Butterfly symbolism and meanings include angels, transformation, delicate beauty, immortality, fertility, joy, and other special qualities.
In this post, we’ll explore all aspects of butterfly symbolism and meaning, including their spiritual meaning, butterfly mythology in different cultures, the butterfly spirit animal, and more.
Table of Contents
- What do butterflies symbolize?
- Butterfly Color Meanings and Symbolism
- Symbolic Meaning of Butterflies in Different Cultures
- Maya and Aztec Butterfly Mythology
- Ancient Greece and Rome
- Celtic Mythology
- Butterfly Meaning in Japan
- Butterfly Symbolism in Chinese Culture and Feng Shui
- Native American Butterfly Meanings
- Butterfly Symbolism in the Bible
- 3 Butterfly Spiritual Meanings
- Butterfly Spirit Animal
- Butterfly Power Animal
- Butterfly Totem Animal
- Butterfly Dream Meaning
- Butterfly Tattoo Meanings
- How You Can Help Butterflies
What do butterflies symbolize?
Butterflies only live for a short time – from only about two to six weeks depending on the species. However, butterflies have existed on Earth far longer than we humans have. So, as long as we’ve been here, there have been butterflies. And they intrigued our distant ancestors just as they do so many of us today.
So, what does it mean when a butterfly lands on you or flutters around you? To begin, you have been blessed with the presence of a creature with otherworldly beauty. In addition, butterflies have deep symbolic meanings. Here are some of those associations. We’ll go into more detail on these throughout this post:
- The Soul
- Delicate Beauty
Butterfly Symbolism: Transformation and Change
Because butterflies undergo a miraculous metamorphosis, they are symbols of transformation, change, rebirth, and even resurrection.
Like the bud of a lotus flower that emerges from the mud to blossom into a beautiful flower, butterflies transform from caterpillars into gloriously beautiful flying insects. Thus, the butterfly symbolizes our own ability to transform our lives and to evolve spiritually.
Before they become butterflies, caterpillars create a protective shell around themselves, which is called a chrysalis (or cocoon for moths.) Thus, a “cocoon” has come to be a metaphor for staying in your comfort zone.
Of course, this concept can have both positive and negative connotations. As spiritual beings who are having a human experience here on Earth. We are here to learn and evolve. And like it or not, spiritual growth and personal transformation often require that we get out of comfort zones.
In fact, metamorphosis is like climbing a steep mountain to see the sunrise. It’s not easy getting there, but once you arrive, you are glad you went through the trouble.
Thus, meditating on the butterfly’s ability – and willingness – to transform themselves is a simple way to think about your own personal growth. For example, are certain daily habits holding you back from reaching your true potential? Or are you avoiding learning something new because you’re focusing on the work involved vs. all you’ll gain?
If a butterfly appears in your life, it can be a sign to break free of the limitations that are holding you back from being the divinely beautiful being you were meant to be.
As mentioned above, like dragonflies, butterflies only live as adults in their flying forms for a short period of time. And while they are beautiful, they’re also delicate. Thus, the butterfly sends a message that says, “At every moment, something sacred is at stake.”
When we’re younger, we feel that time passes by slowly. But as we get older, we realize how quickly it flies. So, seeing a butterfly is a sign to not put things off.
Make that phone call to an old friend, plan that party, take that class, visit that place you’ve been dreaming of. The butterfly says, “Enjoy the moment.” and “Now is the time.”
Expanding Awareness and Insight
As they symbolize transformation and resurrection, butterfly meaning also includes expanding consciousness, awareness, and insight.
In fact, caterpillars have very simple eyes that only differentiate between lightness and darkness. However, as they metamorphosize into butterflies, they develop complex eyesight and can even see ultraviolet light, which we humans cannot.1
The butterfly shows us that our level of awareness and insight can expand. The way we can expand our consciousness is through experiences, art, reading, learning, traveling, meditation, and prayer. We also do so through healthy relationships with others. These are the types of people who want us to learn, grow, and become better versions of ourselves.
