May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on, To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.
Overwhelmingly, cultural myth and lore honor the butterfly as a symbol of transformation because of its impressive process of metamorphosis. From egg, to larvae (caterpillar), to pupa (the chrysalis or cocoon) and from the cocoon the butterfly emerges in her unfurling glory. What a massive amount of transition this tiny creature undergoes. Consider for a moment the kind of energy this expends. Imagine the whole of your life changing to such an extreme you are unrecognizable at the end of the transformation. Mind you, this change takes place in a short span of about a month.
Herein lies the deepest symbolic lesson of the butterfly. She asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does. The butterfly unquestioningly embraces the chances of her environment and her body. This unwavering acceptance of her metamorphosis is also symbolic of faith. Here the butterfly beckons us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives. She understands that our toiling, fretting and anger are useless against the turning tides of nature, she asks us to recognize the same.
Interestingly, in many cultures the butterfly is associated with the soul further linking our animal symbolism of faith with the butterfly. Even Christianity considers the butterfly a soulful symbol. To wit, the butterfly is depicted on ancient Christian tombs, as Christ has been illustrated holding a butterfly in Christian art. It's connection with the soul is rather fitting. We are all on a long journey of the soul. On this journey we encounter endless turns, shifts, and conditions that cause us to morph into ever-finer beings. At our soul-journey's end we are inevitably changed, not at all the same as when we started on the path. To take this analogy a step further, we can look again to the grace and eloquence of the butterfly and realize that our journey is our only guarantee. Our responsibility to make our way in faith, accept the change that comes, and emerge from our transitions as brilliantly as the butterfly.
There is a Native American legend that says, " If you have a secret wish, capture a butterfly and whisper your wish to it. Since butterflies cannot speak, your secret is ever safe in their keeping. Release the butterfly, and it will carry your wish to the Great Spirit, who alone knows the thoughts of butterflies. By setting the butterfly free, you are helping to restore the balance of nature, and your wish will surely be granted."
The butterfly is a powerful symbol for transformation. It leaves the safety of the cocoon in it's new form. This is an excellent image for anyone contemplating, or in the midst of a major change. A butterfly is a strong symbol of metamorphosis, with distinct stages.
The butterfly is a reminder to make changes when the opportunity arises. Change and transformation are inevitable for us all, but it does not have to be traumatic. Butterfly symbolism is also closely tied to the idea of spirits and souls. It has been used in many religions and cultures.
Psyche is the Greek word for both soul and butterfly. The belief was that butterflies were human souls searching for a new reincarnation, which gave the creature uncanny and sometimes ominous connotations. This symbolism was also used in early Christianity as a symbol of the soul. Celts thought that women became pregnant by swallowing butterfly souls. These butterfly-souls flew about seeking a new mother.
Many of the ancient civilizations believed that butterflies were symbols of the human soul.
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 centuries.
Northern Europeans thought that dreams were the result of the soul-butterfly's wanderings through other worlds.
The Irish believe that butterflies are the souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory.
Shoshone Indians believed that butterflies were originally pebbles, into which the Great Spirit blew the precious breath of life.
The Blackfeet Indians believe that dreams are brought to us in sleep by a butterfly.
Born out of the caterpillar in the chrysalis, butterflies were a symbol of rebirth, regeneration, happiness, and joy to Native Americans in Mexico.
A dying man in the Solomon Islands has a choice as to what he will become at death and often chooses a butterfly.
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.
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.
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