The Devil's tool

The Devil's tool

by Daniel Mackie May 12, 2016

How much does your soul weigh?

Dragonfly watercolour in progress- Daniel Mackie

Mine weighs about five dragonflies. I am guessing obviously. But the Devil will know exactly how many.

According to Swedish folklore the "Devil's steelyard", or the dragonfly, is a measure by which the Devil will weigh your soul. I am not sure why he needs to weigh it, but if you should find yourself in a position where the Devil is weighing your soul, it probably doesn't matter how many dragonflies it weighs - the outcome is not going to be good.

In fact, after he has weighed it and concluded it weighs 5 dragonflies the Blindsticka ("Blind stinger"),  the old Swedish name for dragonfly, will then pick out your eyes. If the devil is French (who knows maybe he is) you may fare better. The l'aiguille du diable ("Devil's needle") will refrain from poking your eyes out and merely sew them shut. Hopefully the Devil is English and the "Devil's darning needle" may just repair your socks!

You can dodge all the soul weighing caper if you live in the Far East where the dragonfly is seen much more positively. The dragonfly in Japan is a symbol of success, victory, happiness, strength and courage. During the 11th century noble Japanese families used the dragonfly as ornamentation on everything from furnishings to textiles.  All very positive stuff!

In ancient times, Japan was called “Akitsushima”, a name that was given to it by the 5th century emperor, Yuryaku. "Akitsu" is an old Japanese word for dragonfly and "shima" means island so it translates as “Isle of the Dragonfly”.  The story goes that the Emperor was bitten by a horsefly which was promptly eaten by a dragonfly. The Emperor honoured the dragonfly by naming Japan after it.

There is an even older story about how Japan got this name. The first Japanese emperor, Jimmu Tenno, climbed to the highest mountain to overlook his empire. From this lofty height the island looked like a dragonfly licking its tail. I think he must have been suffering from altitude sickness because I can't see it! Perhaps in 660 BC Japan's shape was different!

Image ©Daniel Mackie

See my Dragonfly design in its finished state here  

Dragonfly watercolour painting Daniel Mackie

 Image © Daniel Mackie

  

 




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