Moth Symbolism & Meaning- The Ultimate Guide

Moth Symbolism & Meaning 

What Does a Moth Symbolize?-An Overview

Moths are paraphyletic insects. Paraphyletic means something which has descended from a given ancestor or ancestors but does not include all the descendent.

Did you know that there are at least 1,60,000 species of moth, several of which have yet to be described?

Do Moths Symbolize Something?

As we know, various animals, birds, and insects symbolize something in different cultures. For example, lions symbolize courage and grandeur in various cultures. Cats are symbolic of rebirth and resurrection. The indifferent furry creatures are known to have nine lives.

Similarly, do moths symbolize something as well? Unsurprisingly, yes!

Moths, similar to many creatures, symbolize different things and meanings in different cultures and places.

Do you want to know more about moth symbolism? If yes, let us learn together.

Throughout several cultures, moths are symbolic of different things. Most common moth symbolism is a mystery, death, mystery of afterlife, etc. Let us discuss different cultures in a sequential manner now.

Native American Moth Symbolism

Many people of the Native American culture consider moths as a symbol of resurrection, death, life, and even change. They also associate moths with a transformation since change leads to a transformation of some sort or another. 

The Blackfeet Indians also consider moths as symbolic of sleep and the souls of the dead. Considering moths are nocturnal beings, they are also associated with the importance of dreams and nighttime. They also teach people to admire and embrace the darkness of rich nature with open arms.

Moth Symbolism in Movies and Shows

Moths are used many a time to represent a character’s dark side. Some popular movies like The Silence of the Lamb have entrenched the picture of a moth in our minds for eternity.

The famous 1991 movie hosts a character named Buffalo Bill. The book that inspired the movie had Black Witch Moth, whereas the movie displays Death’s Head Hawkmoth.

The very name is bound to give you an idea. Buffalo Bill uses the pupa of the Black Witch Moth as his calling card.

There are three main stages of growth of a moth, namely, larva, pupa, and final moth form. This represents the change and growth of the moth.

Similarly, in the movie, the pupa is symbolic of change. All three main characters undergo change and transformation, and the moth is symbolic of that.

Symbol of Moths in Christianity

The Bible, the religious book of Christians, talks of moths many a time. Moth symbolism holds great significance in Christianity. “Man decays like a rotten thing, Like just a garment that is moth-eaten”, says the Bible. There are more references to moths in the Bible.

At one point, Isiah says that “they” will be eaten up by moths like a garment. This makes it obvious that moths are referred to as evil organisms.

The Bible uses moths to talk about annihilation in different words as well. Therefore, we know that moths hold quite a significance in Christianity and the Bible, but they are mostly considered harmful and unfriendly.

Moth Symbolism in Egypt

Have you heard of Sethramoth? The word Sethramoth comes from the ancient Egyptian gods- Seth, Ra, and Osiris. The Egyptians believed that moths were the carriers of souls. Seth and Osiris were brothers.

Osiris symbolizes the soul’s journey to another world. Seth, on the other hand, was said to be the strongest Evil God at the time. Ra, on the other hand, is believed to have been successful in combining all other Gods at the time to create another powerful god.

In the ancient Egyptian culture, therefore, moths were considered to be a bad omen and forbearer of death and disaster.

Celtic Moth Symbolism

In Celtic mythology, the moth has usually been compared to the symbolism of butterflies. While today, some people think that moths and butterflies are the same, many people of the older times not only knew they were different from each other but also considered them representatives of two entirely different qualities.

For example, on the one hand, where butterflies were considered to be beautiful, delicate, and admirable creatures, moths, on the other hand, were considered symbols of death and decay.

Unlike butterflies who were admired, moths were despised. This has a lot to do with the fact that butterflies are usually of different colors, are beautiful looking, and have different shapes and sizes sometimes. Moths, on the other hand, are not as visually appealing as butterflies. 

Moth symbolism in the Japanese Culture

Initially, the people of Japan didn’t consider moths and butterflies to be different; however, this differentiation was made later and is followed to date by some people.

While some people distinguish between the two, that is, butterflies and moths today, it is difficult to say about things written during the time when the two were considered the same.

Due to the non-recognition of the two as separate before, it has become difficult to ascertain today which symbolic representation is referring to butterflies and which one is referring to moths. 

However, following the descriptions, one finds out that one of them is being referred to as beautiful, colorful, magical, and so on, whereas the other is being described as reminding of death, decay, lifeless, scary, and so on.

