Magic of Life Butterfly House

Aberystwyth, Wales

Symbols of the Butterfly

Departed souls

Round the world, butterflies are seen as the departed souls of our ancestors. Indigenous people recognise the chrysalis as the soul trapped inside in the body. The emergence of the adult butterfly symbolises the freedom of the soul upon death.

Butterfly symbolism: transformationThe emergence of a butterfly from its chrysalis symbolises transformation.

Butterflies and metamorphosis

The change from caterpillar though to the chrysalis and emergence as a butterfly is the greatest change in the animal world. It symbolises significant change in the course of one’s life, personality or way of thinking.

The caterpillar stage with its voracious appetite has been linked to insatiable materialism. The chrysalis stage represents fundamental changes occurring on the inside, for example in one’s mentality or point of view. The final adult butterfly stage is seen as the free expression of these changes in the outside world.


The Greeks likened the butterfly’s constant flitting from flower to flower to the restlessness of the mind: constantly changing from subject to subject. Indeed, the Greek word for butterfly is ‘psyche’ from where we get our word ‘psychology’ – the study of the mind.

Modern day symbols

In the western world, the symbol of the butterfly stands for freedom, fun and joyous times. It is also symbolises a state of naturalness and purity.

See here for a time-lapse clip of a swallowtail emerging from its pupa.