Co-written by Jennifer Dawson and Rebecca Chandler
The beauty and grace of butterflies has been recognized for millenia. Recent studies have found that butterflies have been around for up to 200 million years. As such, there’s little surprise that the winged creatures have an abundance of cultural significance attached to them in cultures across the world.
Native American Culture
Butterflies play a variety of roles in many Native American folktales and traditions. Monarch butterflies are painted on Hopi Kachina dolls which are given as gifts in hope of future abundance and health, as well as tools for education. The Butterfly Dance is a traditional social dance of the Hopi and is a petition for rain, good health, and long life for all living things. Blackfoot people associate butterflies with sleep and dreaming. They would sometimes decorate cradles to help babies sleep or embroider a butterfly on a small piece of buckskin and tie it in the baby’s hair for a restful night of sleep. Butterflies also play a part in Tohono O'odham creation stories.
Symbolism in Christianity
Butterflies are seen as a symbol of foretelling and spiritual transformation in Christianity. In Catholicism, they are a symbol of rebirth, a strong theme throughout many religious texts. The Angel Numbers Spiritual theory which suggests that symbols and numbers are signs sent from divine beings to help you navigate through life, harness this as a foretelling sign. According to some sources, a Monarch butterfly in particular is a sign that you are on the right path to achieve your goals.
Día de Muertos
Mexico has a very special relationship with Monarch butterflies. Millions of butterflies take flight to central Mexico as part of their yearly migration and arrive during Day of the Dead (October 31-November 2). While modern science suggests that the creatures are following some form of magnetism in the Earth’s atmosphere, Mexican folklore tells us these butterflies are actually the souls of the deceased, visiting the Earth on these holy days to visit relatives and provide comfort. During the 3-day celebration of Dia de los Muertos, many people will dress like monarch butterflies and decorate their ofrendas (altars) with Monarchs in order to honor and remember their ancestors.
The Monarch butterfly is not only a creature of wonderment in modern times. It is an ancient creature that has been lauded by cultures across history. Protecting them is an absolute must to ensure that generations to come are able to enjoy their beauty as well.