Butterflies are among the most beautiful of insects, and white ones can be stunning, so it’s no wonder that many people experience deep feelings of spirituality when they see one.
Butterflies have meant different things to various cultures around the world, so in this post, we look at white butterfly symbolism according to different traditions as well as what it might mean if you see one.
White butterfly associations
Before we think about the symbolism that butterflies have been given in various cultures and what it might mean if you see a white butterfly, let’s first talk about their characteristics and the associations they have.
Butterflies start their lives as caterpillars, and only after spinning themselves into a cocoon do they emerge once again as beautiful adult butterflies. For this reason, butterflies have come to epitomize metamorphosis, change, transformation and rebirth.
Most butterflies are extremely beautiful yet delicate creatures, and we often see them flitting about near flowers during the summer months, so we also associate them with good weather, abundance and joy – and even fertility.
Their fragile nature also gives them an almost magical air, and for many people, they are closely connected with the spiritual world.
White butterflies in particular are especially striking, and white is the color that is usually associated with purity, serenity, simplicity and innocence.
However, butterflies usually only live for a fleetingly short time, so they are also associated with the ephemeral nature of life and the need to live life to the fullest by making every moment count.
Symbolism of white butterflies in different cultures
Butterflies have existed for millions of years, far longer than humans, and they are also found in almost all parts of the world.
They are such striking yet mysterious creatures, so it’s no wonder they appear in the mythology and traditions of a wide range of cultures – so let’s look at that now.
Butterflies are important to many of the tribes of North America and are usually seen as being close to the spirit world.
According to Blackfoot beliefs, butterflies bring dreams to people while they sleep, often carrying important messages from the spirit world. This is why Blackfoot people often decorate children’s rooms with butterfly motifs.
The Plains tribes also incorporated many butterfly motifs into their artwork, and the Pueblo have a creation myth where the Creator put all the colors of the world into a bag.
When he opened the bag to show to the children, the colors flew out as butterflies. However, their vibrant appearance made the birds jealous, so to appease them, the Creator gave the birds song while the butterflies remained mute.
The Aztecs believed that butterflies were the souls of their ancestors and recently departed loved ones, so seeing butterflies brought them comfort.
For the Mayans, butterflies were also seen as spirits, but unlike the Aztecs, they believed they were the spirits of brave warriors.
That butterflies are the souls of the deceased is a common theme in many cultures, and the Japanese also had a similar belief.
For them, butterflies are the embodiment of souls who take this form to travel to the afterlife. They also represent the transformation of girls into women.
In China, butterflies are associated with freedom, beauty, elegance and love – and seeing two together especially symbolizes eternal love.
Butterflies also feature in one of China’s most famous folk tales, the story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, the so-called “butterfly lovers”.
The story is set in the Eastern Jin dynasty (266–420 CE), and at that time, girls were not supposed to become scholars. However, a girl named Zhu Yingtai, the daughter of a wealthy family, convinced her father to allow her to pursue an academic career.
In order to attend classes, she had to disguise herself as a boy, and dressed like this, she set out on the road to Hangzhou to begin her studies.
On the way, she met a scholar named Liang Shanbo, and they quickly became close friends.
Zhu Yingtai secretly fell in love with Liang Shanbo, but he never guessed her true identity.
Eventually, Liang Shanbo discovers her secret, but by then, she has already been promised to another man by her father. Liang Shanbo realizes he loves Zhu Yingtai, and he is distraught. He suffers greatly and his health deteriorates until he dies of a broken heart.
On the day of Zhu Yingtai’s wedding, the procession passes near the grave of Liang Shanbo and is prevented from continuing further by a strong wind.
She decides to visit the grave and is overcome by emotion, begging the grave to open to let her in. When it opens, she throws herself in and dies – and the spirits of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai fly up from the grave in the form of butterflies, together at last.
Ancient Greeks and Romans
Butterflies don’t feature prominently in the traditions of Ancient Greece or Rome, but the Greek goddess Psyche, a mortal woman who was transformed into a deity, was usually depicted with the wings of a butterfly.
“Psyche” is the Greek word for “soul”, and the goddess was married to Eros, who is now more commonly known as Cupid, the god of desire, erotic love and attraction.
To the Celts, butterflies symbolized a link between the physical and the spiritual realms. They were also thought to be the embodiment of the souls of dead children, so it was seen as extremely bad luck to kill a butterfly.
What does it mean if you see a white butterfly?
As we have seen, butterflies have had a range of meanings to various cultures around the world, but what does it mean if you see a butterfly – and especially a white one?
Seeing white butterflies can have many different meanings, so to interpret it, you need to think about the specific details of what you saw as well as how you felt and the issues and challenges you are currently facing in your life.
