Butterfly meanings and symbolism include angels, transformation, ephemeral beauty, immortality, fertility, joy, and other powerful qualities. While they only live for a short time, butterflies have existed on Earth long before humans, and they have intrigued us since time immemorial. In fact, butterflies appear in the myths and folklore of people around the world, and many cultures believe in the butterfly spirit animal.
In this post, you’ll learn about butterfly meanings and symbols, butterfly mythology, the butterfly as a spirit guide, and more.
Table of Contents
- What do butterflies symbolize?
- Detailed Butterfly Symbols and Meanings
- Butterfly Color Meanings and Symbols
- Red Butterfly Meaning
- Orange Butterfly Meaning
- Yellow Butterfly Meaning
- Green Butterfly Meaning
- Blue Butterfly Meaning
- Purple Butterfly Meaning
- Brown Butterfly Meaning
- Black Butterfly Meaning
- White Butterfly Meaning
- Butterfly Spirit Animal
- Butterfly Power Animal
- Butterfly Totem
- Butterfly Symbolism in Ancient Cultures
- Mayan and Aztec Butterfly Mythology
- Greek and Roman Mythology
- Butterfly Symbolism in the Bible
- Celtic Mythology
- Butterfly Meaning in Japan
- Butterfly Meaning in Feng Shui and Chinese Culture
- Native American Butterfly Meanings
- Butterfly Dream Meaning
- Butterfly Tattoo
- Organizations that Protect Butterflies
What do butterflies symbolize?
What does it mean when a butterfly lands on you or flutters around you? If a butterfly makes their presence known to you, whether it’s in real life, through the media, in art, or in some other setting, pay attention. There are no coincidences. Let the butterfly who has crossed your path expand your awareness and sense of wonder. The butterfly has a message for you. Below are some general meanings applied to butterflies that can give you a clue about what this interaction could mean in your life.
- Ephemeral Beauty
Detailed Butterfly Symbols and Meanings
Symbols of Transformation and Change
Because butterflies undergo metamorphosis, throughout the world they are symbols of transformation, change, rebirth, and even resurrection. Like the bud of a lotus that emerges from the mud to blossom into a beautiful flower, butterflies transform from caterpillars into gloriously beautiful flying insects.
Getting out of your comfort zone…
Cocoons are often used as metaphors for safety or staying in one’s “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. Spiritual growth and personal transformation often require that we get out of comfortable cocoons. Metamorphosis is like climbing a steep mountain to see the sunrise. It’s not easy getting there, but once you do, you are glad you went through the trouble.
Thus, meditating on the butterfly’s transformation can be a simple way to help your personal growth. This growth may involve shedding those habits that are holding you back from being your best self or from living the life you truly want to live. It can also involve learning a new skill, therefore accepting the uncomfortable fact that you will have to be a novice for a while as you learn.
The butterfly is also an ideal symbol to meditate on if you want to overcome an addiction. Generally, addictions come from our desire to, for whatever reason, change our state of mind. We don’t like the feeling of something in our thoughts or body and we seek out a way to change that state.
We can do it through positive means, such as talking to a trusted friend, exercising, dancing, or creating something. Or we can change our state with substances. The latter often only serves to numb us and dim our awareness – temporarily. This is akin to going back to your cocoon although it’s actually suffocating your higher self.
The butterfly spirit can help you to break out of your limiting cocoon so that you can truly become the fullest, more glorious expression of yourself.
Like dragonflies, butterflies only live as adults in their flying forms for a short period of time. While their lifespans vary depending on the species of butterfly, on average. butterflies only live for about one month. Thus, the butterfly reminds us that at every moment, something sacred is at stake.
When we’re younger, we feel that time passes by slowly. As we get older, we realize how quickly it flies. The butterfly reminds us to not put things off – make that phone call to your old friend, plan that party, take that class, visit that place you’ve been dreaming of. Butterfly wisdom says, “Be in the moment” and “Now is the time!”
Expanding Awareness and Insight
As they symbolize transformation and resurrection, butterfly meaning also symbolizes expanding consciousness, awareness, and insight. Caterpillars have very simple eyes that only differentiate between lightness and darkness. However, as they metamorphosize into butterflies, they develop complex eyesight and can see ultraviolet light, which humans cannot.
