Friday, 1 November 2013

Halloween Tales and Tittle Tattle . . . .

Obviously this should have been posted yesterday but being Halloween I got a bit bogged down with zombies vampires and witches (no names mentioned to protect the guilty) 

But as it WAS Halloween last night, I thought it might be interesting to look into the more sinister side in which dragonflies have been regarded over the centuries.

Since the middle-ages, fear and ignorance of their ugly (nah!) bulb-eyed looks and long pointed abdomen resembling a sting, means they have long been associated with the devil, eyed with suspicion, feared to be dangerous and believed to have evil intent. Perfect for Halloween!

The aptly named Halloween Pennant
Cracking name for this US species, but having seen one myself they're
hardly the scariest dragonfly, in fact the smallest dragon I've seen.
But a little beaut!
It is true that ignorance breeds fear, and myths about dragonflies were rife in 15th Century Europe, where people thought they must have been sent from Hell by the devil to cause mischief on earth, and made up horrible stories to keep their children away from them.

Both in Europe and America one of their best known folk-names is the Devil’s darning needle, a name thought to have come about through stories used to scare children into behaving well, by telling them that if they misbehaved, the dragonfly would come while they slept and sew up their eyes and mouth. Nice!

Common Green Darner
Another US species I've seen, many large American dragons have the
common name darner.A reference to the devil's darning needle of folklore?
In Swedish folklore they were called ‘Blind Stingers’ and were reputed to have a penchant for poking out human eyes with their long needle-like abdomen.
Another myth was that they were sent by the devil himself to weigh human souls. So if one was to swarm around your head, rather than just being there to catch the cloud of midges attracted to some sweaty Scandinavian, it would in fact be deemed as the act of weighing your soul for the devil, and if this happened to you it meant great misfortune or injury would soon come your way.

In the same way they were also known as ‘horse-stingers’ because they were often seen swarming around horses which would be jumping around and kicking out as if being bitten, which of course they were, but not by the dragonflies, which were merely feeding on the smaller unseen insects which WERE actually biting the horse. 

Another sinister name for the dragonfly was the Snake Doctor, as they were also thought to be in cahoots with snakes which they could bring back to life, as well as sewing them back together if chopped in two (bit of a theme going on here). They’ve also been known as the Water Witch, Hobgoblin Fly, and Devil’s Horse, all no doubt accompanied by charming tales to scare the bairns with.

Western Spectre
The only European dragon to have a remotely spooky common name
(apart from Eastern Spectre, oh and Cretan Spectre)

So next Halloween I’ll be scaring the kids with tales of witches, zombies, vampires . . . . and dragonflies? Don’t think so somehow, but then again if I was a mosquito I’d be shitting meself, Halloween or not ;)  

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