Death Butterflies: memento mori

Kenneth Dwain Harrelson at en.wikipedia

On my recent trip to the cemetery I saw many butterflies fluttering around appropriately dressed in mourning. I wasn’t able to get any decent photos so I had to borrow this image of a black swallowtail.

I love Halloween. Always have. It is my favourite holiday. But as a culture we’ve kind of de-clawed the meaning of Halloween iconography. Our culture is all about accumulating earthly delights and denying death so we are amused by skeletons, vaguely disturbed by our similarities with zombies and envious of vampires who have it all.

Some of the more devout Christians I’ve met here in Texas have seemed threatened by Halloween. I worked for one principal who banned its celebration at her school. I think she thought it was vaguely sinful or indulgent.

Yet, many religions use death imagery, memento mori, to remind us to be mindful of living a good life. Halloween as a holiday has the potential to be deeply religious or at least respectful of life itself.

Tomorrow the veils between the living and the dead will thin. In case of fear remember the butterfly. Our spirits can always be renewed. I saw these lovely Queen butterflies yesterday:

queen butterfly oct4queen butterfliesqueen butterfly oct2and here is a bee just because it makes me dizzy:

bee and aster oct


18 thoughts on “Death Butterflies: memento mori

  1. I love those queen butterflies, especially the speckles on the bodies. I have mixed feelings about Halloween. The zombie and romanticized vampire things get to me. I like your spin on it though, very much.


  2. Generally a photo looking down on an insect or looking at its back is not very interesting. But for some reason I really like your photo looking down on the back of the honey bee. Maybe it’s because of the symmetry with the bee, the petals and the leaves, whatever, it just really works for me.


  3. Those photographs are stunning. Wait. Have I written that here 45 times already? (But they are.)

    I grew up a long time ago but back then, death was something to be hidden from the children and frail elderly, a word that was never uttered aloud, and even the euphemisms were spoken sotto voice. It certainly conveyed the impression to me as a child that something vaguely but deeply frightening was going on. Perhaps that is why I now deeply admire Dia de los Muertos practices. They seem both respectful of and are yet putting death into a proper balance with life.


    1. Thanks again. Dia de los Muertos really speaks to me. I love the playfulness of so many of the images. Hurrah for skeletons and the lovely Catrina. I love the idea of remembering instead of denying. As a tradition it has some depth. I was so excited to see Mexican marigolds this year at my local grocery store I nearly bought one.


  4. I like the more religious traditions behind All Hallows’ Eve…I really enjoyed being in Puerto Vallarta for the Dia de los Muertos last year. Here in the USA it has become to commercial for me taste and strayed far from its Christian roots.
    From Wikipedia, “Halloween or Hallowe’en a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. Within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows’ Eve revolves around the theme of using ‘humor and ridicule to confront the power of death’.”
    The bee on the daisy : ) too cute!


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