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.


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.

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