Revision as of 12:21, 9 January 2006
Few creatures of folklore and mythology conjure up the mental images of dragons, these mercurial creatures pervade almost every classical mythology and have become an entire genre of fantasy literature.
Descriptions of the beast's benevolence vary from the playful Puff (of Peter Yarrow's song) to the sinister Smaug in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit". Babylonian legends portray the Queen of Darkness as a multi-headed dragon - Tiamat. Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty features a battle between Prince Phillip and the evil Maleficent and the Germanic myth "Die Nibelungen" climaxes with the battle between Siegfried and the giant Fafnir, who has transformed himself into a wyrm in an effort to become more frightening.
Physical characteristics of dragons also vary but several consistencies are usually present. The beasts are typically depicted as huge lizards. Long fangs are accepted as are horns of varying length. Western cultures generally include large wings giving the dragon the capability of flight. But eastern dragons, usually wingless, use a more magical means of flying. As well, eastern dragons tend to be more snake-like in nature, with front and rear legs. Most dragons are covered in scales, although there are some with leathery skin. Coloring ranges from red, green, black and gold appear to be the most common. It is also generally accepted that most dragons are magical creatures in nature and have the ability to breathe fire (as a weapon). Some dragons may have a modification of elements in this breath weapon (frost, lightning, gas) but this appears to be a fabrication of fantasy role-playing games.
The following is from Monstrous:
Dragons can be found in almost all the world mythologies. Their persistance is a proof that the Dragon is not only a popular monster but also a true archetype.
This a list of the dragons monsters, their names and the mythology to which they refer. if you notice any missing or uncomplete or mistaken elements, please write us :
What is a Dragon ?
Webster's Dictionary drag.on \'drag-en\ n dracon-,draco serpent,dragon, [fr.GK drakon;akin to OE torht bright,Gk derkesthai to see,look at]
1 archaic: a huge serpent
2:a fabulous animal usually represented as a monstrous winged and scaly serpent or saurian with a crested head and enormous claws.
Tormont Illustrated Encyclopedia drag'en n.
1. a. A fabulous monster, represented usually as a gigantic reptile breathing fire and having a lion's claws, the tail of a serpent, wings and scaly skin.
b. A figure or other representation of this creature.
2. Archaic. A large snake or serpent [Middle English drago(u)n, from Old French dragon, from Latin draco (stem dracon-), dragon, serpent, from Greek drakon, serpent]
According to the dictionary the stereotype of the dragon is a monstrous winged and scaly saurian breathing fire and having a lion's claws, the tail of a serpent, four feets wings and scaly skin with a crested head and enormous claws. But all the dragon do not look the same and there appears to be many different specimen.
Elements The dragon's form arose from his particular power of control over the waters of the earth and gave rise to many of the attributes singled out by different peoples as the whole myth developed.
The dragon was associated with clouds and believed to be a rainmaker. Its fire-spitting was reminiscent of lightning. Some people thought good dragons protected humans from evil spirits. It was associated with fertility, strength and speed in battle, joy, and robust good health.The chtonian dragon is a crocodile that represents water. He has the power to overflow the rivers or to dry the crops, both causing misery and death. He eats human flesh like a demon and is covered with hair or fur like a wild beast. His tail is the most important part.
Fire The destructive powers of the dragon derived from its fiery breath, which can devastate whole countries. Dragon's eyes also have this fiery red quality, sometimes believed to reflect the treasures they guarded. Rain clouds and thunder and lightning were believed to be the dragon's breath, hence the fire-breathing monster.
In Armenian traditions, the fire and lightning god had powers to stay the dragon's control of the heavens, as could thunderbolts in Macedonian myth. A dead man was thought to become a dragon, while dragons were believed to be the guardians of treasures in burial chambers.
Inner qualities of the Dragon The name "dragon" comes to us from the Greek word for seeing "derkein". The dragon is supposed to have unusually sharp vision in the physical, intellectual and psychic realms. In legends, it is known as a prophet; a riddler; and a guardian of temples, paradises, magic, and hidden treasures. Siegfried battled a dragon for immortality and Hercules confronted one for the golden apples of great happiness. Sometimes the key to the entrance of these hidden places is the hero's own sword, dripping with the dragon's blood. From these legends, the dragon gains a reputation for strength, vigilance, wisdom, jealousy, and miserliness.Vikings had dragon figureheads on the prow of their ships. The dragons on the ships were believed to endow keen site and cunning to the Viking warriors.
In both Eastern and Western cultures, the dragon is the symbol of things, attitudes, or habits which although difficult to resist must be overthrown. The Japanese Buddhist, Fudo-Myoo overthrew blindness and ignorance symbolized by the dragon.
