The dragonfly, known for their brightly colored wings, short lifespan, and life near the water, first started showing up around 300 million years ago, making them one of the oldest winged insects. Because of this, they have become a figure of myths and legends in different cultures all over the world, ranging from America, Europe, and all the way to Asia.
A lot of meanings have been attached to the dragonfly, such as maturity, change, and enjoying one’s life. If a dragonfly manages to land on your shoulder, it is a sign of transformation and good luck.
Symbolism of a Dragonfly Landing on You
They live short lives and shed their skins often, so a dragonfly landing on you is a reminder to live your life properly. Think deeply about what you’re doing, and whether or not you feel satisfied with how your life is going.
Tying into it being a symbol of transformation and change, a butterfly landing on you can also be a hint of future change in your life, or new beginnings.
Wish Being Granted
To the Chinese, a dragonfly landing on a person’s shoulder means that the gods are listening and may hear out a wish you have made.
Dragonfly Symbolism in Different Cultures
However, that is not all a dragonfly represents. Being so spread out throughout the world, and seen in so many stories, gave them a variety of symbols and meanings, depending on the culture or place.
There are multiple Native American stories featuring the dragonfly, who often take different roles in helping the tribe. They are a common motif in pottery, clothes, instruments, and jewelry. Some tribes, such as the Plains Indians, even use them as a sign to keep the danger away.
Many regard the dragonfly in awe, or reverence. The Pueblo tribe, for instance, see them as a medicine animal, called upon by a medicine man or woman to aid in healing. Killing them was a taboo.
In the Zuni tribe, there was a legend of a tribe that left to find better land after falling on hard times, not realizing that they left behind a young boy and girl. To cheer the girl up, the boy created a small doll out of grasses and other materials, and when it became alive the doll proceeded to go out and help them find food and favor with the gods. Through this, the dragonfly became a symbol of health, rain, and the coming of spring and summer
In regards to death, seeing the dragonfly is a sign that their loved one’s soul has not disappeared.
The dragonflies are used as a way to predict weather. If they are seen flying low, then that is a sign of rain. If it is high, then the day will be bright and sunny. If they fly at a medium height, then it will be overcast.
Judging from their artwork and literature, which often feature dragonflies, the Japanese hold the insects in high regard. The country is even called Akitsushima, or “Dragonfly Island”.
The dragonfly is seen as a symbol of victory to the samurai after noticing how it killed its prey- quickly and efficiently. They are even used to put on armor and helmets in order to give the wearer protection and strength.
This view is supported by legends, such as the one about an emperor that was bitten by a horsefly while out hunting. Before it could do so again, a dragonfly came down to kill it, impressing the emperor enough to name the area Akitsu-no, or “Dragonfly Plain.”
Dragonflies were also a protector of children, catching and eating the mosquitos in an area before they could bite and infect the child.
They also signalled autumn and the beginning of summer, as well as power and agility.
In Europe, contrasting with the more positive representations of other countries, the dragonfly often symbolizes something darker, with many stories and nicknames connecting them to needles, horses, and the devil.
To the Swedish, the dragonfly is called Skams besman, meaning ‘Devil’s Steelyard.’ Their bodies, if looked at a certain way, can resemble a weighting tool. Legend has it that the Devil uses them to weigh the purity of a person’s soul, signalled by a dragonfly circling around a person’s head. If evil was found inside, then the person may face future punishment or injury.
Because of this, the dragonfly has come to indicate an upcoming problem.
To the English, the dragonfly is used as a warning to young children. Their nickname, “Devil’s Darning Needle,” comes from the story saying how dragonflies come in the night, sewing the mouth and eyes of naughty children.
Other nicknames are “horse-stinger”, since they were often seen flying around horses, and “ear cutter.”
Romanian folk tales often connect the dragonfly to dark magic, considering how often the Devil shows up as an important figure.
One story said that the dragonfly was aborse of St. George, cursed to become a winged insect by the Devil after the man slayed a dragon. That is why the Romanian word for dragonfly translates to “Devil’s horse.”
Another speaks of the Devil himself turning into a dragonfly out of anger after being refused transportation by a fisherman.
Unlike many European countries, which attach negative meaning onto dragonflies, the insect has a more sacred role to Scandinavians, who associate them with Freya, the goddess of love. To them, dragonflies are a symbol of maidenhood and chastity.
To the Celts, the dragonfly’s iridescent wings, and life near the water makes it a creature of illusion and change. They are a symbol of seeing the truth, or breaking through delusion. Stories tell of fairies using them for transportation as a way to travel in the blink of an eye. Sometimes the dragonfly is even a fairy in disguise.
They were also connected to snakes, with many calling them Gwas y neidir, or “Adder’s servant.”
Other Dragonfly Symbolism
Dragonflies are also connected to death, or a means to communicate with the dead.
If they were seen after the passing of a loved one, then that means that they have already left the world. Sometimes it is a messenger, or the deceased person themselves, meant to give comfort and assurance to the surviving family and friends. Others see the insect as a channel to the afterlife.
Seeing a dead dragonfly, however, can both be a bad omen, or a sign that the person needs to add change into their life. They may have to step back and reevaluate their life, whether or not they must let something go, or shift a belief and way of thinking.
Finding a Dragonfly in Your House
A dragonfly coming into your home can offer protection, harmony, and good news. For example, if they come inside while a family member is sick, then that family member may get better. Killing or taking them out of the house may chase out the blessings they offer.
Seeing a Dragonfly in A Dream
A dragonfly showing up inside a dream may offer numerous interpretations, depending on what may be going on inside someone’s life.
The insect’s changeable nature, from the way it often shifts direction, could indicate a coming transformation, or a sign that the person may need to listen to their intuition as a way to solve a future problem. Or it may be a warning that the person will soon be going through a period of instability in their life, one that they must prepare for. Sometimes it means that a promise will be kept.
On a more negative note, it can also mean that somebody close to you is hiding the truth.
The dragonfly is an old insect with many meanings and stories in different cultures.
Since they embody transformation with their short lives and iridescent coloring, a dragonfly landing on you is both a reminder to live your life to the fullest, or a warning that something in your life will change.