Resurrection & Transformation
The spiritual meaning of butterfly spirit animal is widely understood as resurrection. Hindus take the butterfly’s time in the chrysalis as a reminder of the importance of meditation on the road to enlightenment. Christians see the emergence of the winged butterfly from the chrysalis as a metaphor for Jesus’s resurrection from the dead.
The meaning of butterfly as resurrection could be seen literally in the example of Christ or symbolically as our own rebirth into a revolutionary way of being and viewing the world. Butterfly spirit animal, like dragonfly and ladybug spirit animal, is about transformation, but in a much larger, grander way. Butterflies undergo complete transformation changing from one body type (caterpillar) to an absolutely different type (butterfly) with an immovable stage in between (pupa in the chrysalis).
Sometimes in life we take things in stages and other times there is a giant leap in our evolution. This leap is a signature of butterfly spirit animal working in your life.
Moths build cocoons and butterflies construct chrysalises. During and just after the chrysalis stage is when the butterfly is most defenseless. This stage is short in the scheme of things, but many people I’ve met in the midst of the chrysalis stage are very impacted by how vulnerable they feel. It is both a tender and terrifying time. Everything is dismantling and it is hard to see what new form will emerge.
We must give ourselves fully over to the death of the chrysalis before resurrection can come.
Departing Souls and Visits from Departed Spirits
In many cultures, most notably Japanese, Greek and Aztec culture, butterfly is seen as a direct representation of the human soul. Butterfly is seen as the soul departing from a dying body and butterfly is told to be the soul of a loved one coming back to visit.
There is a wispy, ephemeral nature to the teetering flight of a delicate butterfly that tells us how much we intuitively know the nature of the human soul. The meaning of seeing a butterfly could literally be that a deceased loved one is dancing by for a visit or it could be a calling into a deeper relationship with your own immortality.
The Butterfly Effect
The theory of the butterfly effect is that the smallest change, such as the flap of a butterfly’s wings, could result in enormous ripple effects. This was initially proposed in relation to weather patterns positing that a hurricane may ensue from the flap of a butterfly’s wings but has also been widely applied to science fiction novels and movies as a warning of the dangers of time travel.
Regardless of the truth or relativity of the butterfly effect, it has a firm root in our unconscious. We intuitively know that the smallest action can have the biggest effect. Butterfly symbolism helps us realize this deep seated mystical truth. Butterfly spirit animal is the guardian of our conscience reminding us to act with care.
Putting Up Your Defenses
In the natural world, butterflies and plants are in a great arms race. Plants create toxins to protect from hungry caterpillars and caterpillars find ways to overcome the toxins. Some caterpillars and butterflies internalize and assimilate the plant toxins turning them into their own self-defense from predators.
Both caterpillars and butterflies are also well known for developing signals to deter predators. The most notable signs are bright colors that say “I’m unpalatable.” What we interpret as beautiful reds, oranges and yellows are actually warning signs. When looking at spiritual meaning of butterfly, ask yourself, “Am I heading the warning signs that others are putting out? Am I comfortable with not having everyone like me? Can I be in my own inner beauty and not have to have it feed others?”
You Are What You Eat
In the mythology of resurrection, the caterpillar is the earth-bound soul tied to material wealth and concerns. This metaphor blends flawlessly with the fact that caterpillars eat solid, rooted plants. Caterpillars eat voraciously like we do when we get caught up and grounded by our need to posses things, property and people. Some of us never leave this obsession and stay grounded as caterpillars, wandering from leaf to leaf for life.
Others of us lose a taste for things of this world just like the caterpillar who stops eating a few days before going into the chrysalis. Dissatisfaction and restlessness are hallmark promptings from our soul that a transformation is coming. The caterpillar begins seeking a place to undergo the change. Within the chrysalis, the former form is shed and the new is shaped.
The butterfly eats primarily nectar of flowers. Nectar is known as the elixir of the Gods. (To learn more about the significance of eating nectar read this article about hummingbird).
Challenges of Psyche
The Greek Goddess Psyche is always pictured with a set of butterfly wings. Her name, “Psyche,” literally means “soul” in Greek. Today we take the word psyche to represent our mind. This shows how we’ve tried to supplant the wonder of the soul with the faculty of intellect. One reading of the tale of the stunningly gorgeous Psyche tells us how much we miss in knowing our own souls.
Born a mortal, Psyche’s beauty caused humanity to worship her to the point of extreme alienation. By a trick of his own, she was taken by Aphrodite’s son, Eros, and they left the world to find bliss in each other. But, Psyche couldn’t resist the temptation to please others and destroyed the fragile promise they were pledged upon. Exposed, she then suffered great torture and grief at the hands of Aphrodite. She endured the trials put before her with great stamina to eventually be made immortal, a goddess with butterfly wings, and marry Eros in front of the Gods. Zeus served nectar at their wedding. The whole beautiful story can be found here: http://www.theoi.com/Ouranios/Psykhe.html
We so often think we’ve fledged the chrysalis and become a butterfly too soon. As long as a hunger for this world as well as the need for the acceptance and love of others contaminates our hearts we still have many challenges to overcome. Butterfly spirit animal does not symbolize the sweet triumph over small adversity. The impact of butterfly medicine cannot be forced.
True butterfly spiritual meaning brings the involuntary experience of a life shattering hurricane that tests us at our core. Butterfly spirit animal guides us through this torturous and wondrous experience only a few precious times each life. If you are in the midst of a resurrection yourself, cherish it and remember to thank the Gods no matter how painful it is.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With over ten years of experience in the field of shamanism and thirteen years experience working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.