Before I begin, I probably ought to explain. I started working through the Moons at the beginning of 2011 and I quickly found that the totems of each Moon were extremely eagre to make a connection. I spent the first time through getting to know each Moon and identifyin ght totem that went with it. White Dove Wheelkeeper told me I should go deeper with my totems and be sure I really connected with them. I decided to take the second cycle through to continue exploring the Moons and to deepen my understanding of my Totems. Because of the way my Years have fallen and the Blue Moon, th elast cycle ended at the Moon of Surrender, however last year was my Moon of Breaking Masks and this year is my Moon of Reason so I am only left with Humility and Metamorphosis to explore completely from the beginning.
When I was writing about this Moon the first time I realised that at this time I spent a lot of time with Grasshopper. Ther was a steep, almost vertical, grassy bank on the edge of our playground and in it there would be Grasshoppers singing. I was so intrigued by them. I would stand and patiently capture them in my cupped hands, trying to let ight in to look at them without letting them jump away. It was probably about this time than I formed my dislike of the sheer destruction of Locusts. A few years ago, my husband and I found ourselves in Lanzarote at the same time as a pink Locust swarm from Africa. It opened my eyes and I realised they did not scare me so much. We saw the odd inidivual here and there but we accidentally found the swarm at a high mountain drop out and we stood there on the edge and watched as they flew off it. It was an awe inspiring moment.
I received conformation that Grasshopper was my totem later on the day I first wondered if they were mine or not. We wee at circle and afterwards I could hear a bird that sounded exactly like a Grasshopper. I was incredulous as I had no idea there was a bird with such a call and I had never heard it before. Someone said they thought it might be a Grasshopper Warbler and I looked it up and listened to it’s call. What were the chances of that?
I have been writing these exploration posts to help myself figure things out since the beginning, they can be pretty long! They used to be on my old blog but since I have moved here it feels right that they should be here too….
Grasshoppers hatch from eggs laid in the ground. About 50 eggs are laid together in a pod and remain their for approximately three weeks, although this can last a lot longer if conditions ar enot right, and eggs laid at the end of the year will not hatch until the weather is warm enough. Grasshoppers have short Ovipositors, this is the sexual organ which they use to lay eggs. In some species, such as Wasps and Bees, this organ is the one that has been changed into a sting. Grasshoppers use it to force a burrow in the ground in which to place their eggs. They are sexulally mature about 2 weeks after they have reached their adult form and live for about 6 weeks after this.
They grow by molting as will moult five to nine times before they become an adult. To begin with they are known as Nymphs as they have no wings. The wing bud forms on their penultimate moult and the final stage is the only one to have fully formed wings. The rear set are membranous and the front set are of a wing type called Tegmina. Tegmina are not generally used in flight, they can act as a protective wing covering for the other set of wings and may be used to generate sound or for displaying. When some species turn into Locusts, the tegmina have a greater role in flying and their aerodynamics become important.
Locusts are certain species of Short Horn Grasshoppers that breed rapidly when conditions are favourable and this change can occur within a few hours. When population density reaches a certain point changes are triggered and they become gregarious and migratory but their bodies change as well and can even be mistaken for being a different species. The nymph stages are known as Hoppers and the grasshoppers form bands which rove across the land and they can form into long wending rivers that come together and part like a braid. Once they have reached their final stage with wings they take to the air and swarm and there is a characteristic noise that accompanies them.
Some experiments have been conducted on the effects of population density. In one species they found that at 18 locusts per square metre their behaviour began to change and they started marching but this would be punctuated with abrupt changes in direction which are co-ordinated. When densities reached 74 Locusts per square metre, they no longer changed direction but continued to march in one direction. In the field, the average density of marching bands is 50 Locusts per square metre but it varies from 20 to 120. Experiments have shown the change is actually triggered by their thighs being rubbed on their hind legs.
North America is the only continent, except the poles without a swarming locust species of grasshopper. It used to have one called the Rocky Mountain Locust but the last swarm of these was seen in 1902 in Canada. Few samples were ever taken because nobody expected them to ever become extinct. They hold the record for the largest ever swarms of some 12.5 trillion insects covering an area larger than California. Some theories exist that ploughing destroyed their egg burrows. Others believe that they still exist but no longer reach the required population densities however no DNA has been found in living Grasshoppers that matches.
They have short antennae in relation to their body length. Antennae are sensory organs but it is often unclear what exactly they sense, as it may be heat, air motion (sound), vibrations, taste or smell. They use fine hairs called sensilla for sensing and these are concentrated on the antennae, the mandibles and the cerci. The cerci are two prongs at the rear, either side of the ovipositor. Short Horn Grasshoppers have Tympana which is an organ for hearing and is situated in the abdomen. Long Horn Grasshoppers hear via the knees of their front legs.
They have strong mandibles for manoeuvering and cutting the food they eat. They generally eat grasses, cereals and leaves and only one species will only eat one type of plant. Most will eat from several different types of plant during the course of a day. When they eat food they do not chew it as such, it undergoes chemical digestion process before entering the Crop where it can be stored. From there it goes to the Gizzard which has toothe like features to continue mechanically breaking the food down before it enters the stomach. They excrete dried pellets.
