Why Do Some People Believe Dragonflies Symbolize Death?

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Death takes many forms, and it’s easy to see signs of the natural cycle of life in everyday things and beings. The many symbols of death are helpful to those experiencing loss. They also are at the center of many cultural death rituals throughout the globe. From black cats to white feathers, there are a lot of ways death appears to us in the most mundane of ways. 

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One of the most common symbols of death is also the most beautiful: dragonflies. Dragonflies are a small, fleeting glimpse into a side of nature many of us don’t understand. They linger near flowers, making beautiful companions to our gardens. 

Throughout history and across the world, dragonflies have been used to answer some of life’s biggest questions, particularly when those questions are around life and death. In this guide, we’ll share some of the symbolism and narratives around dragonflies. 

What Do Some People Believe Happens When You See a Dragonfly? 

The dragonfly has a lot of symbolism in the spiritual world. Depending on who you ask, there are a lot of different beliefs about what happens when you see one yourself. There are no clear answers, and it’s up to the viewer themselves to determine the meaning behind this flying insect. 

Here are some possible meanings connecting dragonflies with death:

  • Visit from a deceased person
  • Good luck
  • Omniscience
  • Intimidating but actually harmless

Visit from a deceased person

The most common belief related to dragonflies is that this is a tie to the spiritual world. It’s believed that these small symbols are a sign of a deceased loved one or a guardian angel. Similar to a visit from a cardinal, these are a visual reminder that your loved ones are nearby. 

Having contact with a dragonfly is a spiritual connection to the afterlife. Though our deceased relatives might not be with us on earth any longer, we can still feel their watchful eyes. This is an important form of comfort for those experiencing grief. 

Good luck

In a lot of religions and cultures, dragonflies are a good luck charm. They’re a small symbol of beauty, grace, and change. As such small, graceful creatures, they’re always welcome. 

Much of this likely comes from the fact that dragonflies consume mosquitoes. By eating a well-known nuisance, they do humans a favor by limiting the spread of disease and unwanted pests. This, in itself, is a form of good luck. 

All-knowing or all-watching

Another symbol related to dragonflies has to do with their eyes. The majority of a dragonfly’s brain is dedicated to their eyesight. With some of the biggest eyes in relation to their body size, this is no surprise. They see the world much more vividly than humans, and this carries a lot of weight. 

With this in mind, we all need to recognize the importance of perspective. Dragonflies see everything, from big details to small problems. This is a reminder that life is full of change and challenges, but we shouldn’t let these fears define us. When we look at the world through new eyes, we have so much to learn. 

The bite of a dragonfly

A lot of people misunderstand dragonflies. If you look up close, it seems like they have big teeth for biting or even a large stinger. In reality, dragonflies have no teeth, and they don’t sting. 

The dragonfly’s harmless nature is actually what leads to much of its symbolism. Though they look intimidating on the outside, they pose no threat. There’s a lot we can learn from this. Mostly, it’s important to keep in mind that the things in life that scare us, like death, don’t need to be so worrisome at all. Change is natural, and it’s nothing to be feared. 

Origin of Dragonflies Symbolizing Death

With such a rich symbolism, you might wonder where dragonflies gained so much attention in the first place. To understand this in greater detail, let’s take a look at the way dragonflies are presented in many cultures throughout the world. 

Chinese mythology

China is home to a rich tradition of metaphor and symbolism. There is an emphasis on finding the spectacular in the everyday. Even the smallest of beings carry greater significance, and the dragonfly is the prime example of this. 

In China, the dragonfly is tied to the subconscious world. This refers to hidden ideas, dreams, and even the dead. These are the feelings and perceptions that hide in plain sight, though they’re not always easy to understand at first glance. 

In Feng Shue, the dragonfly represents the soul of the dragon. Dragons are highly revered in Chinese mythology, and they’re the ultimate symbol of happiness. How could something tied to the world beyond also be related to happiness? This likely has to do with the calm, soothing way dragonflies fly. Watching one is one way to soothe your own racing mind and remind you to come back down to earth. 

Japanese festival

In Japan, there’s a festival known as Obon that acts similar to the Day of the Dead. This festival is all about celebrating one’s ancestors. Stemming from Buddhist customs, the Japanese believe their deceased loved ones return to earth during this special festival. 

Families return to gravesites and spend a lot of time in nature looking for signs of the ones they love. One of the most common symbols that a loved one has returned is the dragonfly. To see a dragonfly is to feel closer to one’s ancestors. 

Romania

In some parts of Europe, particularly Romania, there was a different interpretation of dragonflies. This took on a more sinister meaning. The translation in Romanian of the word “dragonfly” is actually “Devil’s horse,” so it’s easy to see why these were greatly feared. 

According to Romania folk legend, the devil himself is trying to cross a lake. Because a fisherman refuses to carry him across, he becomes a dragonfly in order to fly across. This is where it got its name as “Devil’s horse.” 

To this day, dragonflies are often associated with both the devil and also black magic. This traveled to the Americans to take a similar form in the folklore of the New World. This evil association with death and all things dark has added to some of the mystery around dragonflies. 

Understanding the Symbolism of Dragonflies

There’s a lot of mystery around dragonflies. As the star of many different folktale stories around good, evil, and everything in between, it’s no wonder it’s hard to come to a single conclusion. While most believe these are a sign of a deceased loved one’s spirit, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. 

Today, it’s common to see dragonflies as gravestone symbols or as a sign of mourning. The dragonfly has come to mean a lot of different things to a lot of people. Whether you see them as the “devil’s horse” or a sign of the world beyond, they’re sure to make you ponder the world around you. At the very least, dragonflies are a reminder that everything carries its own meaning and significance, no matter how small. 

If you're looking to learn more about spirituality and the afterlife, read our guide on the best spiritual books for beginners.


Sources

  1. Brahic, Catherine. “Dragonfly eyes see the world in ultra-multicolour.” New Scientist. 23 February 2015. NewScientist.com
  2. “Feng Shui Symbols and Their Meanings.” Sunny Ray: Feng Shui. 30 January 2020. SunnyRay.org. 
  3. “Magical Almanac 2018.” Llewellyn. Books.Google.com
  4. “Obon, A beautiful celebration of ancestors.” HisGo: Japanese Culture. Hisgo.com

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