Symbolism of Moth in Literature
Moths are one of the most interesting insects. They are attracted to light and thus are represented in a positive light in art as well as literature. Moths are also closely related to butterflies. While butterflies are colorful, most moths are less colorful, with thicker and furrier bodies. Also, due to the earthy tone of moths, they have held special meaning in all prominent cultures for centuries. The word ‘moth’ is derived from Old English moððe or Northumbrian mohðe; it is also borrowed from the Old Norse word ‘motti’, the Dutch word ‘mot’, and German Motte pronounced as the current word ‘moth’. Moths come in various sizes too. Also, the species of moths like luna, Hercules, Atlas, Large moth Ohio, and Polyphemus are frequently used as mythical creatures in fantasy and horror literary genres. Here are a few symbolisms of the moth in various traditions and cultures.
Moths are mostly found in earthy colors in all sizes. However, very rare species of moths are colorful, and each moth’s color symbolizes a different time of life. Similar to white color, white moths are symbols of purity, innocence, clarity, and angels in Hindu culture. According to Celtic tradition, a white moth at home is a sign of death in the house. The most common brown moth represents soil and wood as well as stability and security. Brown moths are believed to be messengers, while black moths are symbols of the spirit of a dead loved one or bad news in England. The green moth or Luna moth symbolizes change or transformation. Yellow or gold moths represent encouragement or positive energy. Blue moths mean divine presence or message from the other side.
With the ability to gracefully transform in a similar life cycle, moths are also symbols of transformation. Especially in Native American Californian tribes and Navajo tribes, moths are symbols of transformation. Shamanic traditions also believe that moths carry a holy union of light and dark needed for a soul’s transformation. Ancient Greeks believed that moths could assist in the transition between worlds. The black moth also symbolizes transformation, similar to the seeing of a dead moth.
Native American tribes believe moths carry messages from the spirits of deceased loved ones and ancestors. There is also a negative symbolism as they represent ghosts, insanity, and death. Chinese believe that a moth brings a message from the dead too, hence killing or disturbing them brings bad luck. Similarly, the Celtic tradition also believes that moths travel between both dimensions, which are the living world and the spirit world. In pop culture, moths are associated with dark magic and witches. Also, in Central American traditions, visitation from the black witch moth and death’s-head hawkmoth symbolize death and bad luck.
Moths can disguise themselves and change their color to avoid being prey for predators similar to a chameleon and octopuses. In Britain, the peppered moth, which is white with black spots, symbolizes disguise as it can turn black in danger. The English also believe that the moth as a symbol of disguise means to be careful of people and learn to maintain privacy.
A moth is also a symbol of unconditional love as they are attracted to bright light. According to the Persian Sufi culture, the moth represents unconditional love and trust. In Celtic traditions, moths also represent love. In both Chinese and Celtic cultures, moths are believed to carry messages of love from loved ones. If a young woman or a spinster gets a visit from a white moth in England, it represents that she will find true love. Also, a Luna moth symbolizes love as well as transformation. One of the native American tribes, the Navajos, also considers the moth as a symbol of love along with temptation and foolishness.
Fertility and Growth
As moths are responsible for pollination along with butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Hence, they also symbolize fertility and good luck. Fertility is not limited to producing offspring or having children. The visitation of moth or seeing on dream symbolizes growth in financial and career areas.
In ancient Greek culture, moths are believed to have a connection between the living and the dead. The Celtics also considered moths as mediators between dead loved ones and persons living in the family. In Native American cultures, moths were considered to be messengers from the spirit world. Native Americans also believe that moths, as well as butterflies, represent death followed by life. Black witch moths are associated with death or carriers of death. Moths also symbolize death in Egyptian mythology as they are attracted to light, which is an invitation from the dead. Death’s-head Hawk moth is believed to carry the message or warning of death.
Moths in dreams are symbolism for several things. Dreaming about moths similar to butterflies means representing messages from the spirit world from loved ones who have passed away. Blackfoot, a native American tribe, believes that a moth represents a dream, sleep, and also the souls of the dead. In Welsh culture, seeing a moth is considered as warning against seeking material pleasure. They also believe seeing a moth in a dream represents a journey or freedom. Seeing a moth in dreams also symbolizes rebirth and death, similar to a butterfly.
Examples of Moth as Symbolism in Literature
Moth By Atsuro Riley
Nothing wrong with gone as a place
for living. Whereby a spore eats air when she has to;
where I’ve fairly much clung for peace.
Came the day I came here young
my self. I cleaved apart.
A soul can hide like moth on bark.
My born name keeps but I don’t say.
In the above poem, the author highlights the moth’s capability to camouflage itself on the tree along with its nature of isolating to maintain peace. Here the moth symbolizes disguise, mystery, and peace.
Moth By Kenneth Slade Alling
The Saffron moth
The antlered thing
With pale gold fur
And patterned wing,
In silence sings the song
It is not given bird to sing
In the above example, the moth represents beauty, serenity, and peace as the author describes one of the colorful moths with bright colors and patterns.
Moths By Jennifer O’grady
Adrift in the liberating, late light
of August, delicate, frivolous,
they make their way to my front porch
and flutter near the glassed-in bulb,
translucent as a thought suddenly
wondered aloud, illumining the air
that’s thick with honeysuckle and dusk.
You and I are doing our best
at conversation, keeping it light, steering clear
of what we’d like to say.
The author uses the moth as a metaphor for love as well as attraction, as the moth is pulled toward light despite the danger of dying. Here a moth is simple of love and death.
Mothwings By John S. Anson
Their webs of light
arrest in flight
moths knocking to come in.
Beneath a desklamp’s narrow tent
I lean and catch the beat.
My pennib draws a filament
of ink across the sheet.
Cold mothwings graze
the mottled page
aflutter in the heat.
In this poem, the author describes how a moth is attracted to the lightbulb, and its wings are almost burnt with its heat. In this example, moths once again symbolize love, bravery, and death.
Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem by Suzy Kassem
The moth prefers the moon and detests the sun,
while the butterfly loves the sun and hides from the moon.
Every living creature responds to light,
But depending on the amount of light you have inside,
Determines which lamp in the sky
Your heart will swoon.
The above example is one of the best poems on a moth. Here the poet is describing the moth’s love for being in the dark as a creature of the night and its attraction toward the light. The poem also mentions about the light inside of a person to attract this beautiful creature who loves the moon. Hence, a moth is a symbol of love, purity, and beauty in this example.
The Cruelest Month By Louise Penny
It takes years for the moth to evolve from an egg into an adult,” he said. “In its final stage the caterpillar spins a cocoon and then it dissolves completely until it’s just liquid, then it transforms. It becomes something else entirely. A huge emperor moth. But it’s not that easy. Before it can live as a moth it has to fight it’s way out of the cocoon. Not all make it.”
“They would if I was there,” said Ruth, taking another gulp.
Gabriel was uncharacteristically silent.
“What? What is it?” demanded Ruth.
“They need to fight their way out of the cocoon. It builds their wings and muscles. It’s the struggle that saves them. Without it they’re crippled. If you help an emperor moth, you kill it.
In this example, the speakers are talking about an emperor moth transformation, which is one of the largest moths, from a larvae stage to a full-grown moth. Here the moth represents transformation, patience, and resilience.
One Long Thread by Belinda Jeffrey
It felt as though I had been holding on to Sally all these years, by the tips of my fingers. Just holding on. She was like a moth, fragile and fleeting. One rough breath, one lurch , one tiny movement of your hand and she’d fly away from you.
Here the author is describing the delicate structure and body of the moth. Here the moth is a symbol of fragility, beauty, and also death.