Pliny the Elder observed both Greeks and Romans wearing the heads of stag beetles around the neck to ward of evil and illness. Bavarian folklore suggests it was worn as a good luck charm. Then again, old European superstitions claimed stag beetles caused fires by attracting lightning and carry embers in their mandibles. The Dutch Masters of the Golden Age often used the stag beetle in lush, haunting still life paintings.
The stag beetle, of the family Lucanidae, is found throughout history, but when I found him, he was the smallest in a group of boxed insects, neatly preserved many years ago as evidenced by the yellowing, typewritten labels and the offensive odor of past preservation methods by entomologists. I loved him most, this Odontolabis femoralis, for despite his stature, his mandibles were so majestic, symmetrical, powerful that he immediately struck me as a symbol. It will mean something different to everyone, and that’s exactly what I want for this collection-each piece a personal talisman to the wearer, a totally unique combination of ideas and decades that culminate around my own tiny contribution to history, a little soul that needed to be cast and saved.