I’ve been drawn to dragonflies for some time now, perhaps because I love rivers and lakes and these peaceful creatures are mesmerizing as they flit and skimmer across the water. They have brought me great peace, and even their life spans symbolize change and transformation. The first year or more of their lives, they live in the water as nymphs. When they metamorphose into the flying creatures we recognize as dragonflies, they live only a few weeks. I like to compare this pattern to a person who has spent her whole life working her way to her truest path and then finally has the strength and means to express her purest nature. Even if for a short while, this person will flit and skim across the days of her life, inspiring those around her to live joyfully, as well.
According to Jessica Palmer in her book, Animal Wisdom, in Native American lore, “dragonflies are equated with mirage or illusion” (Palmer 126). The Lakota believed that dragonfly had a special power that allowed it to evade hailstones, and because of this, the Lakota decorated their shields with images of the dragonfly for protection against arrows and bullets (126). In other traditions, dragonfly held the special power of changing forms and manipulating space and time; “the metamorphosis is one of transformation and maturation, rather than that found with the shape-shifting of raven and crow” (127). So dragonfly symbolism, one can assume, has a depth to its magic. While raven and crow signify shape-shifting and change for the moment, perhaps to enter an altered state, dragonfly symbolizes a more permanent change in maturation and ability, much like the swimming nymph who changes to the winged lightness of the air.
Additionally, on a more magical and attractive note, Palmer explains that lore from Europe associates dragonfly with the world of the faeries. “The ‘wee’ ones of Ireland used dragonflies as their steeds — birds, such as robin, being reserved for drawing their coaches. One fable suggests that dragonflies are actually faeries who when looked at in a certain way can be seen for what they truly are” (127).
Most importantly for the symbolism of healing, however, is that dragonfly “medicine” is the “reawakening of the magic and mystery of life” (128). One calls on dragonfly energy to facilitate “letting go of the past, which is always the first step in spiritual expansion” (128).