A delicate home above the waterless sea
cradling a pearly seed in shades of purple, pink and green…
“Ivory blooded, I am beloved by insect, bird and bee, and
I alone nurture the royal scions of Transformation and Joy!
Beneath my hands of jade, they wake each spring.
Listen now and hear them sing…”
“As children we simply feed, learn and grow.
Our youthful raiment striped with…
the Yellow of Beginnings, Joy and clear Thought…
White of Unity, Divinity, and the Purity of snow…
Black which banishes all negativity,
cradles Creation, and yields all Wisdoms sought.
Then we spin our glassy jade retreat.
Withdrawn from the world, we ponder and dream.
Until our Transformation is complete.
Reborn in royal splendor, I gleam!
Laughter given wings,
My banner flutters in the Sky
like fiery amber and starry night…
Benign Ruler of all I spy!
Only mine enemies most dire
taste my poisonous nature!
For I am Herald of eternal Spring, and
messages of Love and Joy I bring…
Forges Soulful Evolution,
and flowery wiles."
Who sings now?
“May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.” ~Irish Blessing
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” ~World Health Organization, 1948
“Joy and Temperance and Repose Slam the door on the doctor’s nose.” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Asclepias syriaca, better known as Milk Thistle or Common Milkweed, is considered by many to be an aggressive and troublesome weed. It is commonly seen in empty fields, ditches, light woodlands, waste areas, and along roadsides all across North America. It is toxic to cattle (sheep, cows, etc) but is also distasteful to them. Typically cattle are only poisoned by Milkweed if they have been forced to eat it. Humans on the other hand, have been eating Milkweed for many years as well as using it for a variety of medicinal purposes.
The name “asclepias” comes from the Greek demigod Asclepius who represents all healing aspects, surgical, herbal, or other of the medicinal arts. His daughters ( Hygieia, Meditrina, Iaso, Aceso, Aglaea/Aegle and Panacea) represent, in order: cleanliness, longevity, recuperation, radiant good health, and all medicine/cures/healing. One of Apollo’s mortal sons, Asclepius achieved immortality as the constellation Ophiuchus, and his name, which can be translated as “cut up” shares the same root word as the word "scalpel.
The smoke from his mother’s funeral pyre was said to have turned the once white feathers of the Crow to the black suit we see them in today. Asclepius was rescued from this funeral pyre by Apollo in the first cesarean operation, after which he was raised and taught by Chiron. His staff, similar to that of Hermes, is entwined by a single serpent, and snakes were often used in healing rituals or kept in temples associated with Asclepias. Therefore, this Teacher has a connection to both Crow/Raven energy and Snake energy so both of those Teachers should also be examined by those drawn to Milkweed.
Both Asclepias and Milkweed are apt names, as all parts exude a milky juice when cut and this humble plant has several important uses. It can typically grow up to 3’ high, although it can be twice that high or much lower depending on conditions. It has flowers that could be a dusky purple, a soft pink, or even greenish white. Leaves are opposite and oval shaped. In John Lust’s “The Herb Book”, Milkweed rootstock is said to be used as a diuretic, emetic, and purgative. It is used for kidney problems, water retention, asthma, stomach ailments, gallstones, to induce sweating, and treat painful coughs. The roots are also a mild anodyne (painkiller). The milky latex has been used as a chewing gum (not recommended due to the plants generally toxic nature) and as a treatment for all kinds of warts. It is currently touted as a treatment especially for genital warts.
The silky down of Milkweed pods has been used for ages as a soft stuffing and cord material, and the dried seed pods have been used as decorations. Young shoots of Milkweed can be eaten like asparagus. Milk Thistle stimulates and protects the functions of the liver. It can stimulate the growth of new liver cells and is used to detoxify our systems too. Asclepias tuberosa (aka Butterfly Weed, Chiggerflower, or Pleurisy Root) also has a long history of helping mankind. The root is used medicinally as an "antispasmodic, carminative, mild cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, tonic and vasodilator. Pleurisy root has been used to treat all manner of chest complaints and lung diseases. Other parts of the plant, like other milkweeds, have been used in the making of clothing, cordage and food.
“If you have health, you probably will be happy, and if you have health and happiness, you have all the wealth you need, even if it is not all you want.” ~Elbert Hubbard
“The milkweed brings up to my very door. The theme of wanton waste in peace and war…. " ~ Robert Frost
During WWII, children were encouraged to collect milkweed pods and turn them in to the government. The exceptional buoyancy and light weight made them an inexpensive and highly effective stuffing for life-vests and flying suits.
