Totems – White Butterfly, Gray Butterfly, Black Butterfly, Moths & Sphinx Moth Totem

By Phoenix of Elder Mountain –  A Great Ash Sphinx Moth visited Elder Mountain afew years ago, and then I had a dream in much detail, of the “Brotherhood of the Sphinx” (which doesn’t exist in the occult, magic, esoteric, nor middle ages documents). I received some information about this ancient cult from the dream, and when the Sphinx Moth appeared as messenger, I was ready for that message to come in waking or dreaming.

I decided to write about the symbolism (totem) of the Sphinx Moth, Butterfly and Moth today with my decades of work as both a shaman and an animist, and how cyclical and seasonal systems work when working with butterfly or moth medicine. Nature has blessed me in animism because I have always served mother earth first, before religions, even before humans. It was necessary in the development of my soul with hers be in insects, animals, birds, oceanids or weather.

On the first day of the New Moon of Summer (solstice time) right before the Sphinx moth came, I went out to our sacred thirteen moon stone circle at dusk, to do some prayers dealing with some very dark and intense local shadows of people in the town, and I asked in the ceremony for some guidance. That is when a big black moth flew into the center of the circle with me and then the community issue played out within the next two days and there was resolve.

Immediately in the situation, the moth and  butterfly totem began to change around me over the next two weeks. I have a butterfly soul as an animist that has been with me since childhood and as I matured into an adult, midlife adult and now elder, their depth has also grown within me. I never went for the big totems until I could master the smallest of them. 

Acqua Di Fiori.jpg

After that, the black moth left, and a few days later the Sphinx Moth showed up. We have two symbols here to work with, the Sphinx and the Moth, one symbolic and the later an insect. The fairy clan people are insect people and know the smallest and more sacred sides of insects (the real people who understand insects and bugs). Like it’s butterfly cousin, the moth shows us the symbolism of the transcendent or transitioning soul, and of the living soul’s transformational qualities at various levels of our journey.

All Butterfly medicine, totemship and messengers are “seasonal” and do not live the whole year, so their teachings are spring and summer but the message can last years. How this equates to our life, is we are in a “longer” cycle of change, not a short one, like month, but several years or even a decade or two. Having worked with cycles and symbolism together in one moon cycle, three moons, six moons, a years cycle of moons, four year cycles etc.

I have seen duration patterns of the 4 year cycle, 8 year cycle and 12 year cycle of changes when it comes to soul work. Butterfly at its most simplistic and most powerful is the soul and its changes.  Long cycles such as moving from ‘youth to adult” or adult to elder, is a 28 year cycle. If butterfly if they are around that long of a time as a constant totem then it should have been mastered with the 28 year cycle.

Butterfly and Moth as a totem or messenger will come in these cyclical duration and the journey is pretty much in three seasons (but not in winter). One of the differences between moth and butterfly is the butterfly’s antennae are club-shaped with a long shaft and a bulb at the end. A moth’s antennae are feathery or sawed-edged. Antennae is our symbol for sensitivity, awareness and empathic information that is always readily available to us, if we can slow down the mind enough to feel the emotional intelligence (information that is coming from energy.

Butterflies and Moths have many things in common, just like toad and frog, but its their differences which helps us in the totem or symbolic language and how we are working with nature as our guide and teacher in her shamanic languages.

blue butterfly totem

Colors and their Meaning Symbolically
When working with these totems, the main root symbol is transformation, a season of growth (which includes struggle) its death and then the rebirth in order for us to learn and grow in our natural selves. This is why nature is our mirror for such work, a clear and unabridged no nonsense messenger. We learn throughout our life of course, and many who have butterfly or moth medicine must learn to change. That is one of the most important, yet difficult things once we are past thirty.

The second root symbol is their color

1. Colorful Butterflies;
2. Grays & Browns;
3. Predominantly Black;
4. Pure White or shades of White.

Butterfly Totems and Butterfly Medicine

I am always very joyful when my white buttery comes around me, I know that most of the work is done (at least for that cycle). Now that I am older, the cycles last all summer with the white butterfly which is wonderful. When we are young in our 30s or 40s, these cycles can be very long but they may only be a week or two when they come around you in your healing processes.

