It’s my belief that the world is filled with signs and messages and part of the joy of being here is keeping our eyes and hearts open to the guidance available to us.
Playing in Lori-Lyn Hurley’s Elemental Wisdom, the invitation was to delve into one of three medicines – Bear, Tree, or Butterfly. As I was signing up I thought I’d be choosing Tree as I have such a love for these beings, and yet when it came time to click the selection button, Butterfly very clearly said “Pick me.” You have to follow that kind of guidance – that’s where the magic is.
So I’ve been watching butterflies closely these past weeks – enjoying their beauty and thinking about transformation. They have lots to teach about stages of change, transmutation, going within and coming out whole again. There are teachings about when it’s time to incubate precious new ideas, and knowing when it’s necessary to withdraw during a transition, and equally important when it is time to emerge. But of course butterflies have other messages as well. They are a symbol of fragility – not in the sense of weakness, but more because they are so light and transparent. To watch a butterfly is to pay attention to the environment, and butterflies are one of the first species to react to climate changes. This sensitivity speaks to our need to be far more mindful about our environment certainly, but it’s also a reminder of the gifts of being receptive to the nuances all around us that can help us navigate with more wisdom and insight. Their flitting nature is also associated with joy and freedom, and a reminder to look where to make more room for that in our lives.
Butterflies are fascinating to other cultures as well, and whenever I’m studying new symbols, I always like to check out cultural references, creation stories, goddess lore, and whatever else I can find. It’s so interesting to see things through the many facets of understanding that are available!
Butterflies have a soul connection in many cultures, and in classical Greek the word for soul and butterfly are the same. For the Haida people of the Pacific Northwest, Raven was considered the creator of the world, but Butterfly was Raven’s spokesperson. The Hmong have a traditional tale that attributes the creation of the local peoples to the eggs laid by Butterfly Mother. Butterfly Maiden is a Kachina connected to Spring; and for the ancient Egyptians the butterfly was the emblem of Osiris. The Aztecs honored Itzpapaloti (Obsidian Butterfly) as a fierce warrior goddess; and Hina is a butterfly goddess of the Pacific Islanders associated with inspired and truthful communication. So many different entry points into the exploration of Butterfly, and each one intriguing.
Watching butterflies I’ve also been thinking about them as pollinators. Drinking nectar with their long probiscus and gathering pollen as a by-product of visiting the flower, then passing it on at the next stop. That seems like such an interesting metaphor to me right now – how we can be of service in ways that are ancillary to what we believe we’re here for. That one really has me thinking. And because I’m spending so much time watching butterflies, particularly as they visit my porch flower boxes, color and scent have been on my mind as well. It’s the color of the flowers that attracts the butterflies – and they’re able to sense more color wavelengths than humans, or even bees. Butterflies themselves come in so many beautiful colors and patterns, so I’ve been thinking about that as well. How to show up dressed in all our beautiful “simply beingness” finery. Scent doesn’t seem to play a big, if any part, in attracting butterflies to flowers, and yet I can’t be among flowers and not be thinking about scent. And then I found this wonderful haiku by Basho:
The butterfly is perfuming
it’s wings in the scent
of the orchid.
That makes me smile, as though the butterfly is carrying a secret. Is that lovely?
What are you paying attention to these days? What magic is touching your life? I’d love to hear.