Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Migration of the butterflies

Every year, between Christmas and New Year (New Year’s, if you’re American) butterflies migrate through our garden, flying northeast.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey occasionally land briefly on flowers and other plants, perhaps for a bit of refreshment, but they are soon on their way.

Every year we see them going, always in the last week of the year, but we never see them coming back.

Where do they come from, and where do they go to?

There is a story by Charles Williams, The place of the lion, which has a scene that these butterflies remind me of. In William’s book the Platonic archetypes begin to gather their antitypes into themselves. The world becomes aware of this when a lioness escapes from a circus to find and be drawn into the archetypal lion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen a butterfly collector notices a migration of butterflies, and follows them to see where they are going, and sees the mother and father of all butterflies, drawing all its children to itself.

And so this one-way migration reminds me of this story, one that I have read several times.

At this time of the year I am also reminded of another book by Charles Williams, War in heaven. That is because at Matins on Christmas Eve we sing the Polyeleon, the “many mercies”.

O give thanks unto the Lord for he is good, Alleluia. For his mercy endureth for ever, Alleluia

And one of the characters in War in heaven, a mild and inoffensive and innocent-seeming Anglican archdeacon, goes through the book singing that psalm to himself, while the villains are raging. And though they may do their worst, he just carries on singing:

Sihon, King of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth forever.

And Og the King of Bashan: for his mercy endureth forever.

And whenever we sing it, it gives me goosebumps.

And still I wonder where the butterflies go to every year, and why they never return.

I imagine they lay their eggs far southwest of here, and then fly north-east, leaving their children behind them. And their children must hatch out next year, and lay their eggs before leaving, and flying, flying, flying to the northeast, never to return. Perhaps there is a giant archetypal Platonic ideal of a butterfly, hovering somewhere over Madagascar, calling, calling, calling …

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One thought on “Migration of the butterflies

  1. Pingback: Butterflies and healing memories | Khanya

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