Grasshoppers have green ‘blood’ because it does not carry oxygen and it is known as haemolymph. This haemolymph carries protein and sugars etc but is also the liquid that fills all of the interior of the body. They have tubular hearts which pump the haemolymph out but their circlatory system is not closed and haemolymp gradually returns due to pumping actions caused by movement. They take in Oxygen and release Carbon dioxide directly through their skin and transport it via trachea and can control the flow of air through their body by air sacs. When they moult they also moult their trachea, even though they are internal.
They have massively developed hind legs which they use for leaping. They first crouch down and they must thrust their legs towards the ground with just enough force and speed and then they pause before jumping. Muscles are limited in the way they can respond, it is hard for them to respond with power and speed. Grasshoppers have an area just above the ‘knee’ of their hind legs which acts as a spring, the pause after the crouch is important as this is when the spring is being pulled tight. The initial acceleration is as much as 20g. In the air they tumble around but some larger species jump as far as a metre and reach a height of 25cm.
Grasshoppers are known for the noises they make and they do this in different ways depending on the species. Some snap their Tegmina in flight and use them to make a crackling noise, particularly flying locusts. Others rub their hind legs , which act as a rasp, against their tegmina or their abdomen, which acts as a scraper, to make a type of noise called stridulation. Every species has a unique song but experiments have found that songs do change as individuals in an area with high noise levels will alter their song so it can still be heard. Males sing to identify territory and to attract a mate
Grasshoppers are coloured in order to blend with their environment. Experiments have shown that some Grasshopper species will walk under water happily and have stayed submerged for as long as eight minutes. There is also a parasite of some grasshoppers which affects their brain and causes them to seek out water and drown themselves in it. The parasites then leave the Grasshopper and live in the water.
In many parts of the world Grasshoppers are eaten as a source of protein and fat, although they can contain tapeworms.
So what does this all mean for the Grasshopper as a totem for my Moon of Territories? Well Grasshoppers leap forwards, they don’t go very far for a while and then, they are gone soewhere completely new, and they can not jump backwards. This has been a thread in my life. I moved away from home at 17 for a gap year job, then I upped sticks a year later to the city. I remained there for four years and when I left, I left behind friends, relationships, a way of life. I spent a year back with my family before making the huge move to another place to start all over again. Even once in a place I have tended to take temporary work and drift from job to job. I worked for a college on and off for years, but always in different roles. Until I started my current job, I had never had a job that lasted for more than a year. Early on I learnt that going back does not work for me, things are never the same and what was right in the past will never be right in the future, not in the same form anyway. When I have gone back to a place, something has to change when I do, different friends, different occupations.
Staying still, like I am at the moment, requires that there be movement in other areas of my life. This combines with my Nomad and really influences the way I learn. Periods of little movement then really quick movement and progress. I also love Breaking Masks for this reason because it really helps with the impetus for movement within me. I thought this movement was a sign of the Locust but it is not destructive and I wonder how the Locust aspect works. Maybe if you got enough Grasshopper people together, amazing things would happen, quick decisive change and progress, expeditions to other countries, scientific breakthroughs, I don’t know…. Maybe just sometimes Grasshopper really gets behind you and everything comes together perfectly…
Looking at Ted Andrews book Animal Speak he says it is really important for Grasshopper people to listen to their feet. They have a knack for finding the sunny side and movement is really important. Sometimes leaping into the unknown can be hard but Grasshopper helps. It may seem like they do not make much progress in life for long periods of time but then everything changes in one go and they may even suddenly overtake others who had been running ahead of them. It would be unfair to expect Grasshopper people to move like others or for others to move like Grasshoppers.
This not only happens in movement but in growth, periods of moulting between different forms. Oh how I have felt this process in my life! When I have fought the moulting and failed to understand it at all it has been very, very painful! The moulting is not just external but includes the internal structures that supply air, or breath to the Grasshopper. If Grasshoppers live long enough, they will learn how to fly and be enormously creative, laying huge amounts of eggs. They are also very musical but I am not sure this is in a typical way!
Vibration is very important in terms of music to them, because it is probably this that they hear. The thing I love about the drum, is how I feel it all through my body. I often do not hear very well when I am sat at my desk at work. People a few feet from me can speak and I will have trouble working out what they are saying. However, one person tries to creep up behind me most days but I almost always know she is there. The only times I fail to hear her are when then someone else I am aware of is moving in the same space. I am like it with sound in general and if sounds are wrong I will wake alert from a deep sleep. The house I grew up in was timber framed and old and would make expanding and contracting noises, sometimes quite loud, but they were part of my place and sooth rather than wake me. The staircase that led up to my room branched half way up and laso led to my parent room. People could go up and down to my parents room all they liked without waking me but as soon as they so much as touched one of my steps I would be awake and aware. My territory is it seems very well defended by the ways in which Grasshopper hears.