Monarch Butterflies Show Spiritual Renewal In Nature

monarch butterflies: symbols of renewal
Photo credit: liz west at flickr cc


A new season is here, and with that the flowers are blooming and the birds are chirping. Another mark of Spring is butterflies flying through with their colorful wings. One of the best known is the monarch butterfly. With their gold and black pattern, they are easy to spot and excellent to photograph. They have been in the news recently because their numbers are lowering. Lack of milkweed plants, as well as pesticides and GMOS that encourage their use, are responsible for the insects decline, and they are now being considered for the endangered species list. With an estimated 90% decrease, people are taking action so they don’t disappear. Monarch butterflies are more than just symbols of Spring: they represent spiritual transformation, and represent inspiring meanings in many cultures.

A Symbol of Hope and Renewal

What makes this creature so unique is that it transforms from one state into another. It starts out as larva, wraps itself in a cocoon, and eventually breaks free as a beautiful butterfly. When the weather warms, they are fluttering about, with people trying to catch them. In the late Fall, millions of them migrate from North America to places like Mexico during the Winter. As a result, the insects are associated with Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. There is an old Aztec belief that when people die, their souls become butterflies.

The monarch butterfly is known as the symbol of hope. In Native American cultures, butterflies send your wishes to the heavens. There are tales around them, and they celebrate renewal. In Christianity, the process from caterpillar to butterfly symbolizes resurrection, and transcendence. Born as a caterpillar, they bury into a cocoon, and emerge as a new entity with wings. Butterflies are popular during Easter, as a symbol of rebirth. As with the seasons, they mark change and growth. There are legends and folklore in Asia, where butterflies invoke love and longevity. They have many metaphors, and their vivid colors and movements have inspired artwork and poetry.

Sharman Russell, who wrote An Obsession with Butterflies noted:

And we who live by myth, who live in fear of change and in fear of death, are privileged to see this metamorphosis over and over, a common thing, an everyday thing for a fat green worm, a bag of goo splotched with yellow, to transform into a Western Tiger SwallowTail, fluted and glowing.

Preserving Transformation in Nature

monarch butterflies
Photo credit: Scott Clark at flickr cc


There is a lot of love for the monarch butterfly, with people flocking to certain locations to see them. There are many efforts by politicians and environmental organizations to increase their population. EPA has been sued for failing to do more to protect the species. The National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serve are collaborating to raise awareness and increase conservation efforts. Better protection and more kindness can keep their wings fluttering. A good way to keep these butterflies thriving is to stop using pesticides. In addition, more milkweed plants can help future generations.

While butterflies do serve as pollinators, and have their place in the food chain, they’re valuable for more than practical reasons: their metamorphosis shows us the transformative power of nature. For such tiny creatures, they are able to make a long journey to migrate. Their beauty reminds us to stop and smell the roses, to take in the sights and sounds of spring. Butterflies reflect the hope and spiritual renewal in a new season. Jeffrey Glassberg, author of Butterflies through Binoculars, remarked “beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.”

About the Author

Gina Merlino is a freelance writer who cares about environmental issues. She has a Bachelor's in Philosophy, a Master's in Engaged Humanities, and is an avid reader of the news. You can find me on Twitter.