Dealing with the circle of life symbolism seemed very straight forward. However, reading the passage about what the Mantis preys on got me thinking. The reason I and many other gardners deploy mantises in their gardens is that they are natural crop protectors. They dine on insects that may be harmful to what you are growing. Therefore, the use of Mantises by a farmer would be very important in helping insure that the farmer had a good harvest. Controling crop eating insects not only was important to the individual farmer but as a a society as a whole, since the farmer is the provider of society's food.
To gain some perspective, you need to understand the fuedal system of Japan. In essence, there were three classes of people: the Samurai, the Merchant, and the Farmer (I will leave out the artisan since they could be from one of the other 3 classes). Each had a role in society: the farmer was to grow the food; the merchant was to distribute the grown food and other wares; and finally the samurai's purpose was to govern and protect the other two classes of society. Once again there is a Yin/Yang relationship demonstrated between the farmer and the Samurai. The farmer needed the Samurai's protection, and likewise the Samurai needed the farmer's food. One could not survive without the other. In nature, the mantis's role is protecting the crops, therebye, protecting the farmer and protecting an important ingrediant in the circle of life: sustanence. The Mantis is exhibiting the exact role of the Samurai in fuedal japan.
Therefore, when we see the Mantis being depicted on sword fittings, we may very well be seeing the samurai depicting themselves as protector of society. It would make a lot of sense why a samurai would choose sword mounts or fittings with a Mantis design. It is also a bit ironic that when we talk about achieving harmony within the circle of life, the Mantis requires violence of action in order to maintain that harmony . Thus, violence is inherent in the Samurai's role in Society. Yet another good reason to choose the Mantis to adorn a sword, since the sword is the tool of Samurai protection. The Samurai is expressing his role in society and his job of protector.
|Fig. 14: Kozuka|