Like moths, we have often seen in texts the use of butterflies to represent vital concepts and philosophies. As we’ve found through viewing several examples of moth representations, the metamorphosis these lepidoptera undertake is marveled by humans and has meant a range of things to different cultures, religions and communities.
From a symbolic perspective this is where similarities end, with the typically more colored wing patterns of the butterfly evoking generally more optimistic and uplifting meanings. We’ll be looking into how moth symbolism differs from that of its closest relative; the butterfly.
The key physical differences between moths and butterflies can be subtle, although obvious differences can be seen when comparing particular species. The antennae of moths have a feathery texture, which is rather fuzzy and thick. In contrast, butterflies typically have thin, slender and smooth antennae, which are often less noticeable as a result.
There’s also a few key difference with wings. Butterflies possess the ability to fold their wings back, while moths keep their wings spread out. Butterflies also typically possess far more vibrant color patterns on their wingspan than moths, although there are exceptions to this (such as the Cinnabar Moth and the Madagascan Sunset Moth).
Butterflies also express differing behaviors to that of moths, with butteflies being a diurnal creature (while moths are almost always nocturnal).
Butterflies have a range of symbolic meanings around the world, some of these which completely contrast to those of moths. Some of the most common differences include:
Optimism and Negativity
Butterflies are a common ingredient to scenes of mirth and bliss. The Native Americans associate butterflies with infectious joy that is passed on to all of nature. Butterflies help pollinate the flowers in spring, meaning they are further spreading beauty in our natural environment.
Often considered an omen of death, the moth doesn’t get the optimistic likenings of its close relative. It’s worth noting, however, that moths too play a part in pollenating, operating the noctural night shift along with bats.
Butterflies are an elegant creature. They fly with a certain kind of grace, almost gliding with the breeze. Elegance goes hand in hand with feminity and female qualities, as does grace.
The beauty of the butterfly, with its colorful wing patterns and symmetry, is also emblematic of the purity and beauty of the female gender.
Having been used as a decoration in homes to symbolise transformation, growth and sensuality, butterflies have now grown to symbolise decoration as a concept itself. In Feng Shui, butterflies are a popular wall decoration used to symbolise love, beauty and romance. Despite this, it is considered extremely bad Feng Shui to hang a dead butterfly on your wall – you’ve been warned!
Moths are also considered a token of love, but are almost always overlooked by Feng Shui practitioners. The more positive connotations associated with butterflies are undoubtedly a cause of this.