Dragon Symbolism: The Spiritual Meaning Of A Dragon

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dragon with glowing eye
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Dragons are powerful spiritual representations. They have a long and storied history in many different cultures in the world.

Whether dragons are four-legged, indomitable beasts as depicted in Europe, or intelligent, wingless, and snake-like in East Asia, they have always represented unapproachable power and might.

No other mythological creature, regardless of its representation in different parts of the world, has been mightier.

Dragons are worshipped creatures, and their spiritual appearance has deep meaning. Some view dragons as evil, but a few cultures view dragons as wise, powerful, and strong.

People who get dragon tattoos do so because they symbolize deep mystery or what is hidden below the surface. Dragons are mythical creatures known for magic, danger, and chaos.

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Dragon Symbolism & Meaning

Photo: Joe Prachatree / Shutterstock

Snakes are a primary influence on dragons, so most of a dragon’s appearance is due to this reptile. Like snakes, dragons are reptilian and are scaled, and are usually tapered, if not longer.

Snakes also represent cunning and guile and are known for their deceptiveness. Intelligent dragons are usually depicted similarly. Like birds, dragons have wings and symbolize freedom.

Western dragons have wings as well and use them as a bird would. Birds give dragons their mighty tails, which are either used in flight or in physical combat. Dragons represent independence and, just like cats, have distinctively feline traits that symbolize this.

A dragon’s eyes are usually slitted like a cat’s, and they stride and prowl in a similar way. Though they are mythical, their behavior as an animal, in general, would most be like a cat rather than a bird or snake.

Are dragons good luck?

Well, dragons are actually a universal symbol of good luck. In Chinese culture, specifically, dragons are the highest-ranking creature, as many temples and shrines are dedicated to them.

Dragons are so widely known that there are nine kinds of them, including the earth, wind, fire, water, sea, sky, golden, mountain, and the heavenly dragon. Dragons are also a symbol of strength, with qualities that accompany power — change, vitality, majesty, and longevity.

Dragons may also represent a challenge or obstacle to overcome, much like old fables of heroes conquering dragons to protect or save what is important to them. As a beast, they use their intelligence to thwart the plans or goals of others.

In other words, a dragon may represent a challenge for you to overcome to achieve your personal goals.

Dragon Spirit Animal

Spirit animals are entities that protect and guide individuals through life and are there to help influence in a positive way. If the dragon is your spirit animal, you're a natural-born leader; you strive to be noble and powerful in your career and personal life. 

The dragon is the symbol of fire and passion, which encourages you to find your passion in life and take risks to develop your strength and power. If a dragon shows up anywhere for you (in a dream, or you keep seeing physical symbols), it's a sign you're on your way to a big spiritual awakening or transformation.

Dragon Animal Totem

Totem animals come from Native American traditions and hold a significant spiritual meaning, as they act as a spirit guide throughout your life and help provide you with a significant amount of self-discovery.

A dragon totem animal is one of the most powerful totems, and urges you to use the power of healing and change to better yourself — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. By connecting with the dragon totem, you can strengthen your bond and use this creature's wisdom to tackle challenges, seeing the world through mystery and wonder.

The best way to connect with your dragon totem is to meditate and research dragons so you can feel more connected to them. 

Dragon Power Animal

A power animal is an energy form that serves to protect and guide you in the realm of non-ordinary reality (dreams, heightened states of emotion, somatic memories). Power animals also help reveal and release our true selves that have been hiding underneath the surface.

A dragon power animal ensures good luck and wealth, and can show up in your life if you've proven to be powerful, spiritually and mentally. Carrying a dragon token can help protect you when traveling or when confronting enemies.

Dragon Symbolism in Folklore

In folklore and mythology, the dragon has been both a symbol of heroism and healing, as well as a monster who must be slain or tamed. Many myths from the Europe, North and South America, and Greek mythology depict dragons as greedy, hoarding treasure in their lair. 

In Chinese folklore, if one saw a dragon living in a forest it was a source of medicine, and if there was ever a drought the dragon would help bring rain; in China, dragons are known as the givers of rain.

There's also a belief in China that a dragon has a stone in its crown and the stone is the antidote to every poison; however, a dragon's venom could kill any creature that tried to harm it because it's the guardian of precious treasures. 

