Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Folklore

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Praying Mantis

My life in appalachia - Praying Mantis
Last Sunday, when me and Chatter came home from doing some pickin’ and grinnin’ at Paul’s this guy was waiting on us by the basement door. We both saw him at about the same time and he patiently waited for me to run and get my camera-and even allowed me to get several shots of him-before he lost patience and scurried up the wall out of reach.

Chatter thought he was creepy, but I have a fondness for praying mantis. Every time I see one I’m taken back to 2nd grade, more specifically the 2nd grade classroom at the old Martins Creek School where Mrs. Sult was the teacher.

Mrs. Sult had lots of praying mantis at least it seems that way in my memories. She let them live in the back windows. The school was old, very old, Pap went there too. It was a brick building with thick walls that made for wide deep window ledges. Ledges that held books, papers, plants, boxes, the occasional child, and praying mantis.

Mrs. Sult was a good teacher, but very strict, looking back that may have been her best asset. She was known for washing mouths out with soap whenever she heard a cuzz word come out of one.

I remember her washing one of my best friends mouth’s out then she marched him down the long wood floored hallway to his Daddy’s classroom (his Daddy taught 6 and 7th grade) and told him what the boy had done and what she had done to stop the bad habit before it took a firm hold on the child.

Praying mantis


The picture above showed up on my camera a few months ago (my kitchen window isn’t really that dirty-well actually it is but pretend its not!). The photo is evidence mine and Chatter’s new friend has been hanging around for a good while.

Have you ever heard praying mantis are good luck? I have. I’m not sure if I knew about the saying way back in Mrs. Sult’s classroom or if I picked it up along the way. They are supposed to bring good luck because they are always praying for those who are near them.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I have always been fascinated by a praying mantis.
    I remember a friend telling me when we were young that it was against the law to kill a praying mantis. Have no idea why.
    But if he’s praying for me I don’t want to end his life.

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    November 19, 2011 at 9:01 am

    “All creatures great and small..the good Lord made them all.” So marvelous are His works. I would love that piece of artwork…please enter me in the give-away!

  • Reply
    November 18, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I’m a subscriber too! I’m fascinated by the praying mantis. This spring we were working in our garden, and I saw one. My wife left to go to the house for a few minutes and when she came back I realized I hadn’t done a thing but sit there and watch it. I started to work again but then noticed a plant had five very small praying mantis holding onto the vine. Scary looking bugs but by far my favorite to come across.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 18, 2011 at 7:38 am

    While everyone else looks at the critter I’m looking at the name on his shirt and wondering why the image isn’t reversed. If it is a “mirror image” it should read ttaM. Or does the camera turn it back around?

  • Reply
    November 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I have never heard that they are good luck, but it sure is nice to have them in the garden eating all the bad bugs!
    I used to have scads of them, until the year I lost my sense of humor over the endless battle with slugs and put slug bait down. I haven’t had a mantis since and am still heartsick over it!

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    November 17, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I took some pictures of this pretty praying mantis down in the garden this summer. I like them. That is a very pretty piece of artwork, we love our birds around here. I’m a subscriber.

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    November 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    I forgot to mention that I am a proud subscriber.

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    November 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    The first Praying Mantis I ever saw was when I was a young girl at a brush arbor meeting in the woods. Our church had these meetings every summer. Back then, it was real brush (black jacks), so it attracted lots of critters. My friends and I thought it was pretty awesome that an insect would come to our little church and pray with us. I love that thought. What a beautiful piece of artwork. I would so love to win Misty’s art.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Ken-Great idea! If anyone has a photo they can send it to me-and I’ll post it here. Send it to [email protected]
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    November 16, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I place praying mantis and walking sticks firmly in the category of bugs to marvel over. I once had a Christmas tree which held both a mantis case and a bird’s nest – double luck!
    Here is one of my favorite poems from Children’s Poet Laureate, Mary Ann Hoberman:
    Praying Mantis
    praying mantis over there
    Is really not engaged in prayer.
    That praying mantis that you see
    Is really preying (with an ā€œeā€).
    It preys upon the garter snake.
    It preys upon the bumblebee.
    It preys upon the cabbage worm,
    The wasp, the fly, the moth, the flea.
    (And sometimes, if its need is g…reat,
    It even preys upon its mate.)
    prey and preying both so endless,
    It tends to end up rather friendless
    And seldom is commended much
    Except by gardeners and such.
    Mary Ann Hoberman in
    The Random House Book of Poetry for Children

  • Reply
    Ken Kuhlmann
    November 16, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I don’t know what a Praying Mantis egg sack looks like. Can someone post a picture on here to show what to look for?

