Dragons are mythical creatures of unparalleled fame and prestige. They are so vastly known that nearly all known writings – from the most DRAGON OF THE EASTERN SEA ancient to contemporary, religious and pagan, Eastern and Western – makes mention of them. In fact, dragon lore is one of the richest collections of mythical stories. Dragon literature has inspired a lot of artists, then and now, to bring to life these mysteriously powerful beasts in a work of art. And tattoo artists and aficionados alike are not immune to the same fascination. They would love nothing more than to ink this mythical figure in the canvass of the human body.
With an immense array of research sources and an even richer selection of tattoo designs, where do you begin looking for the dragon tattoo design that’s just right for you? The inclination is to pick the design that instantly catches your eye. But if you really want your dragon tattoo to mean something and represent a part of yourself, it is important to familiarize yourself with the kinds of dragons and their meanings.
Western mythology and Christian scriptures are full of references to dragons. They are often cast in a negative light. Did you know that they were first mentioned in Norse tradition as worms or “wyrms? They were viewed as spreaders of annihilation. The Norse dragon is illustrated as an enormous snake – a large scaly serpent – that breathed fire and regenerated when cut. They are multicolored and often zoomed across the sky. When in land, Norse dragons were believed to live in caves or mountains.
In the Arthurian legend, dragons represented conflict, dissention, and chaos. The heroism of medieval knights was displayed through dragon-slaying. British dragons were mostly water dwellers. The Celtic dragon is also closely associated with water, often taking the form of gargantuan winged sea serpent. Unlike other Western dragons, however, they are depicted to have no legends. In Celtic art, dragons are illustrated with their tails in their mouths, symbolizing immortality and the cyclic nature of the world.
In the Bible, dragons are used as symbols of evil. In the book of Revelations, Satan was described in a serpent-dragon form. Legends about some saints refer to encounters with these creatures. St. Peter and St. Philip were believed to have slain a dragon during their mission to evangelize the world.
In direct contrast to Western dragons, Chinese dragons are symbols of benevolence, good fortune, and wisdom. They were revered and sometimes regarded as demi-gods. Eastern dragons come from China, Japan, and Korea. Their image of the dragon is more precise, with minimal variations – it has the body of a snake, belly of a frog, scales of a carp, head of a camel, horns of a giant stag, the eyes of a hare, ears like a bull, a neck like an iguana, paws like a tiger’s, and claws like an eagle’s. Unlike most of their Western counterparts, Eastern dragons have no wings. Orientals believed that they flew with the use of magical powers.
The Eastern literature about dragons is noticeably more consistent and detailed. They have writings about the kinds of dragons as well as their life stages, gender differences, life span, powers, and even their fears. Colors are assigned to tell a dragon’s age.