The Butterfly and the Circle

Circling Butterflies by Anne

Both the butterfly and the circle carry much positive symbolism. And for me, these symbols are especially meaningful. The little caterpillar moves carefully along branches and twigs, filling itself with green leaves and perhaps flowers, and being careful not to fall or get caught in a spider’s web. Generally speaking, the caterpillar has no real defense system, and it is vulnerable to everything around it from the moment it develops from an egg.

But then it begins to build a cocoon, surrounding itself and closing out all that it has known in its brief life. And in this time, it spends in a form of meditation and growth. After a set amount of time, it begins to beat its newly formed wings (a symbol of its transformation) until it is able to slowly release itself from the cocoon. It is no longer in any sense a caterpillar. This newly transformed creature now seeks the nectar of the most beautiful flowers. Its new-found freedom enables it to travel to new locations, even those far away from where it started its life. It has no fear of going where it has never been before. Often a group of butterflies will begin to circle higher and higher into the sky.

Ancient people throughout the world recognized the circle as a symbol of infinity, and of being whole and complete. Spiritual and Religious cultures recognize the circle as a symbol of the female and the feminine energy , and especially of Mother Earth. It represents a fertile and sacred space. In the U.K. and other countries, there are many circles of stones.

The circle also represents a cycle that can be the cycle of life, death and rebirth. It can represent being complete and whole as well. For the Celtics, the circle was a sign of protection, and may be the reason that many early fortresses, temples, crosses and other sacred things were in a circular shape or contained circular motifs. The circle is found in many other cultures and countries throughout the world as well.

As I have noted, my art often contains images or symbols that are sacred to me. The cycle of life, and of completion belongs with the butterfly and its life cycle and my own life.

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In Prayer We Ask . . .

Photo by Anne

Many years ago I came across a book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner. In it was a prayer by contemporary theologian, Jack Riemer, Likrat Shabbat. The prayer was one of the most memorable I have ever read, and I made a copy of it and have carried it in my wallet ever since. I periodically pull it out and reread it every now and then when I forget its message.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end war;
For we know that you have made the world in a way
That man must find his own path to peace
Within himself and his neighbor.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end starvation;
For You have already given us the resources
With which to feed the entire world
If we would only use them wisely.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God,
To root out prejudice,
For You have already given us eyes
With which to see the good in all men
If we would only use them rightly.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end despair,
For You have already given us the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end disease,
For You have already given us great minds with which
To search out cures and healing,
If we would only use them constructively.
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just to pray,
To become instead of merely to wish.