Black Sun mythology of Mesoamerican has many mystical meanings, among them it is connected to the god Quetzalcoatl and his penetration in the Underworld through the west door after his diurnal passage on the sky. For the Mexicans there were two suns, the young Day Sun and the ancient Dark Sun. Some scholars regard the mythological Black Sun as the ancient female origin of all, it is both tomb and womb. This way, it is the oneness that uniformly integrates unawareness, death, and yet an expectation of fecundity.

They associated the passage of the Black Sun, on its nightly journey through the underworld, with the image of the “Butterfly” and the butterfly, in turn, is an archetypal symbol of the transcendent soul, transformation and mystical rebirth, whereas also seen in the figure of the frightening earth goddess Itzpapalotl, the “Obsidian Butterfly”, that devoured people during the solar eclipses, while the underworld was the eternal dwelling place of the souls (with karma).

white butterfly totem

When working with the totem, colors for moths and butterfly become important with the progression of your personal issue (within your changes and transformations and self healing or working with other healers) and that is a “living” art of butterfly medicine or present moment reality. Butterfly is not a predestined or prophetic totem and why the totems show up, they want us to be fully present and grounded in our reality to see its beauty.

For example, you start to notice colorful butterflies in your space everyday for a week, the color means “movement, energy” and is beginning to build up to a change. The minute you see the brown or gray the energy has shifted, its time to hone inward with that same issue. If you take note and pay attention, the beauty of the soul symbolism generally means an emotional issue is surfaces. The clan of the butterfly and moth are indeed purely soul issues, this is why they are so light yet flexible and beautiful at the same time.

Depending upon who shows up next (what color, brown, gray, black or white), will be the next part of the progression of the issue (or totem message). We always work within circle medicine with any totem, for it has a beginning, a midpoint and a closure. Insects are much more complex as you can get a wasp, a bee and a ladybug in its cycle work for a whole summer. The key is your awareness and how serious you are about understanding the language of nature, when we ask for its help. Color always lets you know that you are in beginning cycle of change, even if its yearly (say every summer solstice the butterfly comes into your space) of a larger four or eight year cycle.

Then butterfly shifts into moth, and you begin to see gray or brown moths, which tend to come at dusk or try to enter your home or even the evening, the work or issue has shifted into an inner one. Its no longer the struggle of transformation with the inter-personal, its now you must take the work inward to accomplish your emotional issue, letting go of the other’s issues.

This aspect or cycle of the totem shifts are for balance, you must do work in this stage of your cycle according to the color that is presented. Someone or something needs your attention or you need someones attention in a matter at work, or school or friends, lovers etc.

Gray and Brown Moths are my helpers as well and they always seem to enter my home to tell me there is trouble in dreaming, and the cycle that I am in, now includes my dreams, not just waking life. They are the most active part of your butterfly/moth cycle. Most totem writers do not focus on the entire process, they focus on the cocoon stage and the emerging stages, which would be like remaining a maiden your whole life and never entering the adult or elder stages of life and death. We go from growth and struggle into a stalling or transition, then the death and then the rebirth. Nature chose for me as a shaman, that she would appear in these cycles always as full grown butterflies and moths.

Very bright moth colors on their wings and the internal (nocturnal moths) will be a grayer or darker color than butterflies . I was into some heavy healing for about 8 years at my thirtieth year healing journey, when I reached some peaks in my initiations and self healing, and black moths and black butterflies were constantly around me over those years. That was the last ten years of my forty year wrathful dismemberment as a shaman and since my gate closed in 2016, I have not seen one black butterfly. That gives you an idea of the stages or how long the changes can occur with one color of moth or butterfly, in the transformation stages. Even though the last ten years had dominant black, the others would come to show me where I was at in personal changes within that black cycle (purification of the deepest karma).

Butterfly TotemMany day-flying moths can also be brightly colored so check with your butterfly and moth resource about specifics. Specifics are important if you have butterfly medicine or they are just a visiting guide.

The differences between “messengers” and “totems” are messengers come for a day or weekend, and totems come for years. The butterfly can show you that struggling of changes, has its outcome of beauty, even though change is very difficult. What changes your going through now, and what time of the moon cycle it appears to you, will determine where you are in the butterfly cycle, and by cycle I mean the fully emerged butterfly.

