Symbolism: Dragon Tattoo Meanings

Of all the creatures in either actual or imagined existence, very few have the kind of influence on cultural symbolism that the dragon or serpent does. Dragons appear in mythological traditions all  over the world.  Generally speaking, dragons represent power, though whether or not that power is used for good and evil depends on the culture in which the dragon appear, as, generally, western civilization typically case them as villains, evil and dangerous, while eastern civilizations connected them to positive attributes.

Babylonian Culture

One of the earliest appearances of a dragon is in a Babylonian creation myth, Enuma elish, or, War of the Gods. In this story, Marduk slays Tiamat, the dragoness of chaos, and uses her body to form to the heavens, seas, and earth.

Chinese Culture

Perhaps the most well-known culture that uses dragons is that of China. It was originally the symbol of the Emperor of China, though now the Chinese government does not use it as a symbol as much anymore. When the ancient Chinese discovered the bones of dinosaurs, they believed them to actually be the bones of dragons and a practice developed of using “dragon bones” in traditional remedies.  It is the most revered and high-ranking creature in the Chinese animal hierarchy.  They are awe-inspiring creatures meant to represent the ultimate power, the collective forces of nature. They are also a symbol of security and protection, the type that only comes from a being who is absolutely powerful, as well as luck and fertility.

When Buddhism came to China, the importance of dragons influenced the Buddhist monks and they became a symbol of enlightenment.

Japanese Culture

Japanese dragons are similar to Chinese dragons in that they are regarded as wise and powerful who occasionally help mortals and impart knowledge. Japanese dragons are usually associated with water and spring—a time of both new life and natural disasters.

Celtic Culture

For the Celts, dragons were important symbols of power, as they controlled the earth’s energies, and strength. They are often depicted in circles or spirals, representing a spiritual center or the cycle of life. Dragons were guardian spirits of both people and nature.

Judaism and Christianity

Dragons are used in both the Old and New Testaments  to symbolize Satan and great evil. In Revelation 12, the writer describes “a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, with seven diadems on his heads,” who takes out a portion of the stars, tries to eat a newborn child, and then wages war against Michael and the angels of heaven. Revelation 12:9 says, “ The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” The ancient serpent, of course, being the tempter of Eve who had coaxed her into disobeying God, ultimately causing her and Adam’s expulsion from the Garden.