|The cover artist was not an entomologist.|
I have recently been rereading the works of Whitley Strieber, and reading some of his newer books for the first time. Among this latter lot is The Afterlife Revolution (2017), about his perceived interactions with the spirit of his late wife, Anne. (So confident is Strieber that he is channeling her that she is listed as a coauthor despite having died in 2015!) A major theme of the book is a plethora of bizarre synchronicities involving white moths, which Strieber believes (plausibly, in my opinion) to have been orchestrated by Anne as a form of communication.
Some weeks after finishing The Afterlife Revolution (and discussing it with no one), I was talking with a Taiwanese business associate of mine about a mutual acquaintance whose brother-in-law had just died. She said that the date of the funeral was uncertain (as always in Taiwan, it would be necessary to wait for an astrologically auspicious day) but that it would certainly be no sooner than seven days after the death. When I asked why seven days, she said that it was traditionally believed that the deceased person would return on the seventh day.
"You mean the spirit will come back and check on the body, or what?"
"The person will return in a different form -- most often a moth, sometimes a butterfly."
Searching the Internet after our conversation, I found many references to the Chinese tradition that the soul of the deceased returns to his home on the seventh day after his death, but nothing about the soul's taking the form of a moth or butterfly. Perhaps this is a local Taiwanese idea? Anyway, it seemed significant that the idea should turn up in a conversation so soon after I had read The Afterlife Revolution.
I wonder how common this association is? I know Aristotle used the same Greek word to refer both to the soul and to the cabbage butterfly. (By coincidence, this same species of non-moth appears to have been chosen by Strieber's entomologically confused cover illustrator.)