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Butterfly Symbolism (Meanings, Folk Lore)

For centuries, humans have been captivated by butterflies because of their delicate beauty and ethereal presence. These graceful creatures have a profound symbolic significance that goes beyond their dance in sunlit meadows and is understood across cultures. From ancient civilizations to modern-day societies, butterfly symbolisms are always known to be of transformation, rebirth, and spiritual growth.

In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating world of butterflies and their interpretation, diving into the tapestry of meanings linked with these charming insects. 

Butterfly symbolism

What does a butterfly symbolize?

Eastern black swallowtail
Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly on pink flower | image by C Watts via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The butterfly is a powerful and well-known symbol with distinct meanings in different cultures and contexts.

The most common things a butterfly can symbolize are:

  • Transformation and change
  • Hope and rebirth
  • Spirituality and the soul
  • Lightness and Delicacy

It’s significant to remember that the meaning of the butterfly might change depending on the cultural and literary setting. People often give different meanings to butterflies, which can be influenced by personal interpretations and how they’re portrayed in stories or art.

Butterflies as spirit animals

Eastern tailed-blue butterfly
Eastern tailed-blue butterfly | image by John Flannery via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

As a spirit animal, the butterfly symbolizes constant renewal, inner strength, and the power of transformation. Those connected to these magnificent insects find joy and happiness as they navigate through life’s challenges, and they possess endurance and resilience, embracing the process of metamorphosis with patience and a light-hearted approach. With their vibrant energy, they radiate positivity, bringing delight to those around them. 

The butterfly spirit animal also instills hope and optimism, reminding individuals to believe in a brighter future and to see the beauty in every moment.

People with the butterfly as their spirit animal possess a caring nature, appreciating the positive qualities of others and nurturing harmonious relationships. Embodying both inner and outer beauty, this animal is a beacon of hope, reminding us of our ability to gracefully undergo transformation and find joy in renewal.

Dreams about butterflies

Dream about a monarch butterfly 

Monarch butterfly on flower
Monarch butterfly on flower

A monarch butterfly dream can mean many things. It can represent the concepts of change, hope, and new beginnings. You may be experiencing personal growth and positive change in your life, symbolized by the transformation of a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly, just like a monarch butterfly.

It could also mean that you feel a connection with your soul and that you are going through a personal transformation in your life. Basically, it’s a reminder to live life to the fullest.

Dream of a cocoon

If you dream of a cocoon or chrysalis, it means you are going through a transformation. The cocoon symbolizes waiting and inner growth, similar to how a butterfly develops inside its protective casing.

The cocoon in your dream may represent a feeling of confinement or limitation in some area of your life, such as a position at work or a personal connection. 

It may also mean that you are going through a time of change, and you need to focus on your own growth and development. This reminds you to evaluate your situation, release limitations, and welcome personal development and transformation to achieve more joy and satisfaction in life.

A butterfly landed on you in a dream

Pearl crescent butterfly
Pearl crescent butterfly

Northwest American Indian folklore considers a butterfly landing on you while you sleep as a spiritual message from above, and your mental strength and resilience are important.

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People believe that this insect symbolizes positive energy and can ward off negative influences. Your spirit guides are guiding and supporting you in your dreams, which can help you feel more confident and self-reliant when you’re awake.

If a butterfly lands on you in a dream, it means that you are going through a transformation and spiritual journey. Embrace the upcoming transformational experiences and trust the guidance and support available to you.

Meanings of different colors of butterflies

Red butterfly

Madeira butterfly
Madeira butterfly | image by Charles Patrick Ewing via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

People often associate red with passion, vitality, and strong emotions. The red butterfly represents the intensity of your feelings and the importance of embracing the passion and zest for life. It motivates you to explore your own desires, enjoy your experiences, and develop a healthy and lively lifestyle. Focus on these aspects to navigate changes with stability and embrace a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Yellow butterfly

Cloudless sulphur butterfly on leaf
Cloudless sulphur butterfly on leaf

A yellow butterfly symbolizes spiritual energy, happiness, mental capacity, joy, cheerfulness, and communication. Spiritually, yellow signifies a boost in spiritual energy and can represent material growth, wealth, and riches. If you see a yellow butterfly, it may mean that you are going through a phase of creativity, imagination, and self-confidence. It motivates you to trust your own instincts and beliefs instead of following what others expect from you.

