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Praying Mantis: Spiritual Meaning & Symbolism

Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated by Praying Mantises. I remember the first house I lived in in Oregon had these bushes around the house that seemed to be a haven for these majestic predatory masters of the insect world. I always would go hunting for other insects to feed them and felt as if I was doing a service for them. Little did I know at such a young age the importance and amazing symbolism that are the Praying Mantises. Many years later after building my own greenhouse I even had acquired a Praying mantis egg pod which I placed into my greenhouse and after a few weeks it hatched over 100 of these beautiful creatures. About 25 or so stuck around living in their new dwelling and that was quite beneficial for my garden.

The fact that there are approximately 1,800 species of this amazing carnivores of the insect world that reside on every continent except Antarctica, there should be no surprise they would hold significance in spiritual symbolism with Human civilization for thousands of years. So today I decided to share with you some great resources regarding my favorite insect, the Praying Mantis.

In some cultures, a praying mantis can be a sign of good luck or fortune.

Native Americans believe the insect came before the creation of man and Earth. Paintings, inscriptions, revered symbols and carvings have the insect depicted as a symbol. The bugs represent wealth, success, large families and the cycle of life.

The stealth movements of the praying mantis have made it a symbol of meditation and contemplation. In China, the insect has long been honored for its mindful movements. It never makes a move unless it is certain that is the right thing to do.

In Japan, a praying mantis is a sign of autumn. The bug is often portrayed with the typical gourds and mums that are popular in the season.

Additionally, the fragile looking insect is an emblem of military strength and courage in both China and Japan because it always moves forward to advance and never retreats. SOURCE

Physical Characteristics

A praying mantis head has a triangular shape with two compound eyes with thousands of light sensors that provide them with three-dimensional vision; it’s believed they’re the only insect able to see this way.

Praying mantis don’t have pupils; instead, you see an optical illusion that’s actually just more light receptors, which is why scientists call this a pseudo pupil.

Their neck is quite flexible, so they achieve a 180° range of vision. They generally measure between 1/2 to 6 inches long, with females usually larger than males.

They have an organ similar to an ear located in the thorax, capable of hearing frequencies above the 20,000 hertz that the human ear can perceive. This allows them to hear and recognize the ultrasonic frequencies used by bats who often hunt praying mantis. SOURCE

Why Are They Called Praying Mantis?

The ancient Greeks gave them the name mantis, which means diviner because it was believed a praying mantis possessed magical abilities. This idea is still reflected in its name, mantid, meaning soothsayer.

They’re called praying mantis because their front legs join together when hunting. This method consists of staying motionless and camouflaging itself until the prey approaches close enough to catch it. Then the mantis snatches its prey with jagged forelegs and begins eating it in less than a second. Since all mantids are carnivorous, preying describes them more accurately than praying. SOURCE

Photo of squatting mantis man from Dr. Mohammad Naserifard SOURCE

A Quick-List of Praying Mantis Symbolism

  • Stillness
  • Awareness
  • Creativity
  • Patience
  • Mindful
  • Calm
  • Balance
  • Intuition

The mantis never makes a move unless she is 100% positive it is the right thing for her to do. This is a message to us to contemplate and be sure our minds and souls all agree together about the choices we are making in our lives.

Overwhelmingly in most cultures the mantis is a symbol of stillness. As such, she is an ambassador from the animal kingdom giving testimony to the benefits of meditation, and calming our minds.

An appearance from the mantis is a message to be still, go within, meditate, get quite and reach a place of calm. It may also a sign for you to be more mindful of the choices you are making and confirm that these choices are congruent.

A Divine Messenger

The Kalahari Bushmen in Africa worship and consider the Praying Mantis as the oldest symbol of God. They believed it to be an incarnation of God, and whenever they would sight one, they would try and decipher its message.

Have you ever come across a praying mantis in most of the places you’ve visited? Or may be it appears in your dreams? I’m guessing that you might have passed it off as just a coincidence, or may be you think you’ve become too obsessed with this special visitor that you see it just everywhere you go? Oh no, you haven’t become obsessed with the praying mantis neither is it a coincidence! It could mean something else too; a divine message for you, or a wake up call to view your situations more closely. SOURCE

They are killers! They kill with unbelievable precision. They fight Kung Fu style and are seen in Japan as a symbol of vigilance – the mantises. Their triangular head with its unique flexibility is conspicuous. Two overdimensioned eyes fixate the distance to their prey rapidly and three-dimensionally. The chest segment of the mantis is prolonged and equipped with spiny appendages that can spear their prey as fast as a jack knife. The mysterious aura that surrounds the praying mantis has a lot to do with the fact that they are rarely seen. They have adapted to their surroundings perfectly. No matter whether leaves, blossoms, tree bark, sandy floors or even orchids – the mantis blends in to all environments.

Did you know?

Spiritual teacher Alyson Charles trusts that animals have a way of coming to us when we need to hear their messages the most. “It’s a guide trying to come into our lives, trying to get our attention,” she explains.

In the case of praying mantises, they can represent everything from precision to prophecy, contemplation to deliberation, as well as vision, prayer, perception, and synchronicity, Charles explains.

If they show up around you, it could be a sign you need to make wise choices and act with precision, deepen your mindfulness practice, or be more patient. This is a creature that encourages us to slow down and connect with inner wisdom and even sharpen our clairvoyant abilities.

Historically, she adds, the praying mantis actually inspired a form of kung fu martial arts. During the Northern Song period (A.D. 960–1126), a Chinese kung fu master named Wang Lang was inspired by the movements of the praying mantis after he lost a martial arts competition.

“He watched a praying mantis trying to catch a cicada and was inspired by the agile moves of the mantis. It is said he then collected praying mantises and took them back to the Shaolin Temple to observe closely, going on to create his own form of kung fu inspired by the mantises’ moves,” Charles writes in her book Animal Power: 100 Animals To Energize Your Life and Awaken Your Soul. SOURCE

Prepare to be enchanted with an in-depth and up-close view of the most loved of all invertebrates, the praying mantis! Keeping the Praying Mantis is a huge resource designed to give mantis enthusiasts every tool needed for feeding, housing, and rearing these magical (almost mythological) creatures. Details on their biology, relationship with man over the ages, behavior, and captive husbandry will give you a solid foundation for successfully keeping fascinating species from around the world. From ant mimics and unicorn mantids to Devil’s flower, orchid, and ghost mantids, there are species to entice every insect hobbyist.

Further Resources

Praying Mantis Meaning – What does it Mean to See a Praying Mantis?

Praying Mantis Symbolism: 14 Spiritual Meanings Of Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis Symbolism & Meaning

Ancient mantis-man petroglyph discovered in Iran

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Medusa: The Famous Gorgon of Greek Mythology

Greek mythology has been a fascination of mine every since I was a kid. In fact my very first book regarding any mythology was about the Greek Pantheon. One figure that always stood out for me was the story of the most famous of Gorgons which is Medusa. The tale of Medusa that most know of is nothing less than tragic and a cruel display of the power of the Greek gods and goddesses that we can see in other stories. But perhaps there is another way of see what happened to Medusa as something perhaps more benevolent. Is it possible that Medusa was not cursed but turned into a Gorgon for a form of protection and vengeance? I will explore this idea later on in this post. For now let us explore the origins, life and what is known of Medusa.

The Untold Story of Medusa by Leah M Mariani

While we all know of Medusa with her crown of snakes, less is known of how Medusa became Medusa. There are two origin stories from Greek Mythology, both leading to her well-known grisly end.

The first origin story sees Medusa originally as a stunning young woman, with beautiful ringlets of hair. So alluring is her beauty, that she has many suitors. While praying at the temple of Athena, she catches the eye of the sea god Poseidon, who rapes her (or seduces her, depending on who is telling the story) in the temple. Athena, who is so enraged at her temple being defiled, takes out her revenge on poor Medusa. It has been noted that Athena, who is the goodness of war, rarely supports women. Perhaps she is the precursor to the jealous older woman so often portrayed in the European fairy tales that were to follow. To exact her revenge, Athena takes away Medusa’s most prized feature: her beautiful hair. Again, this is reminiscent of later fairy tales, specifically Rapunzel who is punished for sleeping with a prince by having her hair removed.

Athena makes Medusa unappealing to men by turning her hair into writhing snakes. It’s a classic case of victim blaming. If that isn’t enough, Athena ensures Medusa will forever remain alone by gifting her with a gaze that turns others to stone in an instant. Here we witness the creation of the original ‘death stare’, a weapon that has since been passed onto generations of women. And while over time, the death stare as become less potent and less deadly, it is by no means less scary. I know because my mother possesses such a stare that not only stops you in your tracks but also takes your breath away.

Medusa, however, did not wish to use her powers on mortals and instead retreated to a dark cave. She could not look upon a friend, or even an animal, without killing them, and so she lived a life of solitude. However, this was not to last. Even though Medusa never wanted to harm anyone, the knowledge that she had the power to do so, meant that she could never live a quiet life. Soon enough, men came in search of her and eventually, Perseus, the son of Zeus, finds her and cuts off her head while she sleeps.

