They are symbols of courage,strength, and happiness, and they often appear in art and literature, especially haiku. In ancient times, Japanese farmers believed that the dragonfly was the spirit of the rice plant. Dragonflies were a welcome sign of a good rice harvest.
Dragonflies were also believed to bring good luck in battle. 1600 years ago, the dragonfly was the symbol of a great Japanese warrior clan.
The dragonfly later became one of the emblems of the emperor (Emperor Jinmu, who was bitten by a mosquito, which was then eaten by a dragonfly). It was also an archaic name for Japan - Akitsushima - meaning Dragonfly Island.
However, dragonflies were usually considered more sinister in Europe.
It is supposed that in Germany, dragonflies have over 150 different names: such as “Teufelsnadel” (Devil’s Needle), “Wasserhexe: (Water Witch), “Hollenross” (Goddess’ Horse), “Teufelspferd” (Devil’s Horse) and Schlangentöter (Snake Killer).
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.
Swedish folklore holds that the devil uses dragonflies to weigh people’s souls.
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 hobgoblin’s twisting tools.
Amongst Native Americans, the dragonfly is a symbol of happiness, activity, swiftness and purity.
The Southwest Indian culture use the term “snake doctor” in reference to a legend that dragonflies follow snakes around and stitch them back together if they are injured.
Dragonflies are a common motif in Zuni pottery; stylized as a double-barred cross, they appear in Hopi rock art and on Pueblo necklaces.
In some Native American traditions, it is also symbol of the departed souls