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A Butterfly’s Beltaine

A Butterfly’s Beltaine

The below is the meditation/story I offered in preparation for Beltaine. Feel free to use any part of it with attribution.


You.  have been a caterpillar.

You have been not just any caterpillar, you have been a brightly black-and-chartreuse-striped caterpillar, chomping happily throughout your life, ever hungry, never satisfied, ever hungry, never full. Chomp. Chomp Chomping on the milkweed around you. You have been black and yellow, brightly striped. You have been a prize for birds, but you have lived. You emerged from your egg and you have been a caterpillar.


Remember what it was like, somehow remember, what it was like to have so many feet, such a mouth, such hunger.

And then…

One day, it all stopped.

Everything, it all just stopped.

The milkweed’s delicious leaves, and oh, how delicious and perfect and just exactly what you always wanted, just… stopped being important. Nothing was important except finding a place. Finding a place where you could attach yourself to the underside of a branch, hold on tight under the sheltering safety of the milkweed who had been so delicious for so long.

And then….well…. then you wound and wound and wound around your lovely striped self a lovely new thing. A lovely new thing. See, you made a lovely new thing, a light green, leaf-looking, lovely thing called a chrysalis.

And what was inside the chrysalis thing, the youness, the caterpillar you had been…well, it just stopped too. You just stopped.

Slowly, inexorably, ineffably, your body released itself to the wisdom of cells smaller than even you, when you had been a caterpillar, smaller than you could see.

Slowly, inexorably, ineffably, your body disappeared, didn’t it?

Not into thin air, no. The chrysalis still claimed the branch. The wisdom of your DNA was more than the wisdom of your caterpillar body. More than the wisdom of the gnawing hunger for the milkweed leaf or the desire for place.

But if you use your cells, if you ask the milkweed, perhaps it will tell you…

You died.

Well, you did not die. Life remained. Living, even remained. Urge and urge and urge to become and become and becoming something new. Just as you had stopped eating the delicious milkweed leaves, so too now you stopped being you.

Your many legs vanished. Your eyes, gone. Your gorgeous banded body disintegrated, even your most powerful engine, your mouth, all of it, all of the you who was, was gone.

Well, not gone. Not disappeared, exactly.

Still there. Still in the beautiful, light-green chrysalis. Still attached to the sheltering milkweed that had been your breakfast lunch dinner midnight snack.

But you became…no, you did not become…you un-became…what you would have called you disappeared.

And memory ceases here, because how can one remember such a thing as this, so I shall tell you.

You became like the first sea strike by lightning, bringing forth life where there had been only water, oxygen, and energy. You became the primordial. You became the beginning. Your being became a reminder…you became, in a word, mush. A sticky, viscous brilliance of genetic wisdom that only knew how to do one thing.

One thing.

Before, when you were the you you had known, the one thing was to eat, to eat and eat and eat. And then the one thing was to curl in upon yourself and build the great and delicate chrysalis.

But then the one thing began to be to make something new. Something altogether new.

What had been your you-ness was gone—legs, mouth, striped body, creeping ways and chomp chomp chomping mouth—all gone.

The one thing was no longer to chomp or to build, but to become.

No longer to build, but to become.

Those many, short, creeping legs did not grow into new, slender delicate legs. That chomp chomp chomping mouth did not grow into a gently spiraled proboscis. The body that had been yours did not grow into into a carapaced insect body and grow wings.


Everything was gone into the mush. Into the soup, the stew of life. There was no more you except that where there had been you, now there was mush.

Wise, brilliant, magical, miraculous mush.

Wise, brilliant, magical, miraculous mush that knew how to make delicate, tender legs for alighting on flowers or sitting on a leaf so gently.

Wise, brilliant, magical, miraculous mush that knew how to make a hard-edged insect body from itself, from the mush, from the DNA, so wise.

Wise, brilliant, magical, miraculous mush that knew how to make, oh goodness, what’s this? Knew how to make something altogether new. Not simply legs into new legs. Not just a mouth into another way to eat. Not just a body into a new body. But something from nothing.

Nothing but itself, the wise, brilliant, magical, miraculous mush that knew how to make wings. Wet, vulnerable, endangered wings.

And that mush was you. Well, it was sort of you. But mostly it was simply life doing what it does, making more life by destroying, munching, mushing what has come before it.

You did not sleep a caterpillar and wake up, crawling carefully out of your chrysalis, wet and cramped. The caterpillar knew nothing about flying or flowers or drinking water from the cupped beauty of foxglove. But you will know these things because the wise, brilliant, magical, miraculous mush has given you the desire for them.

You crawled so carefully, so tenderly out in search of sunlight. Sunlight and safety, a hard place to find. But you found it, walking tenderly on your new legs, feeling a breeze and the sunlight drying what is left of the wise, brilliant, magical miraculous mush from your wings as you pump them slowly, getting ready for flight.

Yes, wings.

You, my dear, have wings.

Slowly, slowly, slowly no…don’t go too fast, don’t let anyone pull your wings out too fast. Gently, gently, gently and with such delicate and determined persistence you open these wings, and soon you will discover what the mush taught you, what you learn yourself, what the caterpillar’s cells knew but the caterpillar who was you did not know.

You have only need of patience, safety, and desire until it is right to ask as the poet does, “What will you make of your one wild, precious life?”

You have wings, my dear. You are made to fly and drink and sip sweet nectar from the Shasta daisy, the threadleaf coreopsis, the coneflower….the sweet, sweet foxglove.

What is the taste of satisfaction? What is sweetness to you? What is good? Where, my dear winged one, will you go?

“What will you make of your one wild, precious life?”

***”What will you make of your one, wild, precious life? — line from “A Summer Day,” by Mary Oliver****

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