Butterflies and Life Transformations

This week I visited my friend in her garden. There we spoke of the many transformative changes in our lives and in the world around us, as we watched butterflies and hummingbirds lighting on milkweed and on butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii).

Milkweed, is a native North American wildflower that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Viewed by many as a weed this important plant has been removed from acres and acres of land and replaced with lawns. But many organic gardeners like my friend and I are allowing it to take back the habitat it once was so prevalent in. Image credit

Butterfly Milkweed is noted for medicinal properties. One of its old nicknames is Pleurisy Root. It was widely used by Native Americans for treating throat and lung ailments and for cuts and sores. It was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1905 and in the National Formulary form 1916 to 1936. Extracts from the roots of Butterfly Milkweed have been shown to be active against tuberculosis cultures.– Butterfly Milkweed

Butterflies develop through metamorphosis, a Greek word that means transformation or change in shape.  Thus in many cultures the shape changing butterfly is a symbol of transformation,  transition, and resurrection associated with the soul.

In Greek myth, Psyche (which literally translates to mean “soul”) is represented in the form of a butterfly. Befittingly, Psyche is forever linked with love as she and Eros (the Greek god of love, also known in Roman myth as Cupid) shared an endlessly passionate bond together – both hopelessly in love with the other.  — Butterfly Animal Symbolism — Symbolic Butterfly Meaning

butterfliesFrom egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to egg laying the butterfly completes a remarkable transformation of forms in just a few weeks time. Throughout that short lifespan ants, birds, lizards, parasitic flies and parasitic wasps, praying mantis, rats, toads, snakes and wasps have this species on their menu. Image credit

While in the larval stage a caterpillar with many eyes and legs will shed its skin many times as it grows. Following each shedding the caterpillar can become a different colour or present a significant change in appearance from they way they looked before.

The caterpillar’s job was to eat. The adult’s job is to mate and lay eggs. Some species of adult butterflies get energy by feeding on nectar from flowers but many species don’t feed at all. — Four Stages of Butterfly Metamorphosis

butterfliesDepending on species the protective chrysalis around the pupal caterpillar can present in many shapes and in a range of green/brown color shades, protectively camouflaged so they are frequently overlooked. It’s in this hanging chrysalis that an amazing transformation of form occurs, for what emerges from the a chrysalis in no way resembles the caterpillar that produced it. Image credit

Butterflies of Love

As we sat in the garden  I shared how I find myself to be in a chrysalis feeling the need to burst free and spread my wings.  And she shared how she viewed her baby granddaughter as a caterpillar that she wants to  see become a beautiful butterfly.   Both my friend and her daughter are breast cancer survivors, who have gone through physical and spiritual transformations. They hope the little caterpillar will not be likewise become stricken with breast cancer and so do I.  We shared words of  hope, courage and strength. Then we entered the silence, each cultivating the seed thought that all the little caterpillars of today and tomorrow inherit a transformed world.

Butterfly : Mystery of Transformation

In embracing the symbol of the butterfly we are also holding to the essence of our vision to transform this world back into the sacred; regenerating joy, beauty and peace, beginning within our homes, rippling outward with each wave of our wings initiating a new cycle where freedom rings loudly through concerted efforts creating the world in celebration; united.  We as a people collectively opt to make the necessary metamorphosis to peace.

Discussion

When my friend and I parted I shared this quote:

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. –
Maya Angelou

What symbolism do you associate with the butterfly? Do you have a favorite caterpillar or butterfly experience or quote that you would like to share?

40 thoughts on “Butterflies and Life Transformations

  1. I love this post, will be looking fwd to following your writing. And the photos…sublime. i think all of gardening is a continual metamorphosis, our gardens express our changes, wishes, desires, dreams, failures, hope. “A life without dreams is like a garden without flowers.’

  2. Lovely post. Thanks for including Leyendecker’s beautiful of the butterfly as a symbol of LIfe and Transformation. Thanks for the thoughtful blog. I tried to find a quotation on butterflies, but I was unable.

  3. Pingback: When the gates are ready to open « Absurd Old Bird

  4. This is a beautiful post, TiTi, and I’m very glad you wrote it. Not just because it’s enjoyable (and informative, which your posts always are,too) but because Butterfly symbolism means a lot to me in my personal life. In fact, I’m off now to my blog to post about it, I think.

    Hugs. Don’t stay in the chrysalis too long, but while you’re there, don’t worry – you’re warmly wrapped in love and friendship from me and many other people.