Readers have concluded that since butterflies are more beautiful and colorful, the former description is referring to butterflies, and the latter describing it as scary and unpleasant to look at is about moths.

Symbols of Moths in Indian Films

A famous Indian film from the 1950s talks about “ShamaParwana” (light and the moth). The ability of a moth to be fixated upon light is explored in the film.

Where most beliefs and cultures talk negatively of moths, calling moth symbolism representative of death, decay, disaster, loss, and bad luck, this song somehow romanticizes the connection between a moth and the light by comparing it to the two lovers, one of whom is attracted towards the other.

This proves that not all cultures or aspects of life look upon moths as a sign of destruction or death.

Moth Power Animal

Moths are considered power animals or creatures because of several features that make them different from other organisms. Moths are blessed with the ability to move freely in the dark and shadow.

Moths are also considered symbols of transformation. Apart from these features, moths are perceived to be power animals because they are good at confusing their enemies.

Not only can moths find light and become fixated on it, but they can also hear spoken and unspoken messages. Imagine being blessed with the ability to hear messages, both said and unsaid. Wouldn’t that make you feel powerful as well?

Moth Totem Animal

A totem is a natural thing or living creature that has spiritual reference and significance in a particular culture. A moth is perceived to be of high spiritual significance in many cultures.

Some cultures perceive it to be symbolic of change and growth, of transformation. Therefore, if a moth approaches a person of a particular culture, they consider it an indication of a transformation that is about to take place.

Moth Spirit Animal

Moths are spirit animals who are attracted by light. While some species of moths do repel light, others are drawn toward this. This nature of moths indicates the spirit of the two types of people who live around us.

While some people remain fixated on problems and constantly push themselves into darkness, others try to find the light or good in every situation.

Moths teach humans to remember that when surrounded by difficulties, it is important to stay determined and look for the light, that is, the solution, which is almost always present somewhere near.

Moth Tattoo Meaning

Since moths have different relevance in different cultures, there is no one meaning for moth tattoos as well.

Depending on the belief of the cultural belonging of a person, a moth tattoo can be symbolic of transformation and growth, or it could be symbolic of poor luck and death. It depends upon the person getting a tattoo, which reference he associates it with.

Moth Encounters and Omen

Several ancient cultures have treated moths as symbolic of disaster, bad luck, death, and decay. People of these cultures considered encountering a moth as a bad omen.

Some of the descendants of the people of these cultures still consider seeing or being touched by a moth a bad omen. As a result, when a moth touches their body or comes close to them, they feel anxious and threatened.

On the other hand, people of some cultures look at moths as symbols of growth and positive transformation. These people celebrate moth encounters as they consider them an indication of change.

What Does it Mean When a Moth Lands on you?

The most common, practical, and sensible meaning is that the moth was on its way to someplace and it decided to have a little rest after landing on you.

However, cultural beliefs and practices have led people to overthink the landing of moths on human bodies. People derive positive and negative meanings of moth landing based on their cultural beliefs.

Some people feel afraid and think something bad is awaiting them since a moth, which is a symbol of destruction and death landed on them, while the others think that the moth landing on them is an indication of some good news or positive change approaching. They take it as an indication to trust their intuition and check their surroundings as well.

Moths evolved earlier than butterflies, but due to their close connection and resemblance in looks, butterflies became more popular, and there came a trend to pit moths against butterflies.

But one should not be bitter towards moths. After all, it is not their fault that they are not as colorful as butterflies.

How Did Moth Symbolism Become a Thing? What Led to its Participation in Traditional Beliefs and Cultures Across the World?

You will realize that moths are a part of almost all traditional beliefs and cultures. Today we do not talk much about moths, but in the earlier times, they appear to have been an important part of traditional beliefs. 

You may wonder how moth symbolism found its way into the folklores. Well, the answer to this is pretty simple. Before the invention of TV and mobile phones or computers, people did not have many options for pastimes.

Most folklores exist from a time when even electricity was not available. Since the darkness left people with no choice except stop their work, they started spending time together. 

The human mind is easily bored and is constantly looking forward to finding some sort of entertainment. Therefore, as a result of several people sitting together every day with nothing to do gave birth to the concept of storytelling.

Every day, people started meeting and narrating stories. Some excellent stories became a part of traditional groups and started being passed on to the generations to come.