Blue butterfly

Blue morpho butterfly
Blue morpho butterfly

A blue butterfly means you are on a special journey of learning and personal growth. It implies that you are creating your own unique journey, which will be full of fresh and demanding adventures. 

Blue is also linked to communication and is associated with the throat chakra, which controls self-expression and effective communication. Express yourself and share your thoughts and ideas with others, as the presence of a blue butterfly highlights their significance.

Brown butterfly

Brown elfin butterfly
Brown elfin butterfly | image by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr

A brown butterfly can mean that you are focusing on your health, wellness, and nurturing energy. The presence of a brown butterfly signifies a message or a reminder to prioritize self-care and nurture yourself as you would nurture others. Some cultures also associate these brown insects with loved ones who have passed away. 

They believe that a brown butterfly may indicate that a deceased loved one is visiting or trying to communicate from the spiritual realm. In others, people believe that seeing a brown butterfly flying inside your house means that you’ll soon receive money or financial prosperity. 

Meanings of butterfly in different cultures

Japanese Lore

Lafcadio Hearn, a famous writer who studied Japanese culture, believed that butterflies represented a person’s soul, whether they were alive, dying, or already dead. People believe that if a butterfly enters a guest room and rests behind a bamboo screen, it means that the person you love the most will come to visit you. 

In Japanese culture, people also consider large numbers of butterflies as a bad omen. They believed that large gatherings of butterflies were a sign of impending evil or misfortune, interpreting this phenomenon as a connection between the two.

Roman Culture

Melissa blue butterfly on yellow flower
Melissa blue butterfly on yellow flower | image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr

An ancient Roman sculpture portrays a butterfly emerging from the mouth of a deceased person, illustrating the Roman belief that the soul departs through the mouth. This imagery reinforces the connection between butterflies and the soul in Roman culture.

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In Greek, the word for “butterfly” means “soul” or “mind.” Ancient Greek culture symbolically linked butterflies with the soul, and this linguistic association strengthened that connection.

Philippine Mythology

Black swallowtail butterfly
Black swallowtail butterfly

Filipinos often interpret a black butterfly or moth in the house as a sign that someone in the family will die soon. People also believe that butterflies can be messengers or omens related to life and death.

Celtic Mythology

Celtic mythology views butterflies as a symbol of the soul. An old Irish saying considers butterflies as souls of the deceased waiting to pass through Purgatory. People believe that butterflies can cross into other realms and have a spiritual connection with the afterlife.

Butterfly tattoos

Woman’s butterfly tattoo
Woman’s butterfly tattoo

People often choose the butterfly tattoo because it has symbolic meanings associated with its beauty. People may associate their butterfly tattoos with different meanings, such as freedom, rebirth, transformation, and metamorphosis. 

Furthermore, each person who wears a butterfly tattoo has their own personal meaning behind it. Hope, a positive future, or a transition from a negative situation to something uplifting and transformative can be represented by it. These tattoo designs let people express themselves personally and reflect on their unique journeys and experiences.

Are butterflies good luck?

Orange tip butterfly perching
Orange tip butterfly perching | Image by Ian Lindsay from Pixabay

In Taiwan, Han Chinese people use butterfly motifs in different forms of art, such as crafts, paintings, and buildings, as they believe it brings good luck. As symbols of joy, fortune, money, and honor, butterflies also have a special meaning in Celtic regions like parts of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Butterflies’ symbolic significance in both Han Chinese and Celtic civilizations emphasizes their worldwide appeal and significance. People use butterflies in art and culture to strengthen their beliefs and express their wishes for good things and positive energy in life. 


In conclusion, butterflies symbolize many meaningful things across cultures and throughout history. From their delicate beauty to their changing life cycle, these majestic winged creatures serve as a significant metaphor for the human experience, reminding us of our own potential for personal growth and change. However, when digging into the meanings that butterflies might represent, it’s essential to keep in mind that their significance may vary depending on the culture.