The alternate origin story sees Medusa begin life as a Gorgon monster, borne of two sea monsters, and one of three daughters. As a Gorgon monster, Medusa is terrible and fierce and is much less sympathetic than her alter-ego, once-human-form. But what this version lacks in beauty, she makes up for in companionship, because in this version Medusa lives with her two sisters. These Gorgons are described as having snakes on their heads, wings on their back and large mouths with lolling tongues. Whether the sisters were immune to Medusa death stare, (perhaps possessing the same powers themselves) or they were protected by the darkness of the cave, we do not know. We do know her sisters, Stehnno and Euryale, mourned her death. They gave chase to Perseus after he murdered Medusa, and he escaped their clutches thanks only to Athena’s help (she definitely had a thing against Medusa). Upon Perseus’ escape, the sisters release a loud, mournful howl, which is chilling to the bone. Continue reading HERE.

Central panel of a mosaic floor with the head of Medusa, 1st – 2nd century CE. National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian, Rome. SOURCE

Medusa

By Louise Bogan

I had come to the house, in a cave of trees,

Facing a sheer sky.

Everything moved,—a bell hung ready to strike,

Sun and reflection wheeled by.

When the bare eyes were before me

And the hissing hair,

Held up at a window, seen through a door.

The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead

Formed in the air.

This is a dead scene forever now.

Nothing will ever stir.

The end will never brighten it more than this,

Nor the rain blur.

The water will always fall, and will not fall,

And the tipped bell make no sound.

The grass will always be growing for hay

Deep on the ground.

And I shall stand here like a shadow

Under the great balanced day,

My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind,

And does not drift away.

Early Life of Medusa

Both Aeschylus and Hesiod mention Medusa in some of their early stories. They claim that she spent most of her life in Sarpedon, which was close to Cisthene with her Gorgon sisters and also died there. Hesiod used her in Theogony. Dionysios Skytobrachion wrote about her during the second century and claimed that she both lived and died in an area of Libya. Herodotus found some evidence that she appeared in Berber mythology where she was a major part of their religion.

Legend says that Medusa was one of three children born to Phorcys. Also known as Phorkys, he lay with his sister Ceto. The two had three daughters, including Euryale and Stheno. Though both were marine deities, their children were chthonic monsters. They also had another group of sisters called the Graeae who appeared in Prometheus Bound written by Aeschylus. He claimed that both groups of sisters were monsters. SOURCE

The Complete World of Greek Mythology by Richard Buxton A full, authoritative, and wholly engaging account of these endlessly fascinating tales and of the ancient society in which they were created.
Greek myths are among the most complex and influential stories ever told. From the first millennium BC until today, the myths have been repeated in an inexhaustible series of variations and reinterpretations. They can be found in the latest movies and television shows and in software for interactive computer games. This book combines a retelling of Greek myths with a comprehensive account of the world in which they developed―their themes, their relevance to Greek religion and society, and their relationship to the landscape.

Medusa’s Sisters and Birth

Medusa – whose name probably comes from the Ancient Greek word for “guardian” – was one of the three Gorgons, daughters of the sea gods Phorcys and Ceto, and sisters of the Graeae, Echidna, and Ladon. All of Medusa’s siblings were monsters by birth and, even though she was not, she had the misfortune of being turned into the most hideous of them all.

From then on, similarly to Euryale and Stheno, her older Gorgon sisters, Medusa was depicted with bronze hands and wings of gold. Poets claimed that she had a great boar-like tusk and tongue lolling between her fanged teeth. Writhing snakes were entwining her head in place of hair. Her face was so hideous and her gaze so piercing that the mere sight of her was sufficient to turn a man to stone. SOURCE

Descriptions of Medusa

The traditional description of Medusa and her sisters were of winged women, with large heads; large head that held large staring eyes, and the tusks of swine. Additionally, the Gorgons were also said to have had hands made of brass.

The most striking feature of Medusa and her sisters would be the hair upon their heads, for each lock was made up of a hissing snake.

Medusa was not considered the most deadly of the three Gorgons though, for this accolade was given to Sthenno, who it was said had killed more people than Medusa and Euryale combined.

The home of Medusa and her sisters was a closely guarded secret, a secret kept by the Graeae, but Hesiod suggested that the Gorgons lived upon an island close to the Island of the Hesperides at the western extremes of the known world, although later writers also claimed Medusa and hers sisters were to be found in Libya. SOURCE

Today we once again take a look at Medusa in the hope of finally creating a video that discusses all the various changes her myth has undergone over the years.

A Theory Of Her Benevolence and Different Opinion

I have discussed this theory regarding Medusa and what she symbolizes with friends and there are others out in the world who agree with this idea so allow me to explain. We all know the description of Medusa being this horrific looking scaly-skinned Gorgon with snakes for hair who turns anyone who gazes upon her into stone and that this was done by Athena for “desecrating” her temple due to her being raped by Poseidon. Athena was seen as being a very jealous and vengeful goddess when it came to human women having sexual relationships with her fellow Olympians. So as a punishment, Athena turns her into this hideous Gorgon to live out eternity both in isolation and sorrow.

But what if there is a different way to look at this? Here me out because this one may seem off to some readers. What if Athena had Medusa become a Gorgon but not as what has been interpreted through the centuries. We can see throughout history her appearances in ancient Greece and during the early part of the Roman Empire changed. So is it fair to theorize that perhaps there was actually a benevolent version for Medusa?

Medusa, said to possibly be a Priestess of the Temple of Athena, was indeed raped by Poseidon which is known. But instead of Athena pouring her vengeful rage upon this poor woman, perhaps she had a different intention. Think about the fact that Medusa later in ancient Greece and Rome we find her face on pottery, floor mosaics and other art as a symbol protection, to ward of malevolence and even a symbol of Femininity. Maybe, just maybe Athena gave Medusa this power of wielding her eyes as this vengeful weapon upon those who gazed at her with malevolent sexual desires. A message to others who may look upon women as merely an object for their deviant intentions. Perhaps Medusa kept her goddess-like beauty and the serpents upon her head are just a symbol of something greater. I personally look at Medusa as a champion for women who have suffered sexual abuse and rape. I see Medusa as this powerful goddess-like figure who is a symbol of empowerment, feminine strength and a powerful statement to any man who wishes to do that sort of harm must pay the most extreme of consequences.

Sure we can read the tales and easily look upon Medusa as this hideous, malevolent, cavern-dwelling Gorgon who only wishes to collect stone bodies in her lair of rot and rage. But I prefer seeing the benevolent version of Medusa and use her tale as a powerful one to perhaps aid in giving any woman who needs it the boost of positivity out from something so horrific.

Further Resources

The epic tragedy of Medusa, the most infamous female fiend in Greek mythology, whose look turned every living thing to stone. But what is the true story behind the myth?

The Ancient Gorgon Medusa: 9 Terrifying Facts

Medusa in Ancient Greek Art

The Curse of Medusa in Greek Mythology




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Owls: Myth, Folklore and More

Today’s animal blog post on the folklore, mythology and symbolism plus more will be covering the Owl. With approximately 250 species of Owls around the world it is expected that these predators of the night would absolutely become embedded in culture, folklore and even associated with Deities which indeed is the case. Owls to me are very fascinating both with their important roles in nature and how they have had an effect in humans. So today let us dive into the world of Owls and their significance in the myths, folklore and more.

Introduction

Owls in Mythology & Culture By Deane Lewis

Throughout history and across many cultures, people have regarded Owls with fascination and awe. Few other creatures have so many different and contradictory beliefs about them. Owls have been both feared and venerated, despised and admired, considered wise and foolish, and associated with witchcraft and medicine, the weather, birth and death. Speculation about Owls began in earliest folklore, too long ago to date, but passed down by word of mouth over generations.

In early Indian folklore, Owls represent wisdom and helpfulness, and have powers of prophecy. This theme recurs in Aesop’s fables and in Greek myths and beliefs. By the Middle Ages in Europe, the Owl had become the associate of witches and the inhabitant of dark, lonely and profane places, a foolish but feared spectre. An Owl’s appearance at night, when people are helpless and blind, linked them with the unknown, its eerie call filled people with foreboding and apprehension: a death was imminent or some evil was at hand. During the eighteenth century the zoological aspects of Owls were detailed through close observation, reducing the mystery surrounding these birds. With superstitions dying out in the twentieth century – in the West at least – the Owl has returned to its position as a symbol of wisdom. Continue reading HERE.

OWL MYTHS AND LEGENDS by Shani Freidman

Owls and humans are connected from the dawn of history. The nighttime activity, large eyes, acute vision, and “wisdom” of owls were known by the ancients. Dating from a Sumerian tablet (2300 to 2000 BC), Lilith, the goddess of death, has talons for feet, wears a headdress of horns, and is flanked by owls. She is probably the inspiration for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and warfare. The rock crevices of Athens and the Acropolis were filled with small owls, believed to be the embodiment of Athena. When the Athenians won the battle of Marathon from the Persians in 490 BC, the warrior goddess Athena assumed the shape of an owl and led them from above.

