The Sphinx Moth, Butterfly and Moth Totems


blue butterfly

By Phoenix of Elder Mountain –  A Great Ash Sphinx Moth visited Elder Mountain two years ago, and then I had a dream about a year ago in much detail, of the Brotherhood of the Sphinx (which doesn’t exist in the occult, magic or esoteric, nor middle ages documents when most writing was collected and done). I received some information about this ancient cult from the dreaming, so I decided to write about the symbolism (totem) of the Sphinx Moth, Butterfly and Moth today.

We have two symbols here to work with, the Sphinx and the Moth. Like its butterfly cousin, the moth shows the symbolism of transformation at various levels. How this equates to our life, is we are in a “longer” cycle of change (not a short one, month or year, but several years). I work with cycles and symbolism together and found over the decades that we enter a 4 year cycle, an 8 year cycle or a 12 year cycle of change. Anything longer than that is a life stage cycle like youth, adult or elder.

Butterfly and Moth as a totem will come in that cyclical journey pretty much in season (but not in winter). The differences between moth and butterfly are – a 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. Butterflies and Moths have many things in common, like toad and frog, but its their differences that helps us in totem or symbolic work when working with nature as our guide and teacher in shamanic languages.

When working with Moths and Butterfly, the main root symbol is transformation, that you are in a season of growth (struggle). The second root symbol is their color:

1. Colorful Butterflies, 2. Gray & Brown Shades of Moths;
3. Predominantly Black, 4. Pure White or shades of White.

white b

When working with the totem, colors for moths and butterfly become important with the progression of your issue and why the totems shown up. For example, you start to notice colorful butterflies in your space everyday for a week, the colorful means movement, energy is beginning to build up a change. If you take note and pay attention, the beauty of the soul symbolism generally means an emotional issue is surfacing.

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 the most active part of your butterfly/moth cycle. Most butterflies have bright colors on their wing and the internal (nocturnal moths) will be darker in color. I was into some heavy healing for about 8 years and black moths and black butterflies were constantly with me over those years. Since that time, I have not seen one black butterfly in the last 6 years.

colorfulMany day-flying moths can also be brightly colored so check with your butterfly and moth resource about specifics. As a totem or symbol (for a day or weekend), the butterfly can be assess of what changes your going through, by what time of the moon cycle it appears to you. Remember for animals, birds or insects to be an actual totem, it has to make eye contact and full presence when it connects with you, otherwise you’re just fishing for totems. Let them come to you, its meaningful as a teaching that way.

During a moon cycle, the new moon totem will show you that your at a new level in your longer cycle, full moon means release and letting go, and balsamic or dark moon phase is internal and dream information will come. Butterflies have bright colors on their wings and represent our waking and active life involving others (in relationship) as a totem, sign.

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 1Try 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).

The Sphinx Moth that visited us here, was in it’s full adult stage, so, the emotional changes as a symbol or totem showed what is occurring at at “fullness stage” this moon cycle, nearing completion for the month, in the context of moth’s Birth, Transformation, Death and Rebirth teachings (totem). I generally have spring and summer moths as guides, but butterfly as a totem. These are very different.

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) until Autumn, showing that the energy of fertility (growth) was going to occur and I always took note. Now I can just enjoy their arrival in my space. Only once in a while does something out of balance occur and an odd buttery or moth will appear out of their natural season and come up to me in my space. I then pay attention rather than just enjoy their beauty.

On the first day of the New Moon of Summer I went to the Moon Medicine circle at 6:20 am and a big black moth flew into the circle with me, giving me all the information I needed. It played out within the next two days and then the totem began to change around me over the next two weeks. After my monthly Moon cycle experience, then the black moth left, and a few days later all types of colorful and different types of brown and black or reddish, brown and white butterflies showed the totem information and then re-balanced.

The Sphinx Moth

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

The Sphinx Moth

The Moth that visited has the word Sphinx, and this is important, so we go to the oldest Sphinx, which is in Egypt. This Spinx in Egypt wears a scarf, the scarf symbolizes the ancient symbols of shape-shifting and metamorphosis, what links the human between its world of the physical realities and energetic realities (realms, gates, non-physical life of our dreaming and eternal life which in real truth, is generally shadow), so we must learn to be constant in that threshold of these two worlds. Before the Great Sphinx, the symbolism was shamanic, in the lion/ess or griffin, destroying the dark (or enemies).

With the Sphinx Moth, it is a very 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.

These 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.

White-lined sphinx moth

As a symbol this transfers 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 to practice this, and when one then goes into flight (taking actions) they have lots of practice to deal with emotional situations.

Learn how to become good at maneuvering emotional confrontation or experiences, with ‘awareness’ both in your environment and your inner environment, we gain control over our space both energetically and physically when we are healthy or learning (as a practice). Sometimes we have to pull back and sometimes share our intense feelings in either anger or calm, both are important.

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 (for changes ‘to squeeze’);
3 To give warning before you get angry or set boundaries;
4 Act with Precision (actions or flight);
5 Flight increases in Dreams.

If you wish to understand more and work with Phoenix with totems of any kind, she offers some short term once a moth session in particular seasons of summer and autumn. As a shaman, she is not only a gatekeeper (activator) of such energies, but also helps you learn the subtle by increasing your spiritual practices and sobriety. Write for more information:


Source: The Sphinx Moth, Butterfly and Moth Totems

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