#SuperstitionSat Highlights: Insects

Welcome back to our round of Highlights from our #SuperstitionSat Sessions on Twitter! We had another great week with almost 100 retweets again, and for the first time ever, in some areas of the globe, we were … *gasp* … TRENDING! This was equal parts scary and exciting, and I do hope that we made it to the Twitter sidebar for good reasons!

Screenshot of #SuperstitionSat trending on Twitter.

Yesterday (16/07/2022), we flew away (and crawled) with our favourite INSECTS: bees, beetles, ladybirds, butterflies – even spiders, which are not Insects but Arthropods: a different class of creatures that includes scorpions but still falls within the popular designation of BUGS, so… why not? We had a lot of fun looking at the tales of these bugs and we hope you did too. And, that you also enjoy our selection below – with five, instead of three Highlights once more – with so many participations again, it’s only right!

Our first Highlight was about our favourite black and yellow friends: bees. As shared by Tina, the Ancient Greeks and Romans were said to believe that bees were messengers of the Gods, and that when one landed on a child’s lips, it was seen as an augury that the child would grow up to be a great speaker with the power to utter sweet words. The story can be found in Cicero’s De Divinatione, Book I, Chapter 36, in the following passage:

“Again, while Plato was an infant, asleep in his cradle, bees settled on his lips and this was interpreted to mean that he would have a rare sweetness of speech. Hence in his infancy his future eloquence was foreseen.”

Tweet says:

"Bees were associated with good luck, among other attributes, in Ancient Greece and Rome. If a bee landed on a child's lips it was thought that the child would grow into a poet or renowned speaker."

Includes image of a painting with a woman consoling a child with wings.
Tweet by Tina. Image credit: ‘Venus Consoling Cupid Stung By A Bee’ by Benjamin West (1787).

For our second Highlight, we picked this sweet tale from Japan, as shared by Tales From The Enchanted Forest Podcast. Like we once discussed in our very first Blog Post about Superstitions of Guests and Visitors, many countries believe that butterflies may be the souls of loved ones visiting us from their afterlife – such as Mexico, where the Monarch Butterfly is a good omen for the Dia de Los Muertos festivities. You can read this beautiful and sad Japanese tale from the tweets below (also available as ALT text if you require a screen reader), or from this source which we procured for you: Myths And Legends of Japan, by F. Hadland Davis (1912).

Tweet says:

"Butterflies can be seen as a visiting soul. The Japanese story of the White Butterfly tells the love story of Takahama and his fiancee, Akiko. Akiko died the day before their wedding so Takahama moved to the house next to her graveyard."

Includes illustration of a Japanese-looking man reaching out for a white butterfly".
Thread 1 of 2 by Tales From The Enchanted Forest Podcast. Image attributed to JapanLoverMe.
Tweet says:

"He took care of her grave and brought her flowers until the day he died. The day after his death, his nephew saw a white butterfly visiting the house and followed it back to Akiko's grave. Stories like these are why some cultures see butterflies as a good luck omen."

Includes watercolour of butterflies.
Thread 2 of 2 by Tales From The Enchanted Forest Podcast. Image credit: Kubo Shunman (19th century).

Our third Highlight was found by another cool cat on the block, LoreCat(alog), and tells of a strange belief that hairy catterpillars can be thrown over your right shoulder for good luck. Oh no, poor beasties! As LoreCat said, it sounds a lot like a similar superstition to do with throwing salt over your shoulder, so we recommend – please, for the sake of the innocent catterpillar – do stick to salt! The belief seems to have been registered in the book County Folk-Lore Volume VI – Examples OF Printed Folk-Lore Concerning The East Riding of Yorkshire, available by clicking the title.

Tweet says:

"This throwing a catterpillar over the right shoulder with one's left hand for luck reminds me a lot of throwing salt".

Includes screenshot of a book quote.
Tweet by LoreCat(alog).
The book quote says:

"Caterpillar - When a "hairy caterpillar" is found the correct thing is to take it in the left hand and throw it over the right shoulder, saying at the same time, "Good Luck". If one then walks away without looking to see where it fell, "luck" will certainly follow, but to look behind and see where the caterpillar dropped is most disastrous. F.H.R.S. p. 79."
Screenshot taken by LoreCat(alog) from the book mentioned above.

Our fourth Highlight was a tweet originally shared by Folk Horror Revival with our friends at Faustian Friday, concerning the Deathwatch Beetle. This creepy crawlie is considered a pest as it feeds on the timbers of old buildings, often leading to their ruin and collapse. No wonder then, that folks once thought its mating calls – a strange death rattle like the one heard in this video – were an omen of impending doom and death. In the Selected Writings of Thomas Browne, the writer said the following about the Deathwatch Beetle, in 1650, urging people to be less superstitious about it:

Few ears have escaped the noise of the dead-watch, that is, the little clicking sound heard often in many rooms, somewhat resembling that of a watch; and this is conceived to be of an evil omen or prediction of some persons death: wherein notwithstanding there is nothing of rational presage or just cause of terror unto melancholy and meticulous heads. For this noise is made by a little sheath-winged gray insect found often in wainscot, benches, and wood-work in the Summer. We have taken many thereof, and kept them in thin boxes, wherein I have heard and seen them work and knack with a little proboscis or trunk against the side of the box, like a picus martius, or woodpecker against a tree… He that could extinguish the terrifying apprehensions hereof, might prevent the passions of the heart, and many cold sweats in grandmothers and nurses, who in the sickness of children, are so startled with these noises.”

Tweet says it was retweeted for #SuperstitionSat.
Tweet by Folk Horror Revival. Image attributed to Gilles San Martin.
Tweet says:

"Death-watch beetles live in dead wood, and to attract a mate they make a tapping sound upon it. This is often heard in the beams and rafters of old buildings during summer, and was thought to be an omen of imminent death."

Includes photo of a Deathwatch beetle.

Our fifth and final Highlight was shared by Rebecca and concerned the tale of one of those bugs we mentioned earlier: not an insect but an arachnid commonly known as Daddy Long Legs. The term expresses a variety of elements of different species, characterised – as their nickname implies – by long legs and very small bodies. If you are scared of creatures like these, look away now! If you aren’t, then you might want to try this superstition Rebecca shared and ask one of these tiny little critters to help you find your lost cows. According to Northern Carolina Folklore collected by local folklorist Frank Clyde Brown between 1914 and 1943, Grandaddy will point one of his long legs in the right direction for you. A happy ending, indeed!

Tweet says:

"When one's cows have strayed from home they can be located by saying this to the grandaddy spider: 'Grandaddy, grandaddy, where are my cows?' He will point with one foot in the direction in which they are."

Includes photo of a Daddy Long Legs on a leaf.
Tweet by Rebecca. Image credit unknown.

That was all for today! Thank you for participating and reading. As usual, whether you’re old, new or just passing through, your presence is very much appreciated and I am glad to see you stop by. I hope you cherished this return to our usual format after our period of illness – discussing superstitions in a little bit more depth and adding some available sources for your research and entertainment! Join us next week (23/07/22) with even more superstitions, this time about the


Charms and sayings against heatwaves particularly encouraged! If you are living somewhere affected by this climate catastrophe, please remember to stay in the shade, stay hydrated, and keep your cats and dogs indoors!

Your lucky cat pal,
– Superstition Sam 🐾