From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cicadas: Watch what you ask for

Tithonus, is that you? (by Martin Hauser)
When surrounded by a swarm of cicadas, it might seem as though there is nothing worse.  However, consider this:  you could end up like Tithonus.

Tithonus (or Tithonos, if you prefer) was the son of Trojan King Laomedon and water nymph Strymo. He was the lover of Titaness Eos (later known as Aurora), goddess of the dawn.  Because goddesses live forever and Trojans don't, Eos begged Zeus to grant Tithonus immortality.  However, she forgot one small detail:  eternal youth.

According to Wikipedia, Eos got her wish.  Tithonus began his countdown to eternity as a sickly old man who "could not move nor lift his limbs," had "no more strength at all," and who babbled on "endlessly."  What to do?  When Eos complained about this, Good King Zeus had one more trick up his divine sleeve:  he turned Tithonus into a cicada, "eternally living [who says the gods don't keep their promises?], but begging for death to overcome him."

The life of an average mortal cicada is therefore beginning to look like Riley's.  Not big in the looks department (the phrase "bug-eyed" comes to mind), cicadas are nevertheless intriguing.  Their varicose-veined wings and elongated proboscis are actually quite functional, enabling them to get where they need to go and ferret out some nutrition along the way.  They don't really mean to bite humans, and only do so when they mistake people for plants.  Plus, they're the ideal guests – often only visiting once in 17 years.

This could be why some societies actually prize (and/or eat) them.  They are considered to be yummy in China, Burma, the Congo, Malaysia, and parts of Latin America.  Females are preferred because they are "meatier" (Tithonus is breathing a sigh of relief – to be eternally chewed is one mighty long ouch).


Copyright May 10, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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