The life cycle of a cicada is a fascinating thing. Hatched from eggs in branches, a tiny rice grain sized nymph instinctively crawls to a branch edge and with out a second thought, steps off the edge falling and falling into the soft forest floor where it begins to burrow. It retreats to the dark for safety and comfort. It remains in this underworld for 13 to 17 years (depending on the species), feeding on the roots of trees and perhaps listening to the discussions the trees share underground through their web of mycellium. They live with their other cicada nymph friends building camaraderie until the fateful warm spring evening that they emerge to the surface in a riot of new life. They rely on each other and their tough shell for protection while they search for a safe space to attach and emerge. Not only have they crawled and scraped their way to the surface emerging like fingernails in the garden soil, but now their tender bodies and delicate wings must be reborn through the hard shell that once was their body. They rest and become stronger, until their bodies vibrate in song and they call out to each other, searching for their old friends in new bodies and celebrate finding each other once again in the magic of creation.
The cicada story is rich with symbolism and meaning and offers us a great deal of medicine and magic.
The biggest is the story of transformation. The cicada goes through many transformations, one of which is 17 years long- the other just a few short weeks. Sometimes it can feel dark, or like we’ve been in the same place for too long. Sometimes we are afraid. We have instincts that tell us to go underground, or crawl to the light, to fall from the branch or take to the sky. Not everything becomes a butterfly once, transformation can happen again and again.
The cicada tells the story of revival- right after birth, they leave the earth to go to the underworld, it emerges again after many many years, where they immediately leave behind the body they knew are reborn into a winged body-pink and delicate- that is called to dry in the newly experienced sun, unfurl and take to the sky.
The cicada brings a passionate energy and a sensuality. A feeling of freedom and liberation- of being in the moment and enjoying it to the fullest, letting it fill and vibrate you till you actually create audible notes. The cicada after it’s winged rebirth, sings out and follows the songs of other cicadas so that they can complete their life cycle in a loud and spectacular show of passion .Although very old, they remind us that passion can have us as clumsy as teenagers in fast growing bodies and new independence who are trying gracefully to reach what we want, but become blind to anything else around us and bump and crash to what is moving in the peripheral.
The cicada operates in a group and bring about the spirit of community. They are gentle creatures, as you would consider those who grew up talking to trees to be; and have no defenses others than each other- they rely on their numbers for protection. Although independent, the cicadas operate in a whole as a single moving mass. Perhaps this is why they are often misidentified as locusts. I find great inspiration in the spirit of revolution– the cicadas wait for a crack in the warm spring ground and seize their opportunity exploding in a moment of action. The cicada enjoys it’s new found flight and independence but after flying off, it desperately calls out for a cicada singing the same song of passion- they enjoy their connection to each other and seek it in all stages. It also speaks of family (chosen or blood) and how we nurture each other with patience and in ways of cooperation.How kind and loving the years spent underground must have been, for them to seek companionship when they have been given wings to fly anywhere they wish to go!
The cicada also speaks the story of timing. Of knowing, instinctively what not only is best for yourself and what is best for the group. They all know to wait 17 years before they all get the urge that Now, NOw, NOW is the time. Even after crawling to the surface, and then taking to the sky, they know to vibrate and sing and they consider the timing in their replies and overlaps and silences. Listening to them sing in the summer and truly becoming absorbed in their sound can take you on a great meditation journey into reflections about timing. Let your ears hear the individual songs and the harmony they all create in song together. Go in to the forest during the summer or listen to THIS TRACK.
If you want to know more about the cicada life cycle, here is a wonderful video that warms my heart. Return of the Cicadas
A cute song made in duet with a cicada: Baby Bug
An art installation about Cicadas: Magicicada Dublin
And finally, Sir David Attenborough shows you how to call a cicada! Amazing Cicada