The Myths of Monarchs
For my novel, THE BUTTERFLY’S DAUGHTER, I researched the phenomenon of the migration of the monarch butterflies as well as myths and the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico. I was amazed at how many people I met had a personal experience with the monarch butterflies. Many told of seeing a monarch at a loved one’s funeral and again when they thought of the departed. They believed it was the spirit of their loved one.
My father in law, Oscar, passed away last June. He was a great man, a gentleman to the end. He is missed by all his family. Oscar was a very spiritual man, but not a church going one. He didn’t want any service when he passed, and his wishes were honored by my mother in law. For me, however, who was not at his bedside when he passed, I longed to have some sort of ritual to mark his passing. To say goodbye.
Today the storms of the past week at last moved north and the sun broke through the gray clouds, warming the earth. The flowers in my garden lifted their droopy heads. I had two male monarchs that had recently emerged from their chrysalis and I was eager to release them to the garden. One I named Oscar. Mindful of my intention, my son Zack and I went to the garden to release the monarchs with thoughts of Oscar in our hearts and minds. The first butterfly flew off without hesitation and disappeared.
The second, Oscar, did not fly off. He climbed onto my finger and stayed there, seemingly reluctant to leave. Zack took photographs and we waited patiently, enjoying the moment and giving the young butterfly time to catch a breeze and alight. Yet, Oscar stayed. I couldn’t believe it--I had written a similar scene in my novel!
As an artist, I am aware of how and why myths and stories are created in cultures throughout the world to help us through difficult times. I treasure them and hold them close, recognizing the power they have to elicit our deepest emotions. Butterflies hold some power to make us stop whatever we are doing when we see one and to point and smile. I call them flying flowers. But the monarch is unique among all butterflies and insects in that they migrate thousands of miles, like a bird or a whale. This king of butterflies is a messenger to the gods and holds the spirit of our beloved, recently departed.
Or so the myths say.