Firefly Lore

XocoyoCopitzin at XocoyoCopitzin at
Mon Jan 17 22:26:09 UTC 2000

Hello, all!

I'm a longtime lurker and lapsed subscriber back on the list, this time with
a new fiction project under way and seeking Nahua lore about Fireflies.

In Jill Leslie McKeever Furst's chapter on "The Glowing Ihiyotl" in _The
Natural History of the Soul in Ancient Mexico_ she writes a bit about the
"Spirit as a Gaseuous, Glowing Entity" and relates tales that describe some
Nahua souls as being firefly-like in that they glow and float and
mysteriously ficker, like lanterns, meteors or shooting stars.

Furst relates a belief among the people in Sierra Norte de Puebla that the
tonalli is interlaced with a shadow-soul (ecahuil) that is "a little like air
[and] no more, it is like a little lightening flash [and] no more, it is like
a little ray of light."   Lights like this are feared to be shapeshifting
sorcerers, and further north across the border, are associated with the
spirits of excpetionally powerful people.  A few tales tell of a body's soul
actually transforming into a firefly and flying away upon death.

I can't find much else on the natural history and mythic lore for Fireflies
as they appeared the Nahua worldview, either as souls, sorcerers, or simply
humble insects, and a keyword search of the Nahtuat-L archives bring up only
glosses for the word.  Beyond McKeever Furst, I've combed my standard bedside
texts by Soustelle, Leon-Portilla, Bierhorst, Caso, Clendinnen, and even
extensively on the Web.  Not a word.  Yet my curiosity remains.  :-)

Any other lore, glyphs, anecdotes or analyses of the Firefly-as-insect or
Firefly-as-metaphor in Nahua thought would be welcomed.

Alison King

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