The praying mantis, in Asmat art, symbolizes head-hunting because the female praying mantis  eats the head of the male during mating.  Headhunting itself is ritually very important. Every death must be avenged with a headhunt as an actual human head is necessary in order to restore the "ancestral spirit essence" to the people.  Ancestors are the most important spirits in this culture and great lengths are taken to keep the ancestral spirits satisfied and in good nature in order that they not bring hardship to the community. Through this, the society is kept in running order as "without death there is no life; the two are inextricably connected" (Smidt, 18)

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Asmat Drum with Praying Mantis figure
as handle.  Wejo village, Upper Pomatisj River.  Carved by Ojapit.   40".  Illustrated in The Asmat of New Guinea: The Journal of Michael Clark Rockefeller, 1967: p. 207.