Bogong Moth Symbolism

The Bogong Moth is native of Australia, serving an important purpose in Aboriginal culture. A small moth with dull brown wing patterns, it was a major source of food – particularly in colder areas such as the Snowy Mountains.

We’ll use this week’s post to review the symbolism of the bogong moth, tying this back both to Aboriginal culture and common symbolic meanings.

Origins

The name ‘bogong’ comes from the now-extinct language of Dhudhuora. In this Aboriginal language, ‘bogong’ translates to ‘bigfella’. Given the modest wingspan of the species (5 centimeters) this has always been a little confusing!

In Victoria, Mount Bogong has been named after the bogong moth, as have a series of peaks in the Kosciusko National Park.

Use in Aboriginal Culture

Bogong moths were considered a viable food source by the Aboriginals, particularly to those of New South Wales’ Southern Highlands where they were in abundance.

The bogong moths were usually caught in groups, due to their tendency to rest upon each other.

Aboriginals cook the moth and mash it into a paste, known commonly as ‘moth meat’. It is believed to have a wholesome, nutty taste, rich in protein and fat.

Stories of the Bogong Moth

A common story in Aboriginal culture tells of it once being covered in a range of vibrant colors, similar to that of a rainbow. However during heavy snowfall it was consumed by snow, and when it managed to escape it had left behind all of its colors. As the snow melted, these vibrant colors turned into spring flowers.

Bogong Moths Symbolize Intuition

The bogong moths have extremely enhanced senses, particularly their hearing. This enhanced, ultra-sonic hearing ensures that they can avoid predators such as the bat, because they are always aware of their presence.

This is believed to symbolize our own intuition. It is important with us to make decisions we believe are right and remove any external pressures.

If you encounter a bogong moth, think about upcoming decisions. They serve as a reminder to always go with your gut!

Atlas Moth Symbolism

The Atlas moth is one of the most impressive specimens of the Lepidoptera order. They are brightly colored with an incredibly wide wingspan and striking wing patterns.

All species of moths have significant symbolic meanings, and the Atlas moth is no exception to this. We’ll review what encounters with this interesting moth entail, its origins and their cultural significance.

atlas moth symbolism
Image source: Wildcat Dunny (Flickr)

What’s in a Name?

The name origins of the Atlas moth are often disputed. One line of thought from sources such as Natura is that their name id derived from their wing patterns, which could be seen as to resemble a map.

Other sources believe that the name originates from the giant Greek God Atlas. Atlas was the ancient Greek God of endurance, who was condemned to hold up the earth for all eternity.

Wingspan and Patterns

Contrary to popular belief, the Atlas moth is not the worlds largest moth in terms of wingspan. This title is claimed by White Witch moth, whos wingspan has been measured at 11 inches (compared to the Atlas moth’s 10 inches).

This impressive wingspan still evokes symbolism. The Chinese believed the Atlas Moths wings resembled that of a snakes head, due to its bright colors and contrasts of orange and black. In Cantonese the name translates as ‘Snake’s Head Moth’ – further reinforcing this.

Snakes hold quite a strong symbolic meaning across cultures. They are typically symbolic of rebirth and immortality due to their ability the shed skin and heal. Snakes are also often represented within Asian temples such as Cambodia’s Angkor, where the snake was seen as a spiritual guardian.

Colors

It is worth noting the symbolic signifcance of the atlas moth’s strikingly colorful wingspan.

The dominant color of the atlas moth is orange, which holds many positive connotations. Orange is seen by the human eye as a warming color, giving a pleasant sensation that’s not as aggressive at the color red. As a result of this, we generally associate the color orange wit joyous elements, such as those of sunshine, warmth and the tropics.

In Chinese culture the color orange is used to portray spontaneity, something the Atlas moth has in abundance!

The Atlas Moth and Mothra

We’d all be familiar with the Godzilla franchise created by Toho. But are we as familiar with Toho’s other creations, such as Godzilla’s arch-enemy Mothra?

Mothra is a giant but peaceful moth, who only fights to bring peace and harmony to earth. With abilities such as spitting silk and lightning charges from her wings, Mothra has been Toho’s most popular creation (outside of Godzilla of course).

Interestingly enough, the creation of Mothra is believed to be inspired from giant moth species, most notably the Atlas moth. This was however a rather loose interpretation, given Mothra also had blue eyes, a larger head and talons.


Need more information? We have guides on all things moth symbolism

Symbolic Meanings of the Death’s-Head Hawk Moth

Just by looking at a death’s-head hawk moth, you know that they mean trouble. With a distinguishable skull pattern across their wings and the ability to squeak loudly if disturbed, this species of moth is often associated with the most sinister of connotations.

A species native to Europe, the death’s-head hawk moth has found itself in many works of note. From German artworks to the works Edgar Allen Poe, the species has always found itself close to the supernatural. And who could forget its ominous presence in the film ‘The Silence of the Lambs’!