Symbols of Environmental Conservation
Caterpillars and butterflies are sensitive creatures. They have perceptive hairs on their bodies that take in information from the environment and communicate it to their brains. For example, they can tell which way the wind is blowing.
Butterflies also have antennae that are equipped with receptors that tell them which food, or nectar, is ok to eat, and where suitable places are to lay their eggs.
Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are also extremely sensitive to toxins in our environment and particularly on plants.
Furthermore, like hummingbirds and bees, butterflies are pollinators. They enable plants to grow, which we (and other animals) depend on for survival. Thus, they are foundational for supporting life on Earth.
When plants are sprayed with pesticides or are grown with genetically modified seeds that are designed to repel or kill insects, butterflies are impacted. In fact, butterfly populations around the world have been plummeting in shocking numbers. In the U.S. alone, butterfly populations have declined by 80-90 percent in the last 20 years due to pesticide use and habitat loss.
Thus, butterflies have become symbols for environmental conservation and embracing an organic lifestyle. They remind us of our own connection to life on our planet and how we are interconnected with all of it.
Butterfly Color Meanings and Symbolism
Butterflies come in a stunning array of beautiful colors and many of us are curious about what those colors might symbolize. Not all animals come in a rainbow of colors in the way that butterflies, dragonflies, birds, and tropical fish do. This is one of the things that makes these beautiful creatures so special.
Of course, what colors mean to us varies by individual preference and even culture. So, these are just general guidelines on butterfly color meanings. If a butterfly of a certain color appears in your life, your own beliefs about that color will play a role in what that butterfly means for you.
Depending on your location, if you see a butterfly that is red, or has predominantly red markings, it could be a red lacewing, a scarlet peacock, a two-eyed 88, or a few other species.
Red is a power color. It symbolizes primal energy, intensity, passion, and anger. It can also mean good luck and wealth, as it does in Chinese culture. Or romantic bliss as it does in India.
Red is also the color of the first chakra, which is also called the root chakra or Muladhara in Sanskrit. The root chakra is the foundation of your physical vitality, your passion, courage, desire, and security. As the name implies, your root chakra keeps you grounded.
Fortifying Your Security
Seeing a red butterfly can be a sign to consider the areas of your life that pertain to your root chakra. These areas may be ready to undergo a transformation of some kind.
This could be related to your personal security, whether it be physical, financial, or emotional.
Or it can be a sign to generate more passion in your life. Don’t wait for it to come; create it!
In addition, seeing a red butterfly can be a sign to send a positive affirmation to the Universe for good luck and security for yourself and those you love.
A variety of butterflies come in orange hues. The well-known monarch butterfly is one. Other species include the autumn leaf butterfly, the leopard butterfly, the Julia, and others.
Orange butterfly meaning includes joy, creativity, and sensuality. Orange is also the color of health and wellness. In fact, when people are ill, they tend to tolerate orange foods – such as oranges, mangoes, and peaches – more easily than others.
Orange also represents the second chakra. It is Svadhiṣthana in Sanskrit. This chakra is your sacral chakra, which is located in the area of your lower abdomen. It affects your gut instincts and, along with the root chakra, your sexuality.
Your orange chakra is foundational within your body. When wellness thrives within you, the rest of your life can thrive too. The orange butterfly embodies the idea that we are all part of a whole: when our environment is healthy, we have the best odds of being healthy too.
Thus, seeing an orange butterfly can be a sign to pay attention to your gut instincts. Whether you are positively excited about something or you get a sick feeling in your stomach, pay attention to what your gut tells you.
In addition, if you see an orange butterfly, consider the areas of your life that need nourishing. This could be your health, the health of your family, or it could be your relationships.
For more details on orange butterfly meaning, be sure to check out my post on orange butterfly symbolism. And if you see a monarch butterfly, you can read more details about monarch butterfly meaning in my dedicated post on monarch butterfly symbolism.
