Friday, May 13, 2011
Folklore of the Hedgerow. Part Twenty.
Folklore of the Hedgerow. Part Twenty One.
"A butterfly or moth will hover for a time in one place or fly in a fleeting, hesitant manner, suggesting a soul that is reluctant to move on to the next world".
The transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly seems to provide the ultimate model for our ideas of death, burial, and resurrection. This imagery is still implicit in Christianity when people speak of being “born again.” The chrysalis of a butterfly may have even inspired the splendour of many coffins from antiquity. Many cocoons are very finely woven, with some threads that are golden or silver in colour. The Greek word “psyche” means soul, but it can also designate a butterfly or moth. The Latin word “anima” has the same dual meaning.
The custom of scattering flowers at funerals is very ancient, and the flowers attract butterflies, which appear to have emerged from a corpse.
Up to the 1600s it was against common law in Ireland to kill a white butterfly because they were believed to hold the souls of dead children.
In Irish folklore, they were the souls of dead people who return to visit their favourite place and their loved ones and it was unlucky to harm one. The red admiral butterfly, however, was thought to be the devil and was persecuted.
Old Irish saying "Butterflies are souls of the dead waiting to pass through Purgatory"
The significance of the butterfly in Irish folklore attributes it as the soul and thus it has the ability to cross into the Otherworld. It is also a symbol of transformation and creation.
"For Christians, the butterfly's three steps of metamorphosis -- as caterpillar, pupa and then winged insect -- are reminiscent of spiritual transformation"
An Irish blessing: May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun and find your shoulder to light upon. To bring you luck, happiness and riches today and beyond.
Butterfly - If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you will have good luck all year.
Three butterflies together mean a child will soon be born.
Moth - A white moth inside the house or trying to enter the house means death.
A brown moth means an important letter is coming.
A big black moth in the house means a deceased one is just visiting reincarnated through that moth.
According to superstition, the death's head hawk moth, with its skull and crossbones markings and loud squeak, was a harbinger of death, war and disease. The moth uses its tough proboscis to crack through beehives and suck out honey and in some parts of Ireland is known as a bee robber.
Few people know how the butterfly got its name. The witch was supposed to change her shape into this insect. She then flew to the dairy, and stole milk, cheese and, of course, butter!
Top image: The Butterfly Bird of Summer.
Lower image: The Butterfly Tree.