    • Hi Val,
      Thanks for the positive feedback on this post. Thanks also for your concern about my withdrawn state. I have so much to do and at times I become overwhelmed. That’s what has happened. The deadline for my contracted work is looming and I must focus on it though I would dearly love to escape the chrysalis and paint instead. Such is life. I am eager to read about butterfly symbolism in your personal life. Blog it!

  5. I’ve always loved butterflies. I can watch them for hours and am entranced by butterfly collections. Once, back in my mid-twenties, I made a pants suit with plain trousers but the top had butterflies. I loved that top.

    • Hi Robyn,
      I have never had any clothes with butterflies on them except for one jean jacket that I embroidered butterflies, dragonflies, and hummingbirds on. That was way back in my twenties and remarkably I still have the Lee jean jacket and it still fits. It’s well-worn but not threadbare and from time to time I put it on and remember my caterpillar years. Teens I know love it and one of my friend’s daughter covets it but I’m not giving it up. I would be interested to hear about butterfly symbolism that your family members may have to share.

  6. Your beautiful writing reminds me that there are so many rich images to assist us in interpreting the world and our experience, both external and internal and just how very personal these interpretations are and yet how wonderful it is to share them and reach out to the other. At the weekend I went to a day retreat and as we prepared to leave after a long and happy day, a tortoiseshell butterfly flew down and sat calmly on my friend’s hair. We smiled and waited for her to leave before driving back to the city. The theme looks lovely too, what a wonderful evolution xx

    • I’m avery visual person so for me picking up a brush and painting comes easily even when I have people watching. I find writing in my personal journal to be easy too as I’m having conversations with myself. What I find difficult is writing for my blogs because I’m so conscious of the fact I have readers. I don’t have shortage of things I want to blog about. I’m short on time and I keep telling myself when I retire I’ll have the time to become a better blogger.

      Having the butterfly land on your friend’s hair must have been an awesome moment. I’ve had two recent butterfly dreams. In them I appeared to be wearing a crown or tiara of some kind. I don’t know anything about tarot but when I was surfing the internet I discovered the butterfly is a Tarot symbol in the King & Queen of Swords. And, butterfly dreams indicate we are having a change of thought about something, and/or we may need to change our approach when we’re dealing with conflicts and challenges. That rang true for me.

  7. This post is just lovely and really interesting TT! Butterflies are so elegant and graceful. They are beautiful to watch. I often find myself just staring when I see butterflies flying around :)

    Take care Xxxx

    • I know what you mean TJ. My friend and I were entranced by watching them. We are so happy the milkweed and the butterfly bushes are attracting so many of them, and hummingbirds too.

    • You shared alovely tradition with me on the BC forum I want to post here.

      “The butterfly in India is also a symbol of love and marriage. The wedding invitation cards will carry the sign of the butterfly!….Reading your post, I can better appreciate its significance.”

      Thank you. I appreciate your wisdom sayings (aphorisms) and it’s good to know that you like what I post too.

  8. Beautiful post, TT! A neighbor of mine planted milkweed to attract monarch butterflies to his garden. They start manifesting a few days ago, and he is ecstatic.

    Have always loved this Tagore quote: “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”

  9. timethief, what a beautiful, powerful post. The quote you ended with is by one of my favorite authors/poets. Her autobiography “I know why the caged bird sings” had a profound influence in my life. It was through her words that the first inklings of my own butterfly transformation began.

    I’m still working on fully spreading my wings. My physical transformation from athletically challenged asthmatic to runner has helped. Blogging and the support of the blogging community has given me the courage to live without fear of judgement by others. I know we will both fully awaken in our own time.

    “Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time. ”
    Deborah Chaskin

    • Hi Denise,
      I haven’t read here book but I do plan to. I tend to read more in the winder monts and speand as much time as I can outside in the summer months. Congrats! on overcoming your challenge and becoming a runner. That’s no small feat. I’m happy to hear you are meeting bloggers who encourage and support you. I’ve have the pleasure of connecting with some bloggers who have become my friends. Thanks for sharing the quote too.

    • The Chinese animal symbol Butterfly represents love, specifically young love. Happily flitting from flower to flower – it signifies a happy social life for the young and young- at-heart. Chinese legend has it that the Butterfly symbolizes an undying bond between lovers.

      That’s not unlike Greek and Roman mythology. Psyche is forever linked with love with Eros (Cupid) – both hopelessly in love with the other.