Butterflies that are yellow, or have predominantly yellow markings, include sulfurs, swallowtails, and birdwings.
Yellow symbolizes happiness, optimism, intellect, honor, and money. Thus, yellow butterfly meaning is joyful and exuberant. The golden butterfly embodies the idea that no matter how tired or run down you feel, you still have within you the capability to find the joy in life.
In fact, your yellow chakra is called Manipura in Sanskrit, and it governs your solar plexus or the area in and around your stomach. Your yellow chakra represents your will and how you assert yourself in the world.
As yellow is also the color of intellect, seeing yellow butterflies can be a sign to surround yourself with people and situations that stimulate you physically and intellectually.
Because they are the color of gold, yellow butterflies are also good omens for more prosperity coming into your life!
Conversely, if you feel something negative in your stomach, it’s most likely not the right situation or our relationship for you. There is a difference between happy, giddy butterflies in your stomach and a pit of angst and dread!
As symbols of transformation, yellow butterflies can inspire you to seek out new experiences that light a fire within you and that bring you happiness.
You are a lightworker.
Seeing a yellow butterfly can also serve as a reminder that you are a lightworker. This means you are here to honor God, or your higher power, and the world with the greatest expression of yourself.
You are a being capable of bringing light and happiness into the world. You may consider yourself a serious, even morose person at times. The yellow is a sign that the light still shines within you.
Butterflies that are green, or that have green markings, include the green birdwing, the malachite, the emerald swallowtail, and others.
Green symbolizes nature, growth, renewal, and fertility. It also symbolizes financial security and abundance.
Your green chakra is your heart chakra, or Anahata in Sanskrit. As your fourth chakra, Anahata governs your chest, including your heart, lungs, and respiratory and circulatory systems. As it’s located in the area of your heart, your green chakra also affects your heartfelt emotions and relationships.
If you see a green butterfly, it’s likely a time for renewal in your relationships, or for a special new relationship to enter your life. It is also a sign to reach out to those you haven’t spoken to in a while so you can reconnect. As is the case with so many other things in life, with nurturing, relationships can grow and evolve.
As butterflies are symbols of transformation and growth, consider the areas of your life that are related to your green chakra, which you would like to grow and improve. Perhaps there is a relationship that is ready to evolve to the next level. Or perhaps you need to put renewed focus on your finances so you can better nourish your nest egg.
In addition, whether it’s work, greeting people on the street, or interacting with loved ones and colleagues – we should all come from a place of the heart.
Butterflies that are blue, or which have blue markings, include the blue morpho, the blue pansy, bluewings, and others.
Blue symbolizes loyalty, as in a “true blue” friend. It also symbolizes trust, faith, and wisdom.
If you see a blue butterfly, think about how you are expressing yourself in the world. We are all constantly communicating, even if we aren’t speaking. It might be in facial expressions, how we carry ourselves, what we post on social media, or with silence. The blue butterfly reminds you to choose your words with art and grace.
Blue butterflies may also be associated with your sixth chakra, which is your third eye chakra and is associated with the color indigo.
Live in the Truth
The blue butterfly reminds you to “speak your truth,” or, in other words, be your authentic self in the world. Self-expression is foundational to fulfilling our purpose in this lifetime. As the saying goes, “Speak out, even if your voice shakes.” The blue butterfly also reminds you that the truth will set you free.
Purple is a special color that combines the warmth of red with the cool of blue. Striking this balance and creating something beautiful from this dichotomy is why purple symbolizes peace. It also symbolizes devotion, aspiration, nobility, and wealth.
Both your sixth and seventh chakras are shades of purple. Your sixth chakra, Ajna, is indigo, and your seventh chakra, Sahasrara, is red-violet. Your sixth chakra, located in your head, rules your mind and your third eye, or intuition. And your seventh chakra, located at the crown of your head, governs your super-conscious.
