The Ladybird

see image excerpt (Lat. Coccinella semipunctata ) From the beginning of spring till the end of autumn, one can see everywhere, but mostly in the orchards, a tiny insect, flying or walking here and there, whose body is round and convex, the legs are short and the forewings that cover the body are red and have seven black dots. When you catch it, this graceful and lively little bug customarily coils up and releases a yellow nasty-smelling juice. It belongs to the Order of Beetles, more precisely of those having three-segment legs, and has different names: In Bucovina it is called Buburuză (ladybird), Buburuză roşie (red ladybird), Buburuz, Măriuţă, Măria popei, Măriuţa popei, Găinuşă, Găinuşa lunii, Găina lui Dumnezeu, Vaca lui Dumnezeu, Cucuşor, Vrăjitoare. In Moldavia: Buburuz, Buburuză, Vaca Domnului. In Wallachia: Gărgăriţă, Gărgăriţă, Mărgăriţă, Margarită, Mărgărintă, Boul popei, Boul Domnului, Boul lui Dumnezeu, Vaca lui Dumnezeu. In Transylvania: Buburuză, Buburuţă, Măriuţă, Măriuţa popei, Mămăruţă, Mumuruţă, Păpăruie. In Banat: Paparuie, Păpăruie, Paparugă. In Hungary: Buburuză, Păpăruză, Păpăluză, Măriuţă, Paparugă. With the Romanians in Meglena: Vaca Domnului. With the Romanians in Macedonia: Păscăliţă, Puliu aroş. Of all the names the Romanians in Bucovina give to this insect, the most common and widespread are Buburuză and Măriuţă. Buburuze – the plural of buburuză – is also used by the Romanians in Bucovina to designate a rash covering the human body. They also have the custom of calling buburuze the round swells that can be seen on the pumpkin rind: these pumpkins are consequently called ladybird pumpkins. The ladybird, as I have said, is a clean, lovely and lively insect. Therefore I think that the names of Măria popei and mainly Măriuţă were names of endearment given to it, much in the same way in which the Germans called it Marienkäfer. Probably for the same reason it was called Margarită or Mărgărintă in Wallachia. Găinuşă (little hen), Găinuşa lunii (the moon's little hen) and Găina lui Dumnezeu (God's hen) are names that can be explained by the fact that the dots on the back of the insect are also called pui (chickens) by the Romanians in some parts of Bucovina as those in the village of Stupca, in the district of Gura Humorului. Therefore they say that the insect has seven chickens, just like a hen or like the constellation of the same name (German Siebengestrin) that has seven young ones (stars) too. The name of Vrăjitoare (witch) can be explained by the popular belief that with the help of these creatures people can foresee their future. Romanians living in all parts of the country believe that the direction in which the insect flies shows where the young lads and girls will find their future spouses. It is also believed that the ladybird can help us in forecasting the weather. Păpărugă and Păpăruie are names that probably originate in the red colour of the wings which is the colour of poppy, also called in some places inhabited by Romanians paparună or paparone (Lat. Papaver Rhoeas) Why it is also called Boul popei, Boul lui Dumnezeu, Vaca lui Dumnezeu, Cucuşor, Mămăruţă or Mumuruţă I could not find until this day. I have mentioned above the fact that on all territories inhabited by Romanians it is believed that the insect can help us predict the weather and mainly foresee the part of the world in which someone will find their partner. Therefore the young lads of Bucovina, when they catch a ladybird, place it in the palm of their hand and let it fly, singing: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyMy luck I will try.By your flight thus led,I'll find a lass to wed. By uttering these words they believe that the flight of the beetle will show them in what part of the world they are destined to find their luck and get themselves a wife. And if the ladybird would not fly and draws back its legs hiding them under its body, if it sits still as if it were dead or rolls down and falls into the ground, this is interpreted as a bad omen as the person who uttered the words is doomed to die soon. Some young men, as those living in the city of Câmpulung or around it, for instance, believe that if they catch a ladybird and let it go where it likes, then the ladybird will walk to and fro for a while and then all of a sudden will fly away, and whereto it flies, they will find their luck. And if the beetle would not fly at all, this is a sign that they will stay unmarried for a longer while, or even remain bachelors for the rest of their lives. While the ladybird walks to and fro, they sing these words: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my bride I'll try.Eastwards if you fleeThere my wife will be.But if you fly westI'll start there my quest,Looking for a girlPrecious like a pearl.Young, pretty and smart,After my own heart.When a girl I findWith this body and mindI will hold her hipsI will kiss her lips.  