Published on Jan 27, 2020

Butterfly Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

The butterfly is one of nature’s most amazing and miraculous creatures, reinventing itself multiple times throughout its brief thirty-day life span. From the moment it hatches into a tiny caterpillar, this insect will completely change its skin three times, evolve into a chrysalis and eventually re-emerging as an adult butterfly. It is this unique metamorphosis that has caused people of many societies to create stories and legends surrounding this remarkable insect.

Some cultures view the transition from cocoon to winged butterfly as a symbol for a life after death. The Maya people believed that butterflies were the spirits of dead warriors returning to the earth, while the Nagas of Assam in India believed them to be the last transformation of the human soul. For the Aztecs, butterflies where the incarnation of their happy dead ancestors returning home to comfort friends and relatives, and to reassure them that all was well.

The Greek word for butterfly is psyche or mind because it was felt that the rapid movement of a butterfly from one flower to flower mimicked the way a human brain flitted from one subject to another. A butterfly also represented new life according to an ancient Greek tradition that a new human soul was born each time a butterfly emerged from its cocoon.


Native Americans had many myths and traditions relating to butterflies such as the belief that a butterfly would carry wishes to the Great Spirit to be granted. The Shoshones believed that butterflies were originally small colorful stones that came alive when the Great Spirit breathed life into them.

The Zuni tribes thought that butterflies could predict the weather, and that the appearance of white butterflies signaled the beginning of summer. For the Blackfeet Indians, butterflies were the purveyors of dreams to those who slept.

Butterflies often appear in Chinese art, and when two are portrayed flying together, they symbolize love. In Japan, a butterfly represents young maidens and happiness in marriage, so they are frequently incorporated into family crest designs.

Generally, butterflies represent good things, like the tradition that if a butterfly lands on you, it means good luck. However, in Devonshire, England there is a superstition that a person must kill the first butterfly of the year or suffer through twelve months of bad luck.

In Germany the story is told that butterflies found hovering around milk pails and cream churns are signs of evil beings and witches who are looking to steal the cream. In nearby Ireland, they have a saying that butterflies are the souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory.

Of all the symbols related to butterflies, the ones most prevalent today are of freedom and hope. The butterfly must pass through many hard and challenging metamorphoses before it can gain its beautiful wings. Like the butterfly, we too face hard and painful changes in our lives, and it’s by passing through these experiences that we discover our own true strength and beauty. No matter how difficult the journey, it’s good to remember that there are butterfly moments waiting at the end.

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