What Is the Symbolic Meaning of a Butterfly?


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Although specific meanings vary from culture to culture, the butterfly is widely viewed as a positive symbol of personal transformation, freedom from previous struggles, renewal and hope. Its meaning differs slightly in different cultures.

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In the Japanese culture, the butterfly represents the happiness of a hopeful young bride who finds contentment in her new married life. Christians see parallels between the butterfly's metamorphosis and the spiritual journey Jesus underwent when he died and was resurrected. Much like the mythology of Christ, the butterfly enters a death-like state before it ultimately emerges in a new and far more beautiful form.

The Blackfoot tribe of North America regards the butterfly as a bringer of dreams and a good night's sleep. Blackfoot women often embroidered a butterfly on a scrap of fabric or buckskin and affixed it to a baby's clothing to help the child fall asleep faster. Other tribes believe that people can capture a butterfly and tell it a prayer or fervent desire. Once released, the butterfly travels to the creator and acts as an emissary between humans and the divine.

The black butterfly, however, is often viewed as a symbol of ill luck. Indigenous people in Mexico believe that the presence of the black witch moth in the home of a sick person heralds that person's imminent death.

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