Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Moths, Myths and Storytelling

A few weeks back I was invited to speak at a Ladies Book Club hosted by my friend Penny Ettinger here in Freeport, Grand Bahama. As we were chatting one of the women said, "Look, there's a moth in Penny's house."

Now, in the Bahamas, Black Witch Moths such as the one you see in the photo above, are locally known as Money Moths and Bahamian folklore says that if one lands on you or on your door and stays there for a while you will come into money. (Lucky for my friend Penny! Reminds me of that song, Pennies from Heaven!)

In Jamaica the same moth is called a Duppy Bat and is seen as the embodiment of a soul not at rest. Hawaiian Black Witch Moth mythology, though associated with death, has a happier note in that if a loved one has died, the moth is said to be an embodiment of the person's soul returning to say goodbye. There are even places in Mexico, where people joke that if one flies over your head, you'll lose your hair.

I like the Bahamian and Hawaiian legends. That's why you see me holding The Last Daughter of Prussia up to the noteworthy moth. As I stood there I said a prayer for all the people and Trakehner horses who died in East Prussia on the Great Trek during WW2. Hopefully, through writing my book and bringing their untold story to light their souls will find peace. And if the Hawaiian myth holds water and someone did come back to say goodbye, then I know my grandmother's spirit was right there on Penny's door wishing me well and thanking me for completing the task she called me to so many years ago when I first began my writing journey. Lastly, what author wouldn't want their newly released novel to benefit from a good luck legend that promotes prosperity and success? So, yes, I confess I was wishing for that too.

My grandmother, Edith von Sanden-Guja
who came to me repeatedly in my dreams
and called me to the task
of writing The Last Daughter of Prussia.
In conclusion, I want to say that stories—especially old stories, myths and folklores—are crucial to our lives, our society. They strengthen the bonds and values of our cultural communities, our world communities. They preserve elements of history and wisdom for future generations. They must be kept alive. It is a necessary measure now to transcribe them before they fade into nothingness. For without stories who are we?

Deep in my heart and on a more personal level, I also believe that every family has a story. However, if the story is too traumatic or shameful, if it remains a secret or taboo in the ancestral bones, it can have an unwanted effect on all the generations—past, present and future. The dead won't rest in peace until their story is compassionately brought into resonance with the collective field and the living, unconscious of this exclusion may carry unresolved issues into their present day lives without ever knowing why, while acting out in unhealthy ways. For this reason, I believe that every story must be told in order for healing to occur. No tribe, no person, animal, insect or living earthly thing should be excluded.

Until next time...

—Marina Gottlieb Sarles


  1. This is so beautiful and full of grace. Thank you for your inspiration and wonder-full stories!

  2. For a number of reason I have always been fascinated with the history of East Prussia. It is difficult to find stories and histories of East Prussia in English (My German isn't that good). I intend to purchase your book this weekend.

    Thanks you for writing your family's history