The Magic of Mundane Garden Creatures by Sandra Kynes
Yes, this is about bugs. Unlike the animal world, where we find many creatures to which we can relate, the insect world can seem rather alien. However, throughout human history insects have been considered important enough to appear in mythology, folklore, and sacred writings. While some insects are admired for their ingenuity and beauty, others represent desirable qualities.
So why should Pagans and Wiccans care about insects other than to acknowledge that they have a place in the natural world? To paraphrase the wizard Gandalf: the smallest of things can hold a great deal of power. But don’t worry; you don’t need to handle them in order to use them for magic or ritual. Symbolism, energy, intention, and visualization provide the means to call on the power and influence of insects. For example, you can place a picture or figurine of an insect on your altar to draw in its energy for ritual. In fact, insects can even represent the elements: a butterfly for air, a dragonfly for water, a cricket for earth, and a lightning bug for fire.
Write a spell on a picture of an insect, and then visualize its energy boosting your willpower. Wear jewelry shaped like one to call on its particular qualities for divination sessions, astral travel, or other practices. Go outside and watch them—observation is a good way to tune in to their energy.
For simplicity, I am using the term insect even though some of the creatures mentioned here are classified differently. Now, let’s take a stroll through the garden and history to explore the power and meaning of these creatures. Of course, we will also discover how they can be our magical allies.
We’ll start with the enchanting butterfly, which has been one of the greatest symbols of transformation throughout the world. If you associate it with glitter and unicorns, think again because this delicate creature is no lightweight. Associated with the Great Goddess, it symbolized her power of regeneration. Since then it was used in many cultures to represent spirit, the souls of the dead, and more specifically, ancestors.
In Eastern Europe there was a popular belief that a butterfly was the embodiment of a witch. In fact, the Slovenian word véšča means both “witch” and “butterfly.” In Russian, the word baba, which was derived from bábočhka, “butterfly,” refers to a female ancestor. Elsewhere in Europe during the Middle Ages, witches and fairies were believed to disguise themselves as butterflies to steal milk and butter, which may be the basis of their common name.
For Pagans and Wiccans, the butterfly can be an aid for love spells and dream work. It also helps in working with the fairy realm and contacting spirits. As a symbol of change, the butterfly provides support for renewal. It shows us how to foster confidence for finding opportunities and personal freedom. With its help, we can bring fidelity and happiness to relationships. Also, wear a piece of butterfly jewelry as a reminder of its association with witches. If one alights on you, whisper a wish to it before it flies away.
The bee, more specifically the honeybee, is another garden visitor that has had great significance and a long relationship with humans. In Neolithic times, the Great Goddess was occasionally depicted as a combination of woman and bee. The bee’s ability to produce honey echoed her power and role as provider and nurturer.
Honey was the universal sweetener in the ancient world and a preservative. In fact, in Egypt it was used in the embalming process, which may have symbolically added sweetness to the afterlife. A highly valued commodity, honey was used as an offering to deities. Across many cultures, the bee symbolizes abundance, community, and fertility.
Also closely associated with the Goddess’s power of regeneration, bees represented the quickening force of life. In the temples of some deities—most notably Artemis and Demeter—priestesses were called Melissae, which means “bees.” According to mythology, souls existed as bees until the Melissae gathered them to be born into human form.
Magically, the bee can lend us a great deal of power and support. The spiritual dimension of the bee draws us into a closer communion with the Divine. Like the ancients, we can show esteem for our chosen deity with an offering of honey. In spellwork, the energy of the bee can help attract prosperity and abundance, unify the family, and strengthen a relationship. It also aids in sparking romance. In addition, the bee can give us a boost when we need to get motivated. Finally, along with its association with the afterlife and as a symbol of the soul, the bee aids us at Samhain to communicate with loved ones who have passed from this world.
The next garden creature is a creepy-crawly that does not fly (thanks be to the Goddess). As a gardener I have made my peace with spiders, but I could never bring myself to intentionally touch one. While the spider plays an important role in the ecosystem and is part of the army of “good bugs,” it does not engender warm, cuddly feelings as does the butterfly. However, its ephemeral web is a source of endless fascination, beauty, and metaphor.
In various Native American tribes, Spider Woman or Spider Grandmother is regarded as a benevolent being who guides and provides. She is also considered a supreme creator. In Hindu myth, the spider symbolizes the goddess Maya. Representing a divine creative force, she is a goddess of illusion, wisdom, and intuition. Spinning the web of fate, she is associated with magic and witchcraft. Likewise in Europe, a number of goddesses are associated with the magical craft of spinning and weaving. Both the spider web and weaving symbolize magic because from seemingly nothing, something is brought into existence.
As for magic, we can visualize the energy we send out as a web of magic that weaves together our ideas and their manifested outcomes. We can call on the energy of the spider to fire up and support our creativity and to develop the skills we need to express it. The spider also helps us in creating or renewing connections and communicating with other people. It can help us recognize opportunities and have the patience to wait and work on desired goals. Known for its aggressiveness, the spider can teach us how and when to employ assertive power that is guided by wisdom.
With shimmering, metallic colors and fleeting, darting flight, it is no wonder that dragonflies have been regarded as mysterious and magical. Dragonflies are ancient creatures and one of the earliest to appear in the fossil record. Early depictions of them have been found in Egypt and other locations worldwide.