Native American Dragon Symbolism

Native American tribes have many legends and stories about different sorts of animals, but not too many on dragons. Native tribes, however, do have a lot of stories about serpents and snakes, and the dragon myth is actually closely tied to snakes. 

However, there is one dragon-like creature known from Native American legends: the dragon-like creature known as the Thunder Lizard.

Native tribes along the California coast would tell stories about the dragon's role in forming the earth with two gods named Nagaicho and Thunder. The gods created the earth but a flood washed all their work away, so with the help of the earth dragon and Nagaicho, they were able to form the earth back again.

Another story mentioning a dragon involves the Native hero Apache killing a dragon, as the dragon was seen as an evil symbol that would eat children. 

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Celtic Dragon Symbolism

The Celts have a big role when it comes to dragon symbolism because, according to myth and partial history, the red dragon is cherished by Celtic leaders and symbolizes their right to power, as it's seen in the national symbol of Wales.

An obstacle for Celtic heroes in battle is almost always the dragon; however, dragons weren't always evil. Celt warriors often used dragon emblems and seals on their armor to show power, strength, and royalty.

There are also stories from Celtic and Druid folklore of dragons whose job was to protect secret and sacred entryways that were portals to other realms, and seeing a dragon was a good omen. 

Asian Dragon Symbolism

Dragon symbolism is very important in Asian culture. The dragon is one of the twelve signs of the Chinese Zodiac; in addition, the dragon is a symbol of royalty, strength, good luck, and power. They can symbolize wisdom, longevity, regeneration and also have magical powers, and symbolize water in all Asian cultures.

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The Japanese see the dragon as a symbol of balance and wisdom, while the Vietnamese see dragons as a symbol of life, growth, existence. Similarly, the Koreans see dragons as symbols of prosperity and associate them with water and agriculture. 

What does a dragon tattoo symbolize? Dragon tattoos are also very popularized from Asian dragon symbolism, as different tattoos take on a different meaning based on color and style.

The dragon tattoo can symbolize many things including strength, prosperity, longevity, yang, water, transformation, courage, tenacity, intelligence, enthusiasm, and confidence, and the most popular dragons tattooed are the Japanese, Chinese, and Celtic dragons. 

Chinese Dragon Symbolism

Photo: SasinTipchai / Shutterstock

In Chinese culture, the dragon is seen as a symbol of luck, prosperity, and protection. In Chinese mythology, dragons are associated with the sky as the Chinese believe that there are nine palaces ruled by dragons that divide the sky.

The sky dragons are often depicted as ascending, descending, and flying through the sky, no matter rain, lightning, thunder, and wind. In the Chinese Zodiac, the highest in the animal hierarchy is the dragon. 

In Chinese culture, different color dragons also symbolize different meanings.

A red dragon symbolizes good fortune, happiness, and good luck. It's known as the summer dragon and the dragon of the south. The red dragon symbol is often seen at weddings or other celebrations in China. 

Other colored dragons have meanings, too. Black dragons are a symbol of age and are said to be very wise; green dragons represent earth and life; blue dragons represent compassion and forgiveness; yellow dragons represent helpfulness and the sun; gold dragons represent wisdom and kindness. 

Dragon Spirit Animal Types

A spirit animals can include a different type of dragon, based on the elements. This creature is very closely tied to the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air.

Fire Dragon

The fire dragon represents vitality, transformation, and mastery. It can repair and restore peace and harmony back into your life, which helps you reclaim your power.

Air Dragon

The air dragon represents clarity, inspiration, and insight. It inspires you with brand new ideas, helps you clear negative thoughts, and aids in avoiding negative behaviors and patterns.

Water Dragon

The water dragon represents compassion, wishes, and courage, and is meant to help you learn that every experience in life is a learning curve. The water dragon helps develop new compassion for yourself and others, and learn how to use courage to face your past while being enthusiastic about the future. 

Earth Dragon 

The earth dragon represents power, wealth, and potential, and is connected to nature all around us. The earth dragon helps you to connect on a spiritual level with nature, and learn how to ground your energy to grow and eventually see your power within.

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Matthew Ameduri is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture, and relationship topics.