Dragons of Oriental Legend: Part 1

          Unlike the dragons of European legend, which for the most part are evil creatures, dragons of Oriental lore are symbols of power and strength. Much of their power-source lies within the elements and the weather. Traditionally, the dragon is held in high esteem in the Orient, especially in Chineese culture with counterparts in Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese cultures. The Emperor of China uses the form of the dragon as a symbol of his authority and power.  In China dragons are typically pictured as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs.

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      The beginning of the dragon’s prominent place in China’s culture goes back to 10th century B.C. during the Zhou Dynasty. The dragon as symbol of nobility and power was spliced into three dragon types. The first being a five-clawed dragon to symbolize the power of the Emperor, then a four-clawed dragon for the nobles of the Emperor’s court, and a three-clawed dragon to represent the ministers. Later, during the Quin Dynasty (221 – 207 B.C.), the four and three-clawed dragons were used to represent the commoners. During the last imperial dynasty of China, the Quing Dynasty (1644 – 1912), the dragon of the Emperor was placed on China’s national flag.(Shown Below)

      After Communism replaced Imerialism in China, the usage of the dragon as a government symbol was no longer accepted. Instead, in our modern world today, the People’s Republic of China uses the dragon as a cultural symbol only. Dragons are widely used in these times as a symbol in cultural and religious celebrations, not only in China but throughout the Orient.

      The reason given for this change is that since Western cultures view the dragon as an evil and malevolent creature, for the sake of diplomacy it was removed as a symbol of government power. However, most Chinese citizens disagree strongly with this, especially those of older generations who remember and still take pride in the dragon as a powerful and positive force.  Beside’s the growing belief is that Westerner’s rarely mistake the Oriental dragon with the savage more warlike dragons of the West.

      The respect and love for the dragon is still very strong today in China. When Nike, the sport’s shoe company released an advertisement showing famed basketball player Lebron James slaying a dragon, the commercial was quickly pulled by the Chinese government in a response to a huge outcry from the citizens of the country. In fact, it is against the law to disfigure or attempt to destroy an image of a dragon.

Dragons of Western Cultures: Pt. 5

Dragon Legends of Italy: 

        The story of St. George and the Dragon is known in Italy as well as in other parts of Europe. However, St, George is not the only famous dragon-slayer in Italian dragon lore.

      There is Saint Mercurialis, the ’First Bishop’ of the city of Forlì. It is told that he slayed a dragon that was terrorizing Forlì. In turn, he is often depicted as doing such. Another such slayer of dragons was Saint Theodore of Tyro, the patron saint of Venice. A statue of him destroying a dragon still adorns the top a column in St. Mark’s Square in Venice. 

      Another story out of the Golden Legend tells the story of ‘Saint Margaret the Virgin.’(statue of her pictured below) The story goes that she was swallowed by Satan, who had taken the shape of a dragon. Once in the belly of the beast, the cross St. Margaret was wearing began to burn his insides, so much so the dragon was forced to spew her out. She of course survived this, and as the story spread, became a heroine. Perhaps because of her sex, many scholars of the time had written that the story not be taken seriously. However, St, Margaret is remembered today throughout Italy as a dragon-slayer.

      More dragon stories have survived to present day from all over Italy, especially in the region known as Umbria. One of these stories is about a ‘wyvern’, (a type of winged dragon with two legs and a dangerously barbed tail), named Thyrus. Thyrus was an evil creature that had been causing havoc on the Umbrian town of Terni. After a long period of this nightmare a young and brave knight stepped up to take on Thyrus. The two battled right outside the town, and when it was over, the knight was holding Thyrus’ head triumphantly in full view of the town. Since that time, Terni has adopted the image of the dragon for their coat of arms. Under the banner is a Latin inscription, “Thyrus et amnis dederunt signa Teramnis”, translated means, “Thyrus the river and they gave signs Teramnis.”

      Yet another story from the Umbria region tells of St. Sylvester who saved the town of Fornole from a ferocious dragon by the power of prayer. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the prayer rendered the dragon meek and gentle. With the threat now gone, the people of Fornole built a church on top of the mountain near the entrance of the dragon’s lair. They dedicated the church to St. Sylvester in gratitude.

 

 

 

 

     

Dragons of Western Cultures: Pt. 4

Saint George and the Dragon:   

      The earliest telling of the legend of Saint George and the Dragon goes back to the tenth or eleventh century and it’s origins are from the middle-east. Knights returning from the Crusades were responsible for bringing back the tales and exploits of Saint George. Though a soldier in the original accounts, George became sainted through time and many retellings in Christian Europe. In William Shakespeare’s classic play “Richard III” he is mentioned in the following lines, 

                              “Advance our standards, set upon our foes Our ancient world of courage fair
St. George Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons
…..”  