Flight Some dragons had the ability to fly but not all dragons flought. The water dragons for instance usually remain in the seas or lakes but an hybrid form is known to move both in water and the air.
Treasures Dragons were believed to live at the bottom of the sea (Water) or in deep caves of high mountains (Earth), where they guarded vast treasure hoards, very frequently of pearls and stones.
Ladon, the dragon of greek mythology guarded the Hesperides gardens and the golden apples until Herakles defeated it.
In Norse mythology, Fafnir was the guardian of Rhine gold
Magic There are good or divine dragons which are frequently attacked by the evil ones. Sometimes they are killed in battle by their adversaries and their blood splashes to the earth. Fortunately, for humans, this blood makes a good medicine known as "dragon's blood". Since this medicine effects miraculous cures on the wounds it is applied to, a correlation was made between "dragon's blood" and Christ's healing blood. It is now known that the alleged "dragon's blood" was actually a compound made from the dried fruits of palm trees.
Weaknesses and enemies The dragon fears nothing except the elephant with whom he will engage in battle, entwining himself around the elephant and inflicting fatal blows. However, as the elephant finally collapses, his fall crushes the dragon to death.
The dragon is supposedly the enemy of the sun and the moon, both in Eastern and Western mythology, and is believed to be responsible for eclipses. These occur when the dragon is attempting to swallow either of the heavenly boddies; which accounts for the dragon's appearance in primitive astronomy.
The Spermatick Principle According to Lhwyd´s theory of the "Spermatick Principle" the creation of dragons can be explained by the fecondation of fish’s semen by an eagle or a vulture's "saline moisture". Water contains the spawn not only of fish. When it evaporates the spawn not simply desiccates and dies, but is transferred into a new medium, the air. Later it will be washed to the ground again during rainfalls. We should thus not be astonished by the idea that semen of various animals abounds in the vicinity of an eagle´s or vulture´s eyrie. Similar to spawn in rock fissures the semen of a single animal is not able to develop a complete, proper creature. But mixed with other sperms it will bring forth a monster or dragon. The "Spermatick Principle" was only a short-lived episode in the history of palaeontology. However, it gained much popularity amongst common people, so that, e.g., in 1734 Zedler still could attribute the creation of dragons to this hypothesis.
Fermentational putrefaction Eberhard Werner Happel published 1691 “Relationes Curisosae”, a collection of curiosities which reports the usual stories from exotic countries, scientific discoveries of various disciplines as well as descriptions of landscapes, their inhabitants and folk lore.
He states that they are monsters or miraculous creatures which could not spring from an ordinary copulation of two common animals of different species. Arguing that it is well accepted that dragons inhabit the remotest dwellings such as caves, cliffs or deserts, he noticed that eagles, vultures and other birds of prey are their companions. In fact they dwelled there even before the dragon. To these places they brought their prey , snakes, birds, rabbits, lambs, dogs, and even little children, to lacerate and devour them. And there the remains decayed. But still remnants of the semen of these unlucky victims survived. Of course it was impossible that this seed could develop ordenary animals. But through time the semen of various creatures would intermingle and at last a kind of "fermentational putrefaction" would give birth to a dragon. Logically, this dragon will show features of all animals involved: head and tail of the snake, wings of a bird or bat, ears of a rabbit and legs of whatever kind of being.
Ressemblance of Dragons and animal creatures
Birds Some dragons have very bird-like attributes, such as feathers. Quetzalcoatl the feathered serpent is an example of this. Some dragon myths have alternate versions, in which the dragon is a type of bird, showing how similar they are in some instances. It's possible that in the past exotic birds were mistaken for dragons. As people had not seen such creatures before, they could well be misinterpreted as some some kind of mystical creature.
Crocodiles The crocodile's size and potential ferocity make it a likely candidate for inspiring dragon myths (of the dragon eating people variety). The most dangerous types of crocodile are those that eat mammals in the wild. A crocodile is about three meters long when it starts to hunt for larger mammals. Usually, crocodiles are not that dangerous but in areas where they are used to eating humans (such as prisoners being fed to them, or dead bodies thrown in the water), they become far more likely to attack and kill.
Alligators are generally more passive than crocodiles. They rarely attack unless provoked. Most modern attacks happen when an alligator mistakes a human for prey, though the human often fights back, and the alligator retreats.
It is possible that the Biblical dragon Leviathan was a giant crocodile. To support tis theory, there are various cases of the skin of a slain dragon being kept as a trophy, which turned out to be crocodile skin.
