The Cricket In My Home

“The noisy cricket Soaks up the moonbeams
On the wet Lawn.”

Watanabe Suiha (1882-1946)

“Ceaseless as the interminable voices of the bell-cricket, all night till dawn my tears flow.”

Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji

There is a cricket in my home.  For the past several evenings I have heard its chirping – scraping like scissors through the thick air of an Indian Summer.  It has found a labyrinth home amongst the pipes leading from my bathtub to the kitchen sink.  Somewhere in the wall that separates the two, it has found cool, sublime dark.  It has not come into the open – yet.  Rather, it is content to serenade in secrecy.

I hate it.  Its twittering is so loud and endless, I am sure that an insect the size of a dinosaur is bulking inside that wall, curled like an awful fetus ready to erupt through the plaster.

But it seems that other people don’t feel the way I do.  For instance, some believe that should a cricket appear in dreams – horrid thought! – it means that the sleeper is meditative, and yearns for guidance.

Western thought equates the cricket’s chirruping with contentment, the safety of the domestic hearth.  To some, the cricket is a symbol that will offer protection against the Evil Eye.

Guardian Cricket

And He Never STOPS

The tyrant Peisistratos is said to have set up in the Acropolis the bronze statue of a cricket to protect the Athenian populace against its fearsome stare.  Nearly every Native American tribe considers this terrifying chirper to be a harbinger of good luck – and that it is extremely disrespectful – poor form, even – to mimic the sound of a cricket

Images of crickets appear on charms and amulets, tiny protectors that hung from necks and wrists, that rested on shoulders and scabbards.  Etched onto primeval metal or stone, they resemble fossils, an illustration rendered by fear and the need for a comforting voice in the dark.

In Japan, vendors sold crickets at temples and at summer fairs.  A symbol of the brevity of life, the cricket was equated with the samurai’s brief, melancholy existence.  Its chirp, a strident mystery in the grass, accompanied his heavy march to war.

In addition, the Japanese considered cicadas “vulgar chatterers”.

“whenever the autumnal season arrives, the ladies of the palace catch crickets in small golden cages … and during the night hearken to the voices of the insects”

 The Affairs of the period Tsin-Tao (742–756 A.D.)

Keeping crickets in exquisite cages – carved and filigreed cylinders, golden octogans with latticed fencing – began as a hobby in ancient China.  Noble ladies, clad in lustrous silks and slippers three inches long, crowded around their pets, waiting for the night to release their chorus.

Keep Them In Here

Making Sure It Is Locked

In the early 12th century the Chinese began holding cricket fights – the art of selecting and breeding the finest combatants was perfected during the next 500 years.  Fed on chestnuts and honey, their homes cleansed with herbal medicines, the fighters and their sport was an imperial monopoly until the early 19th century.

Locked Antennae

Throughout the Far East, crickets were considered watchdogs as well as entertainment.  At the sign of any perceived danger, or of any disruption in its cricket-like contentment, the chirping will abruptly stop.

And everywhere, in every culture, it is considered very bad luck to kill a cricket – even by accident.

Now, I had completely intended on killing my noisy roommate should it ever show its face.   But since I have become aware of its illustrious history and rampant symbolism,  I am not so sure I should be considering this.  Perhaps I should merely avert my eyes.  And to ignore is always preferable to ignorance.

Quiet Cricket


6 responses to “The Cricket In My Home

  1. aubrey: a learned essay, indeed, and one that demonstrates the ability of knowledge to blunt irritation and animosity. Marx, i’m pretty sure, says somewhere that in the worker’s paradise, people will make music like cicadas. not exactly the same, still…

    when i was 9, my family was posted to trinidad. i remember 0n the first night being scared of all the noise that the insects and animals made outside my window…there was a large vacant lot behind our new house. soon, however, that fear turned to appreciation of the melodies woven into the noise, and the whirring, clicking, and sudden movements in the grass came to symbolize the exotic and beautiful place we had moved to.

    while still in our first house in trinidad, our handyman/driver told us that a wild cat had made its nest in the side of the house. while my little brother and i watched, he removed the cat, his hands covered in a *thick* pair of gloves. the cat made the nastiest sound i have ever heard an animal emit–“don’t mess with me!” she was saying. but then she had kittens to protect. At last, our handyman succeeded in removing her, her fur all wild and flea-bitten. He took her out into the vacant lot and released her along with the kittens. i hope she made another nest and finished raising them. RT

  2. What a WONDERFUL post!!

    I knew of some of these legends, but not nearly all of them — or these guys’ historical significance! FASCINATING! You had best respect that little critter from the sounds of it (no pun intended)… Hahaha!!

    Thanks so much for sharing. ♥

  3. What a marvelous post – especially since I love crickets beyond words and always enjoy reading about them. This is the time for house and field crickets to be looking for warmer places, so I’m not surprised you have one. And they can be hard to find.

    In case your thermometer is broken and you don’t want to wait for the weather forecast, you can count the number of chirps over a 14-second period, add 40 and you’ll have the outside temperature. There are some variations (one is 13 seconds plus 40) but even verifies that it’s true. I learned it from my grandpa’s Farmer’s Almanac way back “when”.

  4. Music&Meaning – when Boyfriend and I were camping on Santa Cruz island, I kept hearing through the night what sounded like small, hard footsteps and imagined a posse of foxes surrounding our quarters. In the morning I discovered that as we had set up beneath a tree, those night noises were merely the sounds of leaf pods falling to the ground!

    FeyGirl – I try to think on the history, rather than the actual vision – the legs, antennae, etc. that still make me squeamish. I’ve been known to speak to the cricket, encouraging him to chirp into the phone so that Mother or Boyfriend can hear him.

    shoreacres – I’ve read that too; how clever those little blighters are! For a while he chirped from approx. 9:30P to 8A, but as the weather altered, so did his ending and beginning times. Such a curious chorus.

  5. Oh heavens. I had a pretty good panic attack, a couple weeks ago, thinking the world’s largest cricket (based on its sound volume) was hiding in my “junk room”. I was substantially relieved when, several hours later, all the sound disappeared. It was apparently some mammoth creature just outside the window.

    hope you find/found some peace with yours.

  6. I had a pet cricket once. Given to me by the mother of my stepfather–they were both recent immigrants from Shanghai. The cage was built of bamboo. I fed the cricket vegetables and wet rice and cleaned its cage once a week and in exchange, she sang for an hour every evening as the sun went down. I was very sad when she died and also amazed that one could develop an attachment to an insect.

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