Remember that for animals, birds or insects they live by the cycles of the sun and moon, and to be an actual totem, they must make eye contact and full presence when it connects with you, otherwise you’re just fishing for totems. Butterfly and Moth come for long duration when its a totem and you  have to pay attention to that for a long time. They come not only as signs for your personal relationships, but also sickness, or soul issues like karma. Let them all come to you, its meaningful as a teaching that way because if they see that your not paying attention they will stop the lessons because you are not serious about your spiritual path. Same too for hawks, birds, oceanids, insects (fairy clans), animals etc.

During the moon cycle, the new moon totem will show you that your at a new level in your longer cycle, full moon shows release and letting go of that same issue, and balsamic or dark moon phase is internal and dreaming information at night or nocturnal medicines. 

The diurnal species of moths evolved to locate their mates visually and not primarily by pheromone as their nocturnal cousins. Moths also conserve heat during the cooler nights, whereas butterflies are able to absorb solar radiation and conserve it. This corresponds to our ‘energy’ we expel in our life, whether its balanced or not. A few butterflies are also plain-colored, like the Cabbage White butterfly, so make sure you know exactly who your totem is!

Human who are more right brained or internal base, energy spent on emotional realities can be draining or in creative ways which can add energy. These are very important factors when working with cycle totems, considering that when we die, our emotional (energy) body or soul (steps out) and moves on after death and prepares for re-incarnation again just like the butterfly does in its seasonal process. We transfer that medicine into our little deaths (sorrows, pain, etc) into feeling it deeply, addressing it, sharing our pain, so we can release (transform, tears, make choices).

Butterfly Totem

Try to understand that emotions in our life and our dreaming body and it’s languages of image, symbol and culture (artistic expressions or ancient artistic symbols) is important for our inner life (our psyche), and this can help us navigate the unseen world of being an emotional being. That is what awakened means at its core: Remembrance or consciousness rather than being conscious (which is a mental body’s description).

In my spring moon cycles (Aries, Taurus and Gemini moon cycles) every year, I usually only get white butterflies around me, if things are running smooth, if not I will get the gray moths. I will get at least four or five white butterfly moths a day the entire month.

Black butterflies generally start to come at the beginning of the Summer moons (Cancer, Leo and Virgo) for me, until Autumn, showing that the energy of fertility (growth) was going to occur and I always took note. But I am in rhythm with nature and the moon cycles and live by the actual moon, not time nor calendar (but seasons of nature). When I had my menses cycles I was always on cycle with releases, in rhythm of the full moon and as a healer I had to heal myself this lifetime so I had to pay attention to everything.

I have noticed though in my moon, dream and goddess circles over the decades (for women, who on a lot of emotional drugs to relieve anxiety etc, or those who smoke pot basically do not bleed on the full / moon with real consistency and some never. Our bodies as women are in aliment in nature and those things get us off rhythm. Pot especially has a long purification process (abstinence or sobriety up to 8 years total) to get clear in our moon body (emotional astral body (energy body within). Everything is connected when it comes to cyclical rhythms of our health, our soul and our inner peace even despite karma and our human tests of struggle.

The Sphinx Moth Totem

There are many varieties of the Sphinx Moth – Gray Sphinx Moth

The Sphinx Moth

The Sphinx Moth that visited us here, was in it’s full adult stage, so, the emotional changes (soul changes) as a symbol or totem shows what is occurring at at “fullness stage” of the particular moon cycle. In the context of moth’s Birth, Transformation, Death and Rebirth teachings (totem) we follow suit with what stage we are at in our spiritual growth in small increments (seasons). I generally have spring and summer moths as guides, but butterfly as a totem. These are very different, totems are with your for years, but guides are around only for a little while.