Dinosaurs People throughout the world use to believe that dinosaur bones were the bones of a dragon. Although these people had no idea of the real truth behind the bones, the connection to dragons is an appropriate one. Whether you believe that dragons are ferocious carnivores or peaceful herbivores, there is a dinosaur equivalent. However, dinosaurs are a bit thick compared to most dragons. The large, dragon sized dinosaurs had very little brain capacity. The more intelligent dinosaurs were far smaller. Their bones were probably mistaken for the bones of large mammals. Large dinosaurs also could not fly, which is something a good number of dragons can do.
There are various modern stories about dinosaurs still being alive, such as the Loch Ness monster. If any dinosaurs are still alive, and if people met them, they definitely would have inspired dragon stories.
Komodo Dragon Many lizards have inspired dragon stories. The Komodo Dragon is the largest. It is a type of monitor lizard. It grows to about three meters long. The Dragon has a shorter tail than most monitor lizards, so has a much bigger body than another lizard of the same length. They live on the islands of Komodo, Padar and Kintja, and the western part of Flores. An adult Dragon will hunt animals such as goats and pigs. They have been know to attack people but normally leave them alone. Humans are probably just too much bother to hunt. Komodo dragons are capable swimmers. Perhaps that is how they spread between the islands. Water is the ancient element of the dragon. Seeing the Dragons in the water must have aroused suspicions in those that saw them. Komodo dragons also conform to the notion of fire and dragons. Their tongue flicking in and out can look like a small flame.
Signification of dragons
The catalyst of cosmical forces The Dragon is often the first creature to roam the universe just after the Creation. Sometimes he is even respinsible for the creation of the universe (Amon/Amam in Egypt, Ophion in Greece, the rainbow serpent in Australia and Africa, Ananta/Prajapam in India…). He is the frontier between our world and beyond. His death sets free creative forces that found and moulder civilizations. The serpent Vasuki when strangled by the asuras and the gods create the ocean, the sun, the moon, the Goddess and Amrita, the elixir of immortality. Ourobouros circles the earth and represents the endless series of destructions and creations.
As the myth developed in the western world, dragons came to represent the chaos of original matter with the result that with man's awakening conscience a struggle arose, and the created order constantly challenged the dragon's power.
The dragon also represents the Word which was in the beginning and which created and now sustains all things.
In creation myths, Incubation or sexual intercourses between a mortal female and a dragon-god (who embodies fertility) gives birth to a hero who will be the first of its people.
Defeating the dragon in some stories allows regeneration of the land, of the seasons, of relationships and whole countries. The killing of a dragon not only deliver the place from his nuisances but is often the first stone of a new city. Like Cadmos seeding on the ground of the future city of Thebes the teeth of the dragon he killed, the hero turns the death of the dragon into positive forces.
The following is a detailed list of the cosmical fights between the hero and the dragon. In the case of Egypt, Seth is first a hero then became a beast.
Herakles Hydra of Lernea
St Michael the Beast of the Apocalypse
The Devil In Christian symbolism, the dragon has long been associated with the "serpent of old", the devil, also known as Satan.
In the Bible, the dragon was considered as an idol. The story of Daniel shows that christian faith overcome any beast from hell.
After Daniel exposed the idol Bel as a fraud, the king led Daniel to a dragon which the Babylonians worshiped, saying, "Behold thou canst not say now, that this is not a living god: adore him therefore." To which Daniel replied, "Give me leave, O king, and I will kill this dragon without sword or club. And the king said: I give thee leave. Then Daniel took pitch, and fat, and made lumps, and put them into the dragon's mouth, and the dragon burst asunder. and he said: Behold him whom you worshiped. "[Dan 14:23-26 Douay-Rheims] After killing the dragon, Daniel was thrown into the lion's den for six days and survived.
Its strong connection with the cult of the Great Goddess made it more than a local idol. Thus, the dragon which was a powerful symbol in many places in the same way as faeries, witches and other benevolent monsters was declared an enemy by the Church and became a creature of the Devil, an incarnation of the evil forces. This transfiguration is already present in Greek mythology: Appolo slew Python, prophetess of the oracle of Delphi, Herakles killed the Hydra and Ladon, the son of Mother Earth; even the Eden serpent is represented with a human face which is an attribute of the Earth Goddess.
Tales of battles between heroes and dragons personify the triumph of good over evil and sometimes dramatize the victory of a community over the plague or a natural disaster. They can also betoken a personal struggle against sin or illness.
