There is a truly spectacular depth of symbolism ins cultures all over the world when it comes to the butterfly. Everywhere around the globe and from every time since the ancient civilizations, the butterfly has had a profound symbolic and metaphorical meaning for everyone who has cared to represent or talk about it. Given the mythological stories and folklore surround the butterfly, is it any wonder that they so often play a significant role in our dreams? Here’s an explanation of some of the symbolism surround butterflies.
The butterfly has several common meanings across all cultures and human history. The most common ones are listed here below.
The general meaning of the butterfly can, in essence, be boiled down to the phenomenon of change. Cultures have long observed the transformative nature of the butterfly and the cocoon and have seen this beautiful process as metaphorical of change itself and the nature of self-transformation. In this way, the butterfly not only transforms itself but can be seen as an instance of the worldin a state of transformation. This is the main reason that many prophets, writers, poets, and painters have depicted the butterfly as the ultimate emblem for a changing, shifting world full of sudden and beautiful transformative effects.
In western traditions, the butterfly also has strong links to the soul. This started in ancient Greece as Psyche, the goddess of the soul, often took the form of a butterfly, or a butterfly-winged woman. Other cultures also consistently link the animal with the soul, including the Aztecs and the Mayans, who believed that the breath of the dead took the form of butterflies.
Additionally, the butterfly is often called a creature of joy, as it represent the spirit of life, birth, and transformation for all of humanity. The butterfly is also more generally thought of as a symbol of light. Many cultures and peoples have portrayed the butterfly has a bearer of the life-renewing nature of light and the Sun. In any case, butterflies typically have an enormously positive connotation with life, birth, and change.
Another word that is used to describe butterflies is grace, due to the elegant and light nature in which they glide through the air.
In dreams and visions, the butterfly is often used by the subconscious as a symbol to communicate with the conscious mind. For example, the butterfly might appear in a dream as a metaphor for telling you that you are denying yourself the joys of life in far too great an extent. You may also be going through a period of deep transformation, and how you interact with the butterflies may indicate how you are approaching that change. Alternatively, the butterfly might appear as a way for your unconscious self to tell you to take steps to organize a chaotic life. This is due to the formulaic and simple transformation of the cocoon and the butterfly’s changing, transformative nature.
The butterfly has a wide array of different cultural meanings. We listed some of the most common here below.
In Christian symbolism, the butterfly was often see as a visual representation of the human soul and a symbol of resurrection due to its transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.
Chinese mythology often represented butterflies as the representatives of bliss, innocence and fun. Like youth, butterflies are often full of energy and flutter around, enjoying their playful social lives. They are also often the symbols of undying love, and designs with butterflies were often gifted to newlywed couples.
On the flip side, several ancient cultures saw butterflies as spirits from the world of the dead. In Mayan and Aztec culture, butterflies were thought to be the spirits of humans that have left this world. Aztec culture believed that butterflies were the souls of happy ancestors that would visit the living bringing them messages that everything was well.
Native American folklore, overwhelmingly portrayed the butterfly in a positive light. The beauty of the butterfly was seen as the all-encompassing process of regeneration and rebirth in the whole world and universe.