To the superstitious, butterflies and dragonflies carry messages from the spirit world.
They could even be the spirit of a dear departed who have taken the form of a winged insect to re-visit the world of the living.
Jane Guttierez, a writer and traveler, believes her father’s spirit lives forever through a butterfly.
She said that since her father died, a small white butterfly with two dots on its wings seems to be constantly following her and showing up in the most unlikely places.
Guttierez said her mother noticed the same butterfly in their garden. She believes that butterfly has her father’s spirit and was trying to send a message.
“My mother and I noticed that whenever we have problems, the butterfly appears to us. We talk to it and our problems are gradually solved,” she said.
Ella Tejano, an artist, said that whenever she thinks of her departed husband, she sees a dragonfly. “It makes me feel relieved to know that he is still with me,” Tejano said.
Entomologist Dr. Bonifacio Cayabyab, a university researcher at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, is skeptical about the notion that butterflies and dragonflies are spirits. “Both are flying insects. Both hover near homes,” Cayabyab said.
He also has an explanation for the popular belief that black butterflies are spirits in disguise.
“The black butterflies are the citrus feeders and its host plant is common in gardens. Hence, they are seen by people while they feed on flowers, lay eggs on citrus or look for mates near the homes of the departed,” Cayabyab said.
Dragonflies have the same qualities as that of a butterfly. “Dragonflies breed in ponds, creeks, and rivers near our homes. The adults fly regularly around or near homes and people at day time,” Cayabyab said.
While he doubts the spiritual aspect of butterflies and dragonflies, he respects this belief. “Some people believe in that, so I respect their views,” Cayabyab said.
But Marge Santiago, founder of the Pelindaba Health and Wellness Solutions in Parañaque City, who is also an alternative healer, said such a belief is common to Hinduism and Buddhism.
“These religions believe in reincarnation where when a physical body dies, it waits for another physical body it could join. And so the soul never dies,” Santiago said.
As someone who conducts past-life regression, a technique that uses hypnosis to recover memories of past lives or incarnation, Santiago believes that the soul of a departed only comes alive in another human body. “Every person is a constant evolution to lift to a higher form and reach a stage where it blends with the universe,” she said.
But Santiago described the belief in spirits thriving in insects or animals as merely coincidental. “It may not be necessarily be our departed loved ones,” she said.
She said a person’s state of mind helps shape or reinforce the belief. “If one is in anguish, he/she suddenly notices the butterfly, but when happy, he/she does not. So it really depends on the person’s feelings,” she said.
Santiago noted that linking spirits with insects could make it harder to detach from the departed loved one. “This is just a coping mechanism of the persons who were left behind, which only strengthens their attachment to the departed. This may not be good because moving on will be harder for both the person and the spirit,” she said.
Still, Santiago said that coping is personal thing. “If believing in this idea can be helpful to the person where he or she feels positive and happy, then it’s good for his or her soul.”
She also said that since this belief has been passed on through the years, further continuing this belief depends on the person. “We have discretionary intelligence. We decide on what to believe or not. It is how we feel that matters,” Santiago said.