  • Reply
    Sam Ensley
    November 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I know nothing about the praying mantis, but put me on the giveaway list.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Tipper–As you know, I’ve had considerable trouble getting my comments through to you. I just spent some time on the phone with a tech support person, so this is both a test and a comment.
    When I read B. Ruth’s comment, and then Bill B.’s about collecting pray (or preying) mantis egg cases, I knew you were dealing with two folks who are close to the good earth. Praying mantises (or mantii, or whatever the proper plural might be)are mighty eaters of insects and do garden a world of good. They are a highly recommended substitute for Sevin. I find them pretty regularly when small game hunting in the winter and always break off the stem or briar holding the egg case and stick it in my coat for “transplanting” to my garden.
    It is also worth noticing the location of mantis eyes. Unlike mammalian predators, where eyes are in the front of the head (as compared on on the side for prey species), they cover may 180 degrees, and that head, which reminds me of a robot, allows almost 180 degrees more. In other words, the praying mantis can pretty much see in all directions without moving its body.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    November 16, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Tipper: I thought you were going to crawl around and take photos of where the praying mantis had gone. I really enjoy that wonderful animal.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Tipper, Forgot to mention the beautiful art piece, it’s lovely, would love to have it, please add my name in. Thanks

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Never heard about them being good luck. Always heard them called devils horses and if they spit in your eye it’d put it out.Am sure now that i’m grown that it was just another scare tactic to keep us kids from playing with them.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 11:48 am

    It’s interesting how your memories of the praying mantis go back to 2nd grade…our son’s 2nd grade teacher had lots of critters in her classroom as well, one being a praying mantis and some eggs sacks/pods. I volunteered in the classroom, and at the end of the year when the babies hatched, she sent them home with me to put in my garden! Every year when I clean up my perennials, I find as many as a dozen new egg sacks/pods, and our praying mantis population is thriving! šŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Jim Pappas
    November 16, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Hi Tipper,
    I’m a new subscriber. Please enter me in the November give-away. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Kempie Rackley
    November 16, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Would love to have the “Rebirth” art by Misty. It is beautiful and makes me think of the things we have to be thankful for and “sing” about at this season of Thanksgiving.

  • Reply
    jackie shound ringersma
    November 16, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Loved this story, brought back fond memories of working in the garden with my dad when a praying mantis jumped on my leg – startled me before I realized what it was. I was pregnant at the time, my dad laughed and said she just brought you some luck, she did – my pregnancy was smooth sailing and I delivered a beautiful baby boy in about 4 hours from time I realized I was in labor. My son called all insects his tiny friends. šŸ™‚

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Tipper, I almost didn’t read your post today, I am absoutely scared to death of a praying mantis and have been as far back as I can remember. I have many tales I could tell you about my run ins with these creatures. The best one was when my son was about 12 years old ( 30+ years ago ) he found one of the egg pods and put it in a cigar box in his room. Needless to say I was not aware of this, didn’t even know there was such a thing. I came in one day from work, opened the door to his room and there were hundreds of little praying mantis all over his room, the ceiling, curtains, floor, bed just everywhere. I screamed and ran. When he came in, the vacuum was sitting in front of his closed door and with instructions to vacuum his room from top to bottom, inside and out I grabbed my purse and left. I told him when I got back there had better not be one tiny praying mantis left in that room. He evidently got them all as I never did see one after that. I have no idea what caused me to be so afraid of these creatures but to this day my son sometimes ( the same one ) will find one in my yard and bring it toward me and I will run in the opposite direction as fast as I can. So as you can tell I am not a fan and I’m glad he’s at your house and not mine.

