Praying mantis meanings and symbolism include patience, mindfulness, bravery, female power, transformation, and good luck. While they are native to Europe, praying mantises were imported to North America for pest control in the 17th century and now they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They are part of a larger family of insects called mantids, of which there are nearly 2,000 species. 1 Due to their range and fascinating behaviors, they are subjects in the mythology, folklore, and art of cultures around the world.
In this post, we’ll explore all facets of praying mantis symbolism, from their spiritual meanings to their mythology and folklore, as well as the praying mantis spirit animal.
Table of Contents
- What does the praying mantis symbolize?
- Where does the praying mantis get their name?
- 8 Praying Mantis Meanings
- Praying Mantis Color Meanings
- Praying Mantis Spiritual Meanings
- Dead Praying Mantis Meaning
- Praying Mantis Mythology and Folklore
- Mantis Meaning in China
- Praying Mantis Meaning in Egypt
- M.C. Escher’s Dream (mantis religiosa)
- Praying Mantis Spirit Animal
- Mantis Power Animal
- Mantis Totem
- Praying Mantis Dream Meaning
“From whence arrived the praying mantis? / From outer space, or lost Atlantis? / glimpse the grin, green metal mug / at masks the pseudo-saintly bug, / Orthopterous, also / carnivorous, / And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.”2
– “The Praying Mantis” by Ogden Nash
What does the praying mantis symbolize?
Here are some high-level meanings associated with the praying mantis. We’ll go into more detail on these throughout this post:
- Female Power
- Good Luck
Where does the praying mantis get their name?
The word “mantid,” which is the name of the family of insects that praying mantises belong to, is from the Greek word for prophet or seer. Perhaps the Greeks saw in this insect what many other cultures did, which is that they look like they’re praying or in deep meditation.
Hence, the name praying mantis comes from the posture theses insects assume when they’re waiting for prey. However, despite their pious sounding name, the praying mantis is a stealthy, bloodthirsty killer. Yet, it’s their successful hunting skills that makes them so vitally important in the ecosystems they inhabit. Once we understand these creatures a little more, we can see why they have inspired so much art, literature, and storytelling.
8 Praying Mantis Meanings
Here are some detailed meanings associated with the praying mantis:
One of the qualities the praying mantis symbolizes is patience. This is because, as ambush predators, they have to employ a level of self-control as they silently wait for their prey.
Praying mantis meaning is also associated with the practice of mindfulness because they are extremely focused when they’re looking for prey. In other words, the mantis is completely in the moment. We’ll explore this topic more in the section on Buddhism below.
3. Praying Mantis Symbolism: Bravery
Praying mantis meaning also includes bravery. This is because these insects are willing to face down their larger predators, including snakes and lizards, when defending themselves.
4. Female Power
The praying mantis shares synergies with spider meaning in that they are both symbols of female power. This is because the female mantis will eat her male mate if she is hungry or agitated!
Of course, the flip side of female power is a word of caution for us women: The world needs more female power, but we shouldn’t chew men’s heads off to achieve it!
The mantis also shares synergies with crocodile and mountain lion symbolism in that they are all ambush predators. In addition, the mantis is willing to eat a wide variety of prey.
For these reasons, they are symbols of opportunity. The praying mantis both looks for opportunities but is also open-minded about what form those opportunities come in.
6. Praying Mantis Meaning: Transformation
One of the more beautiful mantis species is the flower mantis. As befits their name, they take on the appearance of flowers, in particular orchids.
In addition, praying mantises go through a metamorphosis in their lifetime, from egg to nymph to adult. In this way, they share synergies with butterfly and dragonfly symbolism in that they are symbols transformation.
This might also be why the mantis is seen as a mystical shapeshifter in some African cultures, which we’ll go into in more detail about below.
The praying mantis is blessed with five eyes: two large eyes and three smaller ones.3 This special eyesight and their patient nature is why praying mantis symbolism also includes clairvoyance.
Their odd number of eyes are equated to what we humans describe as our third eye, which represents our psychic abilities, or metaphysical awareness.
8. Good Luck
Praying mantises are also symbols of good luck because, as predators, they play a vital role in keeping natural ecosystems healthy and in balance. Thus, ancient civilizations equated them with bountiful harvests and abundance.
