In an effort to bid winter a farewell, my friends Caitlin, Nicole, Rosita, and I pay a visit to the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado. Watching and waiting to catch a glimpse of the bright azure, cream, and brown wings, we find surprise at every turn as butterflies soar over our heads.
The wings of designs from kaledioscope to stained glass creates a mystique of desire, but a feeling of caution when I remember the Japanese belief that a swarm of butterflies is a bad omen. What makes these creatures so fascinating? I find them intriguing as I think on the duality of their nature: alluring vs. threatening.
Two black and red butterflies catch my eyes, a symbol of love to the Chinese. As their wings rapidly fan, I think of the Japanese belief that the butterfly is the personification of a person’s soul rapidly fluttering, reminding me of its presence. When a brown butterfly grabs my attention, perching on the rear pockets of a woman’s jeans, I giggle at it’s playful disposition, a symbol of good luck. However, we’re notified by an employee that butterflies taste with their feet and landing on our skin confuses their tastebuds that pick up our skin’s oil. Such a forewarning reminiscent of the Filipino belief that a black butterfly landing on you is a prediction for death. More colors of butterflies appear, including red-orange, creamy yellow, and blue, their bright accents representative of the Aztec belief that butterflies symbolize fire and warfare.
This doesn’t stop our curiosity as Caitlin, Nicole, Rosita, and I wander through the unique collection of colorful wings. A tune my elementary teacher sister sings to her students begins to replay in my mind: “Egg, larva, pupa, adult.” It may seem a silly children’s song, but it brings to life our fascination with the metamorphoses of a butterfly. Like the soul, the butterfly changes, it arises from the chrysalis, shedding its dead skin, now a shell, and is a completely new creature ready to spread its stained glass patterned wings. A representation of dualities, death and birth, as a new figure awakens from the skeleton of its former self. It continues this mirror of dualities, continuing to be a sign of amazement throughout the world.