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What is the superstition about butterflies?

Butterflies have long been associated with superstitions and folklore across many cultures. Some of the more common butterfly superstitions include:

Seeing Butterflies After Someone Dies

One of the most well-known butterfly superstitions is that if you see a butterfly after someone close to you has died, it is the spirit of your loved one visiting you. The butterfly is seen as a sign that the deceased is at peace and watching over you. This superstition likely stems from the butterfly’s metamorphosis, representing the transformation from life to death.

Butterflies Predict Weather

In some cultures, butterflies are thought to predict the weather. For example, in Germany, it is believed that butterflies dancing in the sunlight mean sunshine is on the way. In the British Isles, seeing butterflies flying low to the ground is said to foretell rain on the way. These superstitions connect the delicate nature of butterflies to predicting coming weather patterns.

Catching Butterflies Brings Bad Luck

There is a superstition that catching or killing a butterfly will bring bad luck, illness, or even death. This likely arises from the butterfly’s beauty and associations with transformation and the soul. Hurting such an ethereal creature was seen as improper and offensive to nature. Some believed that catching a butterfly would prevent its metamorphosis, seen as interrupting or destroying its natural life cycle.

Butterflies Carry Messages From Angels

In new age spirituality, butterflies represent messengers from realms beyond the physical, including angels. Seeing a butterfly or having one land on you is thought to mean an angel is contacting you or communicating a message. The butterfly’s lightness and three stages of metamorphosis tie it to resurrection and spiritual ascension.

Butterflies Represent Souls of the Dead in Aztec Culture

In Aztec mythology, butterflies were strongly associated with the afterlife and with souls. Aztecs believed dead souls would return to earth as butterflies a year after death. As such, they treated butterflies with respect. Seeing a black butterfly was considered an ill omen of sickness or death approaching.

Common Butterfly Superstitions from Around the World

Here are some common butterfly superstitions from various cultures:

Culture Butterfly Superstition
Native American Butterflies represent renewal and rebirth. Seeing one after loss signifies the soul being freed.
Celtic Butterflies represent magic, joy and creativity. Killing one brings misfortune.
Irish Butterflies are the souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory.
English If a butterfly enters the house, a stranger will soon arrive with good news.
Dutch Butterflies flying around a woman about to give birth mean it will be a difficult labor.

Butterfly Symbols in Mythology and Folklore

Butterflies have symbolic meaning in legends and myths worldwide:

Rebirth and Transformation

The butterfly’s metamorphosis from caterpillar to winged insect signifies rebirth, transformation, and new beginnings. It is why butterflies widely represent the resurrection of Christ in Christian art and the soul’s journey.

Femininity and Beauty

In many cultures, butterflies represent femininity, grace, and beauty. In Greek myth, the goddess Psyche is depicted with butterfly wings. Butterfly jewelry and ornaments have been popular in cultures worldwide.

Lightness and Joy

Across folklore, butterflies are associated with lightness, happiness, and joy. Their dance-like fluttering flight represents these positive qualities. Seeing a butterfly after loss or hardship represents emerging into joy after a dark time.

Soul and Spirit

Butterflies’ ethereal and transient nature associates them with the human soul and spirit. Their three stages of earthly form represent life, death, and resurrection or the spirit’s transcendence beyond earth.

Change and Uncertainty

Because they transform and migrate long distances, butterflies can also symbolize change, unpredictability, and uncertainty in some cultural myths. Their sensitivity to environmental conditions underscores this fleetingness.

Bad Omen Butterfly Superstitions

While butterflies are largely seen as positive omens, some superstitions see them as harbingers of misfortune or death:

  • In Belgium, when a butterfly flies into a home it can signify impending death or disaster.
  • In Portugal, a white butterfly signifies death, while a black butterfly may mean financial trouble is coming.
  • Some European cultures believe meeting three butterflies in succession means bad news is coming.
  • In the Philippines, a lingering black butterfly in the house anticipates sickness.
  • In America, killing a white butterfly has long been considered very unlucky.

However, most cultures emphasize the positive, hopeful symbolism of the butterfly rather than any association with misfortune. When seen as omens, they most often predict renewal, happiness, and peaceful transition.


Butterfly superstitions and folklore shed light on human relationships with the natural world across cultures and time periods. The butterfly’s striking metamorphosis has inspired a wealth of symbolic meaning and stories. While most butterfly superstitions emphasize positive themes of transformation, eternal life, spirit, and joy, a few ominous associations persist. However, the prominence of butterflies in myth and superstition centers on their beauty and symbolism of life’s mysteries.