When you find yourself in the midst of a challenging experience and you reach that point where the tension or pressure is at its greatest, and you don’t know if you can persevere a moment longer… allow the journey of the butterfly to inspire and empower you to keep the faith.
A lot more goes on than meets the eye, for the butterfly to take its first flight as the graceful winged beauty that we admire. Great chaos comes before the miracle. Our greatest challenges are like that. They’re opportunities for unimaginable personal growth in a very short period of time—if you can keep the faith and not give up.
For many summers I had the privilege of witnessing every stage of growth of the magnificent monarch butterfly. I’d transformed my urban (lawn) backyard into a natural oasis in the spring of 2003, including specific host plants that various butterfly species needed for their caterpillars. They attracted a great number of egg-laying female butterflies. The summer of 2004 I witnessed over 40 monarch caterpillars transform into chrysalises! They hung like beautiful little jeweled ornaments of green and gold throughout the gardens. I was able to observe with wonder, as they matured into butterflies within these chrysalises.
Seeing a caterpillar’s chrysalis transformation is incredible in itself—it’s like watching science fiction. After the caterpillar hangs upside down for days from its perch, the time comes when its skin splits at the head, and within a minute, it gradually squeezes out of its little caterpillar “suit”, revealing a soft, wiggling, little blob of life that eventually hardens into the form we see (the chrysalis or pupa). It’s a complete transformation. There are no body parts—just a thimble-sized mass of divine life-force energy. It’s pure magick!
For a long time I wondered what went on inside those chrysalises before they emerged as fully formed butterflies. One evening during my daily observations, I received my answer. I discovered one chrysalis that had been split in half (most likely a bird bite), so I was able to look inside it. What I saw was a thick liquid the same opaque green colour as the chrysalis, with intricate butterfly parts of the same colour, floating in it—I could clearly see the small head and legs in detail.
I realized that the caterpillar itself goes through a type of death—death of the life as it knows it. It leaves its identity as a crawling, leaf-eating caterpillar and transforms into a casing filled with liquid. This liquid of cells magickally arranges itself into butterfly parts, eventually transforming into a complete butterfly that looks nothing like its previous form.
What appears as absolute destruction and chaos is actually a purposeful process of organization and creation. Other factors come into play for the highest outcome to manifest for the butterfly, including temperature and timing. When this phase is complete, usually on a warm and sunny day, the chrysalis splits open and the butterfly emerges, fully formed, with a fat body and shrivelled, tiny, damp wings. It perches upside down on the empty casing and slowly pumps the liquid from its enlarged body into the veins of its wings, letting them expand to their full size as its own body shrinks. The butterfly then patiently lets its wings dry until they reach the perfect level of rigidity.
At last, it suddenly bursts into its first flight! Butterflies look so elated when they take that first flight—gliding, swooping, flying at great speeds, and fully enjoying their new wings. They’re utterly transformed beings from their previous lives as caterpillars. They even have a different way of feeding and moving with greater ease.
Whenever you find yourself far beyond your comfort zone and need courage to persist and keep the faith, think of the caterpillar that experiences the end of its life as it knows it and, when the timing is just right, emerges as a glorious butterfly, with an acquired grace and freedom it didn’t even know was possible! Imagine the possibilities that await you, just beyond what you can’t see.
(Image by artist Gun Legler)