Praying Mantis Color Meanings
While they’re not as colorful as butterflies, mantids come in a few different colors. Here are some of those meanings.
Green Praying Mantis Meaning
In addition to the other symbolic associations, the green praying mantis symbolizes wealth and prosperity.
Brown Praying Mantis
The brown praying mantis symbolizes financial and emotional security.
Pink Praying Mantis
The pink praying mantis symbolizes soft powers. As the saying goes, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The pink praying mantis embodies the idea that power can come in gentle ways.
White Praying Mantis
For a brief period during their metamorphosis, praying mantises turn all white after they molt. Like the white butterfly, a white praying mantis symbolizes purity and new beginnings.
Praying Mantis Spiritual Meanings
The Bible, Judaism, and Christianity
Mantises are not mentioned directly in the Bible. However, locusts do figure prominently, as they are symbolic of God’s wrath when he delivers plagues. Mantises prey on locusts and are therefore beneficial insects in agriculture. So, we can only assume that they were looked on favorably by people in biblical times.
In modern times, the praying mantis symbolizes piety to people of the Jewish and Christian faiths.
Praying Mantis Meaning in Islam
In Islam, praying mantis symbolism signifies faithfulness and spiritual direction. In fact, in the Muslim faith, the praying mantis is said to help direct pilgrims to Mecca.4
As mentioned above, in Buddhism, praying mantis symbolism is equated with the practice of mindfulness. The mantis must practice stillness and patience. In Buddhism, the practice of mindfulness means being in the moment and clearing the mind of clutter.
The praying mantis is a diurnal hunter, which means they are awake and hunt during the daytime. And if they are awake when its dark, they can be attracted to artificial light. In this way, they are compared to moth symbolism in Sufism.
In Sufism, the metaphor of a moth to a flame symbolizes a person losing all sense of ego and becoming one with God, or their higher power.
Dead Praying Mantis Meaning
What does it mean if you see a dead praying mantis? Is that a bad omen? From a spiritual standpoint, seeing a dead praying mantis is not a bad omen. What is important is taking the time to honor their life and naturally dispose of their body, if possible. All life on Earth is connected to the divine, even insects. As such, it should be honored.
Many psychics and mediums say that when people or animals die, their spirits take an interest in what happens to their Earthly bodies. This is why so many cultures around the world have spiritual traditions about honoring the bodies of those who have passed, whether through burial, cremation, or another tradition.
So, if you find a dead praying mantis, don’t view it as a bad omen. Instead, view it as an honor that you have been chosen to dignity their life and spirit through prayer, meditation, or in another way.
Praying Mantis Mythology and Folklore
The praying mantis is an important figure in certain African cultures. In fact, the Khoisan people of Southern Africa, who are also referred to as bushmen, call the praying mantis Hottentotsgot, which means god.5
For the Khoisan (whose name references two groups of people: the Khoikhoi and the San), spirituality and nature are intertwined. In fact, they believe that the first living being on Earth was the praying mantis, who in turn created humans.
The Khoisan tell stories about a trickster god called Kaggen, who takes on the form of a praying mantis but can also shapeshift into a snake, eland, or other animal.
While Kaggen is viewed as a trickster in the way Native Americans view the crow or coyote, he can also bring blessings. Thus, the praying mantis is a symbol of good luck for the Khoisan.
Furthermore, Khoisan herders will study praying mantis behavior in a form of divination to help them determine where a lost animal might be.6
This is possibly how the praying mantis got a reputation for showing Muslims the direction to Mecca.
Praying Mantis Meaning in Nicaragua
In pre-Columbian Nicaragua, the praying mantis was called Madre Culebra as they symbolized female power and authority.7
Mantis Meaning in China
In China, praying mantis meaning is associated with bravery and skill. In fact, a few martial arts moves, including those in kung fu, are named for the praying mantis.8
In Japan, the praying mantis is called kamakiri, which means sickle cut. This reference comes from how the mantis’ front legs look like sickles that are used to cut grasses and weeds.9
While the mantis is not as revered as the dragonfly or butterfly in Japanese culture, this hasn’t stopped Japanese filmmakers from featuring praying mantises in movies. One example is the mantis monster Kamacuras in the 1967 film Son of Godzilla.