If you see a purple butterfly, you are being called upon to tap into your higher power. Use your mind to connect to God, your higher power, and your spirit guides, through prayer or meditation. The purple butterfly is exalted. You are being asked to be greater than your thoughts and your perceived limitations. You are being reminded that there is more out there, and you are being called upon to connect with the divine.
Butterflies that are brown include the autumn leaf, the striped core, the chocolate pansy, and other species.
Brown is a warm color, symbolizing the soil, Earth, wood, security, and stability. The meaning of the color brown is exemplified in the saying that someone is “very down to Earth,” meaning they are real, easy to relate to, and without pretense.
The brown butterfly reminds you to ground yourself and get back to basics. Honor that which is real in your life, that which truly gives you a solid foundation from which to blossom.
Butterflies that are black, or which have predominantly black markings, include the archduke, the batwing, the birdwing, and others.
Black symbolizes mystery, elegance, beauty, formality, rebellion, and change. Without black, other colors would lack variety in depth and hue.
Seeing a black butterfly may symbolize that your life is about to undergo a big change. Sometimes change can be unexpected or difficult. Yet, as the Buddhists say, “This too shall pass.”
We are always in the process of change of some kind. They remind you to embrace the change. Face changes head-on instead of trying to avoid them. This is how you evolve spiritually.
Black butterflies can also symbolize that you need to explore an issue in your life more deeply to truly understand it. For positive transformations to occur, we often have to “go deep” vs. just skimming the surface.
If you are unsure of what to do in a given situation, it simply means you need more information. They remind you to seek out that information. Investigate the unknown and you will find the answers you seek.
Butterflies that are white include the Angola white lady, the morpho, the glasswing, and others.
White symbolizes purity, innocence, simplicity, clarity, and angels. It can also be associated with your sixth chakra, as described in the section on purple butterfly meaning earlier.
Butterflies are seen by cultures throughout the world as messengers from spirit guides, however, white butterflies are especially significant and are associated with angels.
The white butterfly reminds you to find a place of calm in the tumultuous sea of life. You might be going through a period in your life with a lot of stress. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the issue is sometimes not so much more or less stress, but your mind’s and your body’s ability to deal with the stress. If you come from a place of calm, you will be able to handle whatever life throws at you. Meditating on a white butterfly can bring that calm.
The white butterfly may also be telling you that it’s time to detox. This might mean your thoughts, your body, your relationships, or all of these things. It may be time to clear the clutter from your mind, body, spirit, and home.
Messages from Your Angels
White is also associated with the seventh chakra, which governs your superconscious. The white butterfly spirit reminds you to clear the clutter of your busy thoughts so you can become more perceptive and open to the messages your angels are sending you.
So, a small white butterfly fluttering around you can have special messages for you. For more details, please visit my post on white butterfly meaning.
Symbolic Meaning of Butterflies in Different Cultures
Butterflies have inhabited the planet for roughly 200 million years.2 They are more ancient than we are, as the first humans date back to just 2.8 million years. However, butterflies are a “bit” younger than dragonflies, who have inhabited the Earth for 300 million years. For as long as humans have lived on Earth, butterflies have been here.
Butterflies and moths exist on every continent on Earth except for Antarctica. This is undoubtedly why they appear in the legends and folklore of cultures throughout the world. Here are some examples:
Maya and Aztec Butterfly Mythology
For the ancient Aztecs, butterflies were symbols of comfort. The Aztecs believed that butterflies were sent from their ancestors and close relatives who had passed to give them comfort.
In fact, the Aztecs considered it rude to smell a bouquet of flowers from the top because that’s where the butterflies would land and thus where souls would visit.3
In addition, the Aztecs had a warrior goddess they called Ītzpāpālōtl, which translates to “Obsidian Butterfly.” She ruled over a world called Tamoanchan, which was a paradise for babies who died young.4
For the ancient Mayas, butterflies were seen as spirits from warriors who had moved on to the spirit world.
Ancient Greece and Rome
In ancient Greece and Rome, the butterfly was a symbol of the soul. In fact, in the Greek language, the word “psyche” means soul.
