Fireflies, or lightning bugs, aren’t actually flies at all – for that matter, they’re not even really bugs, either. In fact, from a biological standpoint, they’re part of the beetle family. Science aside, these beautiful insects come out once dusk begins in the summer time, and can be seen lighting up the night in many areas of the world. There’s an ethereal quality to them, silently moving around, blinking like beacons in the dark. Let’s look at some of the folklore, myths, and magic associated with fireflies.
- 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 hotarumight 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).”
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