are supplied to demystify symbolism (and the artwork in this
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Rebirth/transformation (mainly). Why? The butterfly
starts life as an earthbound caterpillar, goes into a cocoon,
dies to that life and then emerges as a brilliant butterfly.
This is such a notable part of the life span of the butterfly
that it becomes a focus for the symbolism. Connotations are
more like something that happens just once, as compared to
the PHOENIX--a continuous never-ending
rebirth process. The quick and fluttering life span of the
butterfly in addition to the beauteous aspect of the insect
also lead to its use as symbol for beauty and a commentary
on the very transitory nature of that beauty. But that's just
my thoughts, there are some VERY good thoughts on the subject
Posted: September 05, 2003.
Revised: April 19,004.
links to the (expert) quotes below:
Biedermann: Dictionary of Symbolism
Vollman: The Little Giant Encyclopedia
of Dream Symbols
Estés: Women Who Run With the Wolves
of Symbolism, p. 52-53
(Greek psyche, Latin papilo) A symbolic creature
in many cultures, standing in some contexts for beauty and
metamorphosis and in others for the transitory nature of happiness.
"The miracle of its successive life stages, of metamorphosis
from the larval existence of the plodding caterpillar to the
delicate beauty of the butterfly, has moved us deeply, becoming
a metaphor for the transformations undergone by our own souls:
this is one source of our hope that we may one day leave behind
our terrestrial prison and ascend into the eternal light of
the heavens" [Aeppli]. This is why butterflies often
adorn old tombstones. As it's Greek name indicates, the butterfly,
like the BIRD, is an analogue for the human soul (another
meaning for the Greek word psyche). In its "flightiness"
it resembles elves, genies, and cupids. Pixies, like dream
or fantasy figures, are often depicted with butterfly wings,
as is HYPNOS (Latin SOMNUS), the god of sleep. In depictions
of the earthly PARADISE, the soul placed by the Creator in
Adam is sometimes shown as having such wings.
Japan the butterfly is a symbol of young womanhood; two butterflies
dancing about one another mean marital happiness. In China,
on the other hand, the insect symbolizes a young man in love
and is portrayed drinking from the (female) FLOWERS and blossoms;
however, if the woman he loves dies, she may be represented
coming out of her grave as a butterfly. In combination with
the PLUM, the butterfly symbolizes longevity and beauty; when
used punningly (tieh is the word for "seventy";
hu-tieh, for "butterfly") it expresses the
wish that the recipient might reach the age of 70 (and is
often paired with a cat, mao, which is also the word
for "eighty"). In ancient Mexico the butterfly (in
Aztec papalotl, suggestive of the Latin papilio)
was one of the attributes of Xochipilli, the god of vegetation,
but also symbolized flickering firelight and was associated
with the SUN. The goddess Itzpapalotl, a butterfly surrounded
by STONE knives (itzli), was a night spirit associated
with fiery STARS and also a symbol of the souls of women who
had died in childbirth.
is a line of Japanese poetry expressing sorrow over the lost
pleasures of the past, a response to the maxim, "The
fallen blossom never returns to the branch"; "I
thought that the blossom had returned to the branch--alas,
it was only a butterfly." (See also JOAN OF ARC.)
Posted: September 05, 2003.
Expanded: March 06, 2004.
Little Giant Encyclopedia of Dream Symbols, p. 86
One's own transformation (from CATERPILLAR to butterfly);
also the image of inspired lightness and the soul of the child.
The image of the butterfly is that of "spiritus,"
the connection between mind and soul. In this sense, it is
a symbol for enthusiasm and salvation/happiness.
Posted: January 17, 2004.
Who Run With the Wolves, p. 211
Butterfly maiden is the female fertilizing force. Carrying
the pollen from one place to another, she cross-fertilizes,
just as the soul fertilizes mind with nightdreams, just as
archetypes fertilize the mundane world. She is the center.
She brings opposites together by taking a little from here
and putting it there. Transformation is no more complicated
than that. This is what she teaches. This is how the butterfly
does it. This is how the soul does it.
Woman mends the erroneous idea that transformation is only
for the tortured, the saintly, or only for the fabulously
strong. The Self need not carry mountains to transform. A
little is enough.
Posted: October 29, 2003.
Want to know more? Go out and pick up a copy of the book(s) quoted and expand your mind :) These are MY teachers, the people who teach me about symbolism :) I hope the supplied definitions help you understand the art found on this site.