There is a Greek myth about a goddess named Psyche. She was once a mortal woman who evolved to become a goddess.
In addition to becoming the wife of Eros, or Cupid, she was the goddess of the soul. Indeed, Psyche is often portrayed with butterfly wings.5
These beautiful winged creatures also made their way onto Roman coins in an interesting juxtaposition of symbolic meanings. On the coins there was a crab, which symbolized Rome’s naval dominance. And in the crab’s claws, a beautiful butterfly, a symbol of the human soul.6
The ancient Celts believed that butterflies could move between the physical and supernatural worlds. They also considered it bad luck to kill a white butterfly as they believed they carried the souls of children who had passed.
Butterfly Meaning in Japan
As with other cultures around the world, in Japan butterflies are viewed as souls. In fact, many Japanese believe that the spirits of the dead take the form of a butterfly when they travel to the metaphysical world of eternal life.
Also in Japanese culture, butterflies are also symbols of girls becoming women.
Furthermore, a pair of butterflies fluttering around each other are considered to be a sign of marital bliss.
Butterfly Symbolism in Chinese Culture and Feng Shui
In Chinese culture and the practice of feng shui, butterflies symbolize freedom, beauty, elegance, and love. And two butterflies symbolize eternal love.
For the Chinese, butterflies embody how a healthy romantic relationship doesn’t feel constrained in any way; it is positive and transformative.
The Legend of the Butterfly Lovers
There is a famous Chinese legend called the “Butterfly Lovers.” In the story, a young girl, Zhu Yingtai, convinces her father to allow her to become a scholar. At the time when the story takes place, between 265-420 AD, girls in China were discouraged from scholarly pursuits. Nevertheless, Zhu’s father relents, and the girl attends classes disguised as a boy.
While on her journey to school, Zhu meets and befriends a fellow scholar, Liang Shanbo. The two share a special connection and become very close. Eventually, Zhu shares her true identity with Liang. They fall in love but cannot be together because Zhu’s father has promised her to someone else. Liang dies of a broken heart and is buried.
On the day that Zhu is to marry her arranged groom, powerful winds overtake the wedding procession, making it impossible for Zhu to be escorted beyond Liang’s grave. In despair, Zhu begs for Liang’s grave to open up, and it does. She throws herself into the grave, and from the grave emerge two butterflies who ascend into the sky and fly away.7
Native American Butterfly Meanings
Every Native American tribe has their own set of customs and beliefs. However, one thing they all have in common is a reverence for animals and nature. Indeed, many Native American tribes love butterflies and view them as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds.
For example, the Blackfoot People, a Native American tribe from Alberta, Canada and Montana, believe that butterflies deliver your dreams to you. They also believe your dreams are messages from the spirit world.
Thus, the Blackfoot decorate their children’s blankets and beds with butterflies, which they believe will help them sleep better and have good dreams.
The Plains Native American tribes also revere butterflies, and they decorate their clothing, teepees, and other possessions with butterfly artwork.
The Pueblo People have a creator legend about the butterfly. The story goes that the Creator grabbed all of the most beautiful colors in the world and put them into a sack.
Then, he brought the magical sack to the children who wanted to see what was inside. When the Creator opened the bag, butterflies flew out, singing songs.
However, the Earth’s other beautiful creatures – the birds – were envious of the butterflies’ singing. So, the Creator made the butterflies silent and let the birds sing.8
Butterfly Symbolism in the Bible
Butterflies are not mentioned directly in the Bible. However, there is plenty of mention of transformation and resurrection.
For example, in Romans 12:2, Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”9
Thus, for many Christian theologians and followers of Jesus Christ, butterflies represent the resurrection of Christ and his ascent to Heaven. Butterflies also show us, as Jesus taught, that we are all capable of rising up and becoming something better. We are also able to forgive and to be forgiven.