The butterfly spirit animal shows us that our level of awareness and insight can expand. The way we expand our consciousness is through experiences, art, reading, learning, traveling, and through meditation and prayer. We also do so through healthy relationships with others who want us to learn, grow, and become better versions of ourselves.
Symbols of Environmental Conservation
Caterpillars and butterflies are sensitive creatures. They have sensitive hairs on their bodies that take in information from the environment and communicate it to their brains, such as which way the wind is blowing. They 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.
Like hummingbirds and bees, butterflies are pollinators, and thus they are foundational for supporting life on Earth. Pollinators enable plants to grow, which we and other animals depend on for survival. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are also extremely sensitive to toxins in our environment and particularly on plants.
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. (At the end of this post, you will find resources for how you can help these precious, beautiful beings.)
Butterfly Color Meanings and Symbols
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 creatures so special. While color meanings can vary by individual and even culture, here are some general color meanings applied to butterflies.
Red Butterfly Meaning
Depending on your location, if you see a red butterfly, or one that’s predominantly red, 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 China. Or romantic bliss as it does in India.
Red is also the color of the first chakra, also called the root chakra or Dhara in Sanskrit. The root chakra is the foundation of your physical vitality, your will power, your passion, courage, desire, and security. As the name implies, your root chakra keeps you grounded.
Fortifying Your Security
The red butterfly can be a sign to consider the areas of your life that pertain to your root chakra, as they 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. The red butterfly can also remind you that you need to summon more passion in your life. Don’t wait for it to come; create it. Send a prayer for good luck and security for yourself and those you love.
Orange Butterfly Meaning
A variety of butterflies come in orange hues. The well-known monarch is one. Other species include the autumn leaf butterfly, the leopard butterfly, the Julia, and others.
Monarch Butterfly Meaning
Because they are mainly orange, monarch butterflies share symbolic meaning with other butterflies who share their warm hue.
Orange butterfly meaning can symbolize joy, creativity, and sensuality. Orange is also the color of health and wellness. Often, when people are ill, they can tolerate orange foods – such as oranges, mangoes, and peaches – more easily than others.
Orange 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.
The orange butterfly reminds you 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.
Health and Wellness
If you see an orange butterfly, consider the areas of your life that need nourishing. This could be with your health, the health of your family, or it could be your relationships.
The spirit of the orange butterfly asks you to view your relationships from a perspective of whether they are healthy or not. You may love someone but you know in your gut that the relationship is not healthy. You may have the opportunity to make a lot of money at a particular job, but you know in your gut that it’s not healthy for your mind, body, spirit, or relationships. In both cases, exiting may be the healthiest thing for you to do.
On a physical level, the orange butterfly asks you if you are taking care of your health. We all perform at our best when we come from a place of health and wellness. We are more creative, more sensual, and happier. Your orange chakra is foundational within your body. When wellness thrives within you, the rest of your life can thrive too. The orange butterfly reminds us that we are all part of a whole: when our environment is healthy, we have the best odds of being healthy too.
Yellow Butterfly Meaning
Butterflies that are yellow, or have predominantly yellow markings, include sulfurs, swallowtails, and birdwings.
Yellow symbolizes happiness, optimism, intellect, and honor. 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.
Yellow butterfly meaning is joyful and exuberant. The yellow butterfly spirit animal reminds you that no matter how tired or run down you feel, you still have within you the capability to find the joy in life.
The yellow butterfly reminds you to be around people and situations that stimulate you physically and intellectually. 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, the yellow butterfly inspires you to seek out new experiences that light a fire within you and that bring you happiness.
You are a light worker.
Seeing a yellow butterfly can also serve as a reminder that you are a light worker. 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 butterfly reminds you that the light still shines within you.
Green Butterfly Meaning
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. The green butterfly reminds you 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.
The green butterfly reminds you that in all of your endeavors – whether it’s our work, greeting people on the street, or interacting with loved ones and colleagues – try to come from a place of the heart.
Blue Butterfly Meaning
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.
The blue or turquoise chakra is your fifth chakra. It is Vishuddha in Sanskrit. Your fifth chakra rules your ability to connect, communicate, and express yourself.
