|photo by ana traina ~ 2011 ~|
Only in Germany have dragonflies 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"). 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").
The dragonfly was given the name of “Devil’s Darning Needle” because of an almost comical superstition about the dragonfly sewing the mouths shut of lying children, scolding women and cursing men as they slept.
Another delightful stories about the dragonfly is a Zuni myth about two children who were left behind by the villagers when the corn crop failed. The little boy constructed a toy dragonfly from corn husks to cheer up his sister. The dragonfly eventually came to life and appeased the corn maidens who created a bountiful harvest of corn to welcome the villagers back.
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").
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.
In certain parts of Norway, the dragonfly is also known as "oslash;rsnildra". The exact meaning of this word is unknown to me but the part "oslash", 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.
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.
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").
Another old Swedish name is Skams besman ("Devil's steelyard"), this name probably depends on the dragonfly's body shape that, with some imagination looks like the weighting tool. In the folklore this was interpreted as 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.
My personal favorite name for the red dragon fly is the Swedish name, trollslända, which means "hobgoblin fly!"