Animal symbolism: butterflies

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Nemia
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Animal symbolism: butterflies

Post by Nemia » 24 Nov 2017, 03:15

One of the more popular symbolic animals used in the tarot but also in art is the butterfly. Butterflies are beautiful and delicate - you can kill them by touching them. They go through distinct stages: caterpillar - chrysalis - butterfly. Each stage is totally different from the other. That has made butterflies into symbols of the soul. Our human life is like the caterpillar and chrysalis stage which will have to let the butterfly of our soul fly free one day.

In ancient Greek myth, Psyche, embodiment of the soul, was shown with butterfly wings.

Butterflies belong to the element Air and appear on court cards of the RWS (can't remember the source for this graphic anymore, maybe Joan Bunning? I'll try to find it, don't want to pass off other peoples' work as mine)

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Butterflies on the thrones of the Swords Queen and King.

I have collected a number of butterfly-themed tarot cards. I'm sure there are many many more.

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The Chrysalis Tarot is based on the symbolism of the chrysalis, the in-between stage when we prefer for our true selves to emerge.

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Psyche appears as the World in this tarot.

Quite a number of decks pick the butterfly as fitting symbol for Death.

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Darkana Tarot, Death.

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Hudes Tarot, Death. The best card of the deck imho.

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Medieval Cat Tarot.

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Not too far from the Death motif: the Stolen Child Tarot uses a butterfly in the Judgement card.

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In the Wildwood, the Four Arrows show a man defeated - his soul is free like a butterfly.

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The same happens in the Four of Swords of the Tarot of the New Vision - the knight rests, rejuvenates his spirit, and this renewal is shown by the butterflies.

Quite a number of decks use a butterfly on an Ace to symbolize the element of Air.

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Gaian Tarot, Ace of Air.

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Bethalynne Bajema's Steampunk Tarot, Ace of Swords.

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Inner Child Cards, Ace of Wands. The whole suit of Wands is full of butterflies :-)

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and butterfly wands.

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A sign of balance - the Two of Pentacles in the Wild Unknown Tarot.

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A symbol of overcoming difficulties victoriously - the Six of Wands from the same deck.

It seems that there is a positive connotation to the symmetry of the fully opened wings (which you actually don't see in flight because a butterfly flaps its wings, or am I totally wrong here? they don't stretch out their wings when they fly like eagles do - but some sit with open wings).

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A sign of hope and beginning movement - Victorian Steampunk Tarot's Fool.

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In Laura Tuan's Native American Tarot, butterflies imply a struggle in the Eight of Swords. They seem to attack the spirits of the Air.

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In the Eight of Swords, Wild Unknown Tarot, the transformation is underway and the butterfly is at its most vulnerable.

And here is a peaceful little butterfly - La Leggerezza from the Sibilla cards (not tarot, but a butterfly). Legerezza means, according to online dictionaries, nimbleness, lightness, flightiness, fickleness, thoughtlessness - a whole spectrum of meanings.

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I will continue here later, I'm curious if people find more butterflies :-) I'll add some artworks for comparison, too.

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