spiritual meaning of ant spirit animal

ANT Spirit Animal

Cultivating Resources

Ant spirit animal teaches patient cultivation of resources. From sowing the right seeds to picking the right time for harvest, ant symbolism is about working with nature to bring a project to fruition.

Ant is a powerful totem for gardeners and farmers. In Roman myth, ant spirit animal is strongly associated with the goddess of agriculture, Ceres (“Demeter” in Greek myth).

Ants were the earth’s first farmers, developing agriculture 65 million years ago [1]. Leaf cutter ants are a famous example. They cut bits of leaves to grow fungi on them in industrial scale, underground gardens. Ants began ranching at least 35 million years ago. They raise aphids or caterpillars as livestock and milk the bugs’ honeydew.

There’s a Greek story of a woman from Attica named “Myrmex” (= Greek for “ant”). Myrmex is a favorite of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The goddess Demeter creates crops and Athena invents the plough for sowing them. Athena then shares her invention with Myrmex who steals some of the crop and claims the plough is of her own making. In the story written by white, male scholars, Athena punishes Myrmex for stealing her idea by turning her into an ant.

I always question the trope of the vengeful Greek goddess. Maybe Myrmex adored farming (for why else would she steal the crop and plough for herself?). Athena, in her wisdom and kindness, then grants her the boon of living in a whole society dedicated to the perfection of agriculture over eons. Just sayin’. For someone into growing things, being an ant wouldn’t be all that bad.

How Flowers Helped Ants

Scientists estimate that there are around 20 quadrillion (20,000,000,000,000,000) ants on earth [2]. There are around 15,000 known species and thousands more to discover.

Ants became so diverse and prolific across almost every ecosystem on earth because of the explosion of angiosperms (flowering plants) about a 100 million years ago [3]. Before their symbiotic relationship with plants evolved, ants were rare insects bound to wet forest floors.

Flowering plants helped ants move off the forest floor by providing moisture and food in the canopy. In exchange for protection, angiosperms developed nectar fountains (aka “extrafloral nectaries”) to feed ants. To attract and utilize the labor of ants for dispersing seeds, flowering plants evolved fleshy snacks on seeds (aka “elaiosomes”).

When flowering plants adapted to drier environments like grasslands and deserts, the ants followed. In this way, ants were able to adapt to new environments.

Flowering into Your Unique Role

When we talk about someone “flowering” or “blossoming” we reference their becoming. The proliferation of ants followed the great explosion of angiosperms. This shows that we must first flower before we can contribute to the whole.

The spiritual meaning of ant is about finding who we are and what we have to offer. This uniqueness then guides us to our role in the collective.

Some ant species are monomorphic, meaning that all members of the species are the same shape and size. These ants are generalists and switch roles in the community as needed.

Others are polymorphic, meaning that different members of the same species have varying shapes and sizes. Leaf cutter ants, for example, have large female soldiers with giant heads and mandibles for defense and leaf cutting, and small, unassuming female workers that tend the fungi crops and brood. Polymorphic ants are intense specialists. The role (or caste) they are born into is the role they assume their whole lives.

Most people assume that ant spirit animal is about sticking to one’s role in society, essentially accepting one’s lot in life. This works for people who are natural specialists, but for those of you that are generalists, know that there’s a community for you too!

Trusting in the Universe

Rather than see the ants as a society of many individual beings, they are actually ONE BEING. This is called a super-organism. The soldiers are the immune system, the queen is the reproductive system, the foragers are the digestive system, and so on. The division of labor in an ant colony makes each group function like an organ would in our bodies. Together they make a whole.

Everyone works altruistically for the greater good.

If you’re trying to decide between taking care of yourself and taking care of your family or community, the spiritual meaning of ant is about leaning into cooperation and coordination. This isn’t an either/or choice.

Ant spirit animal is challenging you to trust. Work for the goodness of the whole. Trust that the whole is, in turn, working for your goodness.

Like ant, learn to trust in the universe.

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

Swarm Intelligence

If you’re having trouble solving a problem, ant symbolism suggests accessing a group mind for help.

