Butterfly in Slavic tradition – part 2

It’s hard to believe, but some people thought that a butterfly is an evil, demonic soul, and a messenger of death (for example, if it flew into the room of an ill person, that was a sign of the imminent death). The South Slavs believed that when the veshtitsa (witch) falls asleep, her soul in the form of a butterfly strangles, sucks blood, steals milk or fire, etc. And if her body is turned face down, her soul will not recognize it, and will remain a butterfly of a striking color like black and red or black and yellow. When the body of a vampire is burned or pierced with a stick, as the Serbs believed, his soul also flies out in the form of a butterfly or many butterflies. To neutralize him, the butterfly had to be killed.

Western Slavs also associated these cute insects with death, disease, and demons. This is reflected in the name of the butterfly in different West Slavic dialects: diabel, čertica, mara, vampir, bieda, etc. The most frequent association with evil and death is represented by the butterfly called “Dead Head” (Acherontia atropos), which even was featured in the movie “The Silence of the Lambs”.

After that, will you be able to look at the butterflies with the same eyes, especially the black and yellow ones?

More interesting facts can be found in: “Slavic Antiquities” – encyclopedic dictionary in 5 volumes by Institute for Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


Butterfly in Slavic tradition – part 1

The ancient Slavs believed that butterflies and moths are associated with the “other world” and are the embodiment of the soul. In Poland and southern Russia, they were seen as people’s ancestors in a different form. So when butterflies circled around the flame of a candle, it was customary to remember the dead, pray and call their names. It was also forbidden to harm butterflies. The Kurpeys (Kurpie) in Mazovia were saying: “Nie bij ćmy: śkody ci nie zrobi, a moze to twój dziadek, a moze nieboscyk ociec” (Don’t kill the butterfly – it won’t hurt you, and maybe it’s your grandfather or deceased father). The southern Slavs would ask a butterfly for rain during a drought, believing that it “flies near God and can ask for rain.”

There are many signs associated with butterflies. Among the Eastern and Southern Slavs, if the first butterflies of the year were white, this promised milk and rain, red – honey and drought. Among the Western Slavs, a white butterfly usually signified death, a red one – life. The Belarusians of Vitebsk region predicted the height of flax crops by the flight altitude of the first butterflies.

What omens associated with butterflies do you know?

To be continued…