatekeeper to to the next life:
“I have gone to the king passing by my house.
It was the praying mantis which came to fetch me.”

Elan said...

Another mantis bit:
Martial art forms in China have adopted specific movements of the mantis into their practices. These movements help the student reconnect with their personal chi or energy.
Excellent hunters with an efficient attack strategy the praying mantis always knows the right moment for attack and for retreat. Time in the linear sense is irrelevant to the mantis. Moving effortlessly between worlds the mantis is associated with time travel.
The praying mantis can remain motionless for an indefinite period. They hold the secrets of materialization and de-materialzation and awaken this ability in people.

Again: They hold the secrets of materialization and de-materialzation.

dad2059 said...

My youngest daughter is deathly afraid of mantis'. She says they just creep her out and she doesn't like the way they "watch" her.

Definitely something primal going on.

Anonymous said...

"They hold the secrets of materialization and de-materialzation."

That's an interesting but rather cryptic statement, Elan. Could you elaborate somewhat?

And, yeah, mantis insects are quite creepy to me, also. They seem "intelligent" in the way they move and watch you when you are watching them.

Elan said...

"They hold the secrets of materialization and de-materialization."

This is a reference to the martial arts disciplines that use the “Mantis” techniques. I am not adept I the arts and I can only speculate that the Mantis’ display a behavioral ability to meld invisibly into the background texture of their environment – stealth being a high-value premium in some martial arts.

Perhaps some practitioners can elaborate?

Mac said...

My youngest daughter is deathly afraid of mantis'. She says they just creep her out and she doesn't like the way they "watch" her.

I find them almost hypnotically beautiful (in a monstrous sort of way, I suppose).

Anonymous said...

Especially when you consider that they may well be praying for human beings to annihilate themselves....

the chitinous mantid brothers said...

Yes, and oh, before you leave the stage, could you please try to save the planet's ecosystem? We intend to colonize someday. Thanks!

[Just can't wait to mix our extradimensional mantoid dna with our earthly brethren's and hybridize like crazy, man(tis)!] Ha! >8^#

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