Butterfly in mythology

February 28, 2011

Butterfly as Creator

One of the tribes of Sumatra claims to be descended from eggs laid by a butterfly (their wives were sent down from above fully grown), and in Madagascar and among the Naga tribes of Manipur, some trace their ancestry to a butterfly. A North American Pima Indian myth says that the creator, Chiowotmahki, took the form of a butterfly and flew over the world until he found a suitable place for man.

The Morning Star

In Mexecal art, Xolatl is the chrysal form of the god Quetzalcoatl in the Land of the Dead. Xolatl is closely related to the Star of the Morning and marks the butterfly as an emblem of the soul. Certain American Indian tribes, specifically the Arapaho Indians, interpret the symbol for butterfly as the Morning Star.

Morning Star relationship of the soul and butterflies could be attributed to the star’s continued appearance in the morning despite the passage of night (representing death). Since stars are normally associated with night, a morning star’s existence in the day could symbolize the soul’s life after death.

Dreams guardians

The Blackfoot Indians believed that butterflies brought them their dreams while they were sleeping. It was custom for a Blackfoot woman to embroider a butterfly on a small piece of buckskin. Then she would tie this piece in her child’s hair when she wanted him or her to go to sleep. At the same time she would sing a lullaby to the child. This was her way of asking a butterfly to come and fly about to put the child asleep.

Prehistoric pottery

Hopi Indians used butterfly images on much of their prehistoric pottery, and they even performed a special butterfly dance. The spirit of the butterfly has been widely used in the Hopi Indian’s kachina figures. Kachinas are the spirit essence of everything in the real world. They represent game, plants, food, insects, birds and even death.

Weather prediction

Native American Zuni tribesmen believed that butterflies could predict the weather. White butterflies indicated the onset of summer. They also believed that if the first butterfly of the season was white, that foreshadowed a rainy summer, especially if the butterfly flew out of the southwest. A dark butterfly meant the summer would be full of stormy weather, while a yellow butterfly predicted sunny weather.

Earth’s fertility

Among many Mexican Indian tribes butterflies were a symbol of Earth’s fertility. Born out of a caterpillar in a chrysalis, butterflies became a symbol of rebirth, regeneration and joy.”

The world of dreams and the world of work

Tzutujil Mayans in Guatemala speak of simultaneous Twin Realities: the world of dreams and the world of work. These worlds are likened to the opposing wings of a Butterfly: the dream world is one wing, and the awake world is the other. They believe the wings must connect at the Heart for the Butterfly to fly and live. Real life occurs because of the interaction of the wings. The Life is the Butterfly’s Heart. Life, like the Butterfly’s Heart, is kept alive by the two opposing, mirroring twinlike wings.


The Shoshone Indians believed that the Great Spirit blew the breath of life into pebbles, which then became butterflies.

Butterfly Release – Papago Tribe

If anyone desires a wish to come true they must first capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it. Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly can not reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all. In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom, the Great Spirit always grants the wish. So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom, the wish will be taken to the heavens and be granted.

Sources: www.butterflypages.com, native-american-market.com, www.suite101.com,www.insects.org

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