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Dragonfly Symbolism


The Fascinating World Of Dragonfly Symbolism

It’s no wonder that dragonfly symbolism plays a role in so many cultures in the world. Just watch a dragonfly for a few minutes and you can begin to understand why.  In different times and places, the dragonfly has been associated with both good and evil. Its very appearance can be somewhat whimsical on the one hand, or slightly frightening on the other. The dragonfly is essentially a fairly large flying insect that does good in the sense that one of its favorite pastimes is eating mosquitoes. Artist’s renditions of Jurassic-era scenes often show huge dragonflies circling amongst ferns and other prehistoric plants. There were giant dragonflies in existence in those times. Fossil evidence has confirmed that. Today’s dragonflies are not as large, but certainly large enough to be noticed.

Is The Dragonfly To Be Feared? – Your thoughts on first encountering a dragonfly usually have nothing to do with dragonfly symbolism, but rather a question,  – does it bite or sting?  An insect of dragonfly size would seem capable of delivering either a painful bite or an awesome sting. Even though its scientific name is Odonta, derived from “tooth jawed”, the dragonfly neither bites nor stings. What appears to be a huge stinger actually is not. The appendage is associated with the dragonfly’s reproductive process, it is a clasper. The dragonfly’s larvae can deliver a painful bite, but the adult dragonfly does not bite, and if one should actually alight on you, savor the moment.  It will do you no harm. As an adult, the dragonfly will only live a month or two, busily skimming the surfaces of ponds, and not really having the time, nor apparently the inclination, to do some of the bad things folklore once attributed it to.

Positive Dragonfly Symbolism – Dragonfly symbolism is particularly prevalent in Japan, where there is great respect for and admiration of the insect. The dragonfly is a symbol of summer and autumn, and is also symbolic of the warrior class, and the courage and strength associated with that class. It is also a symbol of happiness, a symbol shared by the Chinese, who also consider the dragonfly a symbol of good luck, harmony and prosperity.

Other cultures, including the Native Americans, associate the dragonfly with purity, swiftness, and happiness. This is not too surprising as the dragonfly is a creature of both the wind and of the water. It can hover, looking for all the world like a small helicopter, and in an instant, dart quickly from one place to another. If it comes near you it will appear to study you with its 30,000 eyes, and then proceed on its way with a kind of “I’m OK, you’re OK” attitude. With all those eyes, you’d think the dragonfly would have excellent vision. Actually, it doesn’t see well at all.

Not So Positive Symbolism – While dragonfly symbolism among the Native Americans and East Asians focused on positive and uplifting ideas and concepts, the Europeans often took the symbolism in a far different direction. The Norwegians called the dragonfly an “Eye Poker”, the Portuguese an “Eye-snatcher. Other names the Europeans gave the undeserving dragonfly were Hell’s mare, horse biter, and adder’s servant. In some cultures the dragonfly was either an agent of the devil, or simply a bogeyman of sorts, whose mission was to punish wicked or badly behaving children as they slept.

It would seem that some of these cultures never really took the time to observe the dragonfly going about its business. Watching a dragonfly glide across the surface of a pond (some would say it seems to “slide” across the surface) it is hard to image dragonfly symbolism as being anything but something positive.

Besides devouring mosquitoes, the dragonfly is a powerful tool for meditation. If you have a pond, may dragonflies be your guests on warm summer days. Maybe one will rest on your outstretched hand for a moment.

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