How does the death’s-head hawk moth compare to other moth symbols in our guide, and where did it originate from?

 

deaths head hawk moth symbol

 

Greek Origins

There are three main species of death’s-head hawk moths. They are the Styx, Atropis and Lachesis. All three terms are derived from Greek mythology and their meanings are profound.

Atropos

The Acherontia Atropos is a large species of moths, with a wingspan often reaching lengths of 5 inches. They are identified by their brown and yellow wing patterns, and are often found raiding bee’s hives at night in the search for honey.

The species name was derived from the goddess Atropos, who was one of the three goddesses responsible for fate and destiny. The ancient Greeks believed that Atropos created the mechanism of death upon mortals.

This ties back seamlessly with previously explored moth symbols of death upon one’s self and loved ones.

Lachesis

Native of South Asia, the Acherontia Lachesis has unique patterns across its wingspan, not nearly as dense as those of the Apropos moth. They cover almost all areas of Asia, including recently becoming established across parts of the Hawaiian Islands.

In Greek mythology Lachesis was the sister of Atropos, who with Clotho formed the Moirai (the incarnations of destiny). Lachesis determined the life of a mortal, and had control of their destiny.

Styx

No, we’re not talking about the rock band here!

The acherontia Styx is also common through Asia, and are known to be quite the pest in South Korea due to their ability to pierce and damage the yuzu fruit (which is similar to a mandarin). Their hind wings have a distinctive skull-like pattern with the foreign being striped – similar to that of a tiger moth.

 

Styx has a significant place in Greek Mythology. The River Styx formed the boundary between the Earth and the Underworld. It was an essential feature of the afterword (similar to the Christian version of hell), and by name association this links the species to the common moth symbol of the afterlife. This moth symbolism is common amongst many religions, as we can see in our guide to the spiritual meaning of moths.

Cultural References

The death’s-head hawk moth holds negative connotations among the superstitious. This can be traced back to the 1600s, where the Brits believed the first instance of the moth was noted at the death of King Charles I.

 

Although it’s been used in art and various works of fiction it’s undoubtedly most recognised from the fictional horror film ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. They used the moths to play into the macabre elements of the film – knowing that the patterns of the moth resemble the dead. There are also similarities between a moth’s metamorphosis and that which key villain Jame Gumb was attempting to do. He was wanting to transition from something ugly and insignificant into something he perceived to be more beautiful. This emulates that of the moth, whose transformation from a caterpillar to something more beautiful is a common symbol as we’ve seen in previous guides.

 

 

Interestingly however, the moths actually used in production were not deaths head hawk moths! They were tobacco horn worm moths, painted by the film’s prop artists by gluing fake manicure nails onto their wings.

 

Have you had an encounter with a death’s head hawk moth? Comment below to let us know what you thought it meant!

 

Moths in Chinese Culture

Eastern cultures generally have a very different way of viewing the world than we do in the western world. Consider eastern music for example. While we are used to using semitones as intervals eastern scales typically break these into quarter tones to produce a completely different sound.

While in America our first instinct may be to kill moths we encounter, the insect has an important connection to humans with Chinese culture. We’ll review how moth symbolism within Chinese cultures is unique, its origins and the learnings we can take from it.

The Qingming Festival

Held in April, the Qingming Festival (known in English as the ‘Tomb-Sweeping Day’) is a day for remembering ancestors. Qingming is a public holiday throughout China where relatives pay tribute to lost relatives through song and dance, dedicated family events and even offering tributes (wine, chopsticks, etc) at their tombstones.

Qingming was established in the 8th century and has been a public holiday in China since 2008. It’s also practiced in Taiwan and parts of Singapore.

Qingming and Moths

The Chinese have long found an abundance of moths to be synonymous with Qingming, and the signficance is profound. The Chinese believe that moths represent souls of loved ones we have lost. Reports are also often heard of moths landing on photos of deceased relatives.

The killing of a moth is generally frowned upon in China, but it is a considerable taboo during Qingming for this reason.

So, you might ask, where does this spiritual connection with moths originate?

Taoist Origins

One of China’s most prominent religions is Taoism. Taoism focuses on being one with nature, with natural law being the key to one’s salvation.

Taoism places significant importance on paying respect to deceased elders, mainly due to their belief that they continue to look over us. Although ancestral worship is not an entirely unique practice within any religion it is particularly emphasised in Taoism and Confucianism.

As the connection with nature is so imperative, the possibility for a loved one’s soul to take the form of a moth is a relatively common belief. This emobiment is rooted deep within Taoist beliefs, and goes a long way to explaining common encounters with moths at funerals or shortly after one’s passing.

Do you have anything to add on Chinese moth significance? Comment below to let us know!