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Dragon tattoos come in many different shapes, styles and sizes, but they all have certain things in common. The dragon tattoo, popular with both men and women, sends a solid message without being overpowering (although it certainly can be). Many dragon tattoos are designed to be spiritual, and to send a message of intelligence and compassion.
The dragon is a mythological creature that is both fearsome and beautiful, and is the subject of folklore around the world. It is a formidable creature, usually seen as a winged or scaly beast with enormous claws that can emit fire from its mouth. In the Western world, dragons are often seen as mean or scary, but Asian dragons carry a different message.
The word dragon comes from 2 Greek words:
- Drakon: meaning "a very big serpent"
- Drakein: meaning "I see clearly"
Dragon tattoos and dragon art in general don't all convey the same meaning. Dragons are part of the myths of many different cultures and in each culture it has its unique set of characteristics and meanings.
Chinese and Japanese dragon tattoos are very popular, but there are many other designs of dragon tattoos, all of which appeal to a wide variety of people. Todayís tattoo artists create dragon tattoo art that can look traditional or modern, tribal or realistic, sweet, charming or terrifying. Some dragon tattoo designs are relatively small and found on an arm or leg, while others are large enough to wrap around the trunk of the body. Either way, the dragon tattoo is a strong image and sends a strong message.
Japanese Dragon Tattoos
The dragon is an important part of Japanese mythology. In Japan, the dragon is seen as a water deity (that's why Japanese dragon tattoos often include clouds).
Japanese dragons have the following characteristics:
- No wings
- The head of a camel
- Scales of a carp
- Claws like an eagle
- Japanese dragons often have long whiskers
- Sometimes they have a jewel under the chin
Other interesting aspects of the Japanese dragon includes the fact that many in Japan believe that the first emperor of Japan was somehow descended from a dragon, giving it a position of high respect in Japanese culture. Dragons are often used in Japanese art to represent protection of the imperial family.
The Japanese dragon tattoo represents:
- Protection (of family and home)
There are many types of Japanese dragons, including:
- Sui-Riu: the king dragon who controls the rain
- Han-Riu: the biggest dragon, has stripes on his body
- Ka-Riu: a smaller red dragon
- Fuku-Riu: the dragon of luck
Chinese Dragon Tattoos
|Simplified Chinese Symbol for Dragon||Traditional Chinese Symbol for Dragon|
The dragon has long represented mystery and power in China. Although dragons often have been represented in a negative way, Asian dragon tattoos and particularly Chinese dragon tattoos represent:
- Good luck
Dragons have a Yang (male) nature and are associated with the number 9, a lucky number in China because it is the biggest possible single number.
Chinese dragon tattoos can be chosen for their meaning:
- A horned dragon tattoo: the wearer chooses to be mighty in their actions or words
- The earth dragon: rules the earth and sends a message of connection to the earth or land
- The celestial dragon: protects the Gods. Many people with strong spiritual beliefs choose the celestial dragon to share those beliefs and confirm their own spiritual path. It's one of the most popular tattoo dragons
Some more characteristics of Chinese dragons:
- Its body is covered in scales (117 to be precise)
- Snake-like appearance
- 4 legs with 5 claws on each leg. Earlier versions first had 3 and later 4 claws or toes
- Is associated with water, they can control the weather and bring rain
- Often has a flaming pearl under its chin
- Most of them don't have wings (although they can fly)
- Chinese dragons (and dragons in general) have supernatural powers
- The dragon is also one of the signs of the Chinese zodiac
- The rival of the Chinese dragon is the tiger
Most Chinese dragon tattoos and other Asian dragon tattoos are done in colour. Often the dragon tattoo image 'winds' itself up a personís arm or leg, dragons being long and snake-like.
European Dragon Tattoos
Dragons are an important part of the world of mythology, folklore and fairy tales in Europe. European dragons are quite different from Asian dragons, though they are recognizably the same creature.
The fairy tale dragon may be on its own or the dragon tattoo may be accompanied by other associated images Ė think knights or fairies for example. The lines are likely to be finer, with intricate detailing. These dragon tattoos make a beautiful and striking visual image.
The appearance of European dragons:
- Wings growing on its back (that look like the wings of a bat). Most oriental dragons don't have wings
- Usually has a long tail
- Lives in a cave or underground lair. The European dragon is linked to the element earth
- Most European dragons are malevolent
Germany, in particular, has a long history of featuring dragons as representative of greed (the dragons will often be seen guarding treasures). The word for dragon in German mythology is worm, specifically relating to a serpent or a snake. Even though the dragon is often depicted as a winged creature, in German mythology itís often depicted as living underground or in a dark lair.
Dragons also take their place in Celtic mythology. The red dragon in particular is associated with the Britons (the Welsh) and the white dragon with the Saxons. The red dragon is one of the few European benevolent dragons.
In ancient Roman times, the dragon was a mix of Greek dragons and Asian dragons, creating an interesting blend of Western and Eastern influences.
Tribal Dragon Tattoos
Tribal dragon tattoos are either composed of or surrounded by the types of curving lines that are typically associated with tribal tattoos, so a dragon done in this style might be simplified. It wonít however, lose any of its impact Ė in fact these dragons are likely to be large and fierce looking and deliver a very strong visual.
Here some examples of black tribal dragon tattoos:
The Dragon Sign In The Chinese Zodiac
According to the Chinese zodiac system, you are a dragon if you are born in the year 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988 or 2000.
People born in the year of the dragon are said to have the following attributes:
- Strong and powerful
Celebrities With Dragon Tattoos
- Angelina Jolie: has a relatively small tattoo of a dragon on her left arm. The dragon tattoo represents many of the things that Jolie is said to hold dear, like family and faith
- Melanie C: has a dragon tattoo on her right calf
- Mel B: has a dragon on her back
- Lenny Kravitz: has a dragon tattoo on his left shoulder
- Bruce Willis: has a dragon on his right shoulder
- Paula Yates: has a green dragon tattoo on her right arm
- Pink: has an Asian dragon tattoo on her left thigh
- Howard Stern: has a dragon on his right arm (cover up of a Capricorn tattoo)
- Jack Osbourne: has one on his right arm
Dragon tattoos, itís easy to see why they are growing in popularity. The graceful, curving lines of a dragon image lends itself well to a variety of tattoo styles, and dragon tattoos are a great expression of several different folklore traditions.
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