      In the backdrop of European Christianity, the legend became part of Christian traditions and festivals. 

      Known originally by the Latin title Legenda aurea or Legenda sanctorum, once the tale circulated throughout Western Europe the legend became known as the “Golden Legend.”  The story takes place in Libya in a place called ‘Silene’. The original text which comes from Georgia speaks of Libya as well but in the fictional city of Lasia and is ruled by the pagan King Selinus.

      As the legend goes, the city of Lasia overlooks a huge pond roughly the mass and depth of a lake. Dwelling in the depths of the pond is a plague-ridden dragon, who is poisoning the entire countryside with it’s sickening venom. At first, the people of Lasia are able to appease the dragon by feeding it two sheep a day. However, the beast soon tires of eating sheep and demands the townspeople bring him one of their children every day.  To save the whole of the country from the plague, the people reluctantly agree. The children are chosen by lottery, but when Selinus’ daughter is chosen to be the dragon’s next victim, Selinus tries to make a deal with his people. He promises he will give them many riches and half of his kingdom if they choose another child. The people refuse. She is presented to the dragon dressed in a wedding gown, when Saint George rides by.

      The girl pleads with George to flee, but he refuses to leave her side. When the dragon rises from the waters, Saint George crosses himself with the sign of the cross and charges the dragon. With his lance, he gravely wounds the beast. He then tells the girl to throw him her girdle. When she does he wraps it around the dragon’s neck. After doing this, the girl can lead the creature around like a pet on a leash.

      Together, they lead the dragon back to Lasia. The people are frightened at first when they see this sight, but then are amazed when they see the power the young girl has over the dragon. Saint George tells them if they get baptized and become Christians, he will slay the beast.  The people agree, get baptized and Saint George slays the dragon, cutting him into four pieces. They carry the pieces on four carts out of the city. The king builds a church in honor of the Virgin Mary and Saint George. After it is built, from the church’s alter a spring flows forth waters that can cure the plague.

      The sword in which Saint George slew the dragon was called Ascalon, taken from Ashkelon, Israel. During WWII Winston Churchill called his personal plane Ascalon, since Saint George is known as the patron saint of England.

      In Portuguese mythology, a female dragon known as the coca battles Saint George during the ”Festa da Coca” on the Portuguese holiday of Corpus Christi. The battle is a symbolic one, the victor deciding the fate of the season’s crops. If the coca wins then the crops will be poor and unfruitful. If St. George takes the victory by cutting off the dragon’s ears and removing her tongue, the crops will be good and prosperous. Besides England and Portugal, the legend of Saint George is popular in Spain and Italy as well.

      The idea of a dragon slayer can be found in a number of ancient cultures, you can say the dragon and a hero who battles and destroys it go hand in hand. In Greek mythology, the sun god Apollo fought and slew a dragon known as Pytho. This particular myth can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, with different characterization of course. The book of Revelation refers to Satan as a red dragon who the archangel Michael must fight and in Italy there’s the story of Margaret the Virgin which can also be found in the chronicles of the Golden Legend.  

      The image of St. George trampling a dragon underfoot with his steed is very much like the ancient pre-Christian deity Sabazios the Sky-Father, who was often depicted on horseback and was most likely the forerunner of the Greek god Zeus.

Dragons of Western Cultures: Pt. 3

Slavic Legends:

      We now travel south to Eastern Europe. Once again, dragon legends abound in this part of the continent. In Bulgaria, a dragon’s personality and it’s attitude towards human beings is based on it’s gender. Male and female dragons of this region are likened to brothers and sisters in their relationship towards each other. Female dragons are haters of mankind and represent destruction to humans, while males are friends to humans and offer protection against the harmful elements.

      As far as the elements go, both fire and water play large roles in Bulgarian dragon legend. These two elements are interesting subjects in the fact that under the proper control, fire and water can be useful to mankind, but left unchecked and once out of control can do great harm to life, home, and property. Female dragons share characteristics with water, while males are associated with fire. In Bulgarian legend, dragons are three headed, winged beings with the body of a serpent.

     In Bulgarian, Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian and Serbian lore, a dragon, or “змей” translated as zmey, smok, zmiy, or zmaj  is generally known as an evil, four-legged dragon with few if any redeeming qualities. Zmeys are somewhat intelligent and enjoy terrorizing villages and small townships, demanding tribute in the form of young maidens and gold. They have multiple heads with 3 or 7 heads being most common. In Bulgaria, some of these dragons are described as being kind and serve as protectors to humans against the Lamya, a creature that shared many of the characteristics to the before mentioned Zmeys. Once again proving that Bulgarians believe in a somewhat kinder and gentler dragon.

