Dragonfly, Guide to Transformation and True Sight by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoDragonfly, dragonfly darting quickly hither and yonder, up and down, left and right –  a transparent shimmering spark with effervescent wings, representing the dreamtime and the illusionary nature of reality.  Dragonfly, dragon – both immortalized in mythology worldwide.

Dragonfly, Spirit Guide by Judith Shaw

Dragonflies are ancient and beautiful inspects, having been around for over 300 million years. They are part of the Odonata order of carnivorous insects comprised of both dragonflies and the smaller damselflies. Their swift flight, reaching an astounding 45 miles an hour, and iridescent colors draw us into their beauty as they hover and fly over lakes, rivers, ponds and marshes.

Dragonflies have very large, multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong wings and a long, thin body.  Like all insects they have six legs – yet they cannot walk.

With their translucent beauty, erratic flight patterns and speed, dragonflies have inspired people for centuries. They are found in myth and stories worldwide. They most frequently symbolize transformation, both physical and mental/emotional changes in self-perception.

To the Native American the dragonfly indicates a whirlwind of quickness and activity and illusion and change – spirit helper to some, transformed dragon to others – always a symbol of good luck, insightfulness and true sight.

Dragonfly’s association with true sight is more than likely related to their amazing eyes. Their huge compound eyes, comprised of several thousand facets produce a mosaic of images and allow them to see color beyond our human range.

The importance of dragonfly to the indigenous pueblos of the American Southwest is evident by the abundance of dragonfly images found on their pottery and carved in stone as petroglyphs. 

Dragonfly Seed Pot by Acoma artist, Diane Lewis-Garcia

To the Hopi dragonfly symbolizes water, fertility and abundance. Dragonfly was credited with saving them during a difficult period of transition in which dragonfly used its supernatural powers to bring the corn to maturity in only four days. The Zuni see the coming of dragonflies in summer when the corn tassels bloom and sway as a blessing of abundance for their people. Dragonfly imagery is found all throughout the native tribes of the Southwest on jewelry, weavings, and pottery.

Like the Native Americans, the Japanese saw dragonfly as representative of power, agility and victory. Their name for dragonfly, kachimushi means “victory insect.” Dragonflies, who can hover and fly in all directions are revered by the Samurai, the Japanese warrior class. Dragonfly embellishments can be found on hilts of swords, arrow quivers and other weapons of war. There was even a dragonfly shaped helmet worn by high-ranking lords in the 17th century. In the past Japan, home to 190 dragonfly species, was called Akitsushima, or Dragonfly Island.

Bellflower and Dragonfly by Katsushika Hokusai, 1760 – 1849

Dragonfly, who lives in watery areas, is found in the rice paddies of both Japan and China. This associates dragonfly with prosperity, harmony and good luck. The Japanese are found of using dragonfly in paintings as symbols of joy and light.

This association with light could come from the fact that dragonfly’s body reflects light to create its beautiful colors – a light which exposes illusion, teaching us that things are not always as they seem. The Lakota tribe called upon the dragonfly’s understanding of illusion to help their warriors trick their enemies in the battlefield.

In one Native American tale coyote, as the trickster he is, brings dragonfly to life.  Coyote observed dragon as it flew through the night, scales shimmering and breathing light into the darkness with its breath. Coyote convinced dragon that with its great powers of transformation seen by its fire-breathing ability, it could change into a beautiful, delicate dragonfly. But alas for dragon whose illusionary belief in itself as all powerful was in fact the folly of hubris. Once dragon took the form of dragonfly, it could not change back. The transformation was final.

The Celts also associated dragonfly with the dragons of old who were the guardians of sacred stones and wells. In addition the Celts believed that the “wee” folk of the fairy realm used dragonflies as their steeds. In this way the fairies were able to travel from one place to the next in the blink of an eye. Some tales even recount the belief that dragonflies were fairies in disguise, only very difficult to discern as such. Dragonfly’s constant movement and shimmering, shifting colors indicate deep magic, the ability to travel between dimensions and to perform its role as dream messenger.

Other European legends tell of a horse who grows wings and becomes dragonfly.  Thus one finds horse related names for dragonfly such as “golden horse” and “little horse.”

Dragonfly’s association with metamorphosis and transformation is strengthened by its own physical transformation from a dull, drab, water-being larva to a sparkling air-spirit dragonfly, symbol of spiritual renewal and self realization.


It is also believed that dragonfly brings messages from the elemental world of Earth creatures such and fairies, and elves, helping us release from old patterns that no longer work and opening our eyes to the illusions that have been holding us back. Dragonfly is the wind of change, navigating through all kinds of weather. Let dragonfly help you navigate through the stormy times of your life. Open your heart to its messages of wisdom and enlightenment. Transformation has arrived.