That way, through reflecting deeply on the experience and trusting your intuition, you will be able to find the correct interpretation of seeing a white butterfly and how it relates to you.
Here are some of the most common interpretations of seeing a white butterfly:
1. Related to your spiritual journey, development and rebirth
Butterflies start life as caterpillars before undergoing metamorphosis and emerging as beautiful adult butterflies, and a common meaning of seeing a butterfly is related to your spiritual journey, your development and rebirth.
Are you just about to embark on a new phase of your spiritual exploration? Seeing a white butterfly may be a message telling you that you are on the right path and that what you are now experiencing will allow you to develop and grow spiritually.
Or perhaps you are not paying enough attention to the spiritual aspects of your life, in which case seeing a white butterfly may be a message telling you that you need to take time for spirituality if you want to grow into the person you are truly meant to be.
2. You will soon overcome difficulties in life
The transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly is not easy, and the process requires strength, bravery and determination.
For this reason, seeing a butterfly may be an indication that you too are facing difficulties in your life, but that you should stick at it because you will get there in the end – and then you will see that all the effort was worth it.
Consider what projects you are engaged in at the moment or what goals you would like to pursue. Achieving one’s goals is not always easy, but through hard work and dedication, you can achieve great things.
3. Time for a new start
Perhaps the message you are being sent is not about spiritual change but rather, is about changes you need to make in the physical world.
You may be aware that something in your life is not quite right at the moment, and seeing a white butterfly can tell you that you need to take the time to think deeply and evaluate your decisions and current direction.
It could be that by being brave and choosing to make a big change, your life will be transformed and you will eventually emerge much better for it.
Could this be related to your job? Your relationship? Your goals and ambitions? Through calm reflection and meditation, you will find clear answers to questions like these, and then it is up to you to act.
4. Message from an angel
White butterflies represent purity and are closely connected to the spirit world, so seeing one can be an indication that an angel is near and is trying to pass a message to you.
Angels can communicate with us in a range of subtle ways, and to hear their messages, we need to be open to receiving them.
Seeing a white butterfly can simply be an angel’s way of reassuring you that you are not alone and that they are there with you, watching over you.
However, you should be alert to any other messages that may appear – such as angel numbers – because it’s possible the angel has a more important message to pass on.
5. Spirit of a departed loved one is near
Another possibility is that a white butterfly may tell you that the spirit of a departed loved one is near.
If you have recently suffered a bereavement and a white butterfly appears, you should take heart because the spirit of the departed is telling you that all is well, that they are still with you and that you are in their thoughts.
6. A spirit is protecting you
If a white butterfly flies around you, this is a clear message that a spirit is looking after you and watching over you. It could be an angel or the soul of a departed loved one, but when this happens, you can always interpret it as a positive sign.
7. Abundance, prosperity and success
If you see a white butterfly in your garden among your flowers or flying around your yard, it can often be a sign of abundance, prosperity and success.
It means that good fortune is heading your way soon, so if you are lucky enough to see this sign, you’ll know that something good is about to happen.
8. Good luck, peace, and domestic harmony – or death
A few people believe that if a white butterfly enters your home, it foretells the imminent death of someone close to you.
However, a more common interpretation is that a white butterfly in your home is a sign of good luck, peace and domestic harmony.
It means that your family is doing well and will prosper, so if a white butterfly enters your home, it’s more likely to be a positive sign rather than something to fear.
9. Healing after an unhappy event
If you have recently gone through some kind of emotional trauma, seeing a white butterfly – or having one land on you – can be a sign that you need to take the time to heal yourself spiritually.
This is a clear message that is easy to interpret, so it’s important to heed the advice, or you will continue to suffer.
However, seeing a white butterfly is also a message that you will heal with time, and that when you emerge from this difficult period, you will be stronger than ever.
10. You have a compassionate heart and may need to forgive someone
If a white butterfly lands on you, it can also be a message that you have a compassionate heart – and that now may be the time to forgive someone who has wronged you.
Family feuds or disputes with friends can be incredibly distressing and destructive, and it is better to forgive and forget than to hold a grudge forever – and seeing a white butterfly can remind you of this.
11. Two white butterflies mean peace and harmony
Seeing two white butterflies flying together is a symbol of peace and harmony. It tells you that your relationship is strong and that you have a strong bond of deep trust, respect and love for one another.
Many positive meanings
Although white butterflies symbolize different things to different people, their meaning is almost universally a positive one.
If you see a white butterfly, search deep within yourself to see how the message you are receiving relates to you, and by trusting your instinct and intuition, you will be able to find the correct interpretation.
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