Milkweed, like the Monarch Butterfly who relies solely on it for food and shelter, is indicative of all forms of Transformation. The solid healthy green of the milkweed leaves and pods agrees with its many ties to Healing and is useful for drawing both healing and a stronger connection to Nature. Purplish flowers link it to spirituality and protection, and whitish-green ones would indicate special blessings and purity as well as healing and nature connections. Milkweed, like Thistle, casts its’ seeds to the winds like wishes, and as a “wild” flower commonly found in empty fields and ditches, Milkweed is also associate with Fae folk and energy.
Those experiencing or needing healing transformations, or those drawn to the healing arts are often called by this Teacher. Milkweed speaks to us of the importance of tending to all aspects of our health; physical, mental, emotional, and even cultural/societal health. It is also important to remember that believing yourself ill or health has powerful effects too. People who have been convinced that they were burned have actually produced burns upon their skin even if a source for the burn is not present! Denying clear signs of an illness is just as dangerous as convincing yourself that you really do have that rare tropical skin disease. What affects the mind will also affect the body, and Butterfly and Milkweed together remind us of this vital link.
Being especially associated with lung health, Milkweed asks us to pay particular attention to our breath at all stages and in all contexts. Breath is vital for life and it is also necessary for verbal communication. When we say something out loud, we are announcing our intentions to the Universe and drawing energy towards the subject of our statement. Keeping our words positive and constructive is important, whether our words are directed outward or inward. Sometimes, the things we talk most about changing in our lives aren’t as important as recognizing that sometimes what we really need to change is how we think about the topic.
For example, instead of worrying aloud about how I’m going to pay all the bills on time when money is tight, I focus instead on voicing my gratitude for these conveniences being in my life at all. When I have to do without hot water until the next paycheck, I am so grateful that I have running water and don’t have to haul it up to the house from the nearest river! Milkweed also reminds us that there is a natural rhythm to everything, a time to bloom and a time to lie dormant; that all life is transition.
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” ~Anatole France
“The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.” ~Attributed to George Carlin
“Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.” ~Jeffrey Glassberg
Plants, birds and butterflies have strong ties to each other. Anyone who is called by one of these Totems should carefully examine the particular web of connectedness that exists between that specific bird and the plants or insects that they rely upon. The Monarch Butterfly is an excellent and simple example. It lays its eggs under the leaves of the milkweed, and as a caterpillar it feeds only on the leaves of this plant. This is what gives the Monarch, caterpillar and butterfly, it’s protection from feathered predators.
Because it feeds on the toxic milkweed, the Monarch is toxic too and other butterflies, like the Viceroy, have come to mimic the Monarch’s look as a defense mechanism. Any bird that has eaten a Monarch and recovered will never again willingly eat any butterfly that looks like it might repeat the unpleasant experience! The color and habits of your particular butterfly will influence the message it carries for you, as always study the entire family as well as near relations or balancing energies like bird, spider, preying mantis, etc.
Research has shown that the Butterfly is the only creature capable of changing its entire genetic structure during its transformations. Symbolic of all kinds of Transformation and Rebirth, this Teacher reminds us that all change, and Life itself, is a process. Everything happens in stages and in its own due time. When we are looking to make changes in our lives, we must understand that this will affect us and those around us down to the smallest measure and in ways we have not even considered. This Teacher is especially concerned with those changes necessary in our individual lives that will bring about or encourage an evolution of our souls.
“A sensible man will remember that the eyes may be confused in two ways – by a change from light to darkness or from darkness to light; and he will recognize that the same thing happens to the soul.” ~Plato
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ~Maya Angelou
“Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time.” ~Deborah Chaskin
“We must remain as close to the flowers, the grass, and the butterflies as the child is who is not yet so much taller than they are. We adults, on the other hand, have outgrown them and have to lower ourselves to stoop down to them. It seems to me that the grass hates us when we confess our love for it. Whoever would partake of all good things must understand how to be small at times.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche
True change, and the acceptance of this never-ending cycle, requires great Courage. Butterfly teaches us this quiet form of Courage; the courage of Spring. Many think of Spring as a soft and gentle time, the reward after the harshness of Winter. Yet this season and the many changes it brings are not for the faint of heart! Without the Winter’s rough edges, enforced slumber, and harsh cleansing we would not truly appreciate the softness and life-bursting splendor of Spring. The power of Spring is evident everywhere one looks and will not be denied, held back, or discouraged. Life bursts forth from every crack, determined to thrive, and even Entropy and Death cannot deny the strength of Spring. Healing, especially deep healing of body or soul, requires the same level of Courage.
A certain amount of awareness, surrender and introspection is necessary too for we cannot be truly open to such potent and deep powers like Life, Healing, Change or Divinity without these elements. Butterfly asks us to examine where we are in our individual process of Transformation so that we will better understand our needs for the best progression and results. Perhaps one of the most difficult things to accept in life isn’t accepting that change is the only constant, rather that everyone learns and transforms in their own time. What one person learns, understands, accepts and incorporates into their lives in an instant may take someone else years!
