Friday, 5 September 2008
A distinguished character
There's an end-of-season feeling this morning. It's cold and wet again and I sense that trapping days are numbered, for this year. Only half-a-dozen moths were snoozing in the eggboxes this morning, but this is an interesting one. It's very common; I should have mentioned it before. It's the Setaceous Hebrew Character and it comes trailing clouds of glory. According to legend, this moth was present when Moses received the Ten Commandments from God but was not allowed to see the divine face. The moth, however, did. And because it confessed this dreadful fact to God at once, it was rewarded by having the Hebrew Character 'Nun' imprinted on its wings instead of being smitten as happens to so many people and things in the Bible. According to the excellent website www.flwildflowers.com, 'nun' is also shorthand for 'miracle' which is what this presumably was. The website adds charmingly that in Yiddish accounts the moth is described as 'fermisht', or 'all shook up', and says that the exchange on the mountain was possible because 'the language of moths is something that only the Divine knows.' So, now you know too. Setaceous, btw, means 'bristly' or unshaven. There is another moth in Britain called simply the Hebrew Character, which also has a 'nun' mark but less distinct. Why this one is considered unshaven, I have yet to discover.