Ci­cada across Cul­tures

That's China - - Catching Cicadas 捉知了 -

The trans­for­ma­tive qual­i­ties of ci­cadas, has given rise to the metaphor of life and death ex­tend­ing to cul­tures across the world from his­tor­i­cal myths to mod­ern-day metaphors. In the An­cient Greek myth, the ci­cada is a sym­bol for res­ur­rec­tion and rebirth.The Tro­jan Prince Tithonus was granted im­mor­tal­ity, but not eter­nal youth, by Zeus.This re­sulted in the man wilt­ing away un­til he could no longer move, and even­tu­ally turn­ing into a ci­cada as he prayed for death to knock on his door. Said to be sa­cred to the an­cient sun god Apollo, an­cient Greeks and Ro­mans im­i­tated the res­onat­ing sound of ci­cadas, singing in ela­tion in praise of Apollo. Around the world, the ci­cada is as­so­ci­ated with the dawn of the sum­mer sea­son.The loud hum­ming sound car­ried by the sum­mer breeze, and the empty shells left bare on the side­walks, are in­dica­tive of the warmer months.The iden­ti­fi­able call of the ci­cadas is used in Ja­panese films and tele­vi­sion pro­grams as a sign­post to in­form the au­di­ence the scene is tak­ing place in sum­mer.The song of Meimuna opal­if­era, called "tsuku-tsuku boshi", is said to in­di­cate the end of sum­mer, and it is called so be­cause of its unique call. Dur­ing the sum­mer, it is a pas­time for chil­dren to col­lect both ci­cadas and the shells left be­hind when molt­ing. In Aus­tralia, the con­spic­u­ous na­ture of the in­sect led to chil­dren hav­ing the honor of giv­ing com­mon names to many dif­fer­ent types of ci­cadas.These ti­tles in­clude “Black Prince”, “Dou­ble Drum­mer”,“Green Gro­cer” or “Yel­low Mon­day”.The ex­act ori­gin of most of these names is un­clear but they have been passed

nd down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. Since the ci­cada only lives for the short pe­riod of time long above ground, enough to at­tract a mate with its song and com­plete the process of fer­til­iza­tion, they are seen as a sym­bol of evanes­cence. In the Ja­panese novel The Tale of Genji, the ti­tle char­ac­ter po­et­i­cally likens one of his many love in­ter­ests to a ci­cada for the way she del­i­cately sheds her scarf in the same man­ner a ci­cada sheds its shell when molt­ing. In the anime Win­ter Ci­cada (Fuyu no Semi), a frag­ile ci­cada shell binds two men to­gether, who are on op­po­site sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum dur­ing the trans­for­ma­tion of Ja­pan from a Shogu­nate to Im­pe­rial rule (1862–1869).The men’s fate is em­broiled in war and death.The shell is also a fre­quent sub­ject of haiku, wherein, de­pend­ing on type, they can in­di­cate spring, sum­mer, or fall.The trans­for­ma­tion from il­lu­sions to en­light­en­ment is also re­ferred to in Ja­panese myth­i­cal ninja lore, as the tech­nique of ut­susemi (i.e., lit­er­ally ci­cada), where nin­jas would trick op­po­nents into at­tack­ing a de­coy. The ci­cada has also rep­re­sented in­sou­ciance since clas­si­cal an­tiq­uity. Jean de La Fon­taine be­gan his col­lec­tion of fa­bles Les fa­bles de La Fon­taine with the story The Ci­cada and the Ant based on one of Ae­sop's fa­bles: in it the ci­cada spends the sum­mer singing while the ant stores away food, and finds her­self with­out food when the weather turns bit­ter.

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