As a super-organism, a colony of ants has what is called “swarm intelligence.” A single ant is akin to a snippet of computer code. On her own, she isn’t able to solve problems or adapt. When her bit of computing power is combined with that of hundreds, thousands, or millions of others, the level of intelligence is astounding. This combined computing power makes ants incredibly adaptive and successful.

In a society where we are so used to thinking for ourselves, it pays to remember the wisdom of ants and tap into the intellectual brilliance of others.

Ants are amazing architects, working together to create elaborate nests [5]. If you need help with organization and structure, turn to the architectural teamwork of the spiritual meaning of ants. Now might be a good time to hire a professional organizer or call on a team of friends to help you organize your space.

Value of Social Connection

Ant symbolism speaks to our social lives. They remind us of the value of social connection and the dangers of isolation.

Most ant species are eusocial, which is Greek for “good social”. This means they live in societies that are beneficial to all members. There is no such thing as a solitary ant.

If you take an ant away from her colony she’ll wander around aimlessly and eventually die. If you are feeling lost, now would be a good time to get social.

On the other hand, when a group of ants is picked up and set down away from their colony, they risk getting caught in a death spiral. In trying to find their way home, they accidentally walk in a circle. Then they just follow their own pheromone trail around and around endlessly until they perish.

Beware of the social setting where everyone commiserates together endlessly. It’s good to seek company in our trials, but not to the exclusion of other topics. Too much misery can take the whole group in a downward spiral.

spiritual meaning of red fire army bullet ant

Original color pencil drawing by Stacey Couch © 2024

Stinging Ants, Oh My!

Ants use pheromones to recognize and alert each other to intruders. When it comes to the stinging ants – fire ants, red ants, army ants, bullet ants – there is a message of protectiveness. This relates to the warrior archetype. If you’ve been bitten and stung by ants, now is a good time to consider boundaries.

Have you wandered into enemy territory? If you are in a group and under attack, it might be good to stop trying to fit in where you’re unwelcome. Is someone invading the harmony of your group? Now is a good time to revisit codes of conduct.

Spiritual Meaning of Ants in Your House

Are ants invading your house? The spiritual meaning of ants in your house brings the message of being intentional about the groups you let in your space. Make room in your schedule for a gathering at home. This is an invitation to be more social, and discern how and with whom you gather.

Discerning Where You Belong

Ants’ primary form of communication is via scent. Each member of a colony carries that colony’s scent signature. When ants travel to and from a food source, each individual leaves a trail of pheromones so they can find their way home. Eventually the shortest trail is discovered and mapped, and everyone follows that.

Ant spirit animal relates to discernment. They help us sniff out the shortest route to getting a project done, sniffing out where we belong, or making our way home.

All Work and All Rest?

Hard work and industriousness are hallmarks of the spiritual meaning of ants. We think of them marching along, getting things done. In Hebrew scripture, Solomon urges, “Go to the ant thou sluggard, and consider her ways and get wisdom.” However, there’s another side to the story.

Myrmecologist Terry McGlynn, professor at California State University, sees ants as the counterexample of hardworking. In all of his time time watching ants, he’s found that, “For every ant that you see above ground doing something, there’s ten ants sitting on their ass doing nothing underground.” [4]

Crazy right? Let’s learn from how they prioritize rest. When you have an entire society working for the good of everyone, it’s easier to let go and recharge. Remember who you can rely on to get things done. Unwind and unplug so others can work. Then you can be ready when your shift starts.

 

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/were-ants-worlds-first-farmers-180959840/

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/09/19/ants-population-20-quadrillion/

[3] A short, awesome video on the evolution of angiosperms and ants:

https://www.pbs.org/video/youre-living-on-an-ant-planet-zoas5k/

[4] Transcript of a riveting conversation between “Ologies” podcaster Allie Ward and Terry McGlynn:

https://www.alieward.com/ologies/myrmecology

[5] Amazing art made out of ant nest castings:

https://sites.saic.edu/earthlyobservatory/artists/walter-tschinkel/

 

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

 

 

Stacey Couch

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch is a Spiritual Advisor who supports creative seekers learning as they go on the spiritual path. She serves beginner and life-long students of the soul. Her compassionate and collaborative approach honors the humanity and value of each person. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. Through meeting with Stacey, lost souls find refuge. Connection to the Divine is realized. Belonging comes. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. Learn About working with Stacey
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