Lately I’ve been volunteering on nature conservation in the surrounding environment. Most of our work during the winter is intended to clear grasslands so flowers can receive light and blossom during springtime. This will bring the perfect habitat for butterflies.
As I’ve been working for butterflies, I thought it would be fair to write and learn little bit about it presence in pagan religions or mythology, and the new meanings that are found in butterflies.
Starting from classical Greece, Psyche (meaning butterfly and soul) was a personification of the human soul or breathe, a mortal princess and wife of Eros. She was usually depicted as a butterfly winged maiden. Psyche was beautiful and Aphrodite herself felt irritated by her:
‘Here am I, the ancient mother of the universe, the founding creator of the elements, the Venus that tends the entire world, compelled to share the glory of my majesty with a mortal maiden, so that my name which has its niche in heaven is degraded by the foulness of the earth below!
So poor Psyche suffer sickness and loneliness, finally after visiting the underworld she married Eros.
Butterflies are used in modern times a sign of sick and fragile beauty. This can be seen by a little web search among eating disorders sites.
Butterfly can represent a variety of things. The Pupa or cocoon is related to protection during transformation, the potential hidden and also introversion. Metamorphosis has been related to magic, since the ugly caterpillar is transformed in a beautiful colored and flying insect. They used to live in springtime, during the time of blossoming, and they have a short time to reproduce before dying.
Many cultures include those winged insects among their believes. In Serbia a butterfly was the soul of a witch. Among the Nagas of Assam the dead are believed to go through a series of transformations in the underworld and are finally reborn as butterflies. The final end of the soul occurs when the butterfly dies. In Mexican art, the morning start is related to the butterfly as a form of the God Quetzacoatl, called Xolatl. Aztec Goddess Itzpapalotl is related to Obsidian or Clawed Butterfly; she is a powerful and dangerous star daemon and protects midwives and woman in labor. Even Lilith, the Sumerian daemon or Goddess, is also described as an evil woman who shape shift into a blue butterfly demon. Hopi celebrate fertility of the earth with a Butterfly dance called Bulitikibi.
A new meaning related to butterfly is inspired in chaos theory. It is often described as the possibility of a hurricane as a consequence of the movement of a butterfly’s wings. This is a metaphor for a strong sensibility to initial conditions. The butterfly shape is inspired in the diagram of Lorentz attractor. This has lead to many esoteric, psychological and new age interpretations.