Folklore & Nature: The Night Bird

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The Lady Who Loved Insects

Written in twelfth century Japan, the short story The Lady Who Love Insects was likely meant as a cautionary tale but has since become an inspiration for Hayao Miyzaki when creating his iconic Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. In the The Lady Who Love Insects, the Lady is extremely eccentric and refuses to conform to the normal societal appearance of her position. She leaves her teeth unblackened, her eyebrows are unplucked and natural, her hair loose and she generally ignores the traditional fashion.

 “It is the person who wants the truth and inquires into the essence of things who has an interesting mind.”

The Lady Who Loved Insects
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

But perhaps more eccentric than her appearance,…

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Folklore & Nature: Mother Carey and her Chickens

Well, ah fare you well; we can stay no more with you, my love—
Down, set down your liquor and your girl from off your knee;
For the wind has come to say:
“You must take me while you may,
If you’d go to Mother Carey,
(Walk her down to Mother Carey!)
Oh, we’re bound to Mother Carey where she feeds her chicks at sea!”

Anchor Song by Rudyard Kipling

It’s not clear where Mother Carey got her name from, but what is very clear is that sailors did not want to encounter this mythical sea deity. Mother Carey was the very personification of storms and the dangerous sea and sailors feared her. She was known to bring storms and cause shipwrecks sending…

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Folklore & Nature: Cadborosaurus

British Columbians! Lift up a chorus!
To greet the arrival of Cadborosaurus!
He may have been here quite a long time before us,
But he’s shy and don’t stay round too long, so’s to bore us.
Cadborosaurus! Cadborosaurus!
Come up and see us again, you old war ‘oss!

Letter to the Victoria Daily Times from I. Vacedun

It was 5:30 in the evening, the end of a rainy day in Seattle and I was driving north along Lake Washington by Seward Park. I always look out to the water to see if I can spot the local beaver or maybe a passing otter, but that day, near the entrance of Andrew’s Bay I saw something completely different in the dark grayish blue water. The lake wasn’t rough, but it created ripples, the kind that constantly play with the mind – was that a…

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Folklore & Nature: Dragonflies

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…

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Folklore & Nature: Sielulintu

A graveyard may not be the most common of places to visit when traveling in a foreign city, but a couple of years ago I found myself walking through one in Helsinki because it was next to the apartment we were staying in. Almost immediately, the thing I noticed about many of the tombstones, were the presence of birds. Many had metal birds in flight on the front, small metal birds sitting on top. As I walked through the tombstones, live birds flitted around the edge of the graveyard in the surrounding wild forested area. Occasionally one would fly in and perch on a tombstone as though it were another of the adornments decorating the memorials.

Although Finns are strongly connected to nature, birds hold an even more symbolic meaning, which I didn’t know at the time. In Finnish folklore there is something known…

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