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 spirit animal reminds you to choose your words with art and grace.
Blue butterflies may also be associated with your sixth chakra, which is indigo. You can read more about this below.
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 you voice shakes.” The blue butterfly also reminds you that the truth will set you free.
Purple Butterfly Meaning
Purple butterflies, or those with purple markings, include the purple emperor, the common tit butterfly, and the red-spotted purple butterfly.
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.
An Exalted Life
Your sixth chakra, located in your head, rules your mind and your third eye, or intuition. 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 mediation. 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.
Brown Butterfly Meaning
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.
Black Butterfly Meaning
Butterflies that are black, or which have predominantly black markings, include the archduke, the bat wing, 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. The black butterfly reminds you to embrace the change. Face changes head-on instead of trying to avoid them. This is how you evolve spiritually.
The black butterfly 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. The black butterfly reminds you to seek out that information. Investigate the unknown and you will find the answers you seek.
White Butterfly Meaning
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.
Butterfly Spirit Animal
Although they are insects, butterflies are still considered to be powerful spirit “animals” to many. The butterfly spirit animal serves as a guide to help you navigate your life path in the physical realm, here on Earth.
When the butterfly is your spirit guide, you haven 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, the butterfly spirit animal is here to tell you that you can! It only starts with a dream.
The butterfly 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, mediate on the butterfly power animal. Butterflies are also symbols of fertility. So, the butterfly power animal is a helpful symbol if you are trying to conceive a baby or create abundance in other areas of your life.
Animal totems signify the protective powers of the animal they represent. Thus, the butterfly totem 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 bring 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 Symbolism in Ancient Cultures
Butterflies have inhabited the planet for roughly 200 million years. 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:
Mayan 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 on to the spirit world to give them comfort. 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.
For the ancient Mayans, butterflies were seen as spirits from warriors who had moved on to the spirit world.
Greek and Roman Mythology
In ancient Greece and Rome, butterflies symbolized the soul. In the Greek language, the word “psyche” means soul. There is a myth about the Greek goddess Psyche, who was once a mortal woman and who evolved to become a goddess. She is the wife of Eros, or Cupid, and is the goddess of the soul. Psyche is always pictured with the wings of a butterfly.
Butterfly Symbolism in the Bible
Like dragonflies, butterflies are not directly mentioned 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.”
For many Christian theologians and followers of Jesus’ teachings, butterflies are representative of the resurrection of Christ and his ascent to Heaven. Butterflies demonstrate extraordinary evolution in their lifetimes, just as Jesus did. They also show us, as Jesus did, that we are all capable of rising up and becoming something better. We are able to forgive and to be forgiven.
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 because they were believed to carry the souls of children who had passed.
Butterfly Meaning in Japan
As with other cultures around the world, in Japan butterflies are considered to be souls. 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.
In Japan, butterflies are also symbols of girls becoming women. In addition, two butterflies flittering around each other are considered to be a sign of marital bliss.
Butterfly Meaning in Feng Shui and Chinese Culture
In Chinese culture and in Feng Shui, butterflies symbolize freedom, beauty, elegance, and love. And two butterflies symbolize eternal love. Butterflies demonstrate how a healthy romantic relationship doesn’t feel constrained in anyway; 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.
Native American Butterfly Meanings
The Blackfoot People believed that butterflies delivered your dreams to you, and that your dreams were messages from the spirit world. Thus, the Blackfoot would decorate their children’s blankets and beds with butterflies, which they believed would help them sleep better and have good dreams.
The Plains 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. 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. The Earth’s other beautiful creatures, the birds, were envious of the butterflies’ singing, so the Creator made the butterflies silent so the birds could sing.
Butterfly Dream Meaning
If you have a butterfly dream and wonder at its meaning, 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 sub-conscious 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 way of communicating with you. Your guides are present. Sometimes we have to find moments of stillness to better understand the messages they have for us.
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. It can also mean that you believe in angels and spiritual transformation. Of course, having a butterfly tattoo may simply mean that you love butterflies!
Organizations that Protect 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. I wrote a post about ways you can help butterflies and other insects. In addition, here are some organizations that are working to protect these divine beings: