European Myths About The DragonflyFire Dragonfly

dragon-flyThe dragonfly has been around for more than 300 million years. Therefore, it would stand to reason that Europe has some the oldest myths and beliefs regarding the dragonfly. In Europe, the dragonfly has often been regarded or viewed as something sinister or evil.

 

The dragonflies reputation may have been tarnished a bit around 15th-century Europe, when the insect was associated with snakes and the devil. They were actually thought to be dangerous! In fact, dragonflies are not, in anyway, dangerous to humans. In many cultures, dragonflies have been the objects of superstition. European folklore is no exception. Many old myths have been lost over time, but some fragments remain and are still living in old local names of the dragonfly.

 

The Europeans have some of the more terrifying tales of the dragonfly. With the following examples, it’s no wonder why.

Some of the English names, such as “devil’s needle,” “devil’s darning needle” or “ear cutter,” are derived from superstition.They have been associated with evil or injury. This particular (and terribly disturbing) belief, came from telling children who misbehaved that a dragonfly would come and sew up their eyes, ears or mouths while they slept!

 

In Germany, dragonflies have had over 150 names. Some of these are Teufelsnadel (Devil’s Needle), Wasserhexe (Water Horse) and Hollenross (Goddess’Horse); Teufelspferd (Devil’s Horse) and Schlangentöter (Snake Killer). The name “Snake Doctor” has also been used in Germany and other countries. The referral to the horses are from a common misbelief that the dragonflies were trying to harm the horses, by stinging them or biting them. As we now know, they cannot bite or sting. The dragonflies were actually going after the other insects that were around the horses, but because the dragonflies were the larger, more fierce looking creatures, they got the bad reputation. The name “Snake Doctor,” refers to dragonflies that may have been seen shadowing snakes to stitch them back up, should they get injured, according to the myths. It has also been said that dragonflies conspired with snakes and were able to wake them from the dead or warn them of impending danger.  None of this is true. snake dragonfly

 

In Denmark, the dragonfly has received such different names as Fandens ridehest (Devil’s riding horse) and Guldsmed (Goldsmith). Different names of dragonflies referring to them as the devils tools have also occurred in many other European cultures, some examples are the Spanish Carballito del Diablo (Devil’s Horse) and the French l’aiguille du diable, (Devil’s Needle.)

 

The Swedish name for dragonfly is Trollslanda, which means “hobgoblin fly” in English. Long ago, people in Sweden believed that hobgoblins, elves, brownies and such creatures lived in the great woods. In that folklore the dragonflies were considered to be the hobgoblins twisting tools. An old Swedish name for dragonfly is Blindsticka (Blind stinger), this name comes from the opinion that a dragonfly could pick your eyes out. Other people thought the dragonfly could sew your eyelids together. Again with the gruesome tales! The same name appears in Norway (Öyenstikker)-this means eye-poker, as in Germany (Augenstecher).

Another old Swedish name is Skams besman (Devil’s Steelyard), this name probably depends on the dragonfly’s body shape that, with some imagination, looks like the weighting tool. In the folklore this was interpreted as the Devil used the dragonfly to weigh people’s souls. When a dragonfly flew around your head, your soul was being weighed and you could expect to be seriously injured as punishment. It is interesting that, despite the ideas that the dragonfly should be the Devil’s tool, the dragonfly has been a holy animal in Scandinavia. In the Æsir cult the dragonfly was thought to be the love goddess Freya’s symbol. During this time in history, the dragonflies have even been connected with love and woman.

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In certain parts of Norway, the dragonfly is also known as “ørsnildra”. The exact meaning of this word is a little unclear, but the part “ør,” does refer to the Norwegian word for “ear,” as people (and especially children) often thought that the dragonfly would poke holes in their ear-drums if it got inside their ears!

The Lithuanian word “Laumžirgis” is a composite word meaning “the Lauma’s horse,” while in Dutch, Aeshna mixta is called “Paardenbijter” or “horse biter.”

Some of the Latin names of dragonfly families have interesting meanings: The name Libellula might have been derived from the word libella (“booklet”) referring to the resting dragonfly, with some imagination, looks a little like the pages of an open book. In Portugal they are also called ‘tira-olhos’ – Taker of eyes or eye-snatcher.

So many stories with the dragonflies attacking the eyes and ears! Get over it already!

For a species of insects that have inhabited our planet for almost 300 million years, it is only natural perhaps that they have such a wide and varied perception amongst the various civilizations.
From petzon@peton.se
http://thedragonflywoman.com
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Dragonfly
http://scalar.usc.edu/works/chid490animalmourning/dragonfly-and-butterfly

12 thoughts on “European Myths About The DragonflyFire Dragonfly

  1. I had no idea that there were much fairy tales and superstition about dragon flies in Europe, some of these tales were scary, weird and interesting. It nice to read something different now and again.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read about the European myths of the dragonflies. They are a little different from other areas of the world and it was more difficult to get the bottom of the some of the stories.

      Rebecca

  2. Hi its Alexey,
    At first I thought that this post will be a bit boring but quickly enough I found it very interesting and unique!
    Maybe because I love to read about mystical creatures such as elves, goblins and so on.
    I learned a bit today about dragonflies 🙂 thanks for the great post!

    1. Thanks Alexey! I had a hard time writing this piece. I wrote and re-wrote it because I wasn’t sure how to present this information. But, it has all the makings of a good horror story, haha! The Europeans have some of the scariest stories about the dragonfly!

      Rebecca

  3. It is so good to read the facts about a creature that has been judged mistakingly by so many people all over the world.

    While growing up in the Caribbean, I have also heard some really bad tales associated with the Dragonfly. I have now come to realize that they are some of the most beautiful and harmless creatures on the face of this earth.

    Many people still misunderstand the Dragonfly and spread the negative rumors around. I am happy that you are one of the few people around the world that is spreading the correct message about this mysterious, beautiful creature; they truly beatify the environment.

    Thanks for sharing this article with me.

    Jason

    1. Hello Jason, Thanks for reading! Yes, quite the misunderstood creature. Please come back for further posts on the dragonfly. More tales of misunderstanding and adventures of the little creature!

      Rebecca

  4. A weirdly beautiful creature, dragonfly has a fan following of it’s own it seems. So many cruel superstitions about the tiny creature! Hope the dragonflies don’t across this post because they would be upset for sure.
    Jokes apart, good job debunking the myths about dragonflies. Keep sharing interesting information like this.
    Thanks.

    1. Hello Surbhi, thank you for reading! I hope the dragonfly will understand I am trying to dispel the terrible myths that have come about over the last couple of centuries. I do have upcoming wonderful stories regarding this intriguing creature. So, please come back for a visit!

      Rebecca

  5. I remember as a child that dragonflies used to dart around us when we were swimming in our pool. We would turn it into a game, ducking for cover as they flew at and around us. Luckily I didn’t know at the time all these scary myths! It’s fascinating the stories that people can weave around harmless creatures. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on the subject.

    1. Hi Helen, I’m glad you didn’t know about them either at such a tender age! These stories were absolutely terrifying to young children. I am more pleased with the stories from other parts of the world, as presented in earlier posts. The dragonfly really got a poor reputation throughout the centuries in Europe. There are more pleasant stories I will present in the future, so please feel free to follow up!

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