Dragonflies, wives’ tales, and worse

I bought some wallpaper the other day. Just four yards of it.  It has enormous dragonflies on it–each one is 2 feet across, a pen and ink drawing done in exquisite detail.

Don’t ask me why.

When I was young I was told that dragonflies sewed your mouth shut.  I can clearly remember knowing that and believing it as a child. Yet when I ask other people, no one else had ever heard of such a thing.  Is it a ethnic thing that came from my parents? Was it just an off-the-cuff remark that some joking adult told me and which I always believed?  I don’t know.

I mentioned it to a woman I worked with once. She had never heard of their sewing mouths shut, but she told me a much, more horrific tale about her and dragonflies.

She was a little girl around seven or eight and there was a copse of trees behind the house where she lived, ringed by a swatch of tall, wild grass.

One day when she was playing in or walking through the high grasses, three slightly older boys molested her.  They dragged her to a clearing in the woods and the weapon they used was a dragonfly.  They pinned down her arms and legs and waved the dragonfly in front of her face while they groped her and de-pants her. For her, a dragonfly meant much more than a silly wives’ tale about sewing children’s mouth shut.

What more can one say?

And where are those boys? What have they become? Do the remember that hell they visited on that little girl?

I have outgrown my fear of dragonflies–in fact, now I find them beautiful and graceful.  But I am sure that that young girl, now a woman in her 60s, never has.


10 thoughts on “Dragonflies, wives’ tales, and worse

  1. I, too, was told by my grandmother that dragonflies would sew my mouth shut if I ever told a lie, and I was a very little girl so I believed her and pestered and pestered her to tell me more. She said ” Just like a needle and thread does, they’ll sew your mouth shut quick as a wink!” I was already afraid of them and still find their flying close to me uncomfortable although I love their beauty and adore the tiny bright blue and red ones that are prettier, at least to me, than the large
    dark ones. My grandmother was English and Scotch-Irish.

    • Yes, my people are Irish, so I assumed it was a story that originated there abouts. But one person from Romania sited the same story and assumed it was Eastern European. I guess these things have a life of their own. Thank you for reading.

  2. I grew up on a farm in NH and thats one thing I remember the most being said to me, and I’m a white farm girl..Lol and all my friends and family were told the same story, however, my husband is from Boston and has never heard of it… And he’s Italian.. I Love dragonflies, I actually have a tattoo of one that makes up letters for my daughters name.. And her room was decorated with stencils that I made when she was a toddler..

  3. I have heared the story with seweing mouths… 🙂
    but I find dragonflies simply amazing, they look like living perfect robots to me… they are graceful, colorful, beautiful… in fact they make me smile…
    Thank you for this post. John, I have great dragonflies memories…

    • Ela, I have met only one other person who knew the “sewing the mouth” story. Her parents were Turkish and Italian, so maybe it’s an eastern European story. But my parents are Irish and that’s where I heard it from. Despite it all, they are magnificent and beautiful

      • Good. If you smiled that has made my day! 🙂
        And yes, it might be an eastern European story, I am Romanian, so that’s the only explanation…
        Even so I adore dragonflies and at some point in my life I was desperately trying to make photos of them, but they were so fast that I hardly managed… 🙂

  4. That’s a powerful story, John.
    Did you know that we Bones girls collect dragonflies in honor of our Mom? I’ll tell you the story someday…Jane McCaney and her girls also collect dragonflies in honor of her late grandson. It’s a strong symbol for many us, for whatever it represents. When you become aware of dragonflies, you find that, suddenly, they are EVERYWHERE!

    • Yeah, they are fascinating things. The shimmer…the wing-span..the flight. And yet, now, I carry this women’s story with me as a sort of counterbalance.

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