The Curse of the ‘Butterfly’

My alarm sounded happily – it’s always cheerful at 5.30am – and, bleary-eyed, I jumped up and stumbled into the bathroom.

I reached for my shampoo but it was blocked by a huge, brown furry shape. I was without my glasses and couldn’t quite understand what was happening. I tried again. Nope. There was definitely something blocking my shampoo.

I leaned closer, woke up and screamed. It was a moth. But not just any moth – a giant jungle-style beast that was bigger than my hand. A bird would have been better.

I roused my flatmate but, despite being a hardy, sub-tropical Australian, she couldn’t cope with the thought of deafening flapping either. We resolved to leave it with the window open. I didn’t even shower.

When I mentioned the moth to a Colombian friend that morning, she shuddered.

“You know we’re very superstitious about those things,” she said seriously.

“They’re bad luck. And if they’re black, they mean death.”

I snorted.

“It was brown. Nothing is going to happen,” I said flatly.

But later I still couldn’t bear the idea of the beast swooping towards me in the shower (I’m a wimp) so I called the Colombian who is experiencing the current comedy of dating me. We were supposed to meet that afternoon to watch his beloved Real Madrid, but I asked if he could come a little early to remove the moth. Unfortunately, Colombians use the same word – mariposa – for both butterfly and moth, so I was unable to convey my full disgust at its’ huge, furry, flappy-ness.

(If it has been a beautiful Red Admiral butterfly, I wouldn’t have been so bothered, clearly.)

Still, the moth was making us late for the match and in my haste to rectify the situation I slipped on the wet floor and fell down in a painful heap, bruising my hip.

“I told you not to hurry,” my Colombian said, looking half concerned and half amused as he helped me to my feet.

“It’s a butterfly, it’s not going to do anything.”

He chased the beast out of the window, but it was bloody minded and remained on the exterior wall of our flat for the rest of the day – lurking in a slightly sinister fashion.

Still, I’d forgotton about it the following morning when I was walking along casually, drinking a bottle of water and enjoying the Bogota sunshine.

I stepped into the road only for my ankle to give way on a perfectly flat piece of tarmac. To be fair to my ankes, they have been permanently weakened by years of high-impact sport. Once a year, they roll for no reason. Once every five years they roll so badly, I am sent crashing to the floor. It seems I was about due a reminder.

I sprawled onto the edge of the kerb, in front of a horrified woman who hauled me to my feet; salvaging the water bottle, its lid and my life before all three could be extinguished by a crazy Bogota taxi driver. I was intact, apart from a cut foot and slightly bruised hands.

The day passed without further incident – I was hobbling slightly – but the following morning I woke up to a text message from the Colombian. I couldn’t understand it fully (and had no time to consult my dictionary) but it seemed the Colombian – a chef – was in hospital.

He was back home that evening when I visited with ice-cream and wine, certain it was nothing serious but unwilling to admit I hadn’t fully understood his message.

He answered the door with a sad face and his hand bandaged like a giant, white paw. It seems he’d knocked over a pan at his work and showered his right hand in boiling oil.

“It’s not been a good week has it?” he sighed, hiding a weak smile as I distracted him with my various bruises.

“No,” I replied grumpily.

“And it all started with that bloody butterfly.”


  1. Robinson Cook

    Thanks for the heads up on moths! I ran one out the other day, but didn’t pay attention to it’s color. That won’t happen again.

  2. Ricardo Garcia

    Colombians believe that a if a black moth goes in to place that is a sign that someone will die. A brown moth means grave illness, likely bad enough to end up in a hospital. I remenber my grandmother following the traditional procedure of removing the month with a broom, but without kiling it to ensure that the bad luck flies away with the moth.

  3. Zoe

    Well i have a question on this, do you think that if you have really bad luck and get a bunch of like stuff on your body that look like spider bites picked at and have hair in them that this butterfly can do that ? and give you really bad luck ?

  4. Ale (@Alewebs)

    Actually we do have a name for moth, it’s “polilla”. Only a few call them butterflies, and yes, they could be a sign of bad luck for the superstitious. I totally forgot how big they can be, and I wouldn’t dare to touch it or shower with it 🙂

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