In a number of cultures, dragonflies were associated with warriors because of their speed and quick, agile maneuvers. In Romanian folklore, the origin of the dragonfly was associated with the devil and black magic. The name dragonfly is believed to have come from the Romanian word drac, which has the dual meaning of “devil” and “dragon.” In one tale, it was referred to as the devil’s horse. In Portuguese lore, the dragonfly was called a witch’s horse. Likewise in Italy, dragonflies were linked with witches.
Also associated with shamans, the dragonfly itself is a shape-shifter. Most of its lifespan, which is more than a year, is spent in the realm of water in the nymph stage. When it is ready, the nymph emerges from the water at night under the protection of darkness to begin its transformation to the realm of air.
When you see a dragonfly cruising through your backyard, take time to watch it. Let its movement and energy mesmerize and enchant you. Afterward, take time to ground and center your energy and jot down a few notes about what you felt or thought. Magically, call on the dragonfly for support in dream work, especially to interpret its meaning or message. The dragonfly is also helpful in meditation when seeking introspection, clarity, and truth. Of course, it is instrumental to both initiate and deal with change. Carry a picture of one when you need to bolster courage.
Another amazing winged creature in the garden is the firefly, which is also known as a lightning bug. Its twinkling bioluminescence can turn any backyard into a magical display of lights. Like many people, I have fond childhood memories of catching and releasing them.
In Maya legend, fireflies served as a metaphor for the stars, while Aztec myth portrayed them as fire-throwing witches. According to Apache folklore, the original source of fire was a mythical campfire started by fireflies. Quite naturally, the firefly can aid us anytime we seek illumination and inspiration. Representing hope, it can also help when we need guidance. For spellwork, include the firefly when you need to remove negativity or any metaphorical darkness in your life. As an activator, this bug adds power to spells. We can also call on it to get our own energy moving to help us achieve our goals. In addition, the firefly can give our creative expression a big boost.
Sharing many of the butterfly’s associations, especially with that of the soul, the moth is mostly nocturnal and very elusive. In Europe, moths were regarded as restless souls longing to return to the earthly plane. A moth attracted to a candle flame is a symbol of the soul seeking truth as well as transcendence. The moth is also regarded as a symbol of knowledge.
In addition to being considered an oracle, the moth was often regarded as a witch. In fact, there are two species with the common names of white witch moth and black witch moth. The black one is also known as the butterfly of death even though it is not harmful. Both white and black moths were believed to be the spirits of ancestors. Another species is called the death’s head moth because its markings resemble a skull and crossbones. In European folklore, this moth was also called the death bird and was regarded as an omen of death and a symbol of immortality.
Associated with the Moon, the moth is the perfect symbol for an esbat altar and lunar magic. Employ its energy in spellwork, especially for defense. The moth can also help in understanding omens and messages received through divination. Because of the perfect symmetry in its patterns and shape, the moth represents balance and can help bring our energy into balance. Associated with transformation, the moth can be called upon to usher in changes that you want to make in your life.
Another nighttime creature to look for is the cricket. Actually, it is more appropriate to listen for it. Held in high esteem in antiquity, the cricket was an emblem of happiness and good luck. In China, crickets were often kept in ornate cages for their pleasing chirping sounds and to bring luck to the household. The Greeks and Romans also kept caged crickets in the home.
Throughout the folklore of various countries, the cricket could bring good or bad luck. Also, its presence in the house could forecast rain, death, or the return—for better or worse—of a lover. However, imitating the chirp of a cricket was considered dangerous, as it could bring negative consequences. In England and America, the cricket was regarded as the personification of the house spirit. Similarly in Ireland, they were regarded as old, wise house sprites whose enchanted singing could keep away mischievous fairies at night.
As a symbol of cheerfulness, we can use this creature in spells to invite happiness, luck, and security to our homes. The cricket can also help us develop and learn to trust our intuition. It is especially helpful for guidance in knowing when to bring situations or relationships to an end and find renewal. The cricket is also instrumental in sharpening communication skills. Hold a picture of one while you sit outside and listen to their chorus. Visualize the picture absorbing the sound and energy of the crickets, and then use it to boost the energy of a spell or ritual.
Last but not least is everyone’s favorite, the ladybug. Regarded as having a supernatural origin, almost all folklore about the ladybug associates its presence with good luck and killing it with bad luck. In addition, it was considered especially lucky if one landed on you.
In German lore, the ladybug had a role similar to the stork in delivering babies. Italian legend regarded it as a sort of tooth fairy leaving coins for children. Known as the ladybird in the British Isles, during the Victorian era it became associated with romance. Perhaps because its red spotted pattern somewhat resembles the fly agaric mushroom, Finnish folklore portrayed the ladybug as a helper and guide for shamans.
For modern spellwork, invite the energy of the ladybug to help attract luck, happiness, and romance. Also call on it for support in reaching goals. If you find one in your home, thank it for the blessing it brings. For shamanic or astral work, ask the ladybug for guidance and help in interpreting any messages you receive. Also, carry or wear a ladybug image as you traverse the realms.
By learning all we can about the natural world—including mundane garden creatures—we join the ranks of the wise folk who have gone before us. Like many things in nature, when we invest a little time to learn more than a few cursory details, a whole new world of magic and meaning can open to us. You can start by finding out about the species of insects in your area. Their characteristics and behavior may reveal ways in which they can support and contribute to your magical practices.
If you have a garden or just a few flowerpots on a porch, grow at least a couple of native species of plants to support the pollinators and other “good bugs.” Observe the ones that you attract because they may bring special messages for you.
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