Made popular nowadays thanks to Game of Thrones, How to Train Your Dragon and The Hobbit, dragons are one of the mythological creatures that have stood the test of time. So, it’s no surprise that plenty of people want to get inked with a creature with a ferocious and powerful dragon tattoo these days.
But aside from the sheer size, strength, and power a dragon holds, is there any other meaning to a dragon tattoo? Here’s an overview of dragon mythology and what dragons mean for different cultures.
- Dragons: An Overview
- Origin of Dragons
- Dragons in Ancient Egyptian Mythology
- Dragons in Asian Culture
- South Asian
- Chinese Culture
- Chinese Dragons and Water
- Chinese Dragon Tattoo Today
- Japanese Culture: Dragon Tattoo
- Korean Culture
- Dragon Tattoo in European Folklore
- What Does a Dragon Tattoo Mean?
- Is It Bad Luck to Get a Dragon Tattoo?
Dragons: An Overview
There are two general types of dragons based on folklore. On the one hand, you have the Western cultures’ four-legged, winged, horned, fire-breathing dragons. On the other hand, eastern cultures depict dragons as four-legged, wingless, intelligent, serpent-like creatures.
The myth of dragons likely came from giant crocodiles that are now extinct. Dragons are serpentine creatures resembling giant snakes with added attachments. And though they are associated with ancient myths and legends about deities and demigods, the idea of dragons persists in fantasy literature and ancient cultural practices still being observed today.
Origin of Dragons
No one knows which culture came up with dragons, as almost all cultures worldwide have their own mythology surrounding them. Every culture has its name for a dragon, possibly because, besides crocodiles, dragons were based on Komodo dragons, iguanas, alligators, and other reptiles.
The term “dragon” most likely entered the English language in the early 13th century after the Old French “dragon,” which comes from the Latin word “draconem,” which meant a huge serpent. This may derive from the Green verb “ἔδρακον (édrakon),” which means “I see.” This refers to something with a deadly glance and uncommonly bright and sharp eyes.
The earliest dragons resembled snakes, so it’s possible that dragons were formed from man’s primal fear of snakes, cats, and birds of prey. The earliest dragons were said to live in the bottom of the sea, dank caves, and haunted forests, but at the time, these were dangerous areas for early humans.
Dragons in Ancient Egyptian Mythology
The Egyptian deity Apep or Apophis personifies chaos. It’s a giant serpentine creature in the underworld whose existence causes thunderstorms, earthquakes, and solar eclipses.
Another dragon in Egyptian mythology is Nehebkau, a serpent that guards the underworld. A colossal serpent supports the Earth on its coils. The Pharaoh defeated a third serpent named Denwen, earning the divine right to rule.
Egyptian mythology is where the ouroboros symbol came from. This is a symbol of a dragon eating its own tail in a circle. The earliest depiction of this can be found in the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
Dragons in Asian Culture
Given the different Asian cultures, the portrayal and significance of dragons can be split between South Asian depictions, West Asian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.
Dragons were often depicted as monsters that terrorized people, thus requiring gods and brave men to slay them. After slaying a dragon, the heroes were showered with glory and rewards like gold, treasure, and women.
In modern-day Bhutan, the country has a Druk or “Thunder Dragon” as one of its national symbols. The word “Bhutan” translates to “Land of Druk” or “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” The Druk symbol represents a dragon holding jewels to represent wealth.
In the Chinese animal hierarchy, dragons were at the top of the rankings. Dragons’ place in Chinese folklore remains mysterious. Nonetheless, early depictions of these creatures in pottery and ritual vessels date back to the Bronze Age. Chinese legends tell of dragon tamers who were highly respected for raising and taming dragons.
Dragons are also associated with deities who blessed certain individuals. The dragon Ying Long aided Huangdi in defeating the tyrant, while Zhulong created the universe within its body. Heroes in Chinese folklore were also said to have been born after their mothers conceived children with dragons.
Chinese Dragons and Water
Dragons are associated with rain and water in Chinese culture. In Houhanshu, a woman named Shayi gave birth to ten sons after being touched by a tree trunk while fishing. The tree trunk turned into a dragon, and he asked Shayi if he could see his sons. All the sons fled at the sight of him except for the youngest, which he named Jiu Long. Jiu Long went on to become king, and their descendants became the Ailaoyi people. They practiced a culture of tattooing dragons on their backs to honor their ancestor, the dragon.
The Han Chinese also have a story of a dragon called Short-Tailed Old Li. Legend has it a poor woman gave birth to a black dragon and fainted at the sight of him. When her husband came home and saw Li, he hit him with a spade and cut a part of his tail. Li flew in fear to the Black Dragon River (known today as the Heilong Jiang, one of the world’s longest rivers), where he became the god of that river. On his mother’s death every year, Old Li returns to his home to make it rain.
