Mythical Dragons & Serpents
> Mythical Dragons & Serpents
> by Marilyn Cameron
> Many are the fabulous beasts created in the stories by human kind. For
> thousands of years, we have told of fantastic creatures of supernatural
> some of the forces of good and others of the forces of evil. But of all
> sensational monsters, none has slithered into as many of man's legends
> dragons and serpents.
> Dragons and serpents vary in description according to culture, although
> striking features are retained throughout the written, oral and artistic
> traditions of the world. They are usually depicted as gigantic snake-like
> reptiles, with a long, sinuous body armoured in either green, blue or red
> scales. The head is typically massive, with a broad mouth full of
> sharp teeth and a long, forked tongue. The snout is long and sometimes
> the eyes are usually very large and cold. Often, these creatures possess
> ears and a frilled neck, resembling either a crest of feathers or webbed
> The body itself is usually decorated with an array of small, triangular
> extending from the head down the back to the long, barbed tail.
> Dragons normally posses four, short limbs with long claws, although some
> serpents have no legs at all. In some cultures, dragons are also equipped
> enormous, bat-like wings; in others, they have the ability to breathe
> They can live in mountains, caves, seas, lakes and even the heavens.
> Just as their appearances differ from culture to culture, dragons and
> represent many contrasting ideas for different groups of people. Dragons
> perhaps most well recognised in Chinese tradition. The Chinese recognised
> dragon as one of the four sacred creatures to contain all elements of yin
> yang - dark and light - in addition to the Phoenix, the Unicorn and the
> The Chief of all scaly creatures, the dragon symbolised wisdom, strength,
> goodness and the element Water. In China, dragons were often drawn with
> whiskers and antlers on their heads. When depicted with five claws, it
> represented the Emperor and was known as the Imperial Dragon. In some
> traditions, dragons were attributed to controlling the weather, and ritual
> dances were performed to encourage the dragon to send down the rains.
> The Japanese had a similar belief in dragons to the Chinese. Their
> religion, Shinto, also tells of kingdom of serpent people under the sea,
> the Dragon King, Ryu-wo, ruled in a spectacular palace of crystal and
> coral. He
> was said to have a human body, and a serpent entwined in his crown. Known
> his nobility and wisdom, Ryu-wo was a guardian of the Shinto faith. People
> have fallen into the sea are said to have lived on in the kingdom of
> Japanese legends also tell of another serpent king, who, unlike Ryu-wo,
> possessed scales and a flicking tongue. He was a bringer of destruction
> chaos, who would invade villages and devour innocent children. He was only
> hindered by the goddess of love, Benten, who was charmed by his words of
> After making him promise to end his wrath against mankind, she agreed to
> him. On the Pacific coast of Japan, a great temple was built at Kamakura
> commemorate the occasion.
> For Buddhists and Taoists of China and Japan, dragon sculptures were often
> to decorate the exterior of temples. They represented the many obstacles
> humans face throughout life that must first be overcome before true
> and inner peace, or enlightenment, can be attained.
> Dragons and serpents are often viewed as guardians of sacred places and
> objects. The ancient Greeks and Romans, who revered dragons for their
> but feared them for their tremendous powers, both shared this belief. One
> the twelve tasks of the legendary hero Hercules (or Heracles) had to
> was to pick three golden apples from a sacred tree, protected by a
> dragon or Serpent. A similar story tells of a nymph named Psyche, who was
> ordered by the goddess Venus to fetch sacred water from mountain stream
> by dragons.
> One of the most feared monsters of the Greeks and Romans was the Hydra, a
> dragon with multiple heads and poisonous breath. Another task of Hercules
> to slay a Hydra which inhabited a dangerous marsh. However, every time
> cut off one of the heads of the beast, more grew back in place. Only by
> the necks with fire, and crushing the body with a boulder, was Hercules
> able to
> defeat the Hydra.
> Throughout Europe, tales of dragons and serpents grew far and wide. Most
> these stories were written in Medieval times, when dragons and serpents
> said to live in caves or lakes where they hoarded huge riches.
> the monsters would wander into villages, and cause great destruction and
> This lead to many brave knights attempting to hunt down and slay dragons,
> recounted in many medieval writings. In some cases, the knights were
> successful, but in others they were defeated by the dragon's immense
> The most terrifying monster of all in European mythology was not, however,
> great fire-breathing dragon but a tiny black serpent called the basilisk.
> one foot long and crowned with a white crest, the basilisk, also known as
> cockatrice since it hatched from a cockerel's egg, was so deadly that the
> poison from its spit could split rocks in two, and it could kill a man
> by looking at him. The only things which could kill a basilisk were
> which overpowered the monster with their powerful jaws and smell, and
> A man could look at a basilisk through the crystal, and the creature's own
> deadly power would be reflected back, killing it instantly.
> We do, however, occasionally read of friendly dragons in European myths.
