Moths have a long and rich history of symbolism all over the world and are a quite widely admired animal. Sharing similar metaphorical meaning as the butterfly, the two are often combined to show a complementary relationship in many cultural depictions. That said, there is actually an extraordinary range of meaning in myths, dreams, and artwork when it comes to symbolic interpretations of the moth. This can make it somewhat difficult to pinpoint a simple definition of how moths are symbolized in modern culture.
Here are a few different symbolic meanings the moth can take.
The first, broadest, and most general meaning for the moth is one of determination. Due to their ceaseless resolve and highly admirable dedication in flying to and from their various destinations, these small yet formidable creatures have a reputation as being among the most determined and steadfast animals around.
Alongside the moth’s determination to pursue light, they often take on a symbolic meaning as faithful servants and adamant followers. They often search for their goal at the expense of their lives, embodying the quality of faith. Because of this, many myths, poems, and dreams have long featured the moth as the emblem of such qualities and this gives them their broad spiritual character for many cultures.
Moths are also a great symbol for vulnerability. On account of their small size and fragile being, seeing a moth in a piece of art or in your dream can be a sign of vulnerability, either in yourself or in others.
The moth is a nocturnal animal, and its contrast to the butterfly - a creature of the daylight, gives the moth an association with the world of night, filled with emotions, mystery and intuition. This quality of mystery is also related to their cocoons and concealment from the rest of the natural world, which inherently makes them great representatives for mystery and the unknown.
Due to their grace and peculiar beauty, some see moths as a symbol of desire and alluring energies. While not all cultures view moths this way, it’s very easy to see where this idea comes from. Female moths are also known for having strong pheromones and scents that attract mates.
In dreams, seeing moths can mean several things. They can be messengers that tell us to listen to our intuition, and to have faith and devotion in our waking lives. It may be a warning that you have not acknowledged your feelings, and you may have even felt lately that you have lost the connection to your inner self. Seeing a moth following the light may indicate that you have a strong desire for something that you may be hiding in your waking life. Being flocked by moths can indicate being overwhelmed by the desires of everyone else. You may need to take some time to pause and think about your own needs before you take care of others.
There is a great deal of cultural variation when it comes to symbolic representations of the moth.
Many Native American tribes portrayed moths as deeply mysterious and powerful beings with great spiritual potential. These vary depending on the species of moth, and the particular tribe’s legends. Some moths are viewed as the embodiment of dead relatives, watching over their descendants from the spirit world.
Mexican folklore has depicted some moths, such as the Black Witch moth, as bad omens, signifying future death, destruction, and disease.
A Chinese holiday called the Qing Ming Festival is celebrated in order to honor ancestors in April. Moths often make appearances during the spring, so the holiday often takes place when many moths are active. The superstition is that these moths are the souls of one’s ancestors, and it is often forbidden during this time to kill moths for this reason.