What does it mean when a butterfly lands on you?
I would tell you that this was the first time a butterfly landed on me, but it’s not.
My first butterfly friend came to me one day while I was talking with a group of friends. I noticed the butterfly fluttering nearby and had a very strong feeling that the butterfly would land on me if I opened myself to it happening. In fact, I KNEW the butterfly would land on my finger if I extended it. So, I calmly extended my finger and the butterfly landed on it. The butterfly and I watched each other for several minutes. I felt that we were communicating on some level, communing peacefully together. I felt the butterfly’s trust in me and the world faded away. Butterflies have that effect.
When it was time for the butterfly to fly from the perch of my finger, I looked up at my friends. They had stopped talking and were looking at me, jaws dropped. The most surprising thing, they said, is that I acted as if it was supposed to happen; I acted completely unsurprised that a butterfly landed on my finger. They were right. I wasn’t surprised at all, although I can’t explain it more than that.
In this case we were at a butterfly conservatory that had the happiest butterflies I’d ever seen. The space was kept at the perfect temperature and humidity for butterflies, and they happily fluttered around the large room filled with flowering plants. Still, they kept landing on me the entire time we were there.
I mentioned my experiences with butterflies to a colleague and was surprised to learn that she had studied the symbolism of animal guides. We quickly searched “what does it mean when a butterfly lands on you” and found that the internet is full of opinions on the matter.
Butterflies landing on a person symbolizes good luck.
Others say it symbolizes rebirth – but of course! In a chrysalis transformed.
Butterflies inspire me when I think about them finding their hidden wings, even if we do not see the challenge of their metamorphosis. I think about the “wings” I still hold inside of me.
There are other cultural references too, such as butterflies in the stomach indicating nervousness.
My favorite butterfly reference is from Chuang Tzu’s (Zhuangzi) The Inner Teachings: Theories On All Things Being Equal. I couldn’t believe I didn’t remember it before; I loved reading Chuang Tzu in my early twenties and this is a well-known passage in Chinese philosophy.
“A while ago I, Zhuang Zhou (Zhuangzi), dreamed I was a butterfly. Happily absorbed in being a butterfly, I was thrilled to fly around and do what butterflies do. I didn’t even know I was Zhou. When I woke up, I suddenly found that I was Zhou. I didn’t know if I was Zhou dreaming I was a butterfly, or if I was a butterfly dreaming I was Zhou. There must be something that separates Zhou from the butterfly. It’s called metamorphosis.”
I’ve often seen the last line translated as “This is called the Transformation of Things”, which ironically I never took to mean “metamorphosis” even though we’re discussing butterflies. But what does it mean?
Perhaps it means the world of dreams and the world of waking are one but it takes letting go of presumptions to see it. Or perhaps dreaming and waking are both real and transform into one another as if from a chrysalis. Or perhaps the passage is a metaphor for spiritual awakening and the transformation into harmony with nature, the ten thousand things.
If I was Chuang Tzu, I might wonder if the butterfly is whispering to me that it is human, or that I am a butterfly.
I recall from the days when I studied Taoism sitting in a pine forest that Western linear thought doesn’t lead to understanding as much as right-brained reading does. Like poetry. Sadly, this type of right-brained immersion is something I find challenging in the distractable mama life I now lead.
All I know that four butterflies landed on me that day. One butterfly landed on Orchid and two landed on Sunboy. For me,this makes five fluttering friends for whom I’ve provided a perch. When butterflies land on you, it’s bound to be a magical day. In our case, it was one that transformed us all.
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