Releasing butterflies at funerals or memorials not only takes away the sorrow of the event but gives great hope that one day their loved one will return with brightly colored wings just to let them know that “all is well.”
For over 8,000 years many societies felt that our souls left our bodies in the form of a butterfly and many religions still subscribe to the belief. The first actual depiction of this phenomenon was found in Turkey as a cave painting dating back to 6,000 BCT and many religions still subscribe to the belief.
Aristotle gave the butterfly the name Psyche, the Greek word for soul. To the indigenous people of ancient Mexico, the morning star was a butterfly that represented the soul of the dead. In Germany and Ireland, it was a long-held belief that butterflies were the souls of departed children. In Japan all departed people returned as white butterflies, while in Chinese mysticism, butterflies symbolize long life, as the word for butterfly in Mandarin also means “70 years”. The custom in Spain was to throw wine over the ashes of the deceased as a toast to the butterfly that would escape with the soul.
The Christian religion views the butterfly lifecycle not only as a symbol of resurrection of Christ but as the lifecycle for all. The caterpillar symbolizes an earthly life where people are preoccupied with taking care of their physical needs. The chrysalis becomes our tomb until the butterfly emerges into a new life free of material restriction. A Buddhist saying quotes; “What the caterpillar perceives is the end, to the butterfly is just the beginning.”
Many people may question the validity of the departed souls returning as butterflies to console their still living relatives. A simple internet search will reveal thousands of stories from people who have experience such a wonderful experience. It happens time and time again. At a time most needed, butterflies have often alighted on a loved one or shown their exuberance for their new life by swirling around them. Just ask someone and they will probably have a butterfly tale of their own to tell.