The Surprising Symbolism Behind Dragonflies—and What it Means When You See One

side view of iridescent blue dragonfly on a yellow and pink flower stalk in close up
Here's the Spiritual Meaning Behind Dragonfliesdaniele nobile / 500px - Getty Images

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In all the world, there may be no bitty beastie more revered than the dragonfly. Sure, bees and butterflies are beloved, and ladybugs and lightning bugs lionized, but the iridescent insect with the delicate wings and big, bold eyes carries an auspicious symbolism in many countries. Across Far Eastern civilizations like Japan, there is a particularly positive dragonfly meaning—and that's true for many Indigenous American cultures, too. In the former, dragonflies represent success and happiness. In fact, they are so highly regarded in Japan that the nation is also known as Akitsushima, or Island of the Dragonfly.

On this continent, tribes in the Great Plains and Southwest have believed them to embody such characteristics as purity, transformation, healing, and invincibility. Traditionally, some Western cultures viewed dragonflies with suspicion, even dubbing them with names like "devil’s darning needle," and "adder's servant." But as those old folktales have fallen away and been forgotten, more and more people have come to see the winged wonders as messengers of glad tidings, much like cardinals, or even the angel numbers 11:11, 444, and 1212.

And why not? The ancient critters, which developed some 300 million years ago and are among our planet's oldest insects, prey on bothersome mosquitos, with some dragonflies able to consume hundreds of the pests a day. They're breathtakingly beautiful, too, inspiring artists from as far back as 1500 B.C. to depict them in carvings, paintings, textiles, porcelain, poetry, and song. But perhaps most intriguingly, dragonflies carry a deep connection with the metaphysical world. To find out what it means when a dragonfly appears to you, we checked in with noted Philadelphia-based spiritualist, healer, and psychic, Serafice.

big green dragonfly on boy's hand
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What is the spiritual meaning of a dragonfly?

As is the case with many animals, symbolism around dragonflies changes across countries, cultures and centuries. Once seen in Europe, in places like Portugal, Sweden, and Italy, as a darker portent (and sometimes even associated with witches), dragonflies now boast a heartening spiritual significance. Though never explicitly mentioned in the Bible, they are often associated with light, which is used to represent God’s truth in the Good Book, as well as the wind, a Biblical metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Dragonflies have thus come to exemplify spiritual awakening, enlightenment and clarity, particularly for Christians.

But there's much more to unpack around the dragonfly's spiritual meaning, Serafice explains. "This lovely insect is also often a messenger, a protector and a guide, in addition to representing joy and good tidings," she says. "Dragonflies are known to have curiosity and a friendliness that offers a blueprint for being brave and exploring possibilities. If you open your heart to them, a visit from a dragonfly can offer not just enchantment but even inspiration to live your best life and take bold next steps."

Dragonflies also can specifically symbolize self-awareness, self-love and embracing your own personal power—and the abundance that reaching your potential can bring. "Most frequently dragonflies are related to luck, good fortune and spiritual awakening as they encourage us to connect with our ability to transform and become something magnificent," Serafice says. "These little creatures are powerful and beguiling, representing strength, flexibility, creativity and self-actualization."

Is a dragonfly a good omen?

Absolutely! In China, dragonflies have long been considered good luck, and this belief has spread to the United States. Especially if one lands on you, it means better times are ahead, according to Serafice. "Dragonflies symbolize good fortune and prosperity, and can definitely indicate a positive experience is on its way," she says. "That can translate to anything from a new romantic relationship to a promotion or a better role in a different company—the insects are also associated with change and rebirth, much like butterflies."

That's probably due to the dragonfly's amazing life cycle, which involves transformation from an underwater larva, a stage that may last as long as two years before they emerge as adults. Adults don't live long comparatively, perhaps a few weeks or months, and for this reason, Serafice says, dragonflies may also serve as a reminder to be present, enjoy life to the fullest and live for the moment, rather than in anxiety about the future, or regret over the past.