The Moth that visited has the word Sphinx, this is important as we go to the oldest Sphinx, which is in Egypt. This Sphinx in Egypt wears is a man or woman, depending upon your teaching, for me its a male pharaoh, the first. It wears a traditional head scarf, the scarf symbolizes the ancient symbols of metamorphosis (shape-shifting) and tradition itself. Metamorphosis is what links our soul between this world of the physical realities and the energetic realities (realms, gates, non-physical life of our dreaming life (eternal life). Before the Great Sphinx, the symbolism was shamanic, in the lion/ess or griffin body, facing the emptiness (desert) and its enemies as a boundary. 

With the Sphinx Moth, as the totem then, it is an exotic type of moth that is not your everyday run-of-the-mill and has distinctive features: the striations of its wings when open and its face in its intense focus and gaze. The Sphinx Moth (family sphingidae) is also called the “Hawk Moth” and the “Hummingbird Moth” because of its hovering, swift flight patterns that it is able to do.

The stout-bodied moths have long, narrow fore-wings and shorter hind-wings, with wingspans ranging from 2 to 8 inches. Many species pollinate flowers such as orchids, petunias and evening primroses while sucking their nectar with a proboscis (feeding tube) that exceeds 10 inches in some of the Sphinx species.

Moth Totem

As a symbol, we transfers it to mean that one must make direct intent to suck or pull emotional nourishment inwards, and also make decisions of an emotional nature based with swiftness that requires agility (flexibility).

The double wings of short and long mean precision must be applied and when one then goes into flight (taking actions) they have lots of practice to deal with emotional situations with accuracy. I was dealing with a lot of shadow as a shaman when the Sphinx Moth appear, and the situation was emotional, not crying types of emotion, but drug dealers who were justifying every action as holy, when it was shadow. I was grateful for the warning of the sphinx and what involved about 6 men.

Learning how to become good at maneuvering emotional confrontations or experiences, with ‘awareness’ of others or the self, when both is in your environment and your inner environment is not grounded and clear, you can energetically be overwhelmed by the shadows of good intending people.  But to go beyond that, we gain control over our space both energetically and physically with focus and grounded truth, not philosophy or opinion. These are two different worlds because one is based on experience, the other on the ego’s need to win or be right.

Sometimes in sticky situations, we have to pull back and sometimes we have to share our intense feelings in forms of anger or calm, both are important. The more grounded we are in flight (action) and the more steady we are in detachment (not taking things personal), the more powerful we are to accomplish our focus and footing in any issue that comes up and still be respectful but not take lies or bull as truth.

In our dreams at night this would suggest that flight might occur or start to occur, and you will have to learn how to fly in your dreams as it begins to happen when its related to those who lucid dream.

The White-lined Sphinx Moths are among the largest flying insects and when alarmed, they rear up their heads in a threatening sphinx-like posture and may emit a thick, green substance from their mouths. As a totem symbol this means that when you defend yourself you must give warning first and mean it – before you attack out of necessity.

Basic core Symbolism of the Sphinx Moth for the Soul Medicine:

1 Nourishment that is unique unto you (or your needs);

2 To apply Pressure or Will (‘to squeeze’ the changes forth);

3 To give warning before you get angry or to set boundaries;

4 Act with Precision (actions of flight or flight);

5 Flight increases in dreaming.

If you wish to understand more about shamanism, working with animism, totem and messengers. As a shaman, she is not only a gatekeeper (activator) of such energies without karma, but also helps you learn the subtle cycles by increasing your spiritual practices and sobriety. Write for more information:

Art Source:  Acqua Di Fiori

7 Comments Add yours

  1. raventooth says:

    I love moths. Did you know a group of moths is called an ‘eclipse’?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know about the eclipse moth, i searched but couldn’t find anything… do you have information and a picture of it?


  2. Mark Sciscenti says:

    Hello Phoenix, I like how you placed the symbol of the moth in the last paragraph (under the “Basic Core Symbolism section) 😊 Your writing has an interesting flow to it – and your messages help me to open up to the help offered by the greater Dreamer & the Helping and Compassionate Spirits. Thanks – Mark

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mark, thanks for sharing and appreciate the feedback… i am not really a writer per say, structural wise etc. but i have the wisdom and knowledge! Sometimes my apprentice edits for me and it flows much better… : ) Glad to help any dreamer out!


  3. Paula Cas says:

    Reblogged this on Paths I Walk and commented:
    Great info!

    Liked by 1 person

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