Swifties have been sent into a symbolism tizzy—here's what butterflies mean.
Taylor Swift recently rocked some cute butterfly cutouts on her jeans, sending her beloved Swifties into a symbolism tizzy. Is she trying to send a message that she's finally free from Joe Alwyn? Or does she just feel like wearing cute pants? What is there to know about a butterfly's meaning, anyway? Well, to be honest, there's plenty to learn about when it comes to butterfly symbolism!
From their spiritual meaning to what it means if you personally keep seeing butterflies (and so much more), we're covering it all. And while Swift has been fascinated with butterflies for years, she's not the only celebrity to incorporate them into forms of self-expression. That being said, she has definitely used butterflies in purposeful, interesting ways throughout her career.
So, what do butterflies symbolize? Let's get into it!
Celebrities and Butterfly Symbolism
To be fair to her more investigative Swifties, the Easter egg queen has used butterflies extensively before—particularly in her Lover era.
She teased her "ME!" video with a butterfly mural.
Swift also rocked butterfly heels at the 2019 iHeart Radio Music Awards.
Her "ME!" music video opened with a snake transforming into butterflies.
She also used images of butterflies extensively in her promo for the album, as seen here during a performance on The Voice finale in May 2019.
In 2019, Swift told Entertainment Weekly that for her, butterflies represent breaking away from darkness—in her case, her self-imposed exile in her Reputation era following her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, breakups with Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston and overall temporary fall from grace in the public eye.
Of course, Swift isn't the first artist to use butterflies as a theme. Mariah Carey had an entire critically-acclaimed album called Butterfly following her divorce from her ex-husband Tommy Mottola and still rocks them frequently today in her merch and visuals.
Additionally, Kacey Musgraves released a song called "Butterflies" in 2018 on her Grammy-winning Golden Hour album, Dolly Parton has a classic called "Love Is Like a Butterfly," Michael Jackson had a minor hit with "Butterflies" in 2001, Swift collaborator Kendrick Lamar had a Grammy-winning album To Pimp a Butterfly, Crazy Town had their one big hit that you know you remember—basically, you're more likely to hear a song about butterflies on the radio than you are to actually see one flutter by in the wild at this point.
All that said, let's get to know the meaning behind these beautiful bugs throughout history from a spiritual as well as an anthropological and biological lens.
Like a lot of symbols, the butterfly's meaning is largely subjective. For Swift in 2019, it meant emerging from darkness. For Carey, it meant finding freedom after being trapped in a controlling relationship.
"Butterflies appear incredibly delicate, yet their natural history patterns underscore their amazing resilience and determination," Dr. Carolyn Kurle, a conservation biology professor at the University of California San Diego and the author of The Guidance Groove: Escape Unproductive Habits, Trust Your Intuition, and Be True, tells Parade. "All butterfly families have some species that migrate, with the longest migration being the monarch butterflies who journey 4000 km. or more from southern Canada to Central Mexico. They are a wonderful metaphor for the human body and spirit—we are all incredibly delicate, beautiful, unique and special, while also demonstrating incredible adaptability, strength, and fortitude."
What a Butterfly Symbolizes
Butterfly symbolism goes way back all around the world, and while each interpretation is unique, there are a few recurring themes.
"Lots of cultures have many different interpretations of butterflies including rebirth, transformation, love and new beginning," Dr. Kurle says. "As butterflies emerge from cocoons after developing from larvae, the interpretation of transformation is especially apt. Their beautiful colors, delicate wings and ability to fly can also symbolize freedom."
Anthropologist and poet Dr. Irma McClaurin, Ph.D., explains, "Butterflies represent radical transformation. They begin as worms, enter into a chrysalis, and emerge totally transformed and reborn into a completely different being that is more beautiful than how they began. Butterflies also represent beauty and eloquence in their short life span."
What It Means If You Keep Seeing Butterflies
If you keep seeing butterflies, it could mean a number of things, especially depending on where you live and the climate of the area that you're in. That said, some spiritual experts believe that butterflies appear to send a message.
"Whenever I see a butterfly, I am reminded of the souls of my departed sisters. They are symbolic, you might say, of the beauty and brevity of life and the fact that it is transformative at every stage," says Barbara Lane, a ministerial counselor and author of the book Broken Water. "This is true from birth to death. While many fall asleep to the fact that our moments are few, butterflies remind us to wake up, take flight and remember that the gift of life is short."
How To Know if You're Spiritually Connected to Butterflies
This is another subjective area because spiritual connection is a very personal experience. You may feel connected to butterflies if you see them when you're thinking of a lost loved one, or if you're eager to transform your life.
If you're experiencing, anticipating or hoping for a major change, Lane says, butterflies may speak to you. What are they trying to say?
Lane explains that butterflies are there to remind us to "embrace the gift. Flow with the wind; sow seeds of hope wherever you may flitter; prepare yourself for the ultimate spiritual transformation."