The Romans, who appropriated many of the Greek beliefs, associated owls with Minerva, the goddess of prophesy and wisdom. Minerva’s role was similar to Athena’s. The prophetic qualities of owls were known. Virgil writes that the hoot of an owl foretold the death of Dido. Pliny reports great confusion and fear in the Forum when an owl entered. Horace associates owls with witchcraft. Romans used representations of owls to combat the evil eye. Owl feathers and internal organs were found in magical potions and pharmaceutical remedies. For example, the ashes of an owl’s feet were an antidote to snakebite, and an owl’s heart placed on the breast of a sleeping woman forced her to tell all her secrets. Continue reading HERE.

Silver tetradrachm coin at the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon depicting the owl of Athena (circa 480–420 BC). The inscription “ΑΘΕ” is an abbreviation of ΑΘΗΝΑΙΩΝ, which may be translated as “of the Athenians”. In daily use the Athenian drachmas were called glaukes (γλαῦκες, owls). This silver coin was first issued in 479 BC in Athens after the Persians were defeated by the Greeks.

6 Myths and Superstitions About Owls

  1. Owls are famous for their exceptional eyesight and it was thought that you could gain better eyesight by ingesting parts of them. In England, the method was to cook owl eggs until they were ash, then incorporate them into a potion. Folklore from India had a more direct method: just eat owl eyes.
  2. Owls are a sign of death in many cultures, including some Native American tribes. For instance, dreaming of an owl signified approaching death for Apache people. Boreal owl calls were a call from spirits to the Cree people, and if you answered back to the owl with a whistle and didn’t get a response, it was a sign that your death was imminent. On the other hand, Dakota Hidatsa people believed that burrowing owls acted as protective spirits for warriors.
  3. For some cultures, the owl was sacred. Among Australian Aborigines, owls are the spirits of women and so are sacred. The Kwakiutl people also thought owls were the souls of people and shouldn’t be harmed because, if the owl was killed, the person whose soul the owl carried would also die. In fact, many different cultures believed that a person became an owl after death.
  4. Owls are often viewed as a symbol of wisdom. The “wise old owl” character comes from an old English nursery rhyme, which suggests that listening more than talking is a valuable character trait that we would all benefit from developing. As such, the owl has become a sign of learning and mental change. Many people believe that seeing an owl is a profoundly good thing, as it indicates the start of a new phase in life.
  5. Owls are, of course, associated with witchcraft—particularly white ones, which are the most elusive. Greeks and Romans believed witches could turn themselves into owls, and in this form would come to suck the blood of babies. In other cultures, owls were simply the messengers of witches, or hooted to warn of the approach of a witch. Unfortunately this led to many owls being hunted and killed in the Middle Ages.
  6. Though the owl’s nocturnal activity was at the root of many superstitions, the amazing ability of an owl to rotate its neck to extraordinary degrees was even turned into a myth. In England it was believed that if you walked around a tree that an owl was perched in, it would follow you with its eyes, around and around until it wrung its own neck. SOURCE

“You don’t need anything but hope. The kind of hope that flies on silent wings under a shining owl moon.”

-Jane Yolen
Perhaps no other creature has so compelling a gaze as the owl. Its unblinking stare mesmerizes; its nocturnal lifestyle suggests secrets and mystery. This lavishly illustrated book celebrates owls from every corner of the world and offers abundant details on fifty-three of the most striking and interesting species, from the tiny Elf Owl of southwestern American deserts to the formidable Blakiston’s Fish Owl, the largest of all owls.
 Mike Unwin has long studied and admired these remarkable birds from cold northern forests to tropical rivers and beyond. He explains how owls evolved into the supreme feathered predators of the night, and he examines their breeding and hunting behaviors, unusual calls, and the cultural myths and superstitions that surround different species. More than two hundred dramatic color photographs in the wild, taken or selected by David Tipling, capture the wondrous beauty of each owl and the drama of life in its own home region. 

The Owl as a Spirit Guide

When you seek out Owl, it is a way of reaching your Higher Self and truly seeing things from a spiritual perspective; This refreshing vantage point allows you to open doorways into other realms and connect with the Devas, Ancestors, Angels, and the Divine.

Owl has a strong connection with the element of air. Travel with Owl Spirit to the heavens and soar through the halls of the Akashic records. Owl will show you things that might otherwise remain hidden to you, so be open to seeing things in a whole new way.

You cannot deceive Owl, which is why this Spirit Animal reminds us to remain true to ourselves, our voice, and our vision. Owl does not tolerate illusion or secrets. If there are skeletons in the closet, you can trust that Owl will find them and start house cleaning.

It is no surprise that the Goddess Athena held Owls as sacred. Athena is beyond doubt, one of the most complex Deities in history, and Her attributes included wisdom and strategy – so Owl Spirit became the perfect companion. In Greek tradition, Owl was also a protector. It was believed that an Owl flying over a soldier or army portended victory because Owl would remain watchful.

As a creature of the night, the Celts and Egyptians regarded Owl as a gatekeeper to other realms, particularly the souls of the dead. In some stories, this bird actually accompanies a soul, so it doesn’t get lost on its journey.

In Native American tradition, Owl represents sacred knowledge (you’ll get to know me, I live for puns). When you begin studying the mysteries, this Spirit Animal Guide is an amazing helpmate and mentor.

Overall, Owl is a symbol of being able to navigate any darkness in our life; this Spirit brings clarity, prophetic inklings, and a strong connection with the mystical world. SOURCE

“Owls are known as lonely birds, but it is not known that they have the forest as their best friend!”

– Mehmet Murat Ildan
This petroglyph, the ‘Spedis Owl‘ was salvaged from along the Columbia River just before The Dalles Dam flooded the area in 1956. This carving is on display at Horsethief Lake State Park, Washington. Photo © Ralph Turner.

Symbolism

Perception, Silent Observation, Wisdom, Deception

The Owl has a dual symbolism of wisdom and darkness, the latter meaning evil and death. They are symbolically associated with clairvoyance, astral projection and magick, and is oftentimes the medicine of sorcerers and witches, you are drawn to magickal practices. Those who have owl medicine will find that these night birds will tend to collect around you, even in daytime, because they recognise a kinship with you.

The two main symbolic characteristics of the Owl, its wisdom and its nocturnal activity– have made it represent perception. Considering perception in a spiritual context, Owl medicine is related to psychism, occult matters, instincts, and clairvoyance– the true ability to see what is happening around you.

The owl can see that which others cannot, which is the essence of true wisdom. Where others are deceived, Owl sees and knows what is there.

Use your power of keen, silent observation to intuit some life situation, Owl is befriending you and aiding you in seeing the whole truth. The Owl also brings its messages in the night through dreams or meditation. Pay attention to the signals and omens. The truth always brings further enlightenment.

The Owl, symbol of the Goddess, represents perfect wisdom. Owls have the ability to see in the dark and fly noiselessly through the skies. They bring messages through dreams. The Owl is the bird of mystical wisdom and ancient knowledge of the powers of the moon. With wide-open, all-seeing eyes, Owl looks upon reality without distortion and acknowledges it, yet is aware that with ancient magickal and spiritual knowledge, he or she can make changes. SOURCE

This video will discuss about 20 mysterious facts about Owls. As recognized as owls may be, most people don’t actually know a whole ton about them. But the truth is, these birds are incredibly complex creatures with a catalogue of surprising facts.

What Sees the Owl by Elizabeth Sears Bates

His velvet wing sweeps through the night:
With magic of his wondrous sight
He oversees his vast domain,
And king supreme of night doth reign.

Around him lies a silent world,
The day with all its noise is furled;
When every shadow seems a moon,
And every light a sun at noon.

How welcome from the blinding glare
Is the cool grayness of the air!
How sweet the power to reign, a king,
When day his banishment will bring!

For him the colorless moonlight
Burns brilliant, an aurora bright;
The forest’s deepest gloom stands clear
From mystery and helpless fear.

He sees the silver cobwebs spun,
The dewdrops set the flowers have won,
The firefly’s gleam offends his sight,
It seems a spark of fierce sunlight.

Clear winter nights when he so bold,
“For all his feathers, is a-cold,”
Sees the Frost-spirit fling his lace,
And fashion icicles apace.

At his weird call afar and faint
A sleepy echo, like the quaint
Last notes of some wild chant, replies
And mocks his solitude—and dies.

Owls of the World, second edition, is the ultimate photographic resource dedicated to the identification of these charismatic birds of prey. It is packed with spectacular photography of 268 species of owls from all over the world, including extinct species. Many of the images are of highly elusive species very rarely caught on camera.
The vast majority of the roughly 200 species of owls are so-called true owls which possess large heads with round faces short tails and muted feathers with mottled patterns. The remainder accounting for a little over a dozen species are barn owls which can be distinguished by their heart-shaped faces long legs equipped with powerful talons and moderate size. With the exception of the common barn owl—which has a worldwide distribution—the most familiar owls at least to residents of North America and Eurasia are the true owls.
Evolution has an efficient way of relegating animals to particular niches: because other carnivorous birds (like hawks and eagles) hunt during the day most owls have adapted to hunting at night. The dark coloration of owls makes them nearly invisible to their prey—which consists of insects small mammals and other birds—and their wings are structured so as to beat in almost complete silence. These adaptations combined with their enormous eyes makes owls some of the most efficient night hunters on the planet wolves and coyotes not excluded.
One of the most remarkable things about owls is the way they move their entire heads when looking at something rather than simply moving their eyes in their sockets like most other vertebrate animals. The reason for this is that owls need large forward-facing eyes to gather in scarce light during their nocturnal hunts and evolution couldn’t spare the musculature to allow these eyes to rotate. Instead owls have astonishingly flexible necks that allow them to turn their heads three-quarters of a circle or 270 degrees—compared to about 90 degrees for the average human being!