The theme of balance and true sight is seen again as dragonfly, inhabitant of water and air evokes reflections on our emotions and our minds. When dragonfly appears, seek balance of emotions and mind as dragonfly shines its light on our illusions. In this way we can move into a maturity with greater true sight. Seek flexibility and new perspectives. 

Dragonfly offers the wisdom of transformation and adaptability, the joy of life and light, lightness of being, maturity and depth of character, an end to illusions, true sight, power and poise, connection with elemental nature spirits and other realms, dream interpretation, a deeper meaning of life, and self-realization.  Invite dragonfly into your life and soar to new heights.

Sources: Daphne Shadows, Learn About Nature, Dragonfly Times, Spirit Animal, Animal Sake, Owlcation, Dragonfly (Tombo)Interconnectivity, Pure Spirit, Amateur Entomologists’ Society, Science Blogs, What Is My Spirit Animal, Doowans.com

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is out and being very well received.  Celtic-Goddess-Oracle-cards-by-judith-shawYou can order your deck on Judith’s website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life.  Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork.  She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. In recent years Judith became very interested in the Goddesses of her own ancestors, the Celts. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time.  Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.

Author: Judith Shaw

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of her manifestations, which of course includes the flora and fauna of our beautiful Earth. Judith has exhibited her paintings in New York, San Francisco, Mytilene Greece, Athens Greece, New Orleans, Santa Fe NM, Taos NM, Albuquerque NM, Houston TX and Providence RI. She has published two oracle decks - Celtic Goddess Oracle and Animal Wisdom Oracle and is hard at work on an illustrated fairytale - Elena and the Reindeer Goddess.

17 thoughts on “Dragonfly, Guide to Transformation and True Sight by Judith Shaw”

  1. Judith, your paintings are stunning… Dragonflies are very beautiful and I am glad that you include the “both and” quality of their appearance in one’s life… they may indeed represent transformation but my understanding is that illusion plays an equally or even important part of the energies they symbolize…


    1. Sara – definitely illusion is part of dragonfly’s equation. Look at what happened to dragon – caught in its own illusion of greatness. And often it is that understanding of illusion that brings us to transformation.


  2. Fascinating! I didn’t know very much about dragonflies, except that they fly fast. Transformational energy is nearly always useful. Thanks for writing this and for painting dragonflies.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bright, beautiful, dragonfly — loved your “spirit guide” painting, thanks Judith. And also fascinating seeing the dragonfly painted on a sphere by Diane Lewis-Garcia, and with earth colors, as if to identify our planet somehow with a dragonfly. And just to share a famous Japanese haiku I love by Basho (b. 1644), he says:

    The dragonfly
    can’t quite land
    on that blade of grass.


    1. Sarah,

      The little pot with dragonfly by Diane Lewis-Garcia is a “seed pot”. The Acoma people, who create some of the most beautiful pottery in the Southwest, make these little seed pots. They store seeds in them in the fall and then sprinkle them out onto Earth through the hole at the top during spring. So her Dragonfly Seed Pot is truly connected to Earth both in function and in form.

      Love the haiku – thanks for sharing.


  4. I am learning to appreciate dragonflies. Once long ago, I was afraid of them because I thought they might sting. Maybe in a way they do, and we need that little prodding to grow, to see more clearly, to fly free of what binds us.
    Thanks to you Judith for your lovely art and writing, and to another dear friend who loves dragonflies.


    1. Barbara,
      That’s interesting that you used to be afraid of dragonflies. There are some negative feelings about them in Northern European folklore which I did not include in the essay. Some believed dragonfly was a witch’s familiar and was sent to Earth by the devil to cause confusion and chaos. One of the names dragonfly was given was “horse stinger” because it was erroneously believed that the dragonflies hovering around horses were stinging them when in fact they were eating the flies which were stinging and biting the horses. Guess we could see that belief as an illusion.

      Thanks for reading!


  5. Judith I love your painting and your post! I have always been fascinated by dragonflies, they are so beautiful, magical, and move so quickly, and best of all, they eat lots of mosquitoes!


  6. Your post is so, so, rich and informative. (I didn’t know that about the Hopi. And oh, by the way, I have a seed pot from a woman who sells her own pottery out of her home on Walpi, Unfortunately, it has no dragonfiy:)

    Your painting of dragonflies is particularly beautiful. I love how you captured their iridescence. Thank you!

    Dragonflies remind me somewhat of humans: how we land here for but a moment, shining in our own ways, then we’re gone.

    Dragonflies have meant so much to me all of my life. I have a Tiffany-like lamp that my mother gave me, among my many treasures, & one of the items on my “bucket list” is a small dragonfly tattooed on my R shoulder a small dragonfly on my R shoulder.

    Again, thanks!


    1. Sharon,
      Thanks for reading my essay on dragonfly. I so love the way all these myths, stories and symbols touch us all in different and yet similar ways. Dragonflies are really so amazing to watch hovering over lakes and rivers in all their transcendent beauty. And on the practical side they eat mosquitoes who can be very annoying little creatures.


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