From deep and personal symbolism to cultural and religious reflections, butterflies may be one of the most symbolic species in the world.
In many respects, the metamorphosis a butterfly goes through has become the ultimate manifestation of transformation in all aspects of life.
It is the symbol of new beginnings, resilience, endurance, and change. In many cultural traditions, butterflies are said to embody the soul of a departed loved one.
To present the ceaseless significance of butterflies, we will cover here key butterfly meanings and symbolism.
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Butterfly fun facts
As if butterflies are not already fun enough thanks to its many meanings, symbolism, and colors, and of course its botanical function as an effective pollinator, there are still many things to be discovered about this creature. Here are some fun facts that will make you appreciate butterflies more.
- Butterfly wings are actually transparent. It is covered with tiny transparent scales that reflect light and patterns making our eyes perceive that they have different colors.
- They have biological drinking straws called a proboscis. They have this under their chins, curled up and unfurls when they sip nectar from flowers.
- They see and taste with their feet. Their taste receptor cells are located in their feet. Tasting the pollen means drumming their feet in the flowers to shake off the nectar’s location.
- Nutrients are sipped from mud puddles. Contrary to what we know, they don’t live on nectar alone. Butterflies sip added nutrients from mud puddles. Usually, male butterflies do this more often and the nutrients they get from the mud add to sperm strength, hence, propagation.
- Butterflies need to maintain a body temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit to be able to fly. When the temperature drops to below 55 degrees, butterflies become immobile and cannot sip nectar from flowers.
- Butterflies do not live long. At best, they only exist for two to four weeks. During this brief life, they will focus on sipping nectar and mating to ensure that new butterflies emerge.
- Butterflies are actually nearsighted. Beyond 10-12 feet, images and colors become blurry for them. Aside from their myopic sight, they are also very good in differentiating colors.
- Newly emerged butterflies out of the cocoon cannot fly immediately. They have to pump for nectar until their veins are filled with fluid and their wings expand and gain breadth.
At the core of the butterfly, the meaning is metamorphosis. This process is commonly used as the metaphor for many meaningful associations like potential, transformation, ascension, an improvement from a previous state, and a full-circle experience of the wonders of life.
Because of their immanent characteristics and qualities, butterflies also means freedom and personal authenticity. It also means resilience, endurance, and being able to reach one’s full potential.
In the same manner, butterflies hold a lot of symbolism across religious beliefs and cultural traditions.
For one, it symbolizes rebirth, renewed consciousness, and spiritual awakening. Birthed from eggs, butterflies turn into caterpillars callously eating everything to survive.
After this, the butterfly retreats in a long moment of seclusion which stands for a time of reflection and growing within.
After this, the butterfly is transformed into a new state complete with new ways of being and doing. It could also symbolize that after death, souls get to be reborn in another dimension or state.
Another key symbolism for butterflies is that they represent the fleetingness of life. They have relatively short life spans. It symbolically guides us to enjoy the here and now and all the good and bad things life has to offer.
Related: A Guide to the Spiritual Meaning of 10 Common Garden Birds and Insects
Butterfly symbolism in different cultures
Regardless if dead or alive, butterflies are associated with souls especially of one’s departed loved ones.
They generally connote an important message from the dead, a sense of warning, special instructions, or the continuation of unfinished business and the transmission of wisdom to a chosen living loved one.
Butterflies have a diverse symbolism for the Celts. One, butterflies represent grace, honor, prosperity, and wealth. Two, it means divine guide since butterflies in their lore are considered as the fire of the gods.
It is the symbol of motherhood and femininity but at the same time, it also represents the soul of a dead child.
In the Christian tradition, butterflies are significant emblems of rebirth and spiritual transformation. They also represent a deeper spiritual connection with God.
Butterflies are exceptionally important symbols during Easter as they stand for resurrection, new beginnings, and the start of something beautiful.
Depending on the color, butterflies connote various meanings for the Chinese. The most prevailing is its symbolism for long life. When two butterflies are seen flying together or are following each other, it represents undying love.