Such stories are not real, and there may or may not be logic behind the various happenings of the tales. But since they have been narrated for so long, they become a part of the beliefs and customs of the group.

This means that just because moths have been described as scary, dangerous, destructive, and symbolic of death and decay, it does not mean they are so. This should not excite you to start harming moths.

Moths are easily findable insects, and since they are easily found in great numbers, it became easy to incorporate them into the day-to-day life stories.

They are often pitted against similar-looking creatures, called butterflies, because of their resemblance. But at the same time, some types of butterflies are extremely beautiful, unique, and eye-pleasing.

It is a human tendency to make comparisons. We compare our lives to that of someone else’s all the time.

Apart from life, we also tend to compare our material possessions with that of others. Not only this, but we also tend to compare the natural physical feature of one human being with those of another, including ourselves. 

Naturally, in the old times, people started to make comparisons between moths and butterflies. Given the superficial and materialistic creatures that humans have always been, they started addressing butterflies, who are physically more beautiful as beauty, and moths, who are deemed to be less appealing than the beast.

Apart from physical appearances, there were several other reasons why moths are often described as matters relating to negative energies. 

Humans weave stories and beliefs based on their experiences. Sometimes they pick up ideas from the experience of other fellow humans also.

Since storytelling and literary works such as poetry writing, story writing, drama, etc., were adopted as a mode of pastime and gradually became a mode of expression, it naturally occurred to humans that they could represent their angst against moths through these works.

Moths cause damage and loss to human beings in many ways. The aftermath of the loss caused by moths became the way of expression for humans in their works. Gradually, this expression became a part of their beliefs and customs.

The various problems caused to humans by moths are:

  1. They ruin clothes- any clothing item derived from animals is moths’ favorite. They love to nibble on fabrics such as wool, silk, fur, etc. This pinches people’s pockets. Back then, woolen clothes were not as easily available as they are now. It would have been even more difficult to replace clothes or get rid of the moths from the clothes. 
  2. Skin problems and irritation- while most moths cannot bite since they do not have a mouth, some of them can sting. Some moths can also cause skin irritation and allergies to people. Some moths can even cause a condition called dermatitis. It does not feel as bothersome with insect repellants and ointments available easily these days but back then, when there were a lot more farms and grasslands and almost no medicines or ointments, you can imagine how difficult it would have been to treat those skin problems.
  3. Damage to plants and flowers- while caterpillars, the larvae of butterflies and moths, can chew on stems and plant leaves, mature moths usually rely on flower petals and nectar for food, causing harm to them. 

These problems caused by moths to humans must have inspired them to relate moth symbolism to decay and death. Since moths can ruin things ranging from plants to clothes, people of those times must have felt compelled to write about moths in a negative light.

Moth Symbolism is also Interpreted in Different Ways When it Comes to Dreams in Various Cultures. Let us Briefly Discuss How. 

  • People of some cultures interpret seeing moths in their dreams as representative and symbolic of change, growth, and transformation. Some cultures are said to relate moths to growth and positive transformation. Naturally, when they see a moth or more than one moth in their dreams, they find it symbolic of growth and positive changes.
  • People of some other cultures believe otherwise. They believe that their dreaming about moths is symbolic of destruction. Because moth symbolism is often related to death, decay, and even moths being carriers of souls of the dead, pets of the lords of death, and so on, naturally, some people feel anxious if they dream about moths.


Moth symbolism, like the symbolic representation of any other creature or object, is subject to various things. Some of them are traditional beliefs and customs. Some could also be the nature of the creatures in question. As we know, moths are curious, mysterious, and full of mischief. This causes them to have an ill repute.

However, this does not mean that it is so everywhere, and it also doesn’t mean that it will stay that way forever. As we have seen above, what something symbolizes depends a lot on how one interprets it.

For example, on the one hand, where countless mythological stories and narrations, books, and folk tales have described moths as dangerous, leading to a lifelessness, responsible for causing decay and damage, on the other hand, a Bollywood movie made one of the sweetest songs in the history of Indian cinema based on the same moth. 

The moth that is believed to be a carrier of the soul of the dead is referred to as symbolic of suffering and fear and is used to describe the sweet but notorious bond between two lovers. 

Moths symbolize different things in different cultures. How you perceive them, depends upon you. Don’t let age-old beliefs shake your way of thinking, and try developing an interpretation of your own as to what are the things that moths symbolize.

More Read: Hummingbird Symbolism & Meaning


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