Frustrating, painful and even as destructive as this can be to everyone and everything else, we as individuals must understand this and work to encourage the best Transformations possible. We cannot force others to change or to accept change, but we can encourage in a loving and supportive manner. Whether looking at our selves, others or a specific situation, when we understand that everything is moving through its own course of Transformation we understand that we are destroying some things to make way for others just as Death makes way for Life, and Winter makes room for Spring.
“You can’t change who people are without destroying who they were.” ~ Lenny from the film “The Butterfly Effect”
“Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.” Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.” For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals." ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” ~Ferdinand Foch
Butterflies have represented the Soul, Joy, Laughter, Love, childlike Innocence, Rebirth, Beauty, Grace, and Freedom in many cultures. To the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, Butterflies represented the soul. The Greeks believed that a new person was born every time a butterfly emerged from its cocoon. Psyche, beloved of Eros, translates as both “soul” and “butterfly”. The Blackfeet believed that our dreams were brought by the Butterfly, and other Native traditions state that this Teacher will carry our whispered wishes to Creator.
Long associated with Mother Goddess images, butterflies, like women, go through distinct stages in their lives, and are feminine in energy. They are associated with the elements of Air, and of Fire because of their flickering movement and link to the creative fires of the soul. Moths, the Butterfly’s nighttime counterpart, are linked with lunar rather than the solar energy of the butterfly. The Butterfly appears in the North on the Medicine Wheel and is a Clan leader for all the Birth Totems in that direction. Butterflies bring the seeds of change and new ideas.
Most butterflies have quick life cycles, the Monarch is an exception to this rule as it can live up to 6 months! Butterfly people often experience hard lessons early in life, but this early turbulence can also provide the individual with greater tools and methods to deal with later difficulties. Difficult childhoods often produce the most interesting adults, and those called by Butterfly will find that they began their spiritual awakening early in life.
Butterflies are often messengers of the moment though, appearing in our lives to announce a period of Transformation or in Joyful acknowledgement. Their delicate systems will cause butterflies to leave a polluted area rapidly and in numbers. This is a reminder to be aware of what is going on in our environment, whether at home or in the world at large, and to protect ourselves from potentially poisonous influences.
“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.” ~Rabindranath Tagore
One of my last memories of living in California as a child is standing barefoot in the grass on a perfect summer day. In complete awe and delight I watched the air up and down the block fill up with Monarchs and other beautiful butterflies. I stood in this rain of butterflies with head back, laughing, arms spread wide with palms up…much as I did during warm summer showers. A huge Monarch chose my left palm as a perch and I stilled. I can still remember its delicate beauty as it looked up at me with its faceted eye, slowly uncurled its silken tongue and drank of the fine sweat that covered me after a good day of playing outdoors. I did not know before or after this incident how much Butterfly was guiding me, teaching me. It would be many years before I would look back on how this winged messenger has so gently brushed through my life.
Happiness seems to elude most people. We seem to lay all sorts of conditions upon our happiness. “I’ll be happy when…” when in truth we can be happy whether there is a storm raging in our lives or we are enjoying currently sunny skies. At the end of this article I’ve included one of my all-time favorite poems. The poet speaks of Happiness as a crystal that, once perfect, has been shattered and spread across the paths of all our lives. None of us will find all of the pieces, but we can share the pieces we do find and be happy anyway.
Perhaps more than any other lesson, Butterfly would like to teach us how to move through life as if it is all a playful dance, to live life in a state of innocent joy with the simplicity and strength found in every child before we learn to hide pieces of ourselves. Children are much closer to Divinity than we are, and we can learn some amazing things by listening to them and watching them at their play. This is the strength of Butterfly who appears like a living rainbow or winged laughter to brighten up our dull existence. How does Butterfly appear in your life?
“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
“I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.” ~Chuang TzuHappiness is…" …Yet the wise as on they journeyTreasure every fragment clear,Fit them as they may together,Imaging the shattered sphere,Learning ever to be thankful,Though their share of it is small;For it has so many piecesNo one ever finds them all.~ Priscilla Leonard
Possible balancing energies:
Ants, Dragonfly, Spider, Preying Mantis and other Insects, Birds like Crow or Robin, Frog/Toad, flowers and other plants like Violet, Apple Tree or Milkweed, Sky/Air, Water… Bats make an excellent balancing energy for Moths, butterflies for Night time!
Each Who Sings Now? poem I have written is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a tree, star, animal, stone, etc. from which we can learn so many priceless lessons… if we only take the time to listen. Many people enjoy trying to guess which Teacher inspired the poem before going on to read about them in detail. There are two linked Teachers singing in this piece. Can you guess who is singing?