Old Chinese superstition believed that dragons were the cause of rain and drought. During droughts, people believed that lazy dragons were the cause and offered prayers to persuade them to bring rain.
Chinese Dragon Tattoo Today
Dragons are still a huge part of Chinese culture. On many holidays, Chinese people hold a dragon dance where multiple skilled dancers maneuver a large paper and wood dragon. This was originally meant for good fortune, good weather, and profitable harvest.
Japanese Culture: Dragon Tattoo
Japanese dragons, also associated with water and rain, are depicted as wingless, serpentine creatures with three claws – wild spiritual creatures either slain or tamed. Someone who could tame a dragon was considered noble heroes, brave, or spiritual enough to conquer such a large creature.
In Korean mythology, dragons are shown with long beards and a special orb called Yeouiju. Legend has it that only four-toed dragons possessing opposable thumbs could hold these orbs, endowing them with powers of omnipotence and creation at will.
Korean dragons are more benevolent than Chinese ones and associated with water. It’s believed that large bodies of water are their home, and Korean royals were said to have been descended from dragons, exclusively using dragon patterns.
Dragon Tattoo in European Folklore
Although stories involving serpentine creatures date back as early as their Western counterparts, the winged and fire-breathing depiction of a dragon dates back as early as 1260 AD. It had two sets of wings, a long tail, and the ability to spew fire from its mouth. Like Eastern cultures, western dragons were also associated with water.
In European culture, dragons were traditionally portrayed as greedy and gluttonous creatures, hoarding food and wealth while leaving little for humans. The valiant heroes who conquered these monstrous creatures were hailed as champions of the people. To refine speed, performance and enable readability, it is essential to express ideas concisely. Doing so makes it easier for readers to consume and comprehend information and elevates the writing style to a new level of sophistication.
It’s believed that gargoyles are a product of dragon mythology. In France, a dragon known as La Gargouille was the cause of floods in the river Seine, so the people in the town of Rouen offered a human sacrifice every year to appease it. In 600 AD, a priest named Romanus slayed the dragon and mounted its head on the city walls, creating the trend of gargoyles carved into buildings.
Modern Meaning of Dragon Tattoo
Experience the captivating and timeless allure of Dragon tattoos that will capture your attention and ignite your imagination. The Dragon tattoo symbolizes power, wisdom, and strength, embraced by men and women alike as a reflection of their inner fire and indomitable spirit.
Embrace the artistry of tattooing with our superior range of the best tattoo machines. These exceptional tools allow you to bring your Dragon tattoo to life with stunning detail. Tattooing adds a unique touch to one’s appearance. From delicate wrist or finger tattoos to bold shoulder, neck, or spine pieces, you can get a dragon tattoo wherever you like without worrying about allergies or infections. Embrace the dragon, invoke its power, and let your tattoo testify to your inner strength and resilience. Wear your tattoo proudly and let it command attention wherever you go.
Today, most people know that dragons are a part of the mythical legend, but many of the stories, practices, and cultures associated with it are still alive.
Dragons are a popular figure in fantasy literature. A few of these include Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter,” and George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” (a source of the red three-headed dragon tattoo, about House Targaryen in that fantasy world).
Dragons are ferocious, hard, or impossible to tame and can only be defeated by special heroes and heroines. Some works depict dragons as kind creatures: though intimidating, they serve as mentors or friends to the hero.
What Does a Dragon Tattoo Mean?
With various meanings and symbols of dragons worldwide, a dragon tattoo can have various meanings. If you like water or feel most powerful in water, a dragon tattoo can uniquely represent your water sign.
You may get a dragon tattoo to symbolize power. Dragon mythology worldwide attests to how huge and powerful a dragon can be. Will you bring chaos to enemies or be a helpful dragon to loved ones? Harness your power and abilities.
Dragon tattoos are also a reference to the heroes of the folklore. These are the people brave enough to tame a dragon or slay one despite the odds against them. A dragon can represent a bad part of yourself that you, the hero of your story, have finally overcome. A dragon tattoo can remind you that you have your own dragons to slay and you’ve won.
Is It Bad Luck to Get a Dragon Tattoo?
Respect Chinese superstitions and tattoo the dragon’s eyes last for a proper dragon tattoo. This applies to both minimalistic one-hour designs and intricate pieces that require multiple sessions.
In Chinese culture, the eyes are the window to the soul. Starting a tattoo with the eyes can risk trapping the dragon’s soul in ink, subjecting it to unnecessary pain. If a dragon is hurt and in pain, its ability to protect and bless you will be compromised. Therefore, ensuring that your dragon tattoo is healthy and well-cared for is crucial.
Regardless of how your dragon tattoo looks, always remember to have your eyes done last. It may seem like a small detail, but it can make a big difference in the final result. Trust your tattoo artist and take the time to ensure perfection!
Are you interested in getting a dragon tattoo? Let us know in the comments what kind of dragon tattoo you’re getting and what it means to you!