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Haunting Butterflies of Death

When one pictures a vampire, a fearsome being of death, they do not imagine a butterfly beautifully fluttering through the wind. That’s just absurd, right? Well, amazingly enough, many years ago when superstition ruled, people did pictures horrific vampires when seeing a butterfly.

Since even ancient times, the butterfly has been a creature associated with death and the undead. This is perhaps due to the transformation of a butterfly. The process from caterpillar to butterfly surely must have enthralled many ancient cultures, who regarded it as a symbol of a soul’s journey from an earthly body to a heavenly body. In ancient artwork, the Greeks often painted the wings of a butterfly to symbolize the human soul. And in Japanese history, the butterfly is a representation of good, a symbol of the souls of the dead. It was also a messenger of the underworld, carrying into the next life the spirits of the dead.

Among the Slavs, and in the Balkans, it was believed that the soul took the form of a butterfly right at the point of death. Not only that, but it was also thought that a vampire could transform into a butterfly. It was said that if a butterfly appeared once a corpse was staked it was actually the vampire attempting to escape destruction. Every effort was then made to capture the butterfly and burn it in a fire. If it was not caught it was believed that the vampire would return to the village to prey upon the innocent once more.

In parts of Asia there are also myths of vampires transforming into butterflies, the belief probably originated from tales about a blood-sucking moth from Malaysia. There are also legends of vampires turning into butterflies in Serbia as well.

As you can see, even something as lovely and nonthreatening as a butterfly is part of the vast world of the undead.

– Moonlight

Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to vampires. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of vampire folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and she may bite you (and not in the fun way).
butterflyvampire butterflyvampire historyvampire lorevampire myth

Moonlight • June 13, 2012

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  • Kelly Scarlet Rakoczy

    Great article, Moonlight! I loved it.

    I guess this means I need to move my books on butterflies to my vampyre books shelf.

    You article has given me an idea for a few stories as well as a subplot for a book.

    • Moonlight

      Thank you :) I am glad you enjoyed it!

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  • If butterflies are vampires, then moths must be zombies. >;^]
    I say this because a moth flew into my desk’s light and nuked itself a few minutes ago…

    Great title awaiting a book: “The Vampire Butterfly”

    • Moonlight

      That would be a great title. :)

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  • It remind me of a Saint Seiya bad guy, Papillon Myu And I understand now why the butterflu, because I didn’t know that butterfly has been associated to death.

  • Night Lover

    quite poetic linking the human soul to butterflies

  • Halek

    I know it has its flaws – especially pacing – but for some reason I kind of like the vampire were-moth film Blood Beast Terror. It has an Angels And Insects vibe as well as Peter Cushing.

  • sean

    this article, kind of reminded me of the title the moth diaries, thankfully, it’s finally out on dvd, i just ordered it, i got the book earlier this year, it never ceases to amaze me, what our ancestors believed to be true, oh well