Symbolism of Butterflies
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~ Myths about Butterflies ~
Many of the ancient civilizations believed that
butterflies were symbols of the human soul.
The Greeks believed that a new human soul was
born each time an adult butterfly emerged from its cocoon.
Butterflies have been used by the Chinese and
Japanese cultures for centuries as symbols of joy and the essence of happiness.
Both cultures have added them to manuscripts, paintings and drawings for
Early Europeans believed that the human soul
took the form of a butterfly so, they viewed the butterfly with great respect
and often with fear.
Northern Europeans throught that dreams were
the result of the soul-butterfly's wanderings through other worlds.
In southern Germany, some say the dead are reborn
as children who fly about as butterflies, resulting in the belief that
they bring children.
The Irish believe that butterflies are the souls
of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory.
Native American Indian legends told that butterflies
would carry the wishes to the Great Spirit in heaven to be granted.
Shoshone Indians believed that butterfles were
originally pebbles, into which the Great Spirit blew the precious breath
Native American Zuni tribes believed that butterfles
could predict the weather. The Zuni also believed that the white butterfly
predicts the beginning of summer.
The Blackfeet Indians believe that dreams are
brought to us in sleep by a butterfly.
The butterfly is a symbol of the fertility of
the earth among some tribes of Mexico.
Born out of the caterpillar in the chrysalis,
butterflies were a symbol of rebirth, regeneration, happiness, and joy
to Native Americans in Mexico.
The Maya looked upon butterflies also as the
spirits of dead warriors in disguise descending to earth.
A dying man in the Solomon Islands has a choice
as to what he will become at death and often chooses a butterfly.
Among the Nagas of Assam the dead are believed
to go through a series of transformations in the underworld and are finally
reborn as butterflies. When the butterfly dies, that is the end of the
The Aztecs believed that the happy dead in the
form of beautiful butterflies would visit their relatives to assure them
that all was well. These butterflies flew around the house and around bouquets
of flowers which were carried by Aztec men of social rank.
Metamorphosis of butterflies and moths is one
of the mysteries of Nature. The ability of these insects to change from
the crawling caterpillar to the flying adult is almost magical.
Many people are so awe inspired by the metamorphosis
that they believe that butterflies and moths could never have evolved over
millions of years without a God behind it.
The night butterfly [the moth] attracted by the
flame, like the soul attracted by heavenly truths, burns in the flame,
reflection of the trials that must be endured to eliminate the fleshy sink-stones
before knowing the joys of the beyond.
Gagliardi RA. Lepidopteral Symbolism:
Lepidoptera Symbols Relating to Flight. Butterfly and Bugs Symbolism. Fourth
Issue, November 1997. Available at: http://www.bugbios.com/ced4/butterfly_symbols.html .
Cherry R. Native American Mythology.
Butterfly and Bugs Symbolism. Fourth Issue, November 1997. Available at:
Mars J. Butterflies: Grace on the
Wing. Kansas City , MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1997.
Legend has it that
whispering a wish to a butterfly then releasing it to carry the wish the heavens will make the wish come true.
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