Residence: Boston, MA
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/25/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish
The informant is a student from my folklore class, and we ended up meeting and exchanging stories and superstitions one night.
“It’s really bad luck to kill a black moth, especially the large ones that will land on the wall. They are a sort of bad omen , since the seem to attract death. If you see one in your house, just leave it be and don’t try to scare it away, because it is the spirit of someone who has died, or who is going to die, and the appearance of the moth is either a premonition of a death, or a sign that a death has occurred.”
I asked whether the moth was necessarily a bad spirit, or just a bad omen if you were to mess with it.
“One time when my mother was thirteen years old, she saw a black moth land on the wall of her room. She didn’t disturb it and just left it there, since her mother had told her the same omen. Literally an hour letter, they received a phone call saying my uncle died in a motorcycle accident.”
I asked if the moths visit someone that has a relationship with the spirit.
“Yeah, it kind of solidifies the idea that the moth is supposed to symbolize.”
I asked if her mom knew about the moth’s significance before the encounter described previously.
“No, and then coincidentally enough the death happened. But I’ve encountered moths and I just leave them be.”
Background & Analysis
When I asked if other colored moths are also bad omens, the informant said it is only the black ones, since the color black is associated with death. Also, she described them as somber creatures that always travel alone, and tend to be very frightening and intimidating since their size is so tremendous.
The informant’s mother is from a small, secluded town that is surrounded by mountains called Monjas in Guatemala. Although the town has become more modernized over the past few decades, many of the traditions and superstitions still circulate. The informant is from Boston, MA, but attends USC, and she often travels to Guatemala to visit family.
Present in folklore across many cultures are animals or other figures that represent death. Death is universal, and even though cultures and traditions can be very different, one of the things that binds everyone together is the cycle of life. Over time, humans have become more and more obsessed with death, whether it be the fear of it or the fascination with it. The black moth is just another example among countless others.