An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols by J. C. Cooper pg 56
1960 (reissued from 1931 with a slightly different name)
- can share butterfly symbolism of immortality and regeneration
- Native Americans - whirlwind, swiftness, activity
- China - summer, instability, weakness
- Japan - national emblem of the Dragonfly Island, also irresponsibility,

Encyclopedia of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives by C.A.S. Williams pg 140
- lists same symbolism as Cooper
- sometimes called typhoon-fly, apparently due to large numbers present
before storms
- slang term translates as "Old Glassy" based on appearance of wings

Navaho Indian Ethnoentomology by L.C.Wyman and F.L.Bailey pg 144 1964
- symbolic of pure water

Ritual / Religious

Navaho Indian Ethnoentomology by L.C.Wyman and F.L.Bailey pg 144 1964
- used in some drypaintings (often called sandpaintings) from Navaho ritual
- often shown around the center of a symbolic pool of water
    particularly in Shootingway complex paintings
    also in Hailway, Waterway, Mountain-top-way and Beautway paintings
- main theme figures in Mountain-top-way (Shootingway branch) and Plumeway
- differentiating characteristic of representation is the spotting on the
- Plate IV presents examples of stylistic variations

World Folklore

The Boy Who Made Dragonfly A Zuni Myth retold by Tony Hillerman (ISBN
Two small children having fallen asleep are accidentally left behind when
their parents and the rest of the villagers abandon their village in a hard
times to find food. As time passes, the young boy constructs a toy insect
out of corn and grasses to comfort his younger sister. Eventually, the toy
comes to life and operates as a messenger between the children and the gods.
The insect later takes the name Dragonfly. This teaching story of the Zunis,
a Pueblo People based in New Mexico, was first recorded by Frank Cushing in

Japanese Folklore in English by Masa Ohta volume 5 page 42-45
This short story, titled ``Dragonfly Millionaire'', concerns a poor farmer
who fell asleep after tilling his fields. While asleep, he dreamt of a
superior quality sake nearby. While he was dreaming, his wife had seen a
dragonfly dipping its tail into his mouth several times. Near the rocks
where the dragonfly had been they found a small stream that tasted like

Ancient Tales in Modern Japan an anthology of Japanese folktales by Fanny
Hagin Mayer page 82-83
This story, titled ``Dragonfly Choja'' is a shortened version of ``Dragonfly
Millionaire'' by Masa Ohta.

A Japanese Miscellany by Lafcadio Hearn, pages 81-121 (c 1901)
interesting folklore, descriptions, drawings and haiku with comments and
The dragonfly, now called "tombo" in Japanese, used to be called "akitsu".
Japan was once called Akitsushima meaning "The Island of the Dragon-fly".

Animal Stories from Bellona Island (Mungiki) by Rolf Kuschel pg 110-111 c
pub. by National Museum of Denmark
The firefly wanted a drink but was unwilling to go about during the daytime.
If they went at night, his friend the dragonfly could light the way with his
lantern. The firefly drank first, and then the firefly held the lantern for
the dragonfly. The firefly ran away with the lantern, leaving the dragonfly
in the dark. Because of the theft, the dragonfly now sleeps at night, and
lives in and near the water. The firefly roams at night, his way lit by the
stolen lantern. (Bellona Island is a raised atoll in the Solomon Islands.)

Superstitions / Beliefs

Myths and Legends of Japan by F.H.Davis pg 282 1932?
- tracing a certain ideograph in the air, paralyzes the dragonfly one wants
to catch

Ancient Tahiti by Teuira Henry pg 391 c 1928 (Bernice Bishop Museum -
Bulletin 48)
``All insects were regarded as mysterious agents of the gods and spirits,
notably, butterflies, moths, crickets and dragonflies......
The dragonfly was the shadow of Hiro, god of thieves. It was a god that flew
and halted before and behind. It was carried by thieves in their chothes, so
that when they entered the dwelling of those they wished to rob, they let
the dragonfly go, and it dazed the inmates so that they did not notice that
they were being robbed.''

Literature and Poetry

The Dragon-fly by Alfred Lord Tennyson apparently from ``The Two Voices''

Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.

Dragonfly in Haiku by M. Kiauta in Odonatologica 15 pg 91-96, 1986
- includes a discussion of dragonflies as a seasonal theme and symbol in
China and Japan


Spectacular Helmets of Japan 16th-19th Century (organized by Japan House
Gallery and the Assoc. for the Research and Preservation of Japanese Helmets
and Armour) by A .Munroe c 1986
color photograph of a Samuri helmet from the 17th century adorned with a

* Traditionally known as katsumushi or the "invincible insect", the
dragonfly was a favorite symbol of strength among Japanese warriors.
The dragonfly on the front of this helmet is done in gold laquer with
black and red markings.

American Indian Art by Norman Feder (1995 Edition) pub. by Harry N Abrams
On pg. 72 in a discussion about carved stone pipes and pipe stems Feder
says, ``Teton Sioux specialize in shallow relief carvings of deer, turtles,
sheep, elk and dragonflies.'' Black and white plate 45 pictures a carved
wooden pipe stem, collected in 1900 and catalogued in the Denver Art Museum
as item number PiS-25, which has a dragonfly carved in low relief. The
accompanying note says that the pipe stem has the typical form of a Sioux
pipe stem.

The Mythic World of the Zuni by Frank Hamilton Cushing (1865-1900)
edited and illustrated by Barton Wright pg 151-152 c 1988
pub. by University of New Mexico (ISBN 0-8263-1387-6)
Dragonflies are shamanistic creatures with supernatural powers. Images are
most often found on altars, pottery and petroglyphs. The Zuni Indians are
Pueblo Peoples of the American Southwest (New Mexico).

Please feel free to send additions to my cultural list to
and thanks!

Many thanks to Ron Lyons CASS, UCSD 0111, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla CA 92093-0111, tel
(619) 534-0166, for use of his information at my site.

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