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Friday, August 6, 2010

Beloved Dragonfly


The Power of the Dragonfly - Odonata

In North American Indian lore, the dragonfly is the essence of the winds of change, representing the messages of wisdom

and enlightenment; and communication from the elemental world. The dragonfly possesses the ability to see through illusion. They bring prosperity and harmony. The dragonfly totem teaches skillful action while maintaining a free and joyful sense of being. The dragonfly brings the light and color of transformation into your life.


A dragonfly is an insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocta or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera. It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragonflies typically eat mosquitoes, midges and other small insects like flies, bees, and butterflies. They are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic.

Dragonflies do not normally bite or sting humans (though they will bite in order to escape, for example, if grasped by the abdomen); in fact, they are valued as a predator that helps control the populations of harmful insects, such as mosquitoes. It is because of this that dragonflies are sometimes called "mosquito hawks" in North America along with the Crane Fly (which, in fact, does not eat mosquitoes).

Female dragonflies lay eggs in or near water, often in or on floating or emergent plants. Some species when laying eggs will submerge themselves completely just to lay their eggs in a suitable place. Most of the life of the dragonfly is spent in the larval, (naiad, aka nymph) form, beneath the water surface, using internal gills to breathe, and using extendable jaws to catch other invertebrates or even vertebrates such as tadpoles and fish. The larvae of large dragonflies may live as long as five years, or two months to three years in smaller species. When the the larva is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs up a reed or other emergent plant at night, and when it does the breathing pattern changes inside the larvae's body. Then the skin splits at a weak spot behind the head and the adult dragonfly crawls out of its old larval skin, waits for the sun to rise, pumps up its wings and flies off to feed on midges and flies. In the adult stage, larger species of dragonfly can live as long as four months.

Ancient dragonflies ("Anisozygoptera")

Conventionally, the Anisoptera were given suborder rank beside the ancient dragonflies ("Anisozygoptera", two living species and numerous fossil ones), but it has been determined recently that the Anisozygoptera form a paraphyletic assemblage of primitive relatives of the Anisoptera. Thus, the Anisoptera are reduced to an infraorder, forming the new suborder Epiprocta (dragonflies in a general sense). The artificial grouping Anisozygoptera is disbanded, its members being recognized as largely extinct offshoots at various stages of dragonfly evolution.

The oldest known species of dragonfly is the 320 million year old Delitzschala bitterfeldensis. Another old genus is Namurotypus.

Dragonfly Symbology

Dragonflies, or damselflies, were connected to Freya the Norse goddess of love, fertility and warfare. Freya was famous for her beauty and her knowledge as a magician. It was she who taught Odin the shamanic practices known as seidr which were still practiced during Christian times. The paired bodies of mating dragonflies form the shape of a heart, perhaps being the source for that modern symbol of love. In ancient lore, the dragonfly represents transformation, adaptation and insight.

European Dragonfly Folklore, In most cultures dragonflies have been objects of superstition. European folklore is no exception. Many old myths have been lost during the history, but fragments of these old myths are still living in old local names for dragonflies. Only in Germany dragonflies have had over 150 different names. Some of these are Teufelsnadel ("Devil's needle"), Wasserhexe ("Water witch"), Hollenross ("Goddess' horse"), Teufelspferd ("Devil's horse") and Schlangentöter ("Snake killer"). Also the name Snake Doctor has been used in Germany. In England the name Devil's darning needle and Horse stinger have been used. In Denmark the dragonfly have got such different names as Fandens ridehest ("Devil's riding horse") and Guldsmed ("Goldsmith"). Different names of dragonflies referring to them as the devils tools have also occurred in many other European cultures, some examples are the Spanish Caballito del Diablo ("Devil's horse") and the French l'aiguille du diable ("Devil's needle").

The Swedish name for dragonfly is trollslända, which means "hobgoblin fly" in English. Long time ago people in Sweden believed that hobgoblins, elves, brownies and such creatures lived in our great woods. In that folklore the dragonflies was considered to be the hobgoblins twisting tools. During the history the dragonflies even have been connected with love and female, the names damselfly (England), Demoiselle (France) and Jungfer (Germany) are some examples of those nice associations.

