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 the need to be formidable (although it certainly can be). Many dragon tattoos are designed to be spiritual, and to send a message of intelligence and compassion.
The word dragon comes from 2 Greek words:
- Drakon: meaning "a very big serpent"
- Drakein: meaning "I see clearly"
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.
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. Today's tattoo artists create dragon tattoo art that can look traditional or modern, tribal or realistic, sweet (baby dragon), charming or terrifying. Some dragon tattoo designs are relatively small, while others are full sleeve or large enough to wrap around the trunk of the body. 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 waves and clouds).
Japanese dragons have the following characteristics:
- No wings.
- The head of a camel.
- Scales of a carp.
- The paws of a tiger.
- Claws like an eagle.
- Japanese dragons often have long whiskers.
- Sometimes, they have a jewel under the chin.
Click here for more Japanese dragon designs: Japanese Dragon Tattoos
Chinese Dragon Tattoos
The Chinese dragon looks a lot like a Japanese dragon, although there are some differences in style and symbology. Similar with the Japanese dragon is that they are seen as benevolent creatures, in contrast to the evil being that the Western world made of the dragon.
Click here for Chinese dragon designs: Chinese Dragon Tattoos
Medieval Dragon Tattoos
Dragons are an important part of the world of mythology, folklore and fairy tales in (medieval) 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 it may be accompanied by other associated images – 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 medieval 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.
- 2 or 4 legs.
- 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 it's 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.
Typical dragon tattoo flash with emphasis on the wing
In ancient Roman times, the dragon was a mix of Greek dragons and Asian dragons, creating an interesting blend of Western and Eastern influences.
European dragons are usually combined with a sword, an eagle, a pearl, skeletons, a heart, cross, ...
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 won't lose any of its impact – in fact these dragons are likely to be large and fierce looking and deliver a very strong visual.
Click here for tribal dragon designs: Tribal Dragon Tattoos
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.
- Mel 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 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, it's easy to see why they are growing in popularity. The graceful, curving lines of a dragon image lend themselves well to a variety of tattoo styles, and dragon tattoos are a great expression of several different folklore traditions.
More dragon tattoo pictures in the Tattoo Gallery