> town of Lucerne in Switzerland was famed for its winged dragons which were
> to look like flying crocodiles. A tale is told there of a man who once
> into an underground cave from which he could not escape. To his horror, he
> realised that this was the home of two dragons. However, the dragons did
> see this strange visitor as an intruder or as food; instead, they were
> intrigued, and rubbed themselves against his body, like domestic cats.
> The man lived in the cave for five months, so the legend says, living on
> nothing but a trickle of water which oozed through the rocks. When the
> came, the dragons decided to leave their home, and took off into the air.
> man realised that this was his only chance to escape, and, clasped to the
> of one of the creatures, let himself be carried out of the cave. Sadly,
> legend goes on to tell us that he had been without food for too long, and
> died shortly after returning to his home village.
> The Celtic peoples often showed great reverence for dragons and serpents,
> depicting them by the side of their gods. They came to represent wisdom
> nobility, in a similar way to the dragons of the Orients. Even today, the
> dragon can still be seen on the national flag of Wales, one claw raised as
> warning of its power and its neck arched in readiness. This respect
> with the beliefs of the new religion, Christianity. According to both
> and Jewish texts, dragons and serpents were incarnations of evil.
> The dragon was said to bring destruction during the end of the world, as
> in the Revelations, while the serpent was blamed for bringing sin to man
> by tempting Eve into eating the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden. The
> legend of St. George, in which he defeats a dragon, perhaps represents
> Christianity overpowering the Celtic religion. The image St. George
> crushing a
> struggling serpent or dragon under his feet was widely used in Christian
> and again may symbolise Christianity's dominance over paganism.
> Stories are told of serpents so unimaginably vast that they encircled the
> itself! Jormungand the Midgard Serpent was one such a monster, said by the
> Norse cultures such as the Vikings to live deep under the sea. The West
> Fon tribe speak of Aido-Hwedo the Rainbow Serpent, who lies coiled in the
> under the land to prevent it from sinking. In both cultures, the serpent
> an important part at the end of the world.
> The most reverential of cultures towards snakes were the Aztecs of
> pre-Columbia. One of their principal gods was the Feathered Serpent,
> Quetzalcoatl. One of the most enigmatic and fascinating figures in ancient
> religion and mythology, Quetzalcoatl was most often portrayed as a green
> serpent with a feather-crested head, similar in many ways to the Chinese
> dragon. He came to represent water, rain, the wind, human sustenance,
> self-sacrifice, re-birth, the morning star of Venus and butterflies.
> Unlike most other Aztec deities, Quetzalcoatl was said to oppose all forms
> sacrifice apart from self-bleeding. However, his brother Tezcatlipoca was
> jealous of the god's purity and goodness, and cast an evil spell to
> Quetzalcoatl into a pale-skinned, bearded human. Shortly afterward,
> Quetzalcoatl sacrificed himself in order to return again, with the bones
> the Underworld which would be made into human beings. Quetzalcoatl taught
> creation all he knew, and bestowed gifts of fire and maize. He could also
> the sick. Once satisfied, Quetzalcoatl was said to have sailed into the
> West on
> a raft of serpents, with the promise that he would one day return.
> Many historical maps show sea serpents in areas of the ocean where they
> thought to dwell. Even in modern times there have been a high number of
> reported sea serpents. This is also true of the serpentine monsters
> thought to
> dwell in many lakes all over the world. The most famous of these is the
> Ness Monster, or Nessie, whose immense body is usually seen as three humps
> above the surface of the water. Similar lake serpents have been reported
> every continent of the world, excluding Antarctica.
> So why have so many different cultures on Earth told stories of these
> wonderful reptiles? A common explanation is that the ancient peoples were
> inspired by the deadliness and beauty of reptiles such as snakes, lizards
> crocodiles, they began to imagine them as giant, magical beings with
> supernatural powers.
> Indeed, we have named several species of reptile with their mythological
> persona in mind: the Komodo Dragon, the Bearded Dragon, the Water Dragon
> the Flying Dragon are all living lizards who bare dragon-like
> But all of these creatures are much smaller than the dragons of legend -
> the largest lizard, the Komodo Dragon, only measures a few metres in
> Additionally, these "dragons" have a very restricted habitat, many only
> inhabiting remote islands or forests. They cannot be fully responsible for
> spawning the vast widespread beliefs in dragons and serpents.
> It is widely suggested that Sea Serpents and Lake Serpents are just
> aquatic animals, such as eels, whales, seals or sharks. However, this
> also has a severe short-coming, in that a large majority of precise
> descriptions of aquatic serpents do not resemble any of these creatures in
> shape, behaviour or movement. It must also be noted that there are far
> reported observations of sea serpents than there are of known existing sea
> animals, like beaked whales and giant squid.
> Dragons and serpents have come to represent a huge variety of different
> but perhaps the one prevailing symbolism that unites them all is man's
> fascination and fear of the unknown. As long as mankind is plagued by
> our lakes, skies, seas and even our souls will never be freed from the
> of dragons and serpents.
> Folklore & Legends/ EARTH MAGICK/ PDN
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