Many people love butterflies, particularly the colors, patterns, and shapes on their wings. However, little attempt has been made to decode and find out the meaning of butterfly wing colors and their symbolism.
A butterfly itself symbolizes romance, rebirth, change, inner beauty, transformation, and the essence of one’s true self. But what do those different colors on a butterfly’s wings indicate, particularly in artwork or in one’s dreams?
It is said that a Chinese philosopher dreamed of a butterfly once, and his dream was so vivid that when he woke up, he could not decide if he was a man dreaming of being a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming of being a man. That says something about the power of dreams.
Let us find out what the many different colors on butterflies symbolize.
Butterfly Meaning and Symbolism in the Bible and Religion
Butterflies and moths are rare in Egyptian paintings and even the Bible fails to mention them. However, during the Mycenaean civilization, there were many changes in art as well as in the human psyche. In an old Mycenaean painting, we see the Goddess of Death accompanied by a butterfly. Some experts believe that this symbolizes the resurrection of the dead. The simple love life of butterflies also connects them to Eros, the Greek God of Love. We also find gods on gems torturing a butterfly, which is the representation of Psyche, the wife of Eros.
In early Christian symbolism, butterflies symbolize two things: the prototype of the vain and worldly (because of its short life) and also that of a purified soul because of its hatching from a pupa. They represent a soul released from material bonds and entering the eternal happiness of heaven.
In Christian art, the caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly symbolize life, death, and resurrection. Renaissance images of a young Christ also show a butterfly alighting on his hands.
Butterfly Symbolism in Art Around the World
- In most cultures and artworks around the world, butterflies represent the human soul and its immortality. Their brilliant colors, grace, beauty, and delicate nature combined with their flickering flight, link them to the sun, light, and an ascent into the spiritual realm.
- Swarms of butterflies are often looked upon as divine approbation or grace. In Joan d’ Arc’s triumph, swarms of white butterflies suggest blessings.
- In the African Bwa tribe, swarms of butterflies are regarded as the onset of the rainy season.
- The petroglyphs of the Southwest frequently depict butterflies which are also seen on the jewelry, pottery, and on Navajo rugs. Here, butterflies usually symbolize fertility.
- In Mexican influenced art, butterflies represent the souls of dead warriors.
- For the Zuni tribe, multicolored butterflies are the symbols of life and beauty.
- Aboriginals in Australia also believe in the association of butterflies and the souls of the dead.
- For the Chinese, the butterfly is the symbol of longevity. A jade butterfly is the symbol of eternal love and an ideal gift from the groom to his bride. According to the book The Art of Joan Brown, Chinese artwork depicts butterflies to convey different meanings. For example, when a butterfly is shown drinking from a blossom, it represents a man in love, but, in combination with a plum, it signifies longevity and beauty.
- In Japanese art, the butterfly symbolizes transient joy, feminine beauty, womanhood, and geisha. Paired butterflies mean marital harmony and a single butterfly is a vain woman or a geisha.
- In England, the white butterfly symbolizes dead spirits as well as immortality. Four butterflies are witches, three butterflies are lucky, and red butterflies represent evil.
- The butterfly as a symbol of deathlessness and immortality of the human soul first emerged in the Neolithic or late Stone Age. The Butterfly Goddess (also known as the Goddess of Rebirth) surfaced around 5000 BCE. Simple drawings show her with double axe blades representing butterfly wings. In early cultures, religions, arts, and myths, butterflies became the symbols of immortality, freedom, and fleeting beauty.
Symbolic Meanings of Butterfly Colors
Black Butterflies Have Negative Connotations
A black butterfly often heralds bad news. They are the messengers and omens of death. According to the book Spirit of the Butterflies: Myth, Magic, and Art, if someone is sick and a black butterfly perches on the door/window, then the sick person will die.
Black and Orange Butterfly Meaning
Alma Lopez is a Mexican born Chicana artist. Her paintings often depict the Viceroy butterfly which is an orange-colored butterfly with black markings. The Viceroy butterfly often resembles and mimics the Monarch butterfly which is more well-known. According to Lopez, the Viceroy butterflies try to be something that they are not. In essence, though, the Viceroy butterfly is just trying to live and survive, she says.
Dreaming of black and orange butterflies or seeing one can mean various things. Your body may be blocked or even unhealthy. You may be focusing on negative feelings like fear, evil, or grief, and may be looking to free yourself. The orange color denotes that you need to be more stimulated, enthusiastic, expansive, and happy.
Red Butterfly Meaning
It has been widely believed that butterflies, being mythical creatures, were actual souls of individuals and sometimes witches. In Cambridgeshire, seeing three butterflies was considered lucky, but in the North of England, red butterflies were often killed as they were considered evil.
Peter Milward, in his book, The Secret Life of Insects, states that the ‘Red Admiral’ butterflies not only represents the beauty of the ‘redness’ of the butterfly, but also the insect’s readiness. Redness, states the poet, is but a ‘goodly outward quality’, but beneath it also lies the inward essence, which is readiness. Combined with the butterfly’s representation of resurrection, a red admiral butterfly may stand for an anti-climax of readiness for death.
Dreaming of a red butterfly, or seeing one, can mean several things. Physically, it can mean increased blood pressure, metabolism, or heart rate. Emotionally, you may be feeling vengeful, angry, passionate, or romantic love and eroticism. Mentally, it means that you need to find a balance between passion and safety.
Brown Butterfly Meaning
Dreaming of a brown butterfly, or seeing one, may represent the fact that you have toxins in the body or need to focus on better waste elimination. Emotionally, you may be feeling depressed or drained. Spiritually, brown butterflies may suggest better stability or the fact that your mind is muddied with other people’s ideas or distorted thinking. You may also be in a state of change or maybe fundamentally growing in stages.
Seeing brown butterflies mean that you need to lighten up, be more tender, gentler, and graceful. Flitting brown butterflies can also signify romantic activity, superficial involvement with others or even focusing on becoming one’s beautiful self. The brown butterfly also represents the soul’s essence.
Blue Butterfly Meaning
Blue butterflies are rare and a breathtaking example of Mother Nature at her finest. Because of their beauty, blue butterflies are thought to have special significance.
A person who sees a blue butterfly is believed to be very lucky. It is thought to be our departed loved ones speaking to us. It can also be viewed as a divine intervention or the blessing of God or higher power.
Green Butterfly Meaning
Green butterflies are also quite rare. To see one flying among flowers and green grasses is a sign of prosperity and fair attainments. To see them flying about also means news from friends living far away from you.
A green butterfly is a good indication that luck, love, growth, and abundance is on its way.
Butterflies symbolize many things in spirituality, art, and dreams. Seeing a dead butterfly is considered an ill omen, and as you have learned, different colors of butterflies have very different meanings. We hope this helps you decipher your own experiences with butterflies.
If you love these beautiful winged creatures, here is a guide on colors that attract butterflies.