Moths: Symbolism and Supernatural Stories

Moths, butterflies, and humans have a rich and fascinating relationship that extends through time.  Because of the amazing transformation that these insects go through, moths and butterflies have become symbols of change, transformation, and rebirth.  Moths have an extra layer of mystery about them because they typically emerge after dark.  This has led to a variety of stories that link the moth to worlds beyond our own.

Some indigenous peoples believe that moths are our teachers and guides.  They represent our shadow side and the balance of our light and dark natures.  In stories from indigenous people, it is said that only through balancing our light and dark natures can true transformation take place. (1) Much like the moth’s life cycle, sometimes we need to go deep inside our cocoons to find the answers that will lead us to the next stage of our life.  A stage that is represented by the ability to fly.   

Some cultures also believe that moths, much like the Monarch butterflies, can bridge the land of the living with the land of the dead.   Podcaster Sapphire Sandalo, who hosts Stories with Sapphire,  recently had an episode titled “Signs From The Other Side”. During this episode she explored the idea of paranormal synchronicities and receiving signs for the other side.  Two of the stories she presented during this episode had to do with moths.  One was her personal experience with a moth and the second was about a family’s encounter with the Luna Moth.


Sandalo’s story is about a time, shortly after her grandfather’s death, that a moth found its way into her apartment.  In this story, she states that she was having a hard time dealing with her grandfather’s death and had asked him for some sort of sign.  Sandalo went about her day and eventually sat down at her desk to work.  As she was settling in to her chair, she noticed movement in the room.  It was a moth, and it was flying towards her. As the moth got closer, Sandalo lifted up her hand and the moth landed on her finger.  It stayed on her finger for a moment and then moved to the wall behind her desk.  The moth stayed there for the rest of the day silently watching over her. Sandalo explains that “moths, in Pilipino culture, are thought to be the spirits of our ancestors.” Sandalo then asks, was this moth encounter an answer to her request for a sign from the other side, or was it just a coincidence?  


The second story comes from Amanda.  Amanda tells the story of her dear friend Karen who had passed away of heart disease.  Amanda says that Karen lived in an apartment in her family home.  Karen, although not related by blood, became like family to Amanda and her husband.

After Karen’s death, Karen’s brother and sister-in-law were at Amanda’s place gathering some of Karen’s belongings. They had been working all day and decided to finish off the day by sitting around a small campfire in the backyard.  As they were reminiscing about Karen’s life, a bright green moth flew around the fire and landed on Karen’s apartment door.  After a moment on the door, the moth returned to the fire pit and landed on some of the family members.  As you can guess, the visit from this moth both shocked and intrigued the group.  Not knowing a lot about moths, Amanda did some quick research and found out that their unexpected guest was a Luna moth. Amanda shared that:

“Luna Moths signify new beginnings as they represent a continuing quest for truth and knowledge, the gift of intuition, psychic perceptions, and heightened awareness.. . .They can also represent the spirit itself”.

As they further talked about this unique experience the group concluded that the moth represented Karen. Karen had joined them at the fire.  This thought brought them comfort during this difficult time.

Two days later, Amanda received a call from Karen’s brother who was at the funeral home picking up Karen’s remains. Karen’s brother called to report that there was a giant Luna Moth painted on the side of the funeral home. He couldn’t believe it. This was the second encounter with a Luna Moth they had since Karen’s death.  With this new sighting, the group’s perception of their moth began to solidify.  They now truly believed that their encounters were a sign that Karen’s spirit was still with them and that she was okay.  The Luna Moth was Karen’s way of communicating with those she left behind.

Luna Moth painted on building
The Luna Moth at the Funeral Home. Photo credit: Stories with Sapphire

The Luna Moth (Actias luna) is the largest moth in the United States and is easily identified by its pale lime green wings with transparent eyespots. The Luna’s hind wings extend into a curving long tail which gives it a truly unique shape.(3)  This moth is said to be named after Luna the goddess of the moon and it offers protection and guidance.(4) This beautiful moth has a very short life expectancy. It lives for only about 2 weeks.  So encounters with this moth are rare and can be seen as a gift. 

