Since a house is representative of the self, the image of Termites may well involve forces eating away at the fabric and very foundation of self. The conceptualization of infestation involves a slow process wherein tiny pests, symbolic of obstacles and dilemmas, gradually accumulate into swarms, which eventually cause us unimaginable turmoil. Appropriately, we need to address our difficulties in waking life, one problem and solution at a time, thereby beginning the business of reducing their overall impact upon us. In this way, a step-by-step healing procedure may begin to take effect on our psychological perception of the world around us.
Although their lives are, generally speaking, similar to those of their cousins, the ants, there are various symbolic elements in them peculiar to termites. In the first place, the object of their existence is regarded in a different light and is seen as the symbol of slow and secret destruction - which it is in fact, from the point of view of the down-to-earth individual.
In India, earth from a termitary is regarded as playing a protective role, doubtless because the insects’ underground activities mean that they are in touch with the evil influences issuing from the Earth.
The Montagnards of southern Vietnam believe that from time to time the higher ranking spirit, Ndu, makes his home in a termitary which gives protection to and assurance of good harvests. The termitary is therefore a pledge of wealth. In India, the relationship between the termitary and the materia prima is confirmed by its known relationship with naga and this is perhaps the reason, too, why in Cambodia rain is obtained by plunging a staff into a termitary.
Termitaries possess an extremely complicated and important esoteric and symbolic meaning in the religious and cosmogonic thinking of the Bambara and Dogon. In their creation-myths they stand primarily for the Earth’s clitoris which became erected against the sky and rendered sterile the first marriage of Heaven and Earth. The clitoris is male polarity in the female and must for this reason be cut out. The termitary is also the symbol of oneness and, in some sense, the opponent of creation, which is completely controlled by the principle of duality or of twinship. This accepted meaning of the termitary as a solitary and mysterious power results in the occasional higher initiate of Bambara societies, who has attained the highest level of spiritual perfection possible to man, being called one of those ‘from behind the termitary’.