This is one of the reasons why in marriage traditions, butterflies are flown out along with doves.
Butterflies are especially associated with the Hindu god Brahma. Lore has it that upon closely observing the life cycle, characteristics, and tendencies of butterflies, the god Brahma was convinced that the path leading to perfection is found in rebirth.
Spiritual meaning of a butterfly
Considered as spiritual creatures, butterflies also have a lot of spiritual meanings. One, butterflies are said to be the messenger of angels.
When butterflies are around you, it means that the angels are approving your actions and that you are on the right path. It also means that angels are guiding you and that you need to stay faithful.
It is also a widely accepted symbolism that butterflies are the reincarnation of souls. In Asia, butterflies are revered as their departed loved ones, assigning specific colors to signal which loved one is visiting them. Generally, butterflies are considered as vessels to which fallen ancestors communicate with their living kin.
As a spirit animal and totem, butterflies are guiding creatures to take life calmly and with grace. It is a reflective guide in connecting to a higher purpose and to change what needs to be changed to achieve one’s dreams and potential.
Butterfly dream meaning
Since it is considered as a magical and spiritual creature, dreaming about butterflies bear positive meanings and symbolisms. For one, it has something to do about your future.
Dreaming about it in times of confusion and distress especially when it comes to career means craving for a new professional environment. Hence, dreaming about butterflies reveals what you want most to change.
On a more simple note, dreaming of butterflies could also mean fortune, prosperity, and good luck. It also means that good news is around and that financial stability is near.
Dead butterfly meaning
Seeing or finding a dead butterfly does not sit well in popular belief. For many, it is a bad omen as it usually translates to falling ill or losing an important treasure (such as jobs, financial instability, death, etc).
But in Japan, dead butterflies are still considered significant as they are considered to contain the souls of the dearly departed.
Butterfly meaning in the bible
In the bible, butterflies are the representation of spiritual transformation and ascension. Like the dove, butterflies could also be the host of the holy spirit guiding individuals as they traverse the earth.
As a spiritual animal, butterflies are specifically significant during Easter as they symbolize resurrection. Excavated ancient tombs are often engraved with butterfly symbols. These engravings usually depict that the dead was once a scribe, a nobility, or a devout Christian.
Choosing the butterfly as your spirit animal or totem means that you are reflecting or paying close attention to some aspects of your life that you think needs massive transformation. It means that you have found a profound connection with your inner being and the universe.
Butterfly totems guide an individual about personal growth and individual life cycles. Butterfly totems also reveal that we have to be attached spectators to life’s beautiful unfolding.
The most important message of butterfly totems is going through life transformations with the utmost freedom and grace.
Butterfly totems could be found in cultures of the Navajos, early Celtic settlements, aborigines in Canada and Australia, and some modified butterfly emblems in old Viking settlements.
Meaning of butterfly colors
Black butterfly meaning
The color black is associated with both negative and positive and as is for black butterflies. On the negative side, it usually connotes death or misfortune.
Death here does not mean physical death entirely. It could also connote the loss of a job, fortune, relationship, and other significant things in your life that have halted or have ended. On a more positive note, it means wisdom, grace, and rebirth.
Monarch butterfly meaning
It is not a color but a butterfly species. Monarch butterflies are known for their larger built and longer and broader wingspan. As such, monarch butterflies mean great transformation or the amplification of something to greater status.
Hence, it means more lofty dreams and more positive news. However, it could also mean greater misfortune, etc.
Yellow butterfly meaning
Yellow butterflies are also a balance between the negative and the positive. In a positive light, it means more joy, laughter, encouragement, and happiness. It also means that you are on higher spiritual awareness.
At the same time, yellow butterflies also connote death. It is specifically the symbol of the death of infants and of mothers who passed away while giving birth.
White butterfly meaning
In the Japanese culture, white butterflies relate to the soul. It specifically means that a message of warning, instruction, and wisdom is given to you by the world or of dead ancestors.
When you see one, you have to contemplate on what areas of life you should be prioritizing and heed warnings if danger/confusion is imminent.
