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What is a Scarab?

Scarab is a type of beetle. It consists of a head, abdomen and thorax where its legs are located. It is found in the animal dung. It rolls the dung into a round ball with its legs and pushes it around. It also lays its eggs in the dung itself and procreates its offspring. Dung beetle, in short, lives in the dung, eats the dung, survives and procreates itself in the dung.

 It is also believed that the beetle eats the dung of herbivorous animals only. It also feeds on mushrooms, leaves and decaying matter. Since dung possesses all the nutritious elements including food and water, beetle considers it an ideal substance to survive upon.

Another characteristic of beetle is that it can metamorphose itself completely. “The female beetle lays the egg in the dung ball where it lies buried and protected from erosion and predators. The larva beetle also survives by feeding upon the dung that surrounds it.”

Ancient Egyptians considered scarab beetle a sacred insect. They compared it with their god Ra or Rah, also called Atum. Ra was the sun god of Heliopolis in ancient Egypt. He was also a foremost deity of the Egyptian pantheon.

“Ra was a self-procreating god, fashioning himself from Mehturt, a mound that came from the waters of Nun, the lotus flower. Among other things, Ra created humanity from his tears.”

Ra was believed to roll the sun across the sky every day. In the same way it was also believed in ancient times that the scarab brings on the sun every morning, rolls it through the sky all the day and then rolls it into the horizon at night.

Many wall paintings in Egypt show the scarab rolling the sun into the sky. These wall paintings can be seen in temples or tombs in Egypt. The act of rolling the sun was considered similar to the way the beetles rolled the dung balls.

Since the beetle procreates itself, it is, therefore, considered a symbol of fertility by the Egyptians.  Scarab is like Ra and Atum who are procreative, “ complete and perfect.”




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