The Joyful Noise of Rebirth and Renewal

A colored illustration depicts a seventeen-year cicada hanging upside down from a thorn bush. The insect is black, with large red eyes, and translucent wings with deep red veins.
This lovely rendition of the seventeen-year cicada is by Robert Evans Snodgrass, 1930.

Rebirth after a long period of slumber. That sentiment could reflect the current feeling of hope and optimism as we wake up from the long hiatus of the COVID-19 lockdown. For 2021, it can also describe the re-emergence of Magicicada, the seventeen-year cicada.

“Since ancient times, the cicada has been seen as a symbol of resurrection, an association that owes to its fascinating life cycle,” according to a thoughtful blog piece of the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art. “This process was seen as an analogy for the spirits of the dead rising on a path to eternal existence in a transcendent realm. In the Han dynasty, jade amulets shaped like cicadas were placed on the tongues of corpses, no doubt to symbolize a hope for rebirth and immortality.”

“They are here to sing a love song. Their only purpose among the green leaves is love,” says New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl. “And you will be surrounded by reminders that the darkest tunnels always bend, in time, toward the light. That resurrection is always, always at hand.”

A lot has happened since these marvelous creatures last appeared. Then, again, maybe not. Nevertheless, we can always follow the lure of Magicicada and hope that things will get better in the long run.

Let us take time to admire all these wonderful, decidedly weird creatures with their huge red eyes, and everything they represent.