The dragonfly is a timeless icon. Dragonflies, much like sharks and horseshoe crabs, have some major prehistoric roots, dating back as far as 300 million years. And while our modern little dragonflies have cute wingspans of only two to five inches, old school dino dragonflies had wingspans up to five feet. Five feet. Imagine encountering that guy on your canoe ride across the lake.
The dragonfly, being so aged, became quite a prolific character throughout various mythologies. Across the world, dragonflies are woven into tall tales and folklore, with variations on the bejeweled bug’s meaning. To the Hopi, the dragonfly was a sign of healing and transformation, and for the Pueblo tribes, killing a dragonfly was considered incredibly taboo, as the dragonfly was often called upon to help tribal medicine men and women in their healing arts.
Ancient Japan was known as Island of the Dragonfly, which in Japanese is Akitsushima. Akitsu is an older version of the word tombo, Japanese for dragonfly, and shima stands for island. The cultural impact of dragonflies was so strong in 17th Century Japan that high-ranking soldiers would have dragonfly-stylized embellishments on their helmets, so they could be seen across the field by their men. The dragonfly was a sign of national pride and a symbol of protection.
Meanwhile, the Swiss felt a little differently. They believed that dragonflies brought judgement to earth, and could sense evil souls — the sight of a dragonfly near someone meant injury or bad luck would befall them. Various cultures throughout Europe believed dragonflies to be sent by Satan himself to steal souls.
We haven’t particularly encountered the Satan soul-sucking dragonflies in many tattoos, but we’d love to see such a metal representation of these little water bugs. Some folks have gone the abstract route, with the dragonfly’s iconic wing and body shape artistically implied, and others have gone full science textbook with their dragonfly tattoos, with every little glossy panel in the insect’s wingspan shining through.
It makes sense the positive messages the dragonfly carries would rise above the Satanic one. With themes like transformation, change, healing, growth, protection — a dragonfly tattoo becomes the perfect talisman.