Cultural Entomology Digest, Issue 1
Who What Why
Cultural Entomology studies the reasons, beliefs, and symbolism behind the inclusion of insects within all facets of the humanities. Cultural Entomology Digest documents the significance of insects within human cultural activities including art, religion, philosophy, folklore, beliefs, and literature to name a few.
Dr. Charles Hogue’s definitive introductory article on cultural entomology. Dr. Hogue was monumental in his organization, collections and research into cultural entomology and has motivated many people to develop interests in the subject.
Values and Perceptions
Presenting a topology of contemporary public attitudes towards invertebrates, Kellert categorizes human perceptions towards insects as aesthetic, humanistic, moralistic, naturalistic, dominionistic, ecological, negativistic, utilitarian and scientific. He also discusses topics such as alienation that contribute strongly to public perceptions of insects.
Spirit and Enlightenment
Chinese philosophy promotes the appreciation of nature resulting in the incorporation of insects within Chinese literature, poetry, music, art, photography, entertainment and general aesthetics. The second part of the article exposes a Chinese motto, fable and poem that utilize insects as warning tools of common human follies.
The history of Chinese and Japanese ink painting involves a metamorphosis from a traditional structured attitude to a contemporary spontaneous and abstract approach. The article covers the Chinese “eccentric” painter, Ch’i Pai Shih and the spontaneous Japanese art of sumi-e ink painting.
One of the prime examples of applied entomology, human exploitation of silk producing moths is steeped in a diverse, cross-cultural history. Starting in 2700 B.C. with the “Chinese Goddess of Silk Worms,” silk production now thrives on an international demand for this highly durable natural fiber.
Arguably the most beautiful, ancient Greek coinage portrayed insects including bees, beetles, butterflies, cicadas, ants, grasshoppers, and preying mantises. Later, coinage depicted relatively few insect subjects although tokens and medals often employed the symbolism of bees, ants and locusts.
Australian Aborigines used insects as their food and in their medicines and cultural beliefs. The article discusses the Bogong feasts of New South Wales, exposes fables and myths involving insects, and describes the utilitarian applications of honeybee wax and insect derived pigments used in painting.
Ancient Mesopotamian literature provides a couple of references to dragonflies. The “Poem of Gilgamesh” includes a dragonfly leaving its skin, while the “Poem of Atrahasis” includes flying swarms of dragonflies.
The hypnotic tessellations of M. C. Escher includes over twenty prints involving insect motifs. Escher drew inspiration from the order he observed within the insect real and applied it to his relentless pursuit of filling the plain and producing graphic prints.