Praying Mantis Meaning in Egypt
The ancient Egyptians were also fans of the praying mantis. They associated them with their deity Set. According to Egyptian mythology, Set was the god of chaos, violence, storms, and the desert. He was also responsible for killing his brother Osiris. However Set wasn’t all bad, as he helped the sun god, Ra, defeat the giant serpent Apep.
The Egyptians called the praying mantis buru-enmeli-ashaga, which means soothsayer.10 Underscoring their reverence for these insects, they painted praying mantises on important tombs, including King Seti I’s.11
The ancient Greeks put a great deal of importance on divination practices for guidance. For example, they practiced augury by watching the behavior of ravens and other birds.
Like the Khoisan People, the Greeks believed the praying mantis had mystical talents and could give directions. In the case of the Greeks, the mantis helped lost travelers find their way home.
M.C. Escher’s Dream (mantis religiosa)
The praying mantis didn’t escape the attention of the artist M.C. Escher (1898 – 1972) either. During a period of transformation in the artist’s career, he depicted a gigantic praying mantis in a tomb in his iconic woodcut entitled Dream.
Prior to creating the piece, Escher had depicted realistic Italian cityscapes and landscapes in his work. However, his style underwent a metamorphosis. Dream represents both the artist’s old world and the new. The church depicted in the piece was inspired by a church in Ravello, Italy. And the sleeping bishop is based on a sarcophagus in the tombs in the Vatican.
However, while Escher was working on the piece, a praying mantis crawled on to his leg. It was as if the insect, who symbolizes transformation, was there to tell him that he was about to undergo his own transformation as an artist.
Escher decided to include the mantis in the piece, making him larger than life.12 This represented a turning point in his work where he transitioned from depicting reality to depicting a kind of existential reality.
Praying Mantis Spirit Animal
Though they are insects, praying mantises are still viewed as powerful spirit “animals” to many.
The praying mantis spirit animal is a unique spirit guide who packs a lot of power in a tiny body.
People for whom the mantis is their spirit animal can receive blessings in their life because they are open to new opportunities.
In addition, praying mantis people possess a graceful quality that can have a disarming effect on others.
When the praying mantis is your spirit guide, you are reminded that you posses the ability to transform your life. So, use your gift of visualization to imagine what you want to achieve in the world.
If you are curious about other animals who might be your spirit guides, you can take UniGuide’s Spirit Animal Quiz in my overview post about spirit animals.
Mantis Power Animal
As the name implies, power animals can empower you with their most dynamic traits. So, if you want to transform an area of your life, mediate on the praying mantis power animal. For example, you can summon the mantis power animal in situations where you:
- Need the courage to deal with a situation that gives you anxiety or fear.
- Feel that you miss out on opportunities and want to be more receptive to new possibilities coming your way.
- Would like to transform an area of your life or yourself personally.
- Want more good luck to come to you and those you love!
Animal totems embody the protective powers of the animal they represent. Thus, the praying mantis animal totem serves as a helpful symbol when you feel you need more protection and want more confidence.
The mantis is also helpful if you are starting a meditation practice and want to be more focused.
In addition, a praying mantis totem, whether in the form of jewelry, décor, or some other talisman, can be a helpful reminder that you have the capacity to evolve and transform your life.
Praying Mantis Dream Meaning
If you dream of a praying mantis and wonder what your dream means, consider first the emotions that you felt in your dream. While dream meanings and interpretations are personal to every individual, one thing we all have in common is that our sub-conscious emotions don’t lie to us.
Once you understand the emotions you felt in your dream, you can apply some of the praying mantis symbols and meanings you learned about in this post to your dream to hopefully gain better insights.
For example, an anxious dream about a praying mantis can mean that you feel threatened or powerless in some way. The praying mantis can be a scary character, but they can also be empowering. Consider the courage of the mantis and how you can use it to face your challenges despite the odds.
A positive dream about a praying mantis can mean that you should feel confident about new endeavors you are undertaking.
Dreams are unique to each dreamer. But hopefully understanding more about praying mantis symbolism and meanings can bring added insights into what your dream is telling you.