Blue butterfly meaning
Blue-colored butterflies are very rare in many parts of the world and as such, are considered as wish granters. They say that when a blue butterfly lands on you, your wish will eventually come true.
Where it is common, blue butterflies are associated with warmth, joy, and peace. It also encourages creativity.
Orange butterfly meaning
There is no one meaning to orange butterflies. They say that butterflies with brighter orange hues stand for more spiritual/divine meanings while darker hued ones represent emotional symbolism. Specifically, it could mean entering a higher consciousness, passion, and more engagement with the society or with the world.
Black and yellow butterfly meaning
Bicolored butterflies do not mean more complex symbolism. For example, black and yellow butterflies both mean the need for drastic positive change or a signal of death or the end of something.
Purple butterfly meaning
This color is extremely rare for butterflies and is mostly seen in dreams than in actual occurrences. It represents mystery, enlightenment, and wisdom. They are also representations of being connected with a higher, spiritual realm.
Brown butterfly meaning
Generally, brown butterflies mean good luck and new beginnings. If you see a brown butterfly outdoors, it means that good news is on its way. If it is seen inside the house, it means that a significant confirmation is coming. In Asia, brown butterflies are believed to be the vessels of the souls of loved ones while in other countries, it means prosperity.
Black and blue butterfly meaning
The rare Atala butterfly of black and blue color is associated with wisdom, elegance, and noble qualities. It also means bouncing back from trauma, emotional instability, and negative life experiences.
Red butterfly meaning
This one is a symbol of power, love, and passion. It also means years of happiness and prosperity or the dawn of good news. At the same time, it is also believed to denote danger, anger, and betrayal. In Korean superstition, touching your eye after seeing a red butterfly will turn you blind.
What does it mean when a butterfly lands on you?
This could mean many things to many people but when a butterfly lands on you, it symbolically means that you have to assess your current life path and see which aspects need to change.
It could also mean an upcoming answered prayer, a cosmic sign about what you have been praying for or a quick connection with a departed loved one.
What does it mean when you see a butterfly?
Seeing a butterfly can mean many things. But amongst its many meanings, seeing a butterfly means establishing communication with the spiritual realm.
It also envisages notions of joy, good luck, good news, and blessings. It could also mean an omen depending on your current experience and state of mind.
What does it mean when a butterfly crosses your path?
Crossing paths with a butterfly have spiritual implications. It means that you are given a sign to proceed to your decisions and goals. It is also a message of caution and to be calculating about sudden changes and impulsive decisions.
It also means spiritual guidance either from the angels or from departed loved ones. It could mean that good news is upon your sleeve too.
What does it mean when a butterfly follows you?
When a butterfly follows you, it means that you are running away from a circumstance that needs immediate addressing.
It also means that you have to take time and reflect on the pressing issues in your life that are oftentimes muted by other priorities. Hence, a butterfly following you means that you have to understand in silence how things fit and from there make more rational decisions.
What does it mean when a butterfly flies around you?
Religious traditions would argue that butterflies flying around you connote a spiritual message or a signal that spiritual beings are fluttering around you.
It is closely associated with departed loved ones guiding you. It also means that you have to pay attention to the signs the world is giving you. You have to look for recent patterns in your life that may mean more than what it actually presents.
Butterfly tattoo meaning
When it comes to tattoos, butterflies can mean many things to different people. It might be of importance due to personal anecdotes or solely because of the message of metamorphosis. Regardless, here are some of the associated meanings given to butterfly tattoos.
To see the butterfly and appreciate only its surface beauty is a tendency that we should now forget. Given what we have covered about this beyond the surface level animal, it is a gift of nature.
Not only is it important in maintaining the ecological balance but it is also important in our mystic and spiritual lives.
It is the balance of positive and negative meanings and is a significant cultural symbol in many beliefs and traditions.
Drawing from everything that we have discussed here, indeed, butterflies have gained their place not only in nature but also in our own lives. No wonder why butterflies are well-loved.