Depending on your personal view of bugs, crossing paths with a praying mantis could spark pure delight, utter dread, or any emotion in between. But did you know that there may also be a spiritual undertone or meaning of laying eyes on a praying mantis?
While it’s practically inevitable that you’ll come into contact with various eye-catching creatures—like bluebirds, cardinals, fireflies, and yes, praying mantises—if you spend enough time outside, that doesn’t mean a sighting lacks significance. Indeed, animal sightings are one of the key ways in which spirits and the universe writ large are thought to communicate with us (which also include angel numbers and earworm songs).
According to spiritual guides, spotting a praying mantis, in particular, can be a powerful sign from the universe related to your current need for patience, focus, or cunning.
The meaning and symbolism of a praying mantis
A praying mantis is a lanky insect with a triangular head, large eyes, and six long legs, the front two of which seem to be perpetually lifted in prayer. But with over 2,400 species of them on the planet, they don’t all look quite alike. Most praying mantises are a vibrant green color that camouflages well with leaves and grass, though some are brown while others (like the Orchid Mantis) are a pinkish-white hue. And they’re most commonly spotted from mid-summer to mid-autumn in tropical and subtropical regions.
Perhaps the most notable characteristic of a praying mantis is its ability to rotate its head 180 degrees—something no other insect can do. Aptly, it’s this attribute that lends heavily to the mantis’s symbolism.
“Praying mantises can represent different perspectives,” says spiritual guide Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, author of The Moon Book and host of the podcast Moonbeaming. In turn, seeing one may be a sign to zoom out, take a beat, and analyze the goings-on of your environment and the people with whom you’re surrounding yourself.
“When you see a mantis, be mindful of smoke and mirrors.” —Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, spiritual guide
In evaluating your relationships, you may find that you feel manipulated—which is also indicative of the symbolic meaning of a praying mantis. “Mantises are predators; their ‘prayer’ hands are actually [a posture for] capturing prey,” says Gottesdiener. “When you see a mantis, be mindful of smoke and mirrors.” You may need to make like a mantis and become more still, more quiet, and more strategic to go after what you want, she adds.
Relatedly, praying mantises can also represent women empowerment and strength—or lack thereof, Gottesdiener says. “Famously, the female mantis decapitates the male during or after sex,” she points out. “This doesn’t happen every rendezvous, but [isn’t uncommon], which is an interesting symbol: There’s strength here, but the praying mantis behavior could also point to relational imbalance, resentment, and certain needs not getting met.”
What it means if you cross paths with a praying mantis
If you see a praying mantis, it may be a sign that you need to tactfully discuss a sticky subject with a friend or partner or otherwise address some drama. After all, the cunning and finesse of a praying mantis are its standout traits. “Praying mantises represent focus in fighting, since their movements are direct and sharp, and their limbs look like swords,” says celebrity psychic and spiritual expert Inbaal Honigman.
In fact, the movements of the praying mantis are said to have inspired certain Kung Fu moves, adds Honigman. To that end, a mantis sighting could also be a sign to embrace the poise, patience, and measured approach inherent to this martial art.
As Honigman sees it, praying mantises, like other spiritual signs, appear in our lives to provide direction. That said, the greatest spiritual meaning exists in repetition. “If we just happen to see a praying mantis once, it may or may not be a message,” says Honigman. “But if we see a few of them, especially at a time of year which is unexpected [say, winter or spring] or in an unusual location [like a dry or temperate area], it is more than likely a spiritual message.”
Understanding exactly what that message means for you will require some introspection, as spirit guides work in a personal way. “The specific message can be dependent on what is on our minds at the time,” says Honigman. “For example, if you have been mulling over a relationship problem, and you cross paths with a praying mantis, the message is probably to exercise more patience in the relationship.”
It’s also possible for the meaning to shift based on the time of day when you spot a praying mantis, adds Honigman. “For instance, if you happen to see one early in the day, it could be giving you the message to start standing up for yourself in an existing conflict or to get ahead of a problem, rather than let it drag on.”
What to do if you keep seeing praying mantises
Remember that any praying mantis sighting is subjective. So, if you keep coming into contact with the creature, it’s important to first consider what’s going on in your life and in the world around you.
“Spotting an out-of-the-ordinary animal friend is a signal to pause and look around,” says Gottesdiener. She suggests asking yourself: What was I thinking about before seeing this mantis? What words or themes popped into my head upon seeing it? “It’s important to tune into your intuition and see what you think it could mean,” she says.
If you’re craving more meaning, though, Gottesdiener says that repeatedly crossing paths with a praying mantis could be a sign that your perspective is too narrow, and it’s time to broaden your horizons. “Try not to get so caught up in rigid expectations or trying to control exactly how certain things are going to look,” she says. “There may be something you haven’t been seeing that now it’s time to see.”
“Try not to get so caught up in rigid expectations or trying to control exactly how certain things are going to look.” —Gottesdiener
Given the fact that our dreams tend to reflect messages from our subconscious mind, seeing a praying mantis in your dreams could signal an important warning from your intuition, says Honigman. “This could be a sign to be more aware of those around you, perhaps because someone is trying to take advantage of you,” she says.
To gain more information, Honigman suggests journaling about the dream—including how the imaginary encounter with the praying mantis made you feel—when you wake up. “Generally, praying mantis dreams are a sign to think well and be sharp with your responses, but also to take your time finding out the facts before you act,” she says.
In any case, whether you’re seeing a praying mantis in your dreams or IRL, it’s important to proceed with grace and poise, says Honigman: “If you see a praying mantis repeatedly, daily, then chances are, you’re being called to act more elegantly.”
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.