An old Swedish name for dragonfly is Blindsticka ("Blind stinger"), this name comes from the opinion that a dragonfly could pick out your eyes. Other people thought that the dragonfly could sew together your eyelids. The same name appears as well in Norway ("Öyenstikker") as in Germany ("Augenstecher").

In certain parts of Norway, the dragonfly is also known as "oslash;rsnildra". The exact meaning of this word is unknown to me but the part "oslash", does obviously refer to the Norwegian word for "ear", as people (and especially children) often thought that the dragonfly would poke holes in their ear-drums if it got inside their ears!

An other old Swedish name is Skams besman ("Devil's steelyard"), this name probably depends on the dragonfly's body shape that, with some imagination looks like the weighting tool. In the folklore this was interpreted as that the Devil used the dragonfly to weight the people's souls. When a dragonfly flew around your head, your soul was weighted and you should expect seriously injury as punishment. It is very interesting that, despite of those ideas that the dragonfly should be the Devil's tool, the dragonfly have been a holy animal in Scandinavia. In the Æsir cult the dragonfly was thought to be the love goddess Freya's symbol.

Some of the Latin names of dragonfly families have interesting meanings: The name Libellula might have been derived from the word libella ("booklet") referring to the resting dragonfly, which wings, with some imagination, looks quite like the pages of an open book. The name Odonata was created by Fabricius in 1793 as name for the whole dragonfly order, means "toothed".

In some countries, e.g. Indonesia, many African and South American countries both the adult and larva dragonflies are caught to be eaten fried or in soup. In China and Japan the dragonflies has been treated as holy animals, and believed to have medical qualities. Even today the dragonfly Sympetrum frequens is used as fever reducing drug. All over the world dragonflies have been used in different forms of art, stamps and more

Dragonfly is the power of light. The dragonfly inhabits two realms: air and water and the influence of both these elements will be felt by Dragonfly people. They will be emotional and passionate during their early years (the influence of water) and more balanced with greater mental clarity and control in as they mature (the influence of air).

When a dragonfly lands on you, you will hear excellent news from someone far away from home. A dead dragonfly symbolizes sad news. Dragonfly symbolism crosses and combines with that of the butterfly and change. The dragonfly symbolizes going past self-created illusions that limit our growing and changing. Dragonflies are a symbol of the sense of self that comes with maturity.

They are fantastic flyers, darting like light, twisting, turning, changing direction, even going backwards as the need arises. They are inhabitants of two realms - starting with water, and moving to the air with maturity, but staying close to water. Some people who have the dragonfly as their totem have had emotional and passionate early years, but as they get older they achieve balance with mental clarity and control. They gain an expression of the emotional and mental together.

Dragonflies are old and adaptive insects, and are most powerful in the summer under the effects of warmth and sunlight. Their colors are a result of reflecting and refracting the power of light. As a result, they are associated with color magic, illusion in causing others only to see what you wish, and other mysticism.

The are often represented in Japanese paintings, representing new light and joy. To some Native Americans they are the souls of the dead. Faerie stories say that they used to be real dragons.

Dragonflies are reminders that we are light and can reflect the light in powerful ways if we choose to do so. "Let there be light" is the divine prompting to use the creative imagination as a force within your life. They help you to see through your illusions and allow your own light to shine in a new vision.

Mastery of life on the wing - Power of flight

Power to escape a blow - Understanding dreams

Power of light - Breaking down illusions

Seeing the truth in situations - Swiftness

Change - Connection to Dragon

Dragonfly . . . Breaks illusions, Brings visions of power, No need to prove it, Now is the hour!

Know it, believe it, Great Spirit intercedes,

Feeding you, blessing you, Filling all your needs!

-from Medicine Cards

Some tell of a time when Dragonfly roamed the earth as Dragon. She was covered with beautiful, shimmering scales and could change form at will. She carried great strength, but was easily fooled and one day Coyote tricked Dragon into changing into a tiny Dragonfly. Dragon became forever trapped in this illusion of its own making and the story suggests, when Dragonfly enters our lives, it is time to carefully examine the illusions we’ve created about ourselves and remember that we too can change form at will and wield great inner strength. Dragonfly is a gentle reminder of our own limitless divinity.

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