3 Butterfly Spiritual Meanings
In conjunction with what has been mentioned above, here are some butterfly spiritual meanings:
1. The human soul – As mentioned earlier, in many cultures, butterflies represent the soul. In fact, many people believe that human spirits can manifest through butterflies.
2. Angels – As they are symbols of the soul, butterfly spiritual meaning also includes enlightened souls, or angels. Beyond just being a symbol, the magnificent butterfly is believed to embody divine energy.
3. Spiritual transformation – As they go through a miraculous transformation, butterflies symbolize our own potential for spiritual transformation and enlightenment.
Butterfly Spirit Animal
Although they are flying insects, butterflies are still considered to be powerful spirit “animals” to many.
When the butterfly is one of your celestial guides, you are likely a very spiritual person.
In addition, when the butterfly spirit animal chooses you, you have also been blessed with the opportunity for extraordinary transformation. Butterflies exemplify personal growth and the chance to change your life into something that is free and spectacularly beautiful.
Whether you want to change the way you view the world, how you treat others, your career, or your appearance, or any other aspect of your life, the butterfly spirit animal is here to tell you that you can do it! It only starts with a dream.
The butterfly spirit animal also reminds you that life is transient. So, seize the moment. Enjoy life’s treasures and wonders today. The butterfly is here to lift your heavy heart and give you permission to enjoy your lightness of being.
If you are curious about other animals who might also be your spirit guides, you can take UniGuide’s Spirit Animal Quiz in my overview post about spirit animals.
Butterfly Power Animal
As the name implies, power animals can empower you with their most dynamic traits. So, if you want to transform an area of your life, meditate on the butterfly power animal. For example, you can summon the butterfly power animal in situations where you:
- Want to transform an area of your life.
- Would like to create more abundance or growth, even have a baby or expand your family or social circle. As a symbol of fertility and supporting life, the butterfly power animal is a positive symbol for growth!
- Feel that you need to have more faith and trust the process. The beautiful butterfly power animal is a reminder that the Universe is working in your favor. So, think positive thoughts and send that radiant energy out into the Universe.
Butterfly Totem Animal
Animal totems signify the protective powers of the animal they represent. Thus, the butterfly totem animal serves as a helpful symbol when you want to transform an area of your life and have it evolve into something that is truly magnificent.
The butterfly totem is also a helpful symbol for bringing more joy and lightness into your life. In addition, it is a powerful totem for honoring and connecting with your loved ones who have passed.
Butterfly Dream Meaning
If you have a butterfly dream and wonder what it means, consider the emotions you felt in your dream. While dream meanings and interpretations are personal to every individual, one thing we all have in common is that our subconscious emotions don’t lie to us.
Once you understand the emotions you felt in your dream, you can apply some of the commonly shared butterfly meanings to your dream to gain better insights. Dreaming of a butterfly or butterflies can mean that it’s time to transform an area of your life.
In addition, because butterflies are considered to be messengers from the spirit world, dreaming of a butterfly can be one of your spirit guide’s ways of communicating with you. Your guides are present. Sometimes we simply have to find moments of stillness to better understand the messages they have for us.
Butterfly Tattoo Meanings
Butterflies make beautiful tattoos. A butterfly tattoo can tell the world that you are a person who has undergone or is undergoing a personal metamorphosis.
A butterfly tattoo can also mean that you believe in angels and spiritual transformation.
Of course, having a butterfly tattoo may simply mean that you love butterflies!
How You Can Help Butterflies
Around the world, butterflies face threats from pesticide use, habitat destruction, and the impacts of climate change. If you care about butterflies, please do what you can to protect them. Here are some organizations that are working on butterfly protection and conservation:
- Butterfly Conservation.org
- Xerces Society
- Monarch Watch
- Monarch Joint Venture
- North American Butterfly Association
- Amateur Entomologists’ Society
You might like these other articles on UniGuide:
- Dragonfly Meaning
- Deer Symbolism
- Dove Meaning
- Rose Symbolism
- 888 Angel Number Meaning
- Symbols of Transformation