Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fireflies in Mythology: The June Theme Challenge

Artist: Shiokawa Bunrin Title: River Landscape with Fireflies
From Wikimedia Commons: Artist: Shiokawa Bunrin Title: River Landscape with Fireflies 

Have you been working on your bead and/or jewelry designs for this month's theme challenge of fireflies/lightning bugs? The reveal is happening June 30th! If you want to participate and be added to the link list, you must email me at jennifer.glassaddictions (at) by June 27th. Further details about the challenge can be found at this link to the original post.

firefly lightning bug
Firefly/Lightning Bug image found here:

While Jenny Davies-Reazor is our resident mythology expert, I did some light internet research and found a few myths and legends about fireflies that span the globe.

Some of the examples of myths are from a page on

In China, it was believed fireflies were the result of burning grasses.

In Japan, there is a legend that fireflies are the souls of the dead. Variations of the legend state they are the spirits of warriors who fell in battle.

"There’s a Apache legend in which the trickster Fox tries to steal fire from the firefly village. To accomplish this, he fools them and manages to set his own tail on fire with a piece of burning bark. As he escapes the firefly village, he gives the bark to Hawk, who flies off, scattering embers around the world, which is how fire came to the Apache people. As punishment for his deception, the fireflies told Fox that he would never be able to use fire himself."

Victorians had a superstition that finding a firefly in your home meant someone was going to die.

Kerr Number:  K8007 fireflies on vase
Kerr Number:  K8007
Comments:  These insects have been classified as fireflys. This vase was not excavated at Tikal. It was confiscated from a looter. EG = Xultun, Chan Weel K'inich

Another website, Mythinglinks, has an abundance of writings, both fiction and nonfiction, about fireflies. You could probably spend several days reading the rich source of material. One example is a  a summary of Luis Lopes's work "Some Notes on Fireflies." (this is a link to a PDF and includes images of fireflies in art):

"The firefly is associated with cigars in Meso-American sacred scenes. The author points out that seeing a lit cigar on a dark night does indeed resemble a firefly's light -- and in ancient art, especially ceremics, the firefly often holds a cigar either in its mouth or hands. (Lest that image suggest a Groucho Marx comedy routine, it should be remembered that tobacco is considered highly sacred by many indigenous peoples and is used as an offering to the gods.) In the Popol Vuh, the hero twins trapped in the Dark House of the Underworld are each given a cigar and ordered to keep it lit and yet intact all night. The twins succeed by attaching fireflies to the ends of each cigar, which keeps them lit and yet still intact at dawn.

In the Maya period, the firefly was a "common metaphor for stars and cigar smoking." The "queen of the stars" is a firefly; other fireflies carry "lights from the stars." Elsewhere, "firefly" is the ritual term used for a cigar or smoking tube. Comets and meteors, called "smoke stars" in several Mayan languages, are also compared with cigars, which is to say, with the firefly. In a darker vein, several vases show fireflies witnessing and probably providing light for "grim nocturnal scenes" such as the "sacrifice of the Baby Jaguar."

fireflies lightning bugs
From Digital Photo Blog, a photograph of fireflies using a long exposure

We hope you'll join us in this challenge! It's super easy to participate. 

1. Goal - Have fun! Try something different! Be inspired by the magic of fireflies! Make something that fits within this theme. This can be an artist bead, a component, or a finished piece of jewelry.    

       *You are free to use any artist bead/component in your design -
  • from an AJE team member 
  • of your own creation
  • from another artisan bead maker... 

2. Share/Reveal - Reveal date June 30th
If you would like to be included in the blog reveal at month's end, please email Jen at jennifer.glassaddictions (at) Since this is open to all, this is the most efficient way to be included. Emails need to be received by June 27th  to be included. 

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