Dragons are popular attributes of many saints including St. George of the Cappadocia, St. Philip the Apostle, St. Martha of Tarascon, St. Radegund of Poitiers, St. Victor of Marseille, St. Andrew of Aix-en-Provence, St. Armentaire of Draguignan, and St. Michael the Archangel. These saints and Christ are often shown crushing a dragon under foot and thus representing the triumph of Christianity over the forces of evil, and the banishment of paganism from a land.
The emperor Constantine ordered a representation of himself killing a dragon with his lance made to memorialize his conversion to Christianity.
Medieval artists occasionally replaced the familiar serpent under the Virgin Mary's foot with a defeated dragon to pictorialize the Genesis prophecy: "He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." [Gen 3:15].
The gaping "Jaws of hell", which is classic in paintings and sculptures of the Middle-Ages, belong to the anatomy of a fire-breathing dragon.
Probably ther most infamous dragon in hystory, the Hydra of The Apocalypse is described as being a great red dragon with seven heads, ten horns and seven crowns upon his head. In the Koran, the dragon of the Apocalypse is named Dabba.
In parts of Africa where the dragon is also considered as an evil power, the monster was believed to be the result of the unnatural union of an eagle and a she-wolf.
Nevertheless, the oriental dragons in the East part of the world still retain their virtues of wisdom, fecundity and benevolence
The psychic Dragon
Dragons are dual creatures that symbolize the unconscious. In dreams they sometimes represent the fear of death. In most magic ritual dragons are used as symbolic doors to other dimensions.
A popular figure, the dragon in the center of the labyrinth symbolizes the evil part of the unconscious (shadow).
The dragon in the tower
The myth of the hero that delivers the princess from a tower guarded by dragon symbolizes the freedom of the young male who masters his anima (the princess) and the regressive forces of the mother to access plain relations with women. The tower is the symbol of the phallus.
St Antony from Egypt (251-356 AC) had terrible visions of dragons and other monsters sent by the Devil. In the case of temptations, the dragon often represents the woman and the prostitute, forbidden to the saint/monk.
The amphisbaena is a two-headed dragon which heads are always in conflict. It represents the inner struggle between the conscious mind and the destructive forces of the unconscious (shadow).
Mircea Eliade interprets the act of eating as a regressus in uterum which precedes a second birth . It is linked with knowledge and wisdom which are virtues of the original and ancient Dragon. When the hero is swallowed by the monster (giant, dragon, …) he gains wisdom and knowledge of the secrets of nature.
Dragons and alchemy
Alchemy is a mixture of philosophy and science, which has been practiced for centuries, and is still practiced today. It works at two levels: the physical, and the metaphysical. At the metaphysical level, it works to purify and transform humankind. At the physical level, it works to purify and transform metals. The first step of the transformation of metals is creating a philosopher's stone. This stone can then be used to transmute metals into alchemical gold. When a substance has been purified, it becomes philosophic.
Allegories describe chemical reactions and the like, using symbols. The dragon is one of these symbols. For example, a green dragon devouring the Sun means that the gold was dissolved in aqua regia (royal water), a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids. Also, the gold probably contained copper, which turns the acid blue-green. (A green lion eating the sun can also been used for this representation). This symbolism was used as a way of preventing all but the most dedicated from deciphering the meaning.
The caduceus consists of two serpents entwined around a central rod. It is the symbol of Mercury. This symbol was developed from the myth of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, who intervened in a fight between two serpents. When he intervened, the serpents twined around his wand. In Greek times, the caduceus sometime had wings, to symbolize the volatility of mercury. Alchemists also call mercury chaotic water, abysmal water, sylvery water, and Philosophical Basilisk.
Philosophic Mercury is sometimes represented by a serpent, or winged dragon.
Cinnabar is a naturally occurring mercuric sulphide. In it's natural state, it is a red crystalline solid. Chinese and Arabian alchemist's extracted mercury from it. The word 'cinnabar' comes from the Persian for 'dragon's blood'.
Nagayuna is the Indian branch of alchemy. The aim is to preserve the elixir of life, in order to unify the body's energies. The symbol of the naga (two entwined serpents) is used to represent the link between the earth and the heavens, and the transition from the lower levels to the higher. This symbol can be found outside temples, on stone tablets (called 'nagahals' or 'nagakals')
The Twelve Keys were written by Basil Valentine (who may or may not have been real) in the 14th century. They depict how to prepare the prime matter for making the philosopher's stone. The keys show the King (ordinary gold), and the Queen (ordinary silver), who undergo separate adventures, before combining. Serpents appear several times in the keys. One of the appearances is in the ninth key. Part of the ninth key shows three serpents: the principles of Mercury, Sulphur and Salt.