The butterfly carries a symbolic meaning in many cultures. While the specific meaning depends on the culture in question, it is always associated with a peaceful spirit and metamorphosis due to the literal transformation they undergo in the cocoon.
In Chinese culture, the butterfly represents immortality. In Japanese culture, butterflies represent the human soul. White butterflies are a common symbol for angels and spirit guides. In many cultures it is considered a bad omen to harm butterflies, as they represent peace, harmony and the circle of life.
In the world of spirit or totem animals, the butterfly is a very common symbol. It is primarily associated with change and transformation, rebirth and an elevation from earthly matters.
The practice of identifying a person with a spirit animal and displaying them in a totem representing a group of people is thought to have originated more than 5,000 years ago with the Sanxingdui culture in today's China. This primitive society placed gold and bronze heads of spirit animals on poles made from wood. While some scholars believe the Sanxingdui culture was the sole originator of this practice, others scholars contend spirit totems arose independently in native North American culture. In native North American culture people were born with a spirit animal that entered a person at birth.