Butterflies are one of the most beautiful creatures on earth. They are also a symbol of love. The word “butterfly” comes from the Old English word “butterfleoge,” which stemmed from the idea that these winged critters were actually little butter thieves. Butterflies are a popular motif in art, literature, and poetry because of their beauty and symbolism, so it’s no question why butterflies hold a special place in our hearts.
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Do Butterflies Symbolize Love?
If you’re looking for the short answer – well, yes! Butterflies can certainly symbolize love within the right context. Depending on the type of butterfly that you see or what it is doing, you can easily determine whether or not a butterfly sighting is a symbol of love.
Read more: Butterfly Greetings From a Loved One Story
When a butterfly approaches you at a significant point in your life, it can be a sign of love or that you’ve received a loved one’s blessing from beyond the grave. In some of our user-submitted stories, butterflies have appeared at weddings and other profound moments to show some love to those who need it most.
Butterflies — Universal Symbols of Love
A symbol of unwavering love in many cultures throughout society, the butterfly has left its mark on the delicate petals of our hearts – but no story is more heart-wrenching than the legend of Psyche. This butterfly-winged goddess – once a mortal woman – would steal the heart of Cupid himself…
Psyche: A Soul Beguiled By Love
As told in the eleven books of The Golden Asse, a notable novel by the famed Greek writer and philosopher Apuleius, there was a mortal whose beauty rivaled that of Aphrodite: a young woman named Psyche. Born to Greek royalty, some would say that Psyche’s beauty was unparalleled. Others would come to mistake her for the goddess of love herself.
Over time, worshipers who once prayed to Aphrodite were now calling Psyche by her name. Once enamored by the goddess embodiment of physical beauty, her disciples now sought something deeper: the captivating vastness of Psyche, the soul.
When she found out that people had abandoned and defaced her temples in favor of worshiping Psyche, the goddess Aphrodite became filled with rage. To enact her revenge, Aphrodite sent Eros – her son and the god of love (although you might be more familiar with his Roman equivalent, Cupid) – to make Psyche fall feverishly in love with “the most miserable creature living.”
When Eros encountered Psyche, however, it was he who was stricken by the arrow of love. Having fallen madly for the lovely Psyche, Eros could not bear to see her affections directed elsewhere and failed to fulfill his duty to Aphrodite.
After a grueling battle of the gods, the two lovers were eventually united in marriage. Zeus blessed Psyche with immortality, deifying her as the goddess of the soul. Their story came to be seen as a symbol of the soul’s journey to find its way back to the divine – a metamorphosis achieved only through the power of love.
In many depictions of Psyche, she is portrayed with butterfly wings to represent the transformation and ascension of the soul. Although her beauty rivaled that of the goddess Aphrodite, we learn through the story of Psyche that true beauty comes from within the soul rather than one’s physical appearance.
What do Butterflies Symbolize in China?
The butterfly is also a significant symbol in Chinese culture(s). In fact, the Mandarin characters meaning butterfly bear a pronunciation similar to that of a word meaning “good fortune”. This creates a sort of pun in the Chinese language that adds depths of meaning to the original word or phrase. Similarly, húdié, the phonetic spelling of the word for butterfly, forms a pun meaning longevity: a welcome blessing to a happy relationship.
Aside from the etymology of the word, there are other legends and tales in Chinese folklore that resonate deeply with the symbolism of the butterfly.
It’s a common belief that two butterflies flying together represent love, happiness, and lifelong commitment. Seeing two loving butterflies come together in the dance of flight ensures that you will be blessed with profound love or that you will meet your true love soon. Yet another myth states that a person who follows a butterfly will fall in love in the near future.
The Butterfly Lovers
This widely-known folk tale has been adapted into sculpture, song, and for the stage. Yet another love story ending in tragedy, the butterfly lovers, is a tale of two students who hid their love from each other until it was too late. After several years, the young man passed away and the young lady was betrothed to another man.
On the day of the young bride’s wedding, the procession would lead her past the grave of her long-lost beloved. Stricken with grief, she was unable to simply pass by and marry another, so she threw herself into the grave with him.
Suddenly, the spirits of the lovers could be seen rising up from the grave in the form of two butterflies, dancing delicately around one another and bidding a fond farewell to the Earthly realm.
LGBT Butterfly Symbolism
Since the early days of the gay rights movement, the butterfly has been used as a symbol of freedom, change, and hope. It conveys a message of positivity and acceptance during a time when LGBTQ people may feel demonized or worse – have their way of life threatened.
Over the years, the butterfly has become an important icon for the LGBTQ community, appearing on pride flags, posters, and other forms of activism. For many queer people, the butterfly represents the strength and courage it takes to be open about one’s identity. It is a reminder that we are all beautiful and unique creatures, deserving of love and respect.
In recent years, the butterfly has also come to represent the trans community, as well as those who are non-binary or genderqueer due to the life-altering metamorphosis that a caterpillar experiences on its journey to becoming a butterfly.
As the LGBTQ movement continues to evolve, the butterfly will no doubt continue to take on new meaning, serving as a powerful reminder of our resilience and solidarity.
The Meaning of Butterflies Today
In modern times, butterflies continue to be associated with love and romance. They are often used in wedding decorations and given as gifts to newlyweds. Butterflies are also a popular motif in art and literature. In addition to being symbols of love, they are also seen as symbols of hope and transformation. Whenever we see a butterfly fluttering by, it reminds us that change is possible and that there is always hope for a better tomorrow.
Over time, the butterfly became associated with other concepts like metamorphosis, hope, and change. In many cultures around the world, the butterfly is seen as a symbol of rebirth and regeneration. This is because butterflies undergo a dramatic transformation during their lifecycle, going from an egg to a caterpillar to a chrysalis before emerging as a beautiful butterfly. This process is often seen as a metaphor for the journey of life itself.
Butterflies are some of the most beautiful creatures in nature. Like love, they are beautiful but delicate and must be treasured. If you’re looking for a symbol of love that is deeply rooted in cultures throughout the world, look no further than the butterfly.
References & Citations
- Apuleius, Lucius. The Golden Asse. Project Gutenberg, 1999.
- Collins English Dictionary. “Butterfly Definition & Meaning.” Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/butterfly. Accessed 11 November 2022.
- Silakong, Victor Kriengsak, et al. “Butterfly Lovers.” Wikipedia, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_Lovers. Accessed 10 November 2022.