Further Resources

Owls Mythology & Folklore

Owl Names in Mythology – Nocturnal Birds Of Prey In The Mystic Realms

World Owl Mythology

Native American Owl Mythology

Owl Folklore

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Hag Stones: History, Meaning and use in Magick

Hag stones are something I have been fascinated with for a very long time and enjoy collecting them from all over this country and around the world. Hag stones have been a part of magical practices and folklore for thousands of years and still to this day. They have a variety of other names such as Fairy Stones, Odin Stones, Holey Stones, Witch Stones, Adder Stones, Snake Eggs, Hex Stones, Holeys, and Eye Stones. From viewing into the spirit realm to warding off evil spirits at sea, Hag stones have many uses which will be explained in this blog. Hag stones are most commonly found on beaches along the coast but also can be found on lake shores and even in river beds. So with that all said let us get into the fascinating world of these amazing stones.

Origin of the Term Hag Stone

The name “hag stone” originates in part from ancient beliefs that most maladies, which were curable by using this stone, were caused originally by spectral hags. Other areas call them adder stones because they are believed to protect the wearer from the effects of snake bite. Germanic legend says that adder stones are formed when serpents gather together and use their venom to create the holes in the center of the stones. Hag stones are said to have many uses. They have been used by witches worldwide for centuries in both rituals and spell work. They also have been used, ironically, as a toll to counteract a witch’s magick. Legend has it that they can be used to ward off the dead, curses, sickness and nightmares.

They are used to see invisible creatures of the land of the Fae and open up a window to other realms. They are used as protection against spells, warding, and healing. The spell for fertility magic had a hag stone tied to the bedpost to help facilitate pregnancy. There are stories of very large hag stones; large enough for someone to walk through. These are used by couples trying to achieve pregnancy by walking through it together or holding hands.

Livestock owners would use the stones to protect their animals from bewitchment or being ridden to the Sabbath by witches. A stone would be suspended by a cord in the center of each stable to protect the horses and other live stock. Else a cow would give sour milk and hens refused to lay and eggs. Fisherman and sailors would often find them on beaches during their travels. They would tie them to their boats to keep off evil spirits and witches from affecting their ships and their catch. It was believed that evil spirits and witches would curse ships to have small catches, but a hag stone would prevent this from happening. A few stories speak of them being able to control the winds on the high seas; or more formerly, they could control the weather. Continue reading HERE.

A few uses of Hag Stones

  • Hang it above your front door or over a window to keep evil spirits out. 
  • If you’re a sailor, tie one with rope to your ship to prevent witches clinging to your vessel, and to swing in the wind to help break up storm clouds. 
  • Wear it around your neck on a string to ensure good health and to heal any minor ills. 
  • Nail one above the door of your barn to stop witches souring your herd’s milk or taking your horses for a gallop in the night. 
  • Attach a hag stone to your bedpost to keep bad dreams away. 
  • Tie one to your keys so they will never be lost again. 
  • Use them to help you conceive a baby. (We’re not quite clear on exactly how this is done. Perhaps just have one about your person…)
  • Enter Fairyland through it (apparently the hole is a portal). Again, we’re unsure about how to do this, but it can’t hurt to just have a peer at Fairyland through the hole. 

*Only ever take one at a time though, and only for yourself. The stones are said to find you; you don’t find the stones. And they only work for the person they found. SOURCE

Some of the hag Stones in my personal collection from the Oregon coast, Florida coast and Lake Michigan.

How to Use Hag Stones for Magick

Despite their general state being to banish faeries, if you wish to attract some, you can pour morning dew through a Hag Stone hole and anoint yourself with it. 

Other rituals that can be practiced with these objects, include a fertility ritual, a ritual for increased mental balance and safety while seafaring. 

For the fertility ritual, you must find a Hag Stone that is big enough to walk or crawl through, while most Hag Stones are pebble sized there are a few that are more of a boulder. You must then link hands with your partner then go through together. If all goes well you will be blessed with a baby.

For the ritual of mental healing and balance, tie a Hag Stone to your bedpost or headboard. The next time you take a nap you will be graced with calmness, enhanced mood and other benefits that resemble meditation.

For the final ritual you must nail a Hag Stone to the side of your sea-craft, make sure to secure it very tightly in order to make sure it does not fall into the watery depths of the ocean. After you have done this folklore states that storms and rough tides will be dissuaded from coming your way as will all manner of malevolent sea spirits.

While at sea, Hag Stones could also be utilized for breaking up storms, this also applies on land. In order to do this simply tie a string or rope through the Hag Stone and swirl it around your head, this will dispel the gathering storms. SOURCE

In this video, I talk about the meaning, magick, and folklore of these wonderful stones and how to use them.

Further Resources

This History of Hagstones║Use them in your Witchcraft

Hag Stones and Lucky Charms

Hag Stones and Fairy Stones

Hag Stone Meaning and Magic – Everything You Need To Know

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Romulus & Remus and the She-Wolf of Rome

The history of the ancient Roman Empire has been a fascination of mine for decades and I have always enjoyed anything and all things from that amazing time period from its fruition to the fall of the Roman empire and into the time of the Byzantine Empire. The humble beginnings of Rome far before it became an empire has a really interesting story regarding two orphaned brothers and a She-Wolf simply known as La Lupa and the First lady of Rome. From this it has been always recognized that Rome was founded on April 21, 753 BCE. So today’s blog post will be covering all about Romulus, Remus and the famous She-Wolf of Rome.

La Lupa the She-Wolf

According to tradition, Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by the twins Romulus and Remus. Sons of the god Mars and a mortal woman named Rhea Silvia, a direct descendant of Aeneas, the twins were abandoned by their uncle in the Tibur river. A she-wolf discovered them on the banks of the river and suckled them until they were taken in by a passing sheperd, Faustulus. Faustulus raised the boys together with his own twelve children until they decided to found a city of their own. They chose the spot by the Tibur where they had been rescued by the wolf, which was near the base of the Palatine hill in Rome. The representation of the wolf suckling the twins became a popular subject in Roman Republican and Imperial art. SOURCE

Cristina Mazzoni, She-wolf: The Story of a Roman Icon. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010

“Lupus est homo homini.” Plautus Asinaria 495

This famous quotation, through its various translations, perfectly encapsulates the themes explored in Cristina Mazzoni’s new book. Man is a wolf to other men—as Plautus undoubtedly meant it——but a wolf can also be interpreted as a human being in particular circumstances. In both Italian and Latin the word lupa can describe a she-wolf or a prostitute, either a ferocious animal or a female human of voracious sexual appetites. This paradox has informed interpretations of the legend of Romulus and Remus since antiquity, where the she-wolf figures as animal, mother, and whore simultaneously, and the complexity and ambiguity of this formative being have given her long life as a symbol representing a myriad of concepts, individuals, and entities. Mazzoni sets herself the ambitious task of exploring the she-wolf in all her forms and interpretations, from the famous Lupa Capitolina to her appearance in modern art, archaeology, poetry, and literature. Continue reading HERE.

Symbolism of the She-Wolf

The she-wolf of Rome represents the following concepts:

  • The she-wolf represents Roman power, which made her a popular image throughout the Roman Republic and Empire. The connection between the Roman state and the she-wolf was such that there were at least two dedications to the she-wolf performed by priests.
  • Wolves, especially she-wolves, are a sacred animal of the Roman god Mars. It is believed that they acted as divine messengers, thus seeing a wolf was a good omen.
  • The she-wolf is associated with the Roman Empire’s wolf festival Lupercalia, which is a fertility festival that starts at the estimated spot where the she-wolf nursed the twin boys.
  • The she-wolf also comes across as a mother-figure, representing nourishment, protection and fertility. By extension, she becomes a mother-figure to the city of Rome, as she lies at the very heart of its establishment. SOURCE
Mosaic depicting the She-wolf with Romulus and Remus, inspired by the legend of the founding of Rome. From Aldborough (UK), about 300-400 CE (Leeds City Museum).

Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus were the direct descendants of Aeneas, whose fate-driven adventures to discover Italy are described by Virgil in The Aeneid. Romulus and Remus were related to Aeneas through their mother’s father, Numitor. Numitor was a king of Alba Longa, an ancient city of Latium in central Italy, and father to Rhea Silvia. Before Romulus’ and Remus’ conception, Numitor’s reign was usurped by Numitor’s younger brother, Amulius. Amulius inherited control over Alba Longa’s treasury with which he was able to dethrone Numitor and become king. Amulius, wishing to avoid any conflict of power, killed Numitor’s male heirs and forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin. Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, patron goddess of the hearth; they were charged with keeping a sacred fire that was never to be extinguished and to take vows of chastity.

