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The meaning of butterfly tattoos in various cultures

The meaning of butterfly tattoos in various cultures

Over time, the butterfly has represented several concepts and its symbolic connotations have been modified according to the period, of course, but one meaning prevailed in all the cultures and civilizations of the world: that of transition. It is generally accepted that it represents a being which through hard effort and a long metamorphosis period, transforms itself from a caterpillar to the beautiful and gleaming butterfly. The butterfly is therefore a symbol of evolution, of continuous change, of beauty, grace, nature and life itself. The designs incorporating butterflies are used by ink artists in a very colorful, sophisticated and meaningful manner. Just like the insect turns and transforms, the tattoo of a butterfly catches shape as the artist starts to work on the tiny details and fine strokes. This is a very personal, symbolic and spiritual tattoo.

For the ancient Aztecs, there were two types of death which were considered to be noble, the death of a warrior on the battlefield and the passing of a mother in the pains of childbirth. In order to commemorate these heroic individuals, butterflies were placed on their bodies and were also believed to be a part of the noble souls. Customs like these show us that the butterfly’s strength and power of transformation was viewed as a superior gift ever since ancient times. By giving them as an offering to the dead, the supreme beauty of these iridescent beings was meant to contrast the decay and emptiness of death, reason for which many Day of the Dead tattoos incorporate butterflies into the skulls, alongside flowers and other colorful imagery.

Finally, in Christianity, the butterfly has always represented the soul, a soul which escapes from the prison of the flesh and flies free to roam the world. In turn, the Greeks have also portrait butterflies as being the soul, the journey it makes and the transformations of the soul in its long evolution, from birth to death, from growth and decay in a never-ending renewal of the soul. One of the most common beliefs was that the lively colored and fragile insects were in charge of bringing the spirit and soul of people from earth to heaven. No matter which religion or culture looked at these gorgeous and extremely colorful creatures, the result was almost the same: a general sentiment of overwhelming beauty, glory, survival and transformation.

Ever since the Ancient civilizations started looking at these majestic members of the insect realm, humans were simply breath taken by the variety of patterns and vividness of colors, never again seen in the natural world, especially on a creature so small. In order to transcend these symbolic concepts into a grandiose form of artwork, many world renowned tattoo artists embraced the use of butterflies in their designs and made thousands of customers feel empowered by this fragile, yet outstanding, being.