Symbolism of Dragonfly in Literature
In literature, a dragonfly as symbolism has inspired art, stories, and many literary contents throughout history. Dragonflies have been around for 300 million years and continue to enchant the writing and scientific communities. While dragonflies have no resemblance to the mythical dragon, the name must have been inspired by Christian legend. The name was adopted from the Romanian language, which means the devil’s horse or devil’s fly or a dragon. In the 15th century, they were called adderbolt for their shape, which also means a poisonous snake. Below are a few major symbols of dragonflies.
Dragonfly, as a symbol of transformation, means not only change but also a reminder that change is imminent. The changes or transformations may occur in a person’s life or relationship. In a person’s life, transformation may come as a lesson through a situation and experience that can lead a person from darkness to the light. In Christianity, the dragonfly as a symbol for transformation also means a person’s change in character through the help of Jesus Christ. According to Hopi and Pueblo, Native American tribes, dragonflies are symbols of transformation as well as healing. According to Japanese culture, the dragonfly represents transformation, happiness, and seasonal changes. Also, in Feng Shui, dragonflies are symbols of transformation as well as changing seasons.
Spotting and Landing
Spotting or seeing a dragonfly is a symbol for a message. It is believed that spotting a dragonfly is not an accident. Seeing a dragonfly unexpectedly symbolizes awareness, a right path, apart from receiving important news. Like an owl, a dragonfly has exceptional vision, making it a symbol of insight or observation into the supernatural. If a person sees a swarm of dragonflies while fishing, it is a sign of a good catch. In the United States, dragonflies are a symbol of fear as they can shut human senses or sew them. Killing one represents the death of a loved one. On the contrary, a dragon landing on a person means a fresh start in a relationship or a career. Similar to transformation, when a dragonfly lands on a person, it stands as a symbol of opportunity, which means seizing a new promising future.
Dragonfly, as a symbol for dreams, is related both emotionally and physically. If a person sees a dragonfly in his or her dreams, it can mainly represent transformation, as mentioned above. However, if seeing dragonflies combines with panic, it can be a warning of impending danger. If the person has a sense of peace while dreaming of dragonflies, it represents confidence and maturity in life or any transformation. When a person dreams of a dragonfly, it can also reflect his or her emotional state in their life or a message from their spirit guide.
Dragonflies have been associated with magical realms, especially fairies. Dragonflies, as a symbol of fairies, are mostly found in Celtic folklore, especially in the Highlands of Scotland. They can also be found in Irish and ancient European cultures. The mythical fairies resemble dragonflies with their elegant wings and flexibility, including their shimmering bodies. Also, the famous cartoon character Tinker Bell is inspired by dragonflies. Dragonflies, as symbolism for fairies, are meant to inspire people to be flexible and creative and also be ready for the coming changes.
Mythology and Folklore
In ancient Irish, Scottish, and English mythology, the dragonflies symbolize evil spirits. This belief has existed for centuries that dragonflies can steal people’s last breath, including children, if they are at the river or any water body. In Norse mythology, dragonflies are symbols of Goddess Freya, who is the goddess of love, war, and fertility. Dragonflies are symbols of swiftness and activity in most Native American tribes and are revered the same as wolves and bears. Also, the Navajo tribe believes dragonflies represent water.
In Hopi and Tlingit tribes, dragonflies represent healing and are carved on rock paintings and totems. According to Chinese folklore, dragonflies symbolize summer, transformation, and doubt. In one of the Japanese mythological stories, Emperor Jinmu dreamed that the island of Japan resembled a dragonfly as he looked down from the mountain top. According to Romanian mythology, dragonflies are symbols of evil and dark magic that had been sent from the devil. In Swedish culture, a swarm of dragonflies is warning of a nearing tragedy.
Similar to owls, dragonflies also represent ancient wisdom due to their pre-historic existence. The dragonfly as symbolism of ancient wisdom, is also connected to transformation and resilience. Among many species, dragonflies with iridescent blue wings represent ancient wisdom and also mean loyalty when seen in dreams or touched. It can also represent a change in nature or weather. Dragonfly’s wisdom also means the transformation or evolution of a person’s soul in the afterlife.
Dragonflies are symbols of beauty as they are poised and graceful fliers. In their appearance, they are colorful with transparent shiny wings, almost resembling a fairy or fairies as per Celtic mythology. Apart from being the inspiration for art and literature, dragonflies are used as jewelry and other designs. Dragonflies combine beauty with strength as they can flap their wings 30 times in a minute. Dragonflies are particularly interesting to watch on open land as, first, their wings which are iridescent, appear strikingly colorful when they are seen in the sunlight.
Examples of Dragonfly as Symbolism in Literature
The Dragonfly by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Today I saw the dragonfly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.
The above example is one of the best poems written by Lord Alfred Tennyson. Here dragonfly is a symbol of beauty and mystery, also similar to fairies.
After the Dragonflies by WS Merwin
Dragonflies were as common as sunlight
hovering in their own days
backward forward and sideways
as though they were memory
now there are grown-ups hurrying
who never saw one
and do not know what they
are not seeing
the veins in a dragonfly’s wings
were made of light
the veins in the leaves knew them
and the flowing rivers
the dragonflies came out of the color of water
knowing their own way
when we appeared in their eyes
we were strangers
they took their light with them when they went
there will be no one to remember us
In this poem, dragonflies represent transformation and beauty, as the poet describes the dragonflies’ wings, agility, and even a closer look. The ending of the poem symbolizes dragonflies as wisdom and death as they take light from the creatures they have met.
Fly, Dragonfly! By Joyce Sidman
Water nymph, you have
climbed from the shallows to don
Perched on a reed stem
all night, shedding your skin, you dry
your wings in moonlight.
Night melts into day.
Swift birds wait to snap you up.
Fly, dragonfly! Fly!
In this above poem, once again, the dragonfly represents grace and beauty and is compared to the mythical creature ‘water nymph’, otherwise known as fairies.
Lord Dragonfly by William Heyen
A friend dies
forcing the lilac to flower
In a corner of the field, wild
grapevice climbs a lightning
groove in the ash trunk
where are the dead?
In the field’s drizzle and gloom
the souls of spikes
In the above example, dragonflies are symbols of transformation. Also, the poem believes that his friend’s soul has transformed into a dragonfly and is glowing on the field after being set free.
On Dragonfly Wings: A Skeptic’s Journey to Mediumship by Daniela Norris
I can still only see a dragonfly, its wings as thin and light as silk and its body the color of rainbow. But on the wings of this dragonfly, I take off and fly, for my soul carries no weight. It is our bodies – these borrowed vehicles of flesh and bone – that weigh us down. Our spirits are eternally free and invincible.
In the above example, a dragonfly is a symbol of beauty, the afterlife, and freedom.
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock
“explore the similarities and differences between your views and those of others—and pay special attention to prediction markets and other Methods of extracting wisdom from crowds. Synthesize all these different views into a single vision as acute as that of a dragonfly. Finally, express your judgment as precisely as you can, using a finely grained scale of probability.”
In this example, the author highlights a dragonfly’s powerful vision, and it also symbolizes beauty. As this is related to observation and attention skills, dragonflies here represent ancient wisdom as well.
Chasing Dragonflies: A Natural, Cultural, and Personal History by Cindy Crosby
The world is a fascinating place. How could anyone be bored? Look around and there are a hundred amazing things to investigate.
Dragonflies are an endless pleasure.
According to the author, dragonflies here symbolize beauty and curiosity.