Book Reviews

What people have to say about the book
The Spirit of Butterflies:
Myth, Magic and Art

Professor Lincoln P. Brower, Research Professor of Biology, Sweet Briar College, Distinguished Service Professor of Zoology Emeritus, University of Florida:

“….it is artistically spectacular and historically important, as well as beautifully written….in short a major contribution to culture.”

Edward Spevak, chief Life Sciences Officer, Butterfly Kingdom, Hilton Head, S.C., writes for American Zoological Association:

The Spirit of Butterflies is both pleasing to the eye and satisfying to the mind. It is a beautiful book that is full of images, myths, and stories related to butterflies and the occasional moth. …Ms. Manos-Jones attempts to cover the entire range of relationships that humans have had with butterflies from the oldest known depictions of butterflies found in a wall painting in a shrine excavated from the Anatolian plateau dated from 6500 b.c. to present day advertisements of Absolut Vodka bottle composed of sulphur butterflies. Traditional beliefs surrounding butterflies from the Minoans and Egyptians to the Aztecs and Chinese are related in well-written prose alongside photos and drawings of butterfly masks of the Bwa people of Burkino Faso, Hope kachina dolls of Poli Mana, the Butterfly Maiden, and mosaics from Pompeii……….Ms. Manos-Jones final chapter emphasizes the importance of conserving butterflies and how various individuals and groups are working to help butterflies. Butterfly gardens are an excellent way for individuals to become involved with butterfly conservation……This is a book I wish there were more of, as I was completely enthralled by the images and the text, and kept thinking about ways of using them to get other people excited about butterflies and their conservation. This is a book that would appeal to anyone interested in butterflies, education, art, history or culture……While I was at The Bronx Zoo, I met the author of this book a couple of times in the Butterfly Zone. Maraleen Manos-Jones is a woman who has seen butterflies in every guise and whose daily life is filled with the spirit of butterflies. Hers is a book that nurtures the human spirit as well as displaying its depth.”

Dr. Kurt Johnson, co-author of Nabokov’s Blues:

“You’ll be happily surprised and enchanted…..Exceeding the breadth of its title, the book actually treats the cultural significance of butterflies through history. This is no small feat. Butterflies have been taken by many cultures to inculcate hope, rebirth, transformation and transcendence, matters at the heart of mankind’s internal concern for many millennia…….You’ll probably be surprised that concerning this topic, you ‘didn’t know the half of it’……….Ms. Manos-Jones brings to this book a well-informed knowledge both of butterflies and world environmental issues……as an environmentalist associated with the important Michoacan Reforestation Fund – a premier conservation group working to protect Monarch butterfly overwintering habitats in Mexico…..This book can be recommended wholeheartedly to the general reader and informed butterfly enthusiast alike…..”

Gift Books: The Year’s Best in Parade Magazine, November 19, 2000, written by Herbert Kupferberg, chooses the book The Spirit of Butterflies: Myth, Magic and Art as one of the year’s best.

“Ancient civilizations turned them into goddesses; others (such as our own) made them models for jewelry and other precious objects. Their history in human affairs is recounted in this amply researched, brightly illustrated book.”

Rea Lubar Duncan, in The Waterbury Sunday Republican, and in The Danbury News-Times, December 10, 2000:

“The author…has spent nearly thirty years researching, collecting (she never kills them or puts them under glass) and living with butterflies. …..And she lectures at museums, garden clubs, environmental groups and universities, including Harvard, on the airy beauties……Although Manos-Jones writes of the butterfly as a sacred ancient symbol of goddesses and gods, she also rivetingly tells how it has been, is now, an embodiment of human love, both spiritual and sexual, and how its metamorphosis still bespeaks rebirth and the immortality of the soul to peoples of the world. She is not ponderous. Her anecdotes are funny, touching, inspirational……The first woman to encounter this hibernation area …50 million monarchs which overwinter 11,000 feet up in the mountains of Mexico…..she is part of the Michoacan Reforestation fund…400,000 trees have been planted to keep the monarchs company.”

Ron Berthel, for The Associated Press in The Desert Sun, December 12, 2000:

“Unusual Books Provide Perfect Gifts: Butterflies flutter about in The Spirit of Butterflies: Myth, Magic and Art by Maraleen Manos-Jones. …. This survey of the history of the beautifully fragile insect’s use in fashion, art, jewelry and literature contains 175 illustrations, most in color…. Examples of the butterfly motif include a 19th century bridal robe, a vodka print ad, a Bolivian rug, a 17th century Japanese music stand, paintings by Whistler and Degas, ……and a 250-year-old porcelain cup.”


“Despite the fact that The Spirit of Butterflies: Myth, Magic and Art is a gorgeous volume containing numerous photographs and illustrations, to categorize it as just an art book would be far too limiting. Jones has spent nearly 30 years researching, collecting and cataloging an enormous amount of material on the historical significance of the butterfly in various cultures around the world. From myths and legends to artistic renderings to ceremonial uses, butterflies have maintained a spiritual quality that transcends time. Having occupied our planet for roughly 75 million years, the butterfly has been the symbol of love, hope, death, and rebirth. The ancient Greeks used the word “psyche” interchangeably between butterfly and soul. The Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar used the butterfly as his emblem; they were personally symbolic for great artists and writers like James Whistler and Vladimir Nabokov. They’ve appeared in paintings, poetry, jewelry, and fashions. With more than 150 full color images, Maraleen Manos-Jones gives us a fascinating tour of their cultural impact along with her inspiring reflections as a loving caretaker of her own butterfly garden in Brooklyn, New York.”