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Native American Butterfly Mythology

Butterflies play a variety of roles in Native American folktales from different tribes. In the folklore of some tribes, butterflies represent change and balance; in others, ephemeral beauty; and in some, vanity and frivolous behavior. Many tribes consider butterflies to be symbols of good luck, and some have taboos against killing them. Blackfoot people associate butterflies with sleep and dreaming, and butterfly designs were used to decorate cradleboards and other children's items to help them sleep and bring them good dreams.

Butterflies are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Butterfly Clans include the Hopi tribe (whose Butterfly Clan is called Poovolngyam or Poval-wungwa). The Cherokee also have a Butterfly Dance among their tribal dance traditions.

Native American Butterfly Gods and Spirits

Palhik Mana (Hopi)

Native American Legends About Butterflies

Lepidoptera in the Mythology of Native Americans:
    Article about the importance of butterflies and moths to Native American cultures.
Creator and the Butterflies:
    Tohono O'odham legend about the origin of butterflies.
*A Lenape Butterfly Legend:
    Traditional story about the Creator's gift of butterflies.

Recommended Books of Butterfly Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies:
    Picture book for children illustrating a Pueblo Indian legend about the butterflies playing a trick on Coyote.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
    Book by a Karuk elder about the meanings of Indian animal spirits, including a chapter on butterfly spirits.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about butterflies and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
Insect Mythology:
    Interesting book on the meaning of butterflies and other insects in world mythology, including Native North America and Mesoamerica.
The Wings of Butterflies: Myth, Magic, and Art:
    Artistic book about the cultural significance of butterflies throughout history.



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