  • Reply
    Mama Crow
    November 16, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Hi Tipper,
    As I get older prayer seems to have taken on a different, more sincere, and honest meaning. When someone asks me to pray for their loved one, for healing, or a job, or whatever…I used to say I would and meant it…but didn’t always follow through with my word. I have come to regard all these requests differently now, and send fervent prayers up to God all day long about someone or another. The praying mantis, is always in a prayerful pose and therefore is giving me a sign that I might, finally, be on the right track about my prayers. love to you and yours. Mama Crow

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 10:34 am

    I have had a mantis around my house all this last summer. Saw it first as a very small short thing and though the summer it grew long and quite green .. I have been told they eat spiders and other insects so he can stay here as long as he likes and feast,as spiders are my big fear… As slow as he seems to move he may have to eat just the dead spiders cause those things seem to run like the wind…. Would love to be in the give away.. Thanks SANDI R.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Jones
    November 16, 2011 at 9:46 am

    The praying mantis photographs and post are interesting, indeed. I note that the word mantis derives from the Greek that means, literally, a diviner or prophet. It then was applied to the green insects that fed on other insects and clasped their prey in their forelimbs as if holding it up in prayer before devouring it. Where the “good luck” omen originated, I did not research.
    My thanks to all who posted such encouraging and positive comments on my guest post for Nov. 15 entitled “November Retreat.” All of you readers (and responders) are wonderful, and make “Blind Pig & the Acorn” one big, supportive family. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! And yes, I’m subscribed to Blind Pig & the Acorn and look forward to every day’s entry!

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Those praying mantis always look like their head would be hard to hold up. WE see them once in a while.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 9:36 am

    I find praying mantis so very fascinating. Mom and I found one in the garden once, it was such a rare and special occasion…..they’re so far and few between!

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    November 16, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I am a subscriber don’t you know and that bird would sure look good on my ‘old’ timey sewing machine with my crocheted doily. Blessings to you and family oxox

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 16, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I too collect Mantis Egg Pods, Praying Mantis in your gardens will consume thousands of destructive insects. I remember one time I cut a Christmas Tree which contained an egg pod which we didn’t spot until we were blessed with hundreds of small Mantis, my mother wasn’t a fan like I am. I have finally turned my Sweet Bride into a fan, just last week she proudly showed me an egg pod she had found that now resides on one of her rose bushes, it was a proud moment for me. I hope you and your clan have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’d love to win the art. I have a wonderful Praying Mantis tale where one whupped one of my best friends by landing astride his nose but I’ll not embarass him by telling it. I would have had a $100,000 winner if I had gotten it on video.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 9:27 am

    As a city girl growing up, I didn’t get to enjoy the critters of the woods. Now that I am in the woods, I get to learn more and more about them. I have seen a few praying mantis in with my daylilies. Of course, I have seen a few grasshoppers also. Thanks for sharing a nice mountain story.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 9:13 am

    have not seen a mantis in years and years, love the shot through the window. no thanks on he give away

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 9:10 am

    My sister used to be terrified by the mantis. She thought they were all what we called “spit devils.” If they spit in your eye it would put your eye out. We called them walking sticks and I always considered them to be good luck. I would love to have a piece of Misty’s artwork. Thanks for sharing the link. I enjoyed seeing her beautiful creations.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    November 16, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Nice Mantis! We had one earlier this year on our front porch that was greenish/gold in color and about 4 inches long. The biggest I had ever seen. I hadn’t heard about the good luck thing, but we all need everyone we can praying for us…

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    November 16, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I was bush hogging an old field this fall and the praying mantis were thick. I had to slow down to give them time to fly out of the way of my old Ferguson tractor. I mowed in strips to leave some cover. I think they were so abundant because of the large number of grasshoppers in the field.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 16, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Yes, I have heard that they bring good luck. I’ve always thought they had a majestic look to them.
    I’m usually a little startled when I see one. They stand so still and let you observe them….unless you get too close.
    Guess they are carnivores, Ken, I thought they ate vegetation. LOL

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I’ve have always been fascinated with the praying mantis. I remember as a kid I ordered three praying mantis egg sacs for the garden out of Montgomery Ward catalog (apparently good to keep insect pests out of garden). The birds loved the egg sacs; the crop of mantis’ was small.
    What is creepy is the he prating mantis walking around headless after the mating ritual.

