According to the “Butterflies” chapter in Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, by Lafcadio Hearn, a butterfly is seen as the personification of a person’s soul; whether they be living, dying, or already dead. One Japanese superstition says that if a butterfly enters your guestroom and perches behind the bamboo screen, the person whom you most love is coming to see you. However, large numbers of butterflies are viewed as bad omens. When Taira no Masakado was secretly preparing for his famous revolt, there appeared in Kyoto so vast a swarm of butterflies that the people were frightened — -thinking the apparition to be a portent of coming evil.
The Russian word for “butterfly”, бабочка (bábochka), also means “bow tie”. It is a diminutive of “baba” or “babka” (= “woman, grandmother, cake”), whence also “babushka” = “grandmother”.
The Ancient Greek word for “butterfly” is ψυχή (psȳchē), which primarily means “soul”, “mind”.
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