There is much debate and variation as to whom was the father of Romulus and Remus. Some myths claim that Mars appeared and lay with Rhea Silvia; other myths attest that the demi-god hero Hercules was her partner. However, the author Livy claims that Rhea Silvia was in fact raped by an unknown man, but blamed her pregnancy on divine conception. In either case, Rhea Silvia was discovered to be pregnant and gave birth to her sons. It was custom that any Vestal Virgin betraying her vows of celibacy was condemned to death; the most common death sentence was to be buried alive. However, King Amulius, fearing the wrath of the paternal god (Mars or Hercules) did not wish to directly stain his hands with the mother’s and children’s blood. So, King Amulius imprisoned Rhea Silvia and ordered the twins’ death by means of live burial, exposure, or being thrown into the Tiber River. He reasoned that if the twins were to die not by the sword but by the elements, he and his city would be saved from punishment by the gods. He ordered a servant to carry out the death sentence, but in every scenario of this myth, the servant takes pity on the twins and spares their lives. The servant, then, places the twins into a basket onto the River Tiber, and the river carries the boys to safety. Continue reading HERE.

The 21st April 753 BC is traditionally the date of the founding of Rome by twin brothers Romulus and Remus. (Romulus would later murder Remus.) Legend has it that they were abandoned as babies by their parents and put into a basket and then placed into the River Tiber. The basket was discovered by a female wolf who nursed the babies for a short time before they were found by a shepherd. It was the shepherd who brought up the twins.
According to legend, Romulus was born to a Vestal Virgin and left for dead as an infant near the Tiber River. His life nearly ended as quickly as it began, but fate had other plans. A humble shepherd rescued the child and helped raise him into manhood. As Romulus grew older, he fearlessly engaged in a series of perilous adventures that ultimately culminated in Rome’s founding, and he became its fabled first king.

Establishing a new city had its price, and Romulus was forced to defend the nascent community. As he tirelessly safeguarded Rome, Romulus proved that he was a competent leader and talented general. Yet, he also harbored a dark side, which reared its head in many ways and tainted his legacy, but despite all of his misdeeds, redemption and subsequent triumphs were usually within his grasp. Indeed, he is an example of how greatness is sometimes born of disgrace.

Regardless of his foreboding flaws, Rome allegedly existed because of him and became massively successful. As the centuries passed, the Romans never forgot their celebrated founder.
The founding of Rome is a legendary tale about the twins and demigods, Romulus and Remus. In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus were the sons of Rhea Silvia and either the god Mars or the demigod Hercules. Also, in order to synthesize the myth of Aeneas, a Trojan prince who had fought in the Trojan War before setting off to Italy to establish the Roman bloodline, Romulus and Remus were believed to be direct descendants of Aeneas.
During Rome’s 2767th birthday celebrations, Larry Lamb heads to the city to investigate the Romanian Empire. In this first episode, Larry learns how Rome was founded by exploring the story of Romulus and Remus, using the works of ancient Roman historian Livy as a guide. He also goes on to discover how Rome would later become a city.

Further Resources

The legend of Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus: Roman mythology

Capitoline She-wolf

The She-Wolf: Mother to Other Species

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Baba Yaga: The Famous Witch of Slavic Folklore

The Baba Yaga is the most famous Witch of Slavic folklore and in my opinion gets misinterpreted by many who know so little about who she is and what she symbolizes. The Baba Yaga is actually quite complex and even though most consider her a malevolent and evil Witch of the woods there are others like myself who believe there is a more benevolent side of her and this can be accounted in far older Pagan practices from the Slavic regions of Eastern Europe. Most of what we find describing her as this hideous old child eating hag only dates back to the 18th century but her origins are actually far older. In fact there are some sources that believe there are multiple Baba Yaga’s found throughout Eastern Europe but even beyond that there are folklore tales of other Baba Yaga like Witches in other parts of Europe and even the Middle East. I personally am fascinated with Slavic folklore seeing how I have ancestry from that region and have done some spiritual work with the Baba Yaga so I felt this was an important subject to bring to my readers.

Introduction

Baba Yaga is a powerful and terrifying witch depicted in Slavic folklore. She lives in a small hut, located deep in the forest. Her property is surrounded by a massive fence, decorated with human bones as if they were ornamental wind chimes. Often, her hut is described as being set upon chicken legs, an unsettling image any way it is illustrated. Her primary mode of transportation is a mortar and pestle set. She sits within the bowl of the mortar and uses the pestle like an oar to move through the sky. This shows attention to the practice of alchemy or herbal work, which is an integral part of witchcraft. It is said she appears as a long, skeletal figure with an enormous hooked nose which reaches the ceiling of her hut when she rests. Her legacy is as erratic as she is, as she is often said to be the guardian of her dark and wild land, a matriarch, and a wise teacher, but also a fickle and treacherous eater of men. The earliest recognizable mention of her is found in a Russian text written by Mikhail V. Lomonosov in which he presents a series of tales from Slavic tradition. Most surviving stories involving Baba Yaga don’t revolve around her, but around heroes or villains who come in contact with her. SOURCE

Etymology of Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga has been associated with ancient mythological characters (she’s like the Boogeyman in Russian mythology). In the Slavic languages, the word “baba” means “old woman” or “grandma” although this word was sometimes used as a term that would describe female demons or specific ailments like measles (also called “baba Sharka”).

In addition, the word “baba” was also used for some astronomical phenomena or concepts of time and seasons, such as “baba Gale” which described the moon, or “baba Marta” which was the other name of the month March. The origins of the word “yaga” are quite unclear although some experts suggest that the word means “evil” or “horror”.

The variation of the full name “Baba Yaga” can be found in the languages of the Eastern Slavs. As a reference to the Russian folklore, the word “baba” in Old Russian means “midwife”, “fortune teller” or “sorceress”. The modern Russian, on the other hand, defines the word “babushka” as “grandmother” or simply “old woman”.

In Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian, “baba” means “grandma”, however, in many modern Slavic languages, the word “baba” is a pejorative synonym of the word “woman” (suggesting a foolish woman). The great number of associations related to the origin of the character of Baba Yaga created many theories that, nonetheless, support the main assumption that “baba” means “old woman” or “grandmother”. Moreover, “baba” was maybe added to distinguish the Baba Yaga from her possible male counterpart in the myth. As it was mentioned before, the second element of the name “Yaga” has a rather problematic etymology. Scholars have never made an adamant consensus over its meaning. “Yaga” appears in various Slavic languages. SOURCE credit Meet the Slavs

Origins of Baba Yaga

Many folklorists study Baba Yaga and argue over where she came from. This character appeared many centuries ago and tracking her true roots is a challenge. I’ve read many different versions, one that stood out to me is the ancient traditions of Finno-Ugric people.


It’s is believed that those people had a tradition that goes back to the paganism era when there were many ethnic religions. There was a group that believed in a ritual that was supposed to help them stay connected with their passed relatives. The ritual involved creating a doll (or baba – which means a women) out of sticks and dressing it in a fur coat called yaga. They would build her a “house” mostly out of wood. Since this house was only a symbolism and didn’t carry any functional purpose – it didn’t have any windows or doors. They also liked to raise it above the ground on sticks so that the animals would not get inside of it. SOURCE

It is said that Baba Yaga resides within a house that sits atop giant Chicken legs deep in thew forest and can move around to different locations.

My hands are tree roots,

My breath is the wind

I hide in your shadow till dusk comes again

Always seen, rarely heard and

Never quite understood

I’m the last person you come to when no one else listens

Seek me out by the light of the pink moon-

Whisper to me what you tell no one

I’m only remembered as

An ugly obscurity who keeps your secrets

An enigmatic monsoon-

Neither winter nor spring,

Death nor the moon.

Baba Yaga by L SOURCE

Is the Baba Yaga a Benevolent Witch?

There are some lesser known stories of the Baba Yaga actually being more benevolent depending on how you approach her and other stories where she is more of a neutral Witch and reacts depending on the situation to in a way maintain some sort of magical balance.

One of the most interesting details of Baba Yaga is that she is described as being neither malevolent nor “good.” Many folktales throughout the centuries differentiate between witches as being either good or evil, but stories of Baba Yaga illuminate that the true nature of a witch is more ambiguous, or even unpredictable. This Slavic crone is often helpful, willing to impart her wisdom unto those who seek it, but she is also a formidable enemy, should one incur her ire. Many times, she has been credited with the success or the downfall of heroes in Slavic lore. SOURCE

Discover ancient and modern Slavic magical practices through stories told by the legendary Baba Yaga herself. Learn about the magic of the sun, moon, and stars, as well as the magic of weather, animals, seasons, stones, food, beeswax, and more. Each chapter includes a piece of the fairy tale of Vasylyna, comments from Baba Yaga, and hands-on tips and techniques from author Madame Pamita.

Similar Baba Yaga’s

Babaroga (not to be mistaken with Baba Yaga!) is creature known among Southern Slavs. She is represented as very ugly, hunchbacked old woman with horn on head, who live in dark caves. According to folktales, Babaroga likes to steal naughty children and to bring them to her lair.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Macedonia, the Bogeyman is called Babarogababa meaning old woman and rogovi meaning horns, literally meaning old woman with horns. The details vary from one household to another. In one version, babaroga takes children, puts them in a sack, and then, when it comes to its cave, eats them. In another version, it takes children and pulls them up through tiny holes in the ceiling. 

Iraq’s ancient folklore has the saalua, a half-witch half-demon ghoul that “is used by parents to scare naughty children”. She is briefly mentioned in a tale of the 1001 Nights, and is known in some other Persian Gulf countries as well.