The girls do the same thing: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my man I'll try. Uttering these words, the girls wait until the ladybird flies. And they believe that they will find a husband where the insect goes. The same customs and beliefs that can be found with the Romanians in Bucovina are shared by those in Moldavia. The young men and women in this region, some of them in their early teens, as soon as they catch a ladybird they place it on the index of their left hand and start saying: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my man I'll try. Eastwards if you flee,My man moody'll be.If your choice west is,He'll do as I please. or: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my man I'll try.  or: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my bride I'll try.  And uttering these words, they wait for the creature to fly. And the ladybird has to fly in one direction or other after it reached the tip of the finger. About the customs and superstitions in Wallachia regarding this insect, Mr. T. G. Djuvara wrote: You know the custom we have – when a boy or a girl catches a ladybird they put it in the palm of their hand and, without hurting it they say: Corn weevil, little bug,Whereto you'll flyTo find my spouse I'll try.  As they utter these words, they believe that the Ladybird is a message carrier, a herald, and that it must not be killed. In a short story written in Wallachia we can read the following:  The country dance has ended. Stanca takes uncle Chivu by the hand. "Come, let me tell you your fortune!" And uncle Chivu is shivering as if seized with fever and walks like a toddler. "Come on! Look! I've caught a corn weevil!" Stanca sits down on the grass. All the young women and men gather around her. And she, like an authentic Gypsy fortune teller, starts: "Look at the corn weevil, uncle Chivu! Have a good look at it." "Look, here is its mouth and these tiny, thin things are its legs. It has small, frail wings and these black spots. Can you see them? Aren't they numerous?" In the meantime uncle Chivu would have been in a better position to count the spots in Stanca's eyes, which he could see more clearly than those on the little insect. "These spots are the villages where a young man can get married, as the corn weevil chooses, you'll see!" Stanca places the bug on the back of her hand and starts: Corn weevil, little bug,Whereto you'll flyTo find my spouse I'll try.  And she says that three times and the beetle flies and everybody around, boys and girls, clap their hands. "You see, it flew to our village, it is there that he will find his girl. A corn weevil never lies. This is what happened with Mitu, Voica's son and with Radu, the son of Nega. It was me who told their fortune." Uncle Chivu only said this: "One thing is good, for sure: that she will be someone from our village." "How do you mean, Stanca, a corn weevil never lies?" "They don't, I swear. It's a fact. Wherever they go, that is a sign, as if it were God's will."  As one can easily see from these quotations, the Romanians in Wallachia have the same customs and beliefs regarding the insect as those living in Bucovina and Moldavia. There is something, however, that doesn't fit. Are the lines quoted above, indeed, about the insect that is called Gărgăriţă (Engl. corn weevil, Lat. Calandria granaria), or sometimes Cuculez, or is this another name they use in this part of the country for the ladybird? I don't quite think so. And here is why. First, the corn weevil (gărgăriţa), as everybody knows, spends more time hiding in corn barns and baker's shops than out in the open, while the ladybird (buburuz) loves the light and the fresh air. Secondly, the corn weevil, as everyone knows, including the people living in Wallachia, is a particularly harmful insect as it often destroys entire granaries, while the ladybird is, on the contrary, extremely useful as it feeds (like its own larvae) on the juice of the wood lice, also known as tree lice (Lat. Aphis rosae or Aphis sorbi), which are indeed a pest as they destroy mostly fruit-bearing trees. Thirdly and finally, as far as I know, wherever they live, Romanians say that it is wrong to kill a useful creature; on the contrary, for the rest they show no such restraint, and if they know they are harmful and cause a lot of damage they do not spare their lives and don't have any scruples in exterminating them whenever they can. Therefore Romanians have no reason for liking the corn weevil since it is a harmful little pest. Indeed, they do everything they can to keep it far from their cereal barns and to exterminate it. As for holding it in their palm, playing with it or using words of endearment for it, that is utterly out of the question. On the contrary, it is the ladybird that the Romanians in Moldavia and those in Bucovina say it is wrong to kill; and that is because it is a useful insect. And if you ask them why it is not right, why it is wrong to kill it, they are unable to name any way in which this creature is useful, but they will say that they know this from their parents and grandparents: that to kill it is wrong; and why kill it after all, since it does no harm at all. Consequently I believe that the word corn weevil was wrongly used, probably by mistake or out of ignorance, in the verse I quoted above. They cannot refer to the insect thus called. Therefore, in my opinion, the word Mărgăriţă should have been used instead of Gărgăriţă (corn weevil). This is another name given to the ladybird in some parts of Wallachia. And another proof that this is indeed the way this insect is called or, at least, used to be called in this part of the country, is that the names of Margarită or Margarintă are also used here to designate the creature. Finally, the children of Dioşi in the county of Romanaţi, when they catch a ladybird in spring, which they call Boul lui Dumnezeu (God's ox) as people do in other parts of Wallachia, too, they still sing: MârgăriţăGârgăriţă, Încotro-i zburaAcolo m-oi mărita. which translates: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my spouse I'll try.  And why do they do this? Why don't they say Boul lui Dumnezeu as this is the name they use for the ladybird in their everyday language? Maybe it's because originally the little poem went like this: GârgăriţăMârgăriţă, Încotro-i zburaAcolo m-oi mărita. which is not quite the same as: MârgăriţăGârgăriţă.  Forget about the Walllachians now and let's go to Transylvania. The boys in some parts of Transylvania, like those in Haţeg, the county of Hunedoara, for instance, when they catch a ladybird, which they call Păpăruie, they hold it in their hand and they say: Ladybird, ladybird,Help me through, help me through,For that if you doI will tell you trueHow to find your maHow to find your pa.Your mom is dead.Your dad has fled. And they continue with this spell until it flies away. And when the girls find it, they take it between their fingers and then let it fly, saying: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my man I'll try. A similar song is sung by the girls in the Western Mountains, in Transylvania; only that they use the word Măriuţă instead of Păpăruie for the insect. Finally, it is also in Transylvania (in the village of Fărăgău near the Saxon Reghin) that I found this legend about the Ladybird. It is said that the Red King had a daughter and a son. Both siblings were extremely handsome and they were kind and nice, but this was true only when they were kids. When they grew up they became mean and wicked. The king was much displeased with that and this gave him so much pain that he was struck with sickness and died. When he died, his kingdom needed a new ruler and the two siblings started to fight over the crown, each saying they had a stronger claim to their father's throne. The girl said she was the first in line as she was the first born child of the late king. The boy said that his was the only valid claim since women cannot reign. And they fought for a while until one day the boy came back home drunk as a lord and rushed at his sister as he wanted to kick her out of the kingdom. But the girl was stout and strong and was not afraid of him. In fact she didn't give a dime on him, and as she saw him coming she caught him by the neck and kicked him out of the kingdom. The boy in his turn couldn't live with this disgrace so he came back and killed his sister and became a king and reigned for a long time. God however, took pity of the slain girl and changed her dead body into a tiny, red, black-spotted insect that was called ladybird and that can be still seen in our days. The boys in Hungary, when they catch a ladybird they put it in their palm and say: Ladybird, ladybird,Help me through, help me through,The Turks are comingOur kids they're slaying. Other boys in Hungary, however, catch the ladybird, let it walk to and fro for a while, and then they say: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my wife I'll try.   As for the girls, they say: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my man I'll try.   The Romanians in Banat, mainly the young men and women, have this custom: when they go to the fields in summer and find a ladybird (that they call Păpăruie or Paparugă), they hold it in their hand and say: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my wife I'll try.   or, respectively: Ladybird, ladybird,Whereto you'll flyTo find my wife I'll try. In doing this they believe that the insect will show them where they will find a spouse: the part of the village it flies to or its thereabouts. If the insect would not fly, this is a sign the boy or the girl who held it in their hand will not get married that year. We saw above what the Romanians in Hungary say when they catch this insect. What beliefs are associated with it I don't know. I only know this folk poem of Satmar: God have mercy, we lose our reason,Our sons are dying in prison.Parents try to set them freeAnd bring florins bribe or fee.And that girl that is so handsome Tried to pay her lover's ransom.The jailors keep saying noThey won't let our brothers go.Here comes this jolly maidAnd she has a kerchief made,Token of fidelityFor her beau in custody."Honest jailor, don't be mean,My true love I haven't seenFor a long time; let him walkOr, by God, as we still talkInto a ladybird I'll turnYour skin I'll bite and burn."Panic then the jailor seizes,And her lover he releases.Thus your sweetheart and her faithCan save your life from death.And a woman's love, you see,Can from prison set you free. Finally, Romanians in Macedonia also believe that they can find their spouses in the direction whereto the ladybird flies and sing songs to the same effect. As far as forecasting the weather is concerned, the Romanians in Bucovina believe that if the ladybird flies after you held it in your hand the weather will be fine, while if it will not fly, this is a sign of bad weather. If it spreads out its lower wings this is a sign of great ordeals coming. When it flies into the house it will get colder. The Romanians in Transylvania say that if it flies east it will rain. If it flies south it will get colder. If you catch a ladybird early in the spring the weather will be fine and warm. Besides this, the Romanians in Transylvania also believe that: If a ladybird sits on someone's shoulders they will have to deal with some hardship. If you find dead ladybirds you'll soon have troubles. But since the ladybird is red with Abel's blood, as some people believe, and therefore a good friend of Virgin Mary, and a granddaughter of Love, then: If you see a ladybird on someone's hat this means they will fall in love. If you see a ladybird on a girls headkerchief this means that the girl is in love. And because the ladybird is a granddaughter of love, many girls use it in love spells and charms. If a girl wants to be beautiful and loved by the men she washes on Easter Eve with water in which she put a ladybird. The girl will turn red and beautiful like a flower, they say. A girl who wants to be loved by a particular man must take several well dried ladybirds, mince them and put them in cheese pastry to which dill is added. If the man eats the pastry, he will fall in love with her. And that is not all. A dry, smoked ladybird can be used to cure skin stains. The wings of the insect are used to cure herpes. Finally we have to add that the small ladybird (Lat. Coccinela bipunctata) is also a member of the ladybird's family, which is a little bit smaller than the regular ladybird that we have been describing so far and that usually has just one dot or spot on each of its wings. And so is the yellow ladybird (Lat. Coccinella impustulata), whose wings are yellowish and have more black dots. Besides these, many Romanians claim to have seen black, bluish, green and brown ladybirds. The latter are the colour of a woolen overcoat. Most of these ladybirds. like those mentioned above, have a black abdomen and stripes on their sides that look like fish scales and above them they have little black dots. With some, the number of dots is even, with others it is odd. Those that are even are less common and that is why they are used by witches in different spells and charms. Translated by Dan Mateescu 

by Simion Florea Marian (1847-1907)