  • Reply
    Barbara Johnson
    November 16, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I am a subscriber. I have a praying mantis story: We always cut our Christmas trees fresh from the woods. It is a big deal to our kids.After we do it we stop a a 100 yr old little church that has hot cocoa and is fun. Anyway, one year we found a praying Mantis sac in the tree we cut. We kept it (on a sun porch) we forgot about it. We assumed it hatched or whatever happens. We do have an abundance of Praying Mantises every year. Not just one or two, this year we spotted at least 25 or 30. I think they are pretty cool!

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I had also heard that the praying mantis brings good luck, sure wish some would find our house!! I don’t think I have seen any in this area though, hmmm will have to do some talking with friends, I’m new to this area so not sure what critters, bugs and so forth (besides ants, mosquito and flies of course) are found in this area. Thanks for sharing the memories!

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    November 16, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Sign me up for Misty’s artwork– it’s beautiful!
    I love praying mantis, too. We recently had a huge one on the side of our house, but it soon died (tis the time of year for them to do that). My Boston terrier, Beans, decided to crunch on him! Yuk! I had to wrestle the bug out of his mouth. Beans is also partial to grasshoppers, and katydids. Sorry, I kinda got off on a dog tangent…. but Beans is the cutest dog in the world! :>)

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Good day to you all— I do agree with Chatter that they are a bit creepy but had always been told not to kill one for your luck would change I guess that would mean that YOU KILLed YOUR OWN “GOOD LUCK”???? Since I am a subscriber place my name where it might have a bit of “good luck ” to receive that wonderful piece of artwork by Misty. Linda

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    November 16, 2011 at 7:52 am

    I have to admit that I steal from nature every chance I get. Which is not often anymore..Yes, I steal the praying mantis egg cases from all about where I see one…bring it home and place it in one of my shrubs…I just think they would do more good here than along the lake where we might be fishin’ the fish need the little bugs that drop in the water…LOL
    There is nothing cuter in the Spring than those tiny quarter inch green praying mantisssss! ha
    I fear that most get eaten before they get as big as I have seen them like yours…Imagine if all of them lived…I cherish every one that lives and eats bugs off my roses, shrubs, and garden…
    When we were in school we had one in a terrarium and fed him/her bugs..etc..
    Yes, I remember the good luck part but was always told that they were the only insect that prayed before it ate or was eaten!
    Thanks for the memories…

  • Reply
    November 16, 2011 at 7:47 am

    I don’t know much about those big
    ole long things but they are a
    powerful insect. One time I saw
    one with a grasshopper in his hands and he held that sucker out
    and worked him like we would an
    ear of boiled corn. Guess people
    ain’t the only species that prey
    on each other…Ken

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    November 16, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Praying Mantis’s are a rare sighting I think. They are pretty neat to watch.
    I’m in on the giveaway and I’m a subscriber as well.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    November 16, 2011 at 7:21 am

    I agree with Chatter that Praying Mantis are creepy. I don’t see them here in South Florida. I did see a Walking Stick, which may be a cousin to Praying Mantis.
    Please put my name in the hat for Misty’s artwork.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    November 16, 2011 at 7:20 am

    I subscribe!
    Your post about school days brought back memories of a two room school I attended. Built of stone in WPA days, 4 grades to each classroom.
    The lower grade teacher, Miz Martin, used soap too, and also would draw a circle on the chalkboard, a student who misbehaved in class would have to stand with their nose in the ring for a certain length of time.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    November 16, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I had actually forgotten that they are supposed to bring good luck until you mentioned it. I have always been fascinated by praying mantis because they are very neat looking and a bit creepy too.
    When I was a teen, I worked in a restaurant with a lady who was terrified of praying mantis. This lady did all of the prep work for the salad and food bars. We thought it would be great fun to tell her that we saw a praying mantis on one of the produce boxes. She flat out refused to go anywhere near ANY of the vegetables or fruits for the rest of the day. So, our little joke backfired on us because we had to unbox all of the produce and prove to her that there was not really any praying mantis getting ready to jump on her!

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