Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Wednesday Wildlife - Spindles

A spindle is a wooden spike used for spinning wool, flax, hemp, cotton, and other fibres into thread.

The word also has a variety of other meanings such as a piece of wood that has been turned on a lathe for use as a baluster, chair leg, etc.; any of various rotating shafts that serve as axes for larger rotating parts; or a spike - any holding device consisting of a rigid, sharp-pointed object.

No, it''s alright - I haven't put this posting here by mistake. You might imagine it should have gone on my Word Blog but did you know that the name was also once used in the U.S. for dragonflies:-

A Swedish legend holds that trolls use dragonflies as spindles when weaving their clothes (hence the Swedish word for dragonfly trollslända, lit. "troll's spindle") as well as sending them to poke out the eyes of their enemies. Another Swedish piece of folklore suggests they were used by the Devil to weigh people's souls.

In England they were also once known as Devil's Darning Needles whilst some uS local names include darner, darning needle, devil's darning needle, ear sewer, mosquito fly, mosquito hawk, needle, skeeter hawk, snake doctor, snake feeder, and, still in use apparently, spindle.


  1. How did you manage to have the dragon fly on your hand in the first place, and keep still long enough to take a picture?! I have tried many times to take a picture of the dragon flies that surround my parents' garden pond, but so far, I have not been quick enough, and now I'll have to wait until next summer.

  2. I had no idea! Even more surprising, I realise that I have never even wondered about our name for it ('trollslända'). If anything, I suppose I just associated it with magic, because we also have words like 'trolla' (do magic) and 'förtrolla' (bewitch) and the original connection to trolls has sort of got lost in modern use.


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