      In Poland, their most famous dragon tale is that of the ‘Wawel Dragon’ or Smok Wawelski, meaning the Dragon of Wawel Hill. This beast was said to have terrorized the people of ancient Krakow. It dwelled in a cave that rested on the banks of the Vistula River. The tale goes on to say that a brave and engineering young boy gave the dragon a sheepskin filled with sulphur and tar. After devouring the sheepskin, the beast becomes so thirsty he begins drinking from the river. He drinks and drinks but finds no relief. The dragon finally drinks so much his belly explodes.

      Today, a metallic sculpture of the Wawel Dragon is a popular tourist attraction in Kraków. Every few minutes, the statue spews fire. The dragon is the coat of arms of the Polish princes- Piastów of Czersk.    To Be Continued…

Dragons of Western Cultures Pt. 2

Celtic Mythology continued…

      The young Merlin goes on to tell Vortigern that one dragon was red and represented the Britons, while the other dragon was white in color and stood for the invading Saxons. He explained further that although the white dragon was winning at that time, eventually the red dragon would prevail. Meaning prophetically, that the Brits would drive the Saxons out of England.

      In reality, Vortigern built his fort on Dinas Emrys. Not much is said about him after that, except that his grave is in Dyfed or the Lleyn Peninsula. He is often vilified in British history, as it was he that invited the Saxons into England to begin with.

      Even to this day, the red dragon is symbol of British strength. The red dragon of Merlin’s prophecy is displayed on the Welsh national flag. In England, in the county of Somerset, an area that is located in a part western England that made up the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, the county’s heraldic symbol is the red dragon. 

Origins of the Red and White Dragons:

      Well, how did Vortigern’s warring dragons end up inside Dinas Emrys? The answer lies, once again, in the pages of the Mabinogion. It is the story of the kingly brothers, ”Lludd and Llefelys.” The story begins with the eldest brother Liudd inheiriting the crown from his father. His reign begins well. First, he founds the city “Caer Lludd”, later to be known as London. He also helps his brother Llefelys court and marry the princess of France, thus making him king of that country.

      However, Liudd finds himself the victim of three horrible plagues. The second of the three is the one we are interested in. It seems every 1st of May, a horrible inhuman scream can be heard throughout the kingdom. The screams are so unbearable, it causes every pregnant woman in the land to miscarry.

      Although younger, Llefelys is very wise and has the answer to the plague. He tells Liudd that the screams are coming from two dragons, one red, the other white, that fighting for supremacy over the land. The red dragon is native to England, while the white is from another land altogether. He then instructs Liudd to set a trap for the dragons in the center of the country. He baits the trap with a cauldron of Meade. Thirsty from fighting, the dragons drink the Meade and fall asleep. Liudd puts them both in huge iron chest and buries them under a hill-top. And that is how the two dragons came to be in Dinas Emrys.

Dragons of Western Cultures: Pt. 1

      Like the dragons of Middle-Eastern legends and myths, the dragons of Western cultures are conceived as evil creatures, who’s only purpose in life is to destroy whatever they see fit. With exceptions in Welsh,(coming from Wales),legends dragons are brutal and feared monsters. In some of these tales the dragon is guarding a cave or lair filled with treasure and often associated with a human hero who must attempt to slay it.

      In modern fiction stories dragons are sometimes depicted as intelligent creatures with the ability to speak and have the bodies of dinosaur-like animals. They are covered in scales and sometimes feathers with ivory spikes running down it’s spine, can breathe fire and at times are winged. With the gift of intelligence comes the advent of a human-like personality, thus making some dragons good, while others are evil. 

Greek and Roman: 

      Roman dragons evolved from serpent-like Greek ones, combined with the dragons of the Middel-East in the mix that created the hybrid Greek/Eastern Hellenistic culture.

     The apostle John’s writings in the Bible’s Book of Revelation, describes Satan as “a great dragon, flaming red, with seven heads and ten horns”. Much of John’s literary inspiration is late Hebrew and Greek, but John’s dragon is more likely to have come originally through the Middle-East.

      In the Roman Empire, dragons were represented mostly in the Roman military and were definately influenced by Middle-Eastern cultures. In Roman military tradition, each cohort, (a fighting unit of 360 to 600 soldiers), had a signum or a standard that represented that particular cohort. After the Parthian and Dacian wars of Trajan, located in the area now known as Iran, the Dacian Draco military standard was introduced to the Legion containing the Cohors Sarmatarum and Cohors Dacorum. This standard’s description was found in the surviving writings of the Vegetius De Re Militari circa 379 A.D. The description tