Dragons Reconsidered

David Rankine

Considering the nature of dragons, it can be seen that they encompass a union of all elements - they fly (air), breathe fire (fire), swim (water) and live in caves (earth) and are highly magickal (spirit). If we consider the traditional attributions of dragons a possible explanation becomes apparent if we consider the symbolism. Dragons are associated with earth energies, and hoarding gold in caves can be seen as an expression of their role as guardians of these energies. Gold is considered in many cultures to be the 'earthblood' of mother earth, and removing too much of it from her is not positive and damages our environment, hence the dragons collect it back and put it back in the ground (i.e. caves) and guard it from the greed of men (of course greedy men would claim the dragons were the greedy ones).

The dragon's horn was reputed not only to be a strong aphrodisiac when powdered, but also a cure for all poisons (the principles of sympathetic magick are clear here - the power of the biggest reptilian beast being greater and therefore sufficient to deal with the poisons of any of the lesser ones such as snakes).

The other traditional quality associated with dragons is that of rhyming, a dragon being more eager for the mchallenge of matching wits with a man than slaughtering the misguides heroes. The magick of the dragon is again emphasised with this quality, the rhyming being akin to the sphinx's riddle in being an initiatory process of becoming more obscure in riddling as the object / subject state is transformed into a state of knowing without thinking or right action through union with the environment (which has already been commented the dragon may also represent).

Why were virgins offered to dragons as a sacrifice? If may be that as the maiden's virginity in itself was considered very precious (consider the testing of this in many cultures), that the virgin's first blood was offered as a form of appeasement or exchange for the stolen gold - the pure untainted blood of the virgin being as valuable as the earthblood (gold). The virgin could also be seen as a symbolic representative of the Goddess. It is worth noting that oracular priestesses have often been virginal, and there may be a connection with the divine word again, as with the riddles and rhyming.

Oriental dragons seem very different in their nature to occidental ones, being much more akin to the elements of water and air. Oriental dragons symbolise heaven (as tiger symbolises earth). Oriental dragons are considered very magickal and benevolent, and are concerned with the three "W"'s - wisdom, wealth and water. They tend to live in the sea or in palaces on magick clouds, and they govern the rain (as Ao - the four dragon kings). The hoarding aspect of oriental dragons tends to be more concerned with gems, especially pearls (water again), which are sacred to them.

Oriental dragons did sometimes interfere in the deeds of men, but this tends to be a benevolent or compassionate aiding through wisdom rather than direct action on their part. In this way they can be seen as very much concerned with the natural fluid order of existence, a reflection of the Tao.

To communicate with dragons certain elements suggest themselves. For western dragons the offering of gold (as pure as possible) through burying in an appropriate place like a cave seems a good possibility (check local myths first to see if any site suggests itself) an offering of one's own blood as well (as the 'earthblood') may help to strengthen the call. Eastern dragons might be enticed with a pearl offered in water - the sea or a river or lake. A good sacrament to aid communication and contact could be a pearl dissolved into red wine (note blood symbolism again). Obviously oriental dragons are more likely to respond to a call in the east rather than from somewhere like Britain, but you never know!

A good selection of riddles an rhyming prose could be built into the invocation, making it as much a thing of beauty as possible. Motivation must also be questioned, will a dragon come to someone who calls for the wrong reasons? Possibly but they probably would not enjoy the experience. Staying at the chosen site overnight and attempting to contact the dragons through dreaming would seem the easiest path to take, the offerings and invocations priming your unconscious for the direction of travel.

Article by David Rankine
First published in 'Stone Temple'

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