I love these butterflies - their migration story is simply amazing. Their arrival in Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz, California was always big news, much like the swallows returning to Capistrano.
Pacific Grove contains several habitat types including marine, littoral, pine forest and mixed oak woodland. The famed breeding habitat for the Monarch butterfly is situated in the southern part of town imbedded in residential neighborhoods in mixed oak forests. These Monarchs migrate 2000 miles to reach Pacific Grove after their summer in Canada, often soaring as high as 3000 meters. The black-and-orange butterflies spend the winter in the local Monterey Pine trees from Halloween until Valentine's Day each year. Residents of Pacific Grove help the butterfly's habitat by planting purple and yellow flowers, such as lantara, yellow aster, Pride of Madera, and Mexican Sage, in what are called Butterfly Gardens. City Ordinance No. 352 makes it a misdemeanor to kill or threaten a butterfly, punishable by a $1000 fine.
The Mariposas arrive around Hallowe'en time and stay until Valentine's Day - from Samhain to Imbolc. I find that so interesting. The descent into darkness and the return to life - caterpillar goes into cocoon darkness and stillness, then emerges into the light, a butterfly.
Samhain to Imbolc
Hallowe'en to Groundhog Day
Dark into Light
Light into Dark
The Wheel turns.
These beautiful butterflies also arrive in Mexico around the time of Hallowe'en - and are associated with The Day of the Dead, El Dia de los Muertos. According to traditional belief, the monarchs are the souls of ancestors who are returning to Earth for their annual visit.
El Dia in California was also a celebration - sugar skulls, marigolds, Ofrendas of immense beauty, food for the dead, incense. Not at all like anything I ever saw in New Jersey! I've always loved cemeteries and Death never scared me - I found it fascinating that so many people were so terrified of it that they never even spoke of it.
Or if they did, it was about how horrible it was.
I think that's one of the many things I love about the Mexican culture - Death is part of Life and Life is part of Death. There is no separation between the two - and I believe that their lives are much fuller than those who fear, shun and try to "cure" death and dying.
And look! Even La Catrina resembles La Mariposa!
I think not.