Black Annis was a hag with a blue face and iron claws who lived in a cave in the Dane Hills of Leicestershire. She ventured forth at night in search of children to devour. Grindylow, Jenny Greenteeth and Nelly Longarms were grotesque hags who lived in ponds and rivers and dragged children beneath the water if they got too close. SOURCE

Baba Yaga is an ambiguous and fascinating figure. She appears in traditional Russian folktales as a monstrous and hungry cannibal, or as a canny inquisitor of the adolescent hero or heroine of the tale. In new translations and with an introduction by Sibelan Forrester, Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairy Tales is a selection of tales that draws from the famous collection of Aleksandr Afanas’ev, but also includes some tales from the lesser-known nineteenth-century collection of Ivan Khudiakov. This new collection includes beloved classics such as “Vasilisa the Beautiful” and “The Frog Princess,” as well as a version of the tale that is the basis for the ballet “The Firebird.”
Today we go back and re-examine the tale of Baba Yaga, the Slavic wild witch of the woods.

Further Resources

Baba Yaga, Folk Tales From the Russian, by Verra Xenophontovna Kalamatiano de Blumenthal, [1903], at sacred-texts.com

Baba Yaga: Russian Folktales’ Classic Witch

Hedgespoken – Baba Yaga

On today’s episode, Charles and Crofty cross the thrice-nine lands to delve into the lore of one of Slavic mythology’s most enigmatic figures, and discover that her roots run far deeper than the wicked witch of popular culture.
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Dragonflies: Folklore, Spiritual Meaning and More

Long before Humans walked on this planet and even before Dinosaurs existed there were winged hunters gliding across primordial ponds and through wind blown grassy fields looking for their prey. They come in a variety of shapes and colors from glowing blue to looking like red dragons to even having the appearance of a stained glass mosaic. For about 300 million years Dragonflies have been an apex predator of the insect world and it is not a surprise that during ancient human civilization to present time the Dragonfly has melded into folklore, mythology and deep spirituality.

I personally have always enjoyed watching them fly around and even hearing other’s stories regarding them and even more spiritual experiences regarding Dragonflies. So this inspired me to put together this blog post for my readers to enjoy.

The Dragonfly in Folklore: Good Luck Symbol and Weigher of Souls

by Icy Sedgwick

Seeing swarms of dragonflies mean rain is on the way.

In some cultures, dragonflies represent good luck or prosperity. So make a wish when you see a dragonfly and it’ll come true.

Fishermen used them as an indicator of good fishing grounds. Plenty of dragonflies meant there were plenty of fish around. If a dragonfly hovered near the fisherman, he took it as a good luck sign. In various spiritual pathways, the dragonfly acts as a messenger between the worlds. They teach those who see them to ‘go with the flow’. But seeing one in your dreams is a warning.

If a dragonfly lands on you, you’ll hear good news from someone you care about. Seeing a dead dragonfly means you’ll hear sad news. And catching a dragonfly meant you’d marry within a year.

In Japan, dragonflies bring good fortune. The dragonfly often appears in haiku poetry, representing strength and happiness. The red dragonfly is thought of as sacred. One name for Japan is ‘the Island of the Dragonfly’. That’s partly because its curved shape is believed to resemble a dragonfly at rest.

One of the reasons dragonflies are so beloved in Japan is due to a legend about the 21st emperor, Yuryaka Tenvo. While out hunting, an insect bit his arm. Some legends say it was a horsefly, others say it was a mosquito. Either way, a dragonfly appeared and ate the insect, rescuing the emperor from further harm. Continue reading HERE.

Image by FerenghiFoto [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via Flickr

Dragonfly

Dragonfly with wings of Blue, what makes me wonder just like you
You hover over a yellow flower, mesmerized by her power
I see myself attracted to, the colours of life, just like you
Something bright will pull me in, to take my light deep deep within
Oh dragonfly Oh dragonfly lets savour life, just you and I

© johnnydod 2010

Folklore & Nature: Dragonflies

by Keller Brenner

Devil’s Darning Needle, Snake Doctor, Devil’s Horse, Horse Stinger, Mosquito Hawk, Adderbolt, Ear Cutter, Water Witch, Hobgoblin Fly — dragonflies have had many names owing to the folklore and superstitions surrounding these colorful insects.

The ‘snake doctor’ name for dragonflies comes from Pennsylvania and the belief that they acted as guards of the serpents found there, warning them of any danger. Some believed that the dragonflies could even revive a dead snake, bringing it back to life. Killing the servants of the snake was inadvisable lest the serpent retaliate.

On the Isle of Wight, residents believed the dragonflies possessed a painful sting and legend had it that the dragonflies could tell if a child was good or bad. When good children went fishing, dragonflies would hover over the water’s edge where the fish were, but when bad children went near the water, the dragonflies would instead sting them.

Dragonflies possess no stingers, the appendages on their tails are only for mating and they have no venom. The shape of the dragonfly’s body has led to another of their names, ‘devil’s darning needle’.

In several areas of the United States the dragonfly was thought to sew shut the mouths, eyes or even ears of misbehaving children or profane men. Others believed that dragonflies would sew fingers or toes together if they were exposed while sleeping. In parts of Europe, including Sweden, dragonflies could tell if children were lying, and would stitch their their eyes or mouths closed as punishment. Today, the Aeshnidae family of dragonflies is still called darners in North America. Continue reading HERE.

Dragonflies and damselflies are often called birdwatchers’ insects. Large, brightly colored, active in the daytime, and displaying complex and interesting behaviors, they have existed since the days of the dinosaurs, and they continue to flourish. Their ancestors were the biggest insects ever, and they still impress us with their size, the largest bigger than a small hummingbird. There are more than 6,000 odonate species known at present, and you need only visit any wetland on a warm summer day to be enthralled by their stunning colors and fascinating behavior. In this lavishly illustrated natural history, leading dragonfly expert Dennis Paulson offers a comprehensive, accessible, and appealing introduction to the world’s dragonflies and damselflies.

In most cultures dragonflies have been objects of superstition. European folklore is no exception. Many old myths have been lost during the history, but fragments of these old myths are still living in old local names for dragonflies. Only in Germany dragonflies have had over 150 different names. Some of these are Teufelsnadel (“Devil’s needle”), Wasserhexe (“Water witch”), Hollenross (“Goddess’ horse”), Teufelspferd (“Devil’s horse”) and Schlangentöter (“Snake killer”). Also the name Snake Doctor has been used in Germany. In England the name Devil’s darning needle and Horse stinger have been used. In Denmark the dragonfly have got 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 Caballito del Diablo (“Devil’s horse”) and the French l’aiguille du diable (“Devil’s needle”).

The Swedish name for dragonfly is trollslända, which means “hobgoblin fly” in English. Long time ago people in Sweden believed that hobgoblins, elves, brownies and such creatures lived in our great woods. In that folklore the dragonflies was considered to be the hobgoblins twisting tools. During the history the dragonflies even have been connected with love and female, the names damselfly (England), Demoiselle (France) and Jungfer (Germany) are some examples of those nice associations. An old Swedish name for dragonfly is Blindsticka (“Blind stinger”), this name comes from the opinion that a dragonfly could pick out your eyes. Other people thought that the dragonfly could sew together your eyelids. The same name appears as well in Norway (“Öyenstikker”) as in Germany (“Augenstecher”).

In certain parts of Norway, the dragonfly is also known as “ørsnildra”. The exact meaning of this word is unknown to me but the part “ør”, does obviously 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!

An other 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 that the Devil used the dragonfly to weight the people’s souls. When a dragonfly flew around your head, your soul was weighted and you should expect seriously injury as punishment. It is very interesting that, despite of those ideas that the dragonfly should be the Devil’s tool, the dragonfly have been a holy animal in Scandinavia. In the Æsir cult the dragonfly was thought to be the love goddess Freya’s symbol.

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, which wings, with some imagination, looks quite like the pages of an open book. The name Odonata was created by Fabricius in 1793 as name for the whole dragonfly order, means “toothed”. In some countries, e.g. Indonesia, many African and South American countries both the adult and larva dragonflies are caught to be eaten fried or in soup. In China and Japan the dragonflies has been treated as holy animals, and believed to have medical qualities. Even today the dragonfly Sympetrum frequens is used as fever reducing drug. SOURCE

They hover over ponds and pools and inhabit the banks of rivers and streams. With their dazzling metallic colours and unique ways of flying they are truly jewels of the air. This film presents dragonflies as they have never been seen before. Fascinating close up shots take us into the world of these insects, which have lived on earth since the age of the dinosaurs. Spectacular super slow motion shots and elaborate computer animation uncover, for the first time, how dragonflies capture their prey at lightning speed while flying and how they mate in the air. Underwater photography reveals the development of the predatory dragonfly larvae while time lapse sequences show the emergence of the fully grown insect. However these amazingly colourful flying acrobats are in danger. The dragonfly’s preferred habitat in and around water is rapidly diminishing, which, in Europe alone, has pushed around 80 species to the brink of extinction.

