The Magical Mystical Octopus

One of the things I love about painting is that I continually see the world through “new eyes.” When we look at things through the lens of curiosity, we learn more about the world in which we live.

When I first visited the Waikiki Aquarium with my Lotus Aqua Art Escape class in April, I was unprepared for the way the octopus there grabbed my attention. 

He still has me in his grips! Which isn’t that surprising considering the gripping strength of these 8-armed cephalopods could theoretically pick up a two-ton truck. But then why would it do that?

On the recommendation of two of my readers, I breezed through “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery. Ms. Montgomery is a naturalist who, through her book, introduced me to three octopuses she got to know personally through the Boston Aquarium.

It was through her book and some NatGeo Wild documentaries; that I learned the information I’m sharing here. When using direct quotes, I have indicated the page numbers of Ms. Montgomery’s book. 

Did you know that octopuses’ eight arms are sensory organs extraordinaire? Each arm has the ability to taste as well as touch and grip. Octopuses in captivity enjoy being touched, and in touching their human keepers. 

Octopuses live very short, yet active lives. During the average life span of 1–3 years in the wild, they are both prey and predator. Being a master of disguises enables them to capture their own food while keeping them safe from those in search of a delicious meal. 

“Cephalopods have a command of 30–50 different camouflage patterns per individual animal, and can change color, pattern, and texture in 7/10s of a second!” p. 45

An octopus will lay hundreds of thousands of eggs before it dies, yet only 2 in 100,000 hatchlings will survive to maturity. Octopuses start life the size of a grain of rice and drift along with plankton until they are large enough to settle on the bottom of the ocean.

Octopuses are found in the myths of many native peoples. 

“The Gilbert Islands has an octopus god,'Na Kika,' said to be the son of the first beings. With his eight strong arms, he shoved the islands up from the bottom of the Pacific.

The people of the NW Coast of British Columbia and Alaska say the octopus controls the weather and wields power over sickness and health.

Ancient Hawaiian myths tell us our current universe is really the remnant of a more ancient one — the only survivor of which is the octopus who managed to slip between the narrow crack between the worlds.” Page 228

Considering the octopus’ ability to squeeze out of their confined aquarium “homes,” this last myth doesn’t feel that far-fetched!

Tako Bell: Tako is the Japanese word for Octopus, this painting is still a work in progress.

Tako Bell: Tako is the Japanese word for Octopus, this painting is still a work in progress.