Christmas present T shirts: the scarab beetle (1)


Christmas t shirt: a scarab beetle (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

We’ve had another difficult week. This time it was my turn – no Covid, thankfully, but toothache instead, an ailment minimal in the scheme of world affairs but utterly maximal for the individual sufferer. All signs pointed to an abscess above the tooth and on the tail of  such self diagnosis  came a wave of cold dread at the thought of the tooth’s likely imminent extraction. I cheered up slightly knowing I had now found a vey good dental practice who offer sedation for extractions. I was fortunate to get an appointment the next day. Better get it dealt with sooner than later. (In times of personal crisis, take comfort in clichés.) The problem and prognosis were as I feared. As we discussed alternative treatments, the dentist clipped a blood oxygen monitor on my finger and through a mirror I could see the reading was 90% – a bit of a  bombshell, much  too low for the dentist to consider sedation. Oh dear, now I have something else to worry about! Since the appointment,  antibiotics have cleared the infection and the pain has stopped. I will have the tooth out in the next few days and have been offered what the dentist calls “happy gas’ (as well as the usual pain killing injections into the gum), which almost makes me want to reject it for its name alone, but which I think is basically gas and air I had (and successfully benefitted from) during childbirth. I am not looking forward to this one little bit.

Christmas t shirt: a scarab beetle (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Now, back to the Christmas T shirts. Here is a scarab which is probably one of the few beetles most people can make a stab at recognising from its starring role in several thousand years of Egyptian history. Usually painted turquoise in wall paintings  and carvings or made from turquoise stones into elaborate jewellery, the real life beetle is disappointingly a dull black and a little over an inch in size (more than big enough for me).  Something about the habits of this unassuming beetle chimed with the ancient Egyptians idea of birth, death and rebirth. When the female is about to lay her eggs, she collects a small lump of animal faeces and embeds her eggs into it. Then both male and female scarab work together to roll this into a ball, pushing and pulling, pulling and pushing, accreting earth and detritus until the ball has become as big as the beetle. It is then buried. When the eggs hatch they emerge, enjoy the food source their parents have incorporated  in the ball for them and when strong enough they dig their way out and the cycle of life begins again. The ancient Egyptians saw something special and even celestial in the movement of the ball as it became bigger by the action of the two beetles working together; that the balls lay buried for about 30 days before the eggs hatched, suggested another parallel with lunar cycles. Although the beetle is in reality a dull colour, there’s something about its, shape, proportions and pleasantly rounded body that makes it a curiously satisfying form which lends itself well to decoration and embellishment – and just as fun to wear on a T shirt today as to have on a jewelled collar 5,000 years ago.

Helene Carter: Map of Africa, showing insect distribution (scarab iin Egypt top centre) From 1938 ‘The book of Insect Oddities’ by Raymond L.Ditmars and illustrated by Helene Carter.

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  1. Posted January 16, 2022 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    The scarab has turned out really well.

    Sending encouraging and supporting thoughts. I hope the dentist is gentle and efficient.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 16, 2022 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Rachel, thank you very much on both counts.

  2. Mary
    Posted January 16, 2022 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    So sorry to hear about the infected tooth. Ugh. Not fun. Especially as you can’t seem to get the kind of pain relief you prefer. Hope all goes well and that the procedure can be done with as little discomfort to you as possible.

    Given your low oxygen level, you might consider buying a pulse oximeter to have at home. They aren’t that expensive and it is good to be able to provide a reading to a doctor, especially if you have to have a telehealth call.

    Finally, another winner t-shirt. Love the colour combination and the little intricate details on the scarab beetle.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 16, 2022 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Helpful comments, Mary. Once the tooth is dealt with I’ll explore my oxygen levels – no inkling of a problem before the dentist picket it up.
      Nice to know you like the scarab.

  3. Bev S.
    Posted January 16, 2022 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    So sorry about the tooth. I am glad that you have a good dentist.

    Lovely scarab.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 17, 2022 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Kind thoughts, thank you, Bev.

  4. ceci
    Posted January 17, 2022 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    Maybe you were nervous and not breathing deeply enough to oxygenate your blood at the dentist – heaven knows just being there is enough to make anyone’s breathing odd. My blood pressure is always sky high when they check at the dentist. At least you have a dentist you have confidence in, that’s half the battle. I hope you have a treat for yourself lined up post-dental surgery; certainly it will be well deserved by then!


    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 17, 2022 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      I’m hoping it’s something like that – we did rush up a hill to get there!
      I think it’s we older people who remember ancient dentists with slow drills that have the nerves. I remember one dentist I had (a relative) who said that he’d seen the nerve and was avoiding it, which made me wonder whether some dentists see the nerve and can’t resist going for it!!!!

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