Dragon tattoos have always been a popular choice but what exactly do they mean? What do they stand for? They mean different things to different people. Despite their negative reputation in the West, in the Eastern tradition they are often considered to be symbols of positive forces. Dragon tattoo mythology gives us some insight into the meanings behind one of the most recognized symbolic images in the world.
In ancient cultures such as Babylon, Mongolia and Greece, the dragon is believed to possess power. And within people groups found in Europe, Africa and America the dragon was thought to be a holy spirit and bringer of life appearing in the form of a rainbow to mortals at times.
Western culture has often made the dragon out to be an evil creature. It is very possible that the Western dragon has received it’s reputation as a villainous monster to be destroyed based on the Biblical view of them in the book of Revelation where the dragon is described as the devil. Although this is the predominant viewpoint in Western culture, dragons have also been portrayed as whimsical and friendly in movies like Never Ending Story and How to Train Your Dragon.
In the East, the dragon is described using other earthly creatures as having the head of a camel, the horns of a deer, ears of a cow, eyes of a rabbit, scales of a carp or koi fish, claws of an eagle, neck of a snake and the paws of a tiger. The breath of the dragon is charged with a mingling of fire and water that is typically depicted as spiral clouds. The clouds are thought to be cosmic forces at work. The Eastern dragon has the power to transform itself , become visible or invisible at will, shrink down or enlarge itself to fill the skies. It is associated with the element water and has become symbolic of the productive force of moisture and regeneration. Ascending to the skies in the Spring and descending into deep waters in the Autumn. The dragon tattoo is often depicted chasing or gripping a fiery pearl which appears as a ball or flaming orb. The pearl has been described as many things, such as: the sun, moon, or rolling thunder.
Perhaps, the most famous images of the dragon come from the Chinese. In China, the five-clawed dragon has been used as the emblem of imperial power since 200 B.C. where it symbolized wisdom and omnipotence.
According to ancient Chinese beliefs, the carp or koi fish that successfully swims upstream in the Heavenly Gate waterfall will be transformed into a dragon. The dragon is an apt symbol for that which comes forth after struggle and adversity are conquered.
The dragon is one of the most recognized symbols in the world, but can mean so many different things to different cultures. Your dragon tattoo may be interpreted differently based on the cultural bias that your onlookers may have. As with any other tattoo, what your dragon tattoo means to you is ultimately what matters the most.