      • That is a very nice picture of it, even a traditional chinese version of the rat is very nice, but the view on the ground here, although everyone loves butterflies, is their quite promiscuous … it is very similar to the Bee in “the birds and the bees” for the west, except that being a “butterfly” is quite commonly spoken of.

        I feel a bee is much more symbolic for a man though, as bees carries stingers, and a butterfly seems quite pretty, and feminine to me.

        I should also mention, I have not spent very much time in China, and have not heard that symbolism there, though I have heard it all over SE Asia, Korea and Japan.

    • Hi Ana,
      “better one day as a butterfly than a hundred years as a beetle”

      Agreed. Thanks for the kind words about my post. I value them and I shall now read yours.

      Edit: I’m back. I read your post and immediately recognized the Delaroche painting.

  10. By the way, titi, this wordpress theme and overall design best encapsulates the spirit of this blog focus. I like this choice the best so far compared to other wp themes that you have tried.

    • I’ve finally found a theme that I think frames my content well and I’m quite pleased with it. Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad you agree with me.

  11. Here’s a quote to help anyone wondering/reflecting on butterfly experiences:

    “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.” – Carl Jung ”

    I have had the occasional butterfly experiences here and there and it happens when I have undergone a difficult time period or through a creative experience:

    *As a child, the shock of entering kindergarten and not understanding English though I was born in Canada. It was the start of being badly surprised but also a crystal defining moment that set off a whole chain of changes for myself. My world changed because I had to acquire a 2nd language. Language shapes a person’s thinking…to think in a different way. And initially it can be a difficult experience.

    *After one of my final counselling sessions when in my early 20′s. It was an enormous breakthrough. I remember that day, a summer day and the river water shimmering like diamonds. I certainly can vouch that intensive time of counselling for nearly a year while I was still going to universtiy full-time (how did I have the strength to do that??), that gave me deeper self-knowledge and confidence to make changes in life several times..including the latest in the last few months.

    Just 2 of several experiences here ..butterfly and crystallizing moments in life that changed the course of life.

    • Looking back on your early caterpillar years it must indeed been confusing to attend a school where everyone was speaking another language. Having to learn a different thought pattern to accompany the change in language must also have been very challenging. The second experience you share is so evocative of breaking free from the chrysalis and emerging as a changed being as well. And your last year has certainly been a transformative one.

  12. TT, this is a gorgeous post. I love the story of butterflies.

    My favorite quote in the world:

    Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.

  13. Hi Time Thief – what a lovely post!

    I think all of us have a bit of butterfly inside. Some transform beautifully. I was just reading a blog someone made in tribute to her battered and eventually murdered sister. Your blog made me think of how some have the opportunity to transform taken away from them.

    I don’t have a butterfly experience that I can tell you about – I’m just sitting here at my computer grateful that I’ve been given the gift of happiness and a gentle husband….

    ….and happy that my email showed a post from you!

    • Hello Ann,
      Change is the only constant in the universe and as we humans and the entire universe is in a constant state of flux, we are not exactly the same person we were yesterday as we are today and we will be a changed person tomorrow. We change, we grow and we take flight. The butterfly can master this last transformation and take flight only once but humans are not limited in that regard. We can always change our thoughts and how we respond to events in our lives. We can eat (obtain knowledge) and we can grow, we can shed our old “skins” (ideas, beliefs, perceptions, prejudices, opinions, etc.), contemplate change, transform and take flight over and over again. I appreciate your comments very much. May you have a lovely weekend.

  14. timethief ~ What a beautiful post on so many different levels. You have a unique talent at weaving together different threads to create a gorgeous and unified fabric embedded with mysterious and profound messages.

    This quote resonated with me very strongly: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” We often resist change and suffering – I do – yet it’s exactly what sets us free.

    My husband has been calling me a butterfly lately!

    This video is entrancing. Thank you. This whole article is a gift.

    May you soar!

    • Dear Sandra,
      Thanks so much for your beautiful words about my writing (weaving). I have been withdrawn of late and in a chrysalis state where much is happening on the side and nothing is demonstrated on the outside. I sense the time to break free has not arrived and I wait. In the duration as words escape me, I paint. What I paint flows off the brushes and then I sit and ponder what it represents and means. No answers are forthcoming but I’m optimistic that they will manifest in the future. So I pick up the brushes and choose a color and paint again. The color red is what’s drawing me now and may be a theme for my next post.
      May love and peace be with you always,
      TiTi

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