I started thinking about writing about Luna Moths a couple of weeks ago.  It started out as a general rumination about Moth Week.  How was I going to get good pictures and what stories could I tell?  Then, one morning when I was out walking my dogs, I noticed a Luna Moth wing on the ground.  It was just the wing, but it provided a focus for me.   How wonderful would it be to capture a photo of this elegant insect with its lime green wings!

A few days later, I was working around the house listening to podcasts when I came across Stories with SapphireAs I was listening to the moth tales, I could feel a story developing.  Later that weekend I was out with the dogs and I noticed something on the underside of a leaf. I walked closer trying to get a better look and was shocked to see it was a Luna Moth.  It was just a little before dawn and the moth’s wing reflected the light of my headlamp.  It was just resting on the leaf by the side of the road. It sat there and let me take a few photos.  That encounter sealed the deal.  I had to write about this moth.

Just as Sandalo wondered if her encounter with the moth was a sign from the other side or a coincidence.  I began to wonder about my Luna Moth encounters. Were they a part of a larger message, or just nature doing its thing.  I may never know the answer and that is fine by me. I am okay with the mystery of it all.

Luna Moth on underside of leaf
Luna Moth during my walk

Do you have any interesting moth encounters?  Feel free to share below.


Resources:

  1. WorldBirds.org: Moth Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)
  2. Stories with Sapphire; Season 4, Episode 8
  3. Adirondack Moths: Luna Moth
  4. Explore Deeply: The Luna Moth & The Full Moon, the Spiritual Significance of Signs that Appear in our Lives

14 thoughts on “Moths: Symbolism and Supernatural Stories

Add yours

    1. Hi Dave, I have read several stories recently that moths can be the embodiment of spirits that have passed on. If you have ever seen a deaths head hawk moth it makes sense. Thanks for the comment!

  1. beautiful stunning photos again, and I particularly like your comment you can live with mystery – it’s the awe effect we need, – I know I do. Thanks for your work.

  2. Well, no I’m thinking I must be a moth in human form. 🙂 I really like the beginning of this, how the indigenous people believe in a moth representing finding the balance between dark and light within ourselves. It’s been awhile, but maybe I’ve mentioned before how I’m obsessed with duality both in people and in nature.

    What kind of dogs do you have? I’m an emotional support human for a German Shepard mix who worries too much.

    1. Hi Melanie, thanks for the comment. I agree that the moth representing balance, and a place to begin to think about personal balance, is pretty awesome. I also like how there are all these opportunities to apply what nature does to the human experience. It just highlights the fact that we aren’t separate from nature.
      We have 3 rescue dogs. One 3-legged Shepard mix, one 3-legged small pitbull, and one other little pitbull. The pits are all called pocket pits because they are about 40 pounds. They are the best! And I get the emotional support for the Shepherd!

      1. “Pocket pits” I love that! Agree with everything in the first paragraph! I’m so glad I came back to blogging with a focus on nature and getting to meet you and several other wonderful people so far! 🙂

    2. Dear Mark and Melanie,
      I really like the look of the Luna Moth, and remember reading a scientific article discussing the “tails” of the Luna Moth in disrupting the sonar system of bats, such that those with their “tails” cut off or cut shorter by experimenters are much more likely to be preyed upon by bats.
      By the way, Mark, there is a typo in your sentence “Where they a part of a larger message…”. You probably meant to type “Were” rather than “Where”.
      Happy mid-week to both of you!
      Yours sincerely,
      SoundEagle

      1. Thanks for catching that typo! Very interesting information about the “tails” of a Luna moth. That would make sense as a survival strategy. Thanks for visiting and your ongoing support!

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