Want to bring good luck in the form of dragonflies into your garden? Add a water feature like a small pond that's deep enough it won't freeze solid in frigid temperatures. It doesn't need to be big, but make sure it gets at least some sun. Incorporate some stones and native plants to give the dragonflies places to hide when they emerge from their nymph stage (they need a few days to become strong enough fliers that they can evade birds and other predators). Dragonflies don't require specific vegetation to thrive, but planting taller grasses will provide welcoming places for them to perch.

closeup of a blue and brown dragonfly on a pink flower seen from above
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Do dragonflies symbolize angels?

To some folks, dragonflies do specifically embody divine beings, or a heavenly messenger. The expert aviators have four sets of wings rather than two, which move independently of each other, allowing dragonflies to quickly dart forward, backward, sideways, or even just hover in the air, like the world's tiniest helicopter. This second set of gossamer, rainbow-hued wings has given rise to a popular legend: Dragonflies were given an extra set of wings so that angels could ride on their backs. Notably, the Japanese believed that red dragonflies carry the souls of our departed loved ones, so there is a long history connecting the insect and the spirit realm.

Serafice, however, believes dragonflies have a connotation more centered around this world than the next. "For me, dragonflies are more closely connected to the fairy world, earth elementals and the support available through connecting to nature as an extension of the divine," she says. Whether you see dragonflies as guardian angels, an indication that a friend or family member who has crossed over is near, or an ambassador from the fairy kingdom, take time to enjoy and absorb the magic and mystery they are bringing into your life.

What does it mean if I dream of dragonflies?

According to Serafice, if you are lucky enough to have dragonflies visit you in the land of Nod, expect them to bring energies of enchantment and wonder, with an overall message of courage, magic, adaptability, and creativity. More specifically, she says, "A dream of a dragonfly can indicate an invitation to explore or go on an adventure, to dive into divination, to set intentions, or to get curious about just how good it can get. The dragonfly wants to inspire you to connect to the earth and with yourself in a more conscious and magical way."

But dragonflies are not the only insects that act as messengers in your dreams! If ants appear, they may be a nudge to get organized, Serafice believes. As noted, butterflies epitomize transformation and metamorphosis, thanks to their incredible ability to evolve from a simple caterpillar into the winged beauty we so enjoy spotting in our gardens. "Seeing cicadas in your dreams might be a suggestion to honor your rhythms and review your patterns," she adds, "while a mantis could mean a call to deepen your spiritual practices. Ladybugs let you know you are loved, and bees are telling you to pay attention to the sweet stuff in life."

overhead closeup of red dragonfly on plant
mark kineth casindac / 500px - Getty Images

What do I do if I keep seeing dragonflies?

Whether dragonflies are repeatedly appearing in your dreams or your waking reality, they come bearing a message for you. How you interpret that message depends on where you are in your life. If you are trying to make a big decision, or are on the precipice of change, it could be a green light from the Universe to move forward with courage and conviction. But if you are facing challenges, dragonflies may be more of a show of simple support, or even a promise that brighter days are on the way.

Because, as Serafice notes, "Dragonflies are fierce and feisty and definitely represent protection and a willingness to step into warrior mode," it could be that you are being asked to take a stand or check your boundaries. Frequent sightings might also be a nudge to "remember your loyalties or to look for the solution in an enchanted way, or to connect more deeply with your passions," she adds. "Remember that dragonflies are passionate, defending territory and dueling for the sake of love!"

Decoding the meaning repeated dragonfly sightings and interactions might have to you begins with simply paying attention—and then continues with a willingness to look inward. "Whenever we see the same sign or symbol over and over again it is an invitation to deepen our relationship with those energies," Serafice says."So, if you keep seeing dragonflies be sure to set aside time to meditate on them, reflect with them and set intentions to better understand the personal message they are trying to provide to you."

"Finally," she concludes, "It's important to take note of the circumstances of the sightings—you might even want to jot them down in a journal—and see if you can make any connections with what happens next. But most of all, get excited because something wonderful is on the horizon!"

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