Further Resources

Worldwide Dragonfly Association

Dragonfly Symbolism & Meaning

Native American Dragonfly Mythology

Dragonfly Folklore and Mythology

Dragonfly Symbolism in Europe

Scary Myths About Dragonflies

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Herbs for the Modern Heathen

Herbs for the Modern Heathen by The Herb Witch

Be sure to check out more from The Herb Witch HERE.

Many of us, do not live in the place that our ancestors lived. I was born in England but moved to Canada
as a child. As a Heathen, I use herbs daily in my daily practice as well as in my sacred spaces and it has
been quite the journey researching the type of herbs and plants that my ancestor would have used. This
is my experience, and I am not going to tell you how to Heathen. I will chat a little bit about how I use
herbs to connect with my ancestors, the gods, the land spirits and wights.

Offering Fire

I often have Offering fires in which I offer food to my ancestors, a drop of ale poured on the ground and certain herbs to burn in the fire as an offering. In my personal ritual I use the herbs that were common and abundant in the time of my ancestors. The herbs I offer are usually wormwood, mugwort, lemon balm, peppermint, clary sage, rosemary, rose petals, lavender and chamomile. I often interchange this with cedar, juniper and pine tips, black walnut, beech, birch, poplar, willow and elm barks. There is no need for a specific list, I offer what is at hand and what is available to me at that time. Better yet, bundling cedar, pine and juniper with these herbs is a wonderful offering as well and these bundles can be placed directly in the fire to burn along side any incense or loose herbs that you would like to add.

Herbs for the Land Spirits or Landvaettir

Illustration of a landvaettr

Throughout all the seasons, I will often walk through a field or a forested area and leave an herbal offering for the land spirits. I will often tie up a cloth bundle with various herbs and flowers and seeds and lay it in a clear area for the land spirits. Upon laying down the bundle, I open it up and lay it down flat on the earth. For me it acts as a token of my gratitude for all the gifts that I receive from the land. You can also sit in a spot of your choosing and burn an herb offering bundle or loose herbal incense. These are only suggestions, and you can certainly create your own way of offering up offerings to the Landvaettir.

Offerings

Herbal offerings

When offering to the Gods the rationale I use to select herbs is to select herbs that symbolize the qualities and skills of that God. I will provide you with a short list of the herbs I use for offerings to the Gods.

Baldur – Sunflower petals, Marigold, Chamomile (flowers I associate with being bright)


Freya- Mints, Roses, Mugwort ( Seidr work) , daisies


Frigga – Flaxseed, Birch Bark, Lavender, Roses, Calendula (Hearth Herbs)


Eir- Lavender, Peppermint, Rose, Chamomile, Lemon Balm (Healing Herbs)


Hel- Mugwort, Plantain, Rue, Wormwood (plants associated with the dead)


Heimdall- Rosemary, Clove, Allspice, Clary Sage ( Herbs for protective vigilance)


Odin- Ash bark, Mugwort, Viper’s Bugloss, Woad, Red Clover (Shamanic Herbs)


Thor-Nettle, Thistle (protective yet aggressive plants) Oak bark ( sacred to Thor, Donar)


Woden – Mugwort, Plantain, Watercress, Chervil, Mayweed (Wild Chamomile), Dried Crab Apple,
Nettle, Fennel and Viper’s Bugloss (borage). These are the herbs from the Nine Herbs Charm poem.

**This is just a sample as I prepare herbs for many gods, but hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea.
Please use your own intuition and definitely use what is at hand.

Yule Herb Bundles

When crafting bundles or incense for burnt offerings to my ancestors I like to offer what ever is in season as well as offering two specific flowers of herbs to my bundles. I often add Forget me nots to my bundles as well as Black Eyes Susans as they are said to act as a conduit to the beloved dead.

I go by the seasons, in early spring it is the first flowers such as violets, tulips and daffodils. Further into summer I will offer roses, lavender, calendula, peppermint, rosemary, clary sage, thyme and what ever else is in season. I the end, it is an offering of what you have and what is available for you to offer up.

Many Blessings to your home and hearth!
wyrþe þanc!!
The Herb Witch

Further Resources

Incorporate herbs into spells, rituals, and divination with this all-inclusive guide to the benefits of using herbal magic in witchcraft.

From creating potions to using dried herbs in rituals, herbal magic is a natural way to practice witchcraft. Herbs can be used in many different ways to help set the intention through every part of a witch’s process.

In The Modern Witchcraft Guide to Magickal Herbs, learn everything you need to use the most powerful herbs and use them as an essential part of your practice. Including information on which herbs are best for what kinds of spells, how to use herbs in divination and rituals, and step-by-step guides to making herbal bundles, potions, and sprays, this guidebook has all the important facts to make your herbal witchcraft a success.

Jam-packed with herbal ideas, this guide is perfect for both beginners and experienced witches looking to incorporate more herbs into their practice. Beautiful and functional, it is easy to navigate and offers a detailed guide to herbal magic!

A highly recommended Youtube channel is that of Freyia Norling who is extremely knowledgeable regarding the use of herbs and more with Norse Folk Medicine.

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Foxes: Folklore, Myth and More

The Fox is an incredible animal who is as diverse in its sub-species to where they live which is every continent except Antarctica. They can be found from Australia to the Arctic and just about everywhere in-between. So it is not surprising that when it comes to folklore and mythology both newer tales to those of ancient times you will find the Fox mentioned more than any other animal from Japan to the Native American tales. The Fox also happens to be a personal favorite of mine so featuring them on my Blog for me is a must.

Foxes in Folklore

Symbolism and metaphor are often used in folklore to explore the depths of human emotions and how we have connected with the world around us. Animals in particular, have long been a popular source of inspiration, acting as reflections of our best and worst qualities, or appearing to us as magical creatures linking the mortal and spirit realms.

There are maybe only a handful of animals, both real and mythological, that are more commonly found in folklore globally than the fox. Considering the relatively close proximity humans and foxes have had with each other, it is no surprise that we included this relationship in our mythologies and tales. Even the ancient Sumerians were inspired by foxes and included one in the Eridu Genesis myth, first recorded around 1600 BCE.

In general, there is a split consensus cross-culturally when it comes to the depiction of foxes in folklore. The fox is perhaps most well known as a trickster, sneaky and cunning in behavior, creating devious plans which they occasionally fall victim to. In Aesop’s Fables, they are egotistical, con artists, and benefit from the misfortune of others. Phrases like “sly as a fox” and “outfoxed” are references to the trickster persona. Continue reading HERE. And find Part 2 HERE.

Fox Carved in Stone Göbekli Tepe. Acsen. Shutterstock.
Göbekli Tepe is a world heritage site in Turkey. The monolithic structures are thought to have been erected around 9,600-8,200 BCE.

It would be difficult to compile a complete list of all the available fox mythology. In the Scandinavian countries, foxes were believed to cause the northern lights. These aurora were called “revontulet” in Finland, meaning “fox fires”. SOURCE

The Scandinavian legend of Aurora borealis by CORinAZONe on DeviantArt

A more modern version of the of the Northern Lights regarding a Fox written by Don Fowler is a favorite of mine which I want to share with you.

Long ago when the world was young there lived in the forest of Midgard a small fox named Rav who was as black as night. He was a sly little fox who liked to play jokes on the other animals of the forest. Needless to say, he didn’t have many friends in the forest.

One day he was confronted by some rabbits that wanted to make fun of his abnormal black fur. He ran past them and swiped his tail over the grass in passing, lighting it into flames. The scared rabbits bound off in fear and hasted deep into the forest to escape the flames.

The land wight of the forest lake got upset with Rav and scolded the fox for causing such trouble. Rav tried to lie to the forest lake, telling her that he would not do such a thing again. But the forest lake knew better than to trust a fox and sent him from Midgard across Yggdrasil to Jotunheim, the land of giants and trolls.

Jotunheim is a cold, icy land, and there the fox found his lovely black coat had gone arctic white. Worse than that, now the little arctic fox was all alone and had to constantly flee from the giants and the trolls of the wild north. He did well at protecting only his own hide and the years passed before he knew it.

Then on a bitter cold day he spied a small fire where two travelers were eating. One had red hair and a beard and carried a mighty hammer. The other had black hair and seemed, to Rav, to be very cunning and fair. But as he was watching the giants played a trick on the travelers by making the snow storm so hard the travelers could not find their way. Rav knew the lost travelers would come under attack by the giants soon.

It was then Rav felt regret for his own actions in the past, and felt sympathy for the bold travelers. Running ahead, he swept his tail over the snow, sending up a whirl of fire into the sky making it like day. It was enough to startle the giants as he lit a path to the Bifrost bridge for the travelers.

At the top of the bridge one of the travelers companions could make out what was going on far below. He quickly alerted all in Asgard of the danger of the trouble making giants. So it was that in the end the travelers made it back to their land safely despite the snow storm.

Impressed with the little arctic fox they made Rav a small home at the base of the Bifrost bridge where it meets the frigid snow of the north. It would be the little arctic fox’s duty to send up flames nightly so that anyone lost could see and find their way back home. He was so good at making his northern lights that they became known as the Foxfires or the Revontulet.

