Apparently flies were popular amulets for centuries in ancient Egypt and Nubia. Symbols of flies were believed to drive off evil, including enemies. It was considered a great honor for a high-ranking military man to receive a necklace of large gold fly amulets from the king. Smaller flies were material for more ordinary protection jewelry.
It’s said that the fly symbol represented determined persistence, but I’m not sure whether it symbolized that the victor was being honored for his persistence or whether he was being honored for achieving military success despite the enemy’s annoying, difficult-to-overcome, fly-like persistence.
Either way, it was apparently considered significant, important, and even admirable to be compared to a fly back then.
The idea that an irritating little fly could merit such attention and prestige astonished me. It’s difficult for us, as modern folk, to put ourselves into the mindset of the ancients. To visualize or envision the day-to-day workings of cultures and societies so distant in time. Back then people obviously saw things very differently than we do.
And it’s not just flies. How did a dung beetle acquire the positive symbolism of the revered and honored scarab? What was the socio-cultural process that led to the reverence of critters like beetles and flies?
When you stop to think about it, such significant fly symbolism implies that people back then must have had a very different attitude towards small creatures that we would consider repugnant, or at least too unimportant to merit attention. (And in the case of dung beetles, they must have had quite a different attitude towards poop, too.)
I read that even in modern times, flies are still considered to be symbols or totems representing persistence, but I don’t know anyone who would voluntarily want a fly to be their personal totem, do you? Yeah, I don't think I'm going to be making jewelry involving fly symbolism any time soon.
But all this did make me think twice about my aversion to flies. All nature’s creatures deserve recognition for the positive aspects of their existence. We don't need to welcome flies into our homes, but we do need to remember that as one of nature's scavengers, they play an important role in the environment. They do spread disease but they also control it by eating and thereby getting rid of rotting organic matter. Flies are also food for larger insects, birds and reptiles. They're popular as bait for fishers too.
People in our time tend to have an unbalanced view and demonize insects and other critters that repulse or annoy them. This has led to huge mistakes, as the crazy history of the development of corporate pesticides show. But that’s a whole other story…