butterfly bracelets on wrist

The History + Meaning of the Butterfly

You don’t have to have a deep understanding of the symbolism of butterflies to appreciate their ethereal translucent beauty and delicate movements. With their intricate patterned wings and brilliant colors, to see one is like receiving a special gift from Mother Nature. No wonder we stop to admire these gossamer creatures whenever they appear.

But their beauty is just one part of their appeal. Butterflies hold a special place in cultural and religious symbolism around the world. So what does the butterfly symbolize?

Butterfly Symbolism + Meaning

A powerful beacon of growth and new beginnings, the butterfly signifies the power of transformation and the incredible feats we can achieve when we trust ourselves. We all have the ability to listen to our innate wisdom, guide ourselves through difficult times, and emerge better and stronger than before.

Not surprisingly given their life path, the symbolism of butterflies embraces key themes of positive life forces such as rebirth and change. Some believe that seeing a butterfly is a message that you are about to go through your own rebirth or metamorphosis. The butterfly can be a powerful reminder to trust the process.

Butterfly History

Butterflies have been on earth since what scientists call the “age of flowering plants,” dating back 135 million years to the Cretacious period, which means they’re as old as some dinosaurs. Because of this, butterflies enjoy a significant place in the ancient folklore and mythology of many cultures around the world. 

In ancient Greece, the word for butterfly, “psyche,” literally translated means “soul.” Psyche was also the name for the goddess who personified the soul, often depicted with butterfly wings. Native Americans have considered butterflies as symbols of transformation, hope, and rebirth. In Chinese culture, the symbolism of butterflies evokes the qualities of freedom, earthly beauty, love, and the human soul.

They have inspired humans for millennia with their delicate nature and the immense power they possess. They’re born as caterpillars, cocoon themselves, and emerge in their true form — but not only can we see the before and after, we can actually see the process happening, and be inspired by it to do the hard work on ourselves, knowing we too can grow and transform.

Butterfly as a Symbol of Growth

 butterfly jewelry on model

Because the butterfly is a symbol of growth and new beginnings, the symbol is amplified when you combine it with other symbols with similar meanings. The Path of Life represents how we’re connected on our life’s journeys and is a reminder that even if you’re in a place of transformation, you’re exactly where you need to be.

The Sunflower, with its glowing yellow petals, is a wearable reminder to allow yourself to bloom into your truest self. You’ll also need some luck on your journey. Pair a butterfly with a four-leaf clover, which represents luck and good fortune, and trust that you’ll be positively guided on your path. Trust yourself because you know what’s best for you.

Types of Butterflies + Their Meaning

While the butterfly charm is a representation of growth, change and transformation, individual butterflies have meanings and symbolism of their own. At ALEX + ANI, we celebrate the unique beauty and meaning of butterflies from around the world with a variety of different butterfly charm bangles.

monarch butterfly charm bangle bracelet

The Zebra Swallowtail, with its bold black and white stripes, makes a dramatic impression, and is a reminder to embrace what makes you unique. The Green Hairstreak, which has singular green wings that help it camouflage and protect itself, represents the power of staying grounded and positive. The Orange Sulphur, with its resplendent ultraviolet wings, is an encouragement to reveal your truest self, and a reminder of the beautiful things that can happen when you do.

The Butterfly and Related Symbology

Animals hold a special place in our world view, and we often attribute  human traits to particular animals. In this context, butterflies hold a special place in animal symbology with their multi-phase lifecycles. Our caterpillar selves may be inspired to embrace the butterfly as the promise of our own metamorphosis through which we fully live our lives in a spirit of lightness and joy.

Because of the butterfly’s significance as a symbol of growth and new beginnings, it naturally pairs with other symbols denoting our life’s journey such as the Path of Life, flowers, and the iconic good luck charm, the four-leaf clover.

Create Your Own Butterfly Kaleidoscope

Did you know that a group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope? Around the world there are over 17,000 butterfly species, each with their own distinctive wing shape, colors, and markings. In 2023, we are celebrating the beauty and meaning of butterflies with our limited-edition Butterfly of the Month Program–featuring exclusive giveaways. So you can create your own butterfly kaleidoscope that inspires your own spirit of reinvention.

Other Important Symbols

The ethereal butterfly is just one of the many timeless and important symbols. Find your own meaning in this powerful charm, and wear it when you’re ready to embrace what’s next. Shop all butterfly jewelry here.

Explore our full collection of significant symbols. From the cross and the evil eye to the heart and the guardian angel, you’ll find a symbol with meaning and history that speaks to your truth. 

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