The Fox is the star of more fairy tales and fables than any other animal! Find out why by reading this book. From California to Norway, Africa to Ancient Greece these stories have traveled with the people who loved them best. You can learn to be witty, clever, and outsmart your foe with the help of these fox tales. Maybe you too can learn to sing your own fox songs! The author, Brian “Fox” Ellis once had a pet fox! He has studied the science and folklore of foxes and shares his love of these cunning creatures with all who will listen. He infuses the folktales with solid science and writes science with a fairy tale spin. He has performed Fox Tales around the world and because his name is Fox, folks have given small fox carvings of virtually every style imaginable. This book is the fourth in a series called Fox Tales Folklore that blends history and ecology, poetry and personal narrative to explore themes like A River of Stories, Prairie Tales, Bird Tales and Fish Tales. All of the books will soon be available here on Amazon as a paperback or eBook, but you can also visit www.foxtalesint.com to download an audio book or you could even watch a live performance of these stories on his YouTube channel Fox Tales International.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 19. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
“On this highway is a place called Teumessos (Teumessus), where it is said that Europa was hidden by Zeus. There is also another legend, which tells of a Fox called the Teumessian Fox, how owing to the wrath of Dionysos the beast was reared to destroy the Thebans, and how, when about to be caught by the Hound [Lailaps (Laelaps)] given by Artemis to Prokris (Procris) the daughter of Erekhtheus (Erechtheus), the Fox was turned into a stone, as was likewise this Hound.”

THE ALOPEX TEUMESIOS (Teumessian Fox) was a giant fox sent by the gods to ravage the countryside of Thebes as punishment for some crime. Kreon (Creon), regent of Thebes, commanded Amphitryon destroy the fox–an impossible task for the beast was destined never to be caught. The hero solved the problem by setting the magical dog Lailaps (Laelaps) on the trail, for it was destined to always catch its quarry. Zeus, faced with a paradox of fate–an uncatchable fox being pursued by an inescapable dog–, turned the pair to stone, so freezing their contest in time. SOURCE

Kitsune

Kitsune (狐, キツネ, IPA: [kitsɯne]) in the literal sense is the Japanese word for “fox”. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict legendary foxes as intelligent beings and as possessing paranormal abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. According to Yōkai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shapeshift into human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others – as foxes in folklore often do – other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

Foxes and humans lived close together in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto “kami,” or “spirit,” and serve as its messengers. This role has reinforced the fox’s supernatural significance. Continue reading HERE.

The Role of Foxes in Slavic Mythology and Folklore

By @Dunoss.Art on Instagram

The early Slavs often had a similar perception of the fox that is still popular in modern culture across the world today. No matter the species, foxes were seen as sly and cunning tricksters. They use this skill often to deceive protagonists, and this makes them often villains in folk tales. Among the Slavs, though, the fox has positive roles as well.

When tricksters are mentioned in Slavic mythology, it’s impossible not to mention Weles (Veles), god of the lowlands, underworld, serpents, and cattle. Like the fox, Weles is often incorrectly perceived as evil, stealing Perun‘s cattle as well as his son, Jaryło. The god serves a crucial role, though, and so does the fox, serving as the symbol of mind over brute strength. Continue reading HERE.

The fox is a scavenger carnivores dog generally found in urban city areas in the northern Hemisphere. The fox is a nocturnal mammal meaning that the fox only goes out a night to hunt for prey. Wild foxes tend live for around 6-7 years but some foxes have been known to be older than 13 in captivity. The wild fox hunts for the mouse and other small mammals and birds but foxes appear to enjoy all species of insect.

Further Resources

Foxes and Fox Lore

The Nine Tailed Fox of Chinese Mythology

Foxes in Mythology

Native American Fox Mythology

Vulpes, Vixen and … Vulpix? Foxes in folklore and popular culture

Fox Symbolism & Meaning

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Fireflies: Folklore, Myth and More

Fireflies are in my top five of favorite insects and a lot of those reasons will be within what you find in this post from their mystical appearance at night to the significance they hold in a lot of folklore. The Firefly also known as a lightning Bug can be a significant meaning in your dreams, as a totem and even a spirit animal which will be covered here as well but first let me share with you a story about myself and Fireflies which sometimes I wonder if there are Fae among them in disguise.

Many years ago I lived in a beautiful part of the Appalachians on a property with a pond in front of my house over an acre in size with it surrounded by grass. Every day right at dusk I would sit or lay on the grass in front of the pond. I would watch the fish nipping at the bugs on the surface of the pond ass the Bats began swooping like acrobatic jets above beginning to feed. All the time as it darkened the Fireflies would emerge from the grass undergrowth and it truly looked like a scene from a fantasy movie. Truly an amazing experience every time.

The Magic & Folklore of Fireflies By Patti Wigington

In China, long ago, it was believed that fireflies were a product of burning grasses. Ancient Chinese manuscripts hint that a popular summer pastime was to catch fireflies and put them in a transparent box, to use as a lantern, much like children (and adults) often do today.

There’s a Japanese legend that lightning bugs are actually the souls of the dead. Variations on the tale say that they’re the spirits of warriors who fell in battle. Our About.com Japanese Language Expert, Namiko Abe, says, “The Japanese word for a firefly is hotaru… In some cultures, hotaru might not have a positive reputation, but they are well liked in Japanese society. They have been a metaphor for passionate love in poetry since Man’you-shu (the 8th-century anthology).”

Even though fireflies put on a pretty great light show, it’s not just for entertainment. The flashing of their light is how they communicate with each other – especially for courtship rituals. Males flash to let the ladies know they’re looking for love… and the females respond with flashes to say they’re interested.

Fireflies appear in a lot of Native American folklore as well. There’s an Apache legend in which the trickster Fox tries to steal fire from the firefly village. To accomplish this, he fools them and manages to set his own tail on fire with a piece of burning bark. As he escapes the firefly village, he gives the bark to Hawk, who flies off, scattering embers around the world, which is how fire came to the Apache people. As punishment for his deception, the fireflies told Fox that he would never be able to use fire himself.

Using Firefly Magic

Think about the different aspects of firefly folklore. How can you use them in a magical working?

  • Feeling lost? Catch some fireflies in a jar (please, poke holes in the lid!) and ask them to illuminate your way. Release them when you’re done.
  • Use fireflies to represent the element of fire on your summer altar.
  • Fireflies are sometimes associated with the moon – use them in summer moon rituals.
  • Incorporate firefly light into a ritual to attract a new mate, and see who responds.
  • Some people associate fireflies with the Fae – if you practice any sort of Faerie magic, welcome the fireflies into your celebrations.
  • Incorporate firefly symbolism into a ritual to honor your ancestors. SOURCE
Firefly (Junkiri) glowing at night. Image credit: Nepali Times 

The Symbolic Meaning of Crossing Paths With a Bright Little Firefly or Lightning Bug This Summer by Rebecca Norris

Fireflies—which are technically a type of nocturnal beetle!—often go unnoticed until nighttime. But, as soon as the tail of their abdomen begins to glow, the little bugs (also called lightning bugs) transform into seemingly-magical creatures that create specks of light in the dark evening air, leaving children and adults alike in awe. What makes them extra special is that they’re only around for a few weeks in the summer, and only in certain areas (in the U.S., that means warm, humid climates east of Kansas).

According to Honigman, fireflies serve as powerful and empowering reminders for anyone who sees them. “A little light shining bravely in the darkness,” she says of their symbolic meaning. “Small and alone, showing us that we are each worthy, that every person shines their own unique light, and in our own world, be represented in the global struggle for illumination. Light over dark. Positive over negative. However tiny you are, your light still illuminates the darkness.”

Honigman says they’re also reminders to be intentional about the light you seek in others. “Fireflies have a unique way of shining their light, in order to draw the exact right mate to them,” she explains. “They flash their light in specific patterns, and only the right mate responds to each individual pattern. This reminds us to be specific with the people we keep around us, and to be intentional with our circle. One firefly won’t be drawn to another one unless communication is exact and specific. Similarly, the right people for you will heed your call. If it feels ‘off’ then this isn’t your person.” Continue reading HERE.

Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs is the first-ever comprehensive firefly guide for eastern and central North America. It is written for all those who want to know more about the amazing world of lightning bugs and learn the secrets hidden in the flash patterns of the 75+ species found in the eastern and central United States and Canada. As an independent researcher working with numerous university teams, naturalist Lynn Frierson Faust, “The Lightning Bug Lady,” has spent decades tracking the behavior and researching the habitats of these fascinating creatures.

Fireflies

by Bliss Carman

The fireflies across the dusk
Are flashing signals through the gloom—
Courageous messengers of light
That dare immensities of doom.

About the seeding meadow-grass,
Like busy watchmen in the street,
They come and go, they turn and pass,
Lighting the way for Beauty’s feet.

Or up they float on viewless wings
To twinkle high among the trees,
And rival with soft glimmerings
The shining of the Pleiades.

The stars that wheel above the hill
Are not more wonderful to see,
Nor the great tasks that they fulfill
More needed in eternity.

Sir David Attenborough explores the world of bio-luminescence, the often spectacular natural light produced by some creatures. Specially designed cameras reveal nature’s leading lights.

Further Resources

Firefly Symbolism & Meaning

Spiritual meaning of fireflies: the symbolism! Does it indicate good luck?

Common Names for Fireflies

The Light of the Firefly: What is its Role in Japanese Culture?

Symbolic Meaning of the Firefly