Next time you look at a dragonfly, pay close attention and try to take in what the dragonfly is all about. Look at its wings―as if made of soft transparent muslin, fluttering at the slightest hint of the wind. Then watch the dragonfly take flight from the flowers by the river bed that it rests on, and zoom past into the air. Hear the buzzing and wheezing sound that it makes as it passes you by. You might have just seen the dragonfly as just another species in nature, and yes, it is that, but it is also a lot more to the dragonfly than what meets the mere eye. There is a lot of symbolism that is associated with it and that is exactly what we will be studying in the following article.
There are several cultures that associate the dragonfly with varied concepts and philosophies. Let us take a look at some of these.
Origins of the Name
The dragonfly belongs to the odonata family. The word 'odonata' is a Greek word which means tooth. This was given to the odonata family because it was believed that the odonates had teeth. Though it was later found that they have mandibles that they use to crush their prey with. The name dragonfly stuck because it was believed that they were dragons first.
Mirrors the Subconscious
The dragonfly is associated with the subconscious and the thoughts that go with it. It dwells above the water surface and just as the water ripples and moves with the slightest touch, it is said that our subconscious state of mind also does the same. Dragonfly symbolism holds that the subconscious mind has the ability to let deeper thoughts resurface to the fore, just as when the dragonfly skitters across the surface of the water and makes it ripple from its calm state. Thus, it makes us think of the deep thoughts that have been lying in the mind's folds and contemplate about them in detail. It allows us to take certain decisions regarding those points as well.
Looking Beyond the Surface
The other symbolism associated with this insect is the fact that the same action of it scurrying across the surface of the water and making it ripple in the process, is a way of reminding us to not look at anything from merely the surface but go deeper. This philosophy is associated with self-realization.
Living Life to the Fullest
The dragonfly has a very short life and it does a lot in that rather short time. Its short life is symbolic of the quality of life that it leads and what it tells us to do through it all. The dragonfly is symbolic of how well we should lead our lives no matter how short our life is. For that to happen, one needs to be aware of their goals, the direction that they are going to be taking in life, and the things needed to be done to achieve what they've set out to. It is thus symbolic of the hedonist attitude of living life maximally well and to the fullest.
There are several other myths and lores associated with the meaning of the dragonfly, especially in Japan and Native America. Dragonfly symbolism runs deep into the very culture of the land. In Japan, the dragonfly is associated with the seasons of summer and autumn and is the very totem of victory, power, and agility. That is why Samurai warriors use it as a symbol of strength and power. In native America, it signifies happiness, purity, and speed because it is an insect that dwells excellently well in both water and land. In China, the symbolism extends to include qualities like prosperity, harmony, and a general good luck charm.
The dragonfly meaning runs deep and has a lot of myths and legends to support it. While these associations might not always be positive (as in the cultures of Europe and Australia), the dragonfly has started to become one of the most revered and symbolic totems around. Which is why there is a rise in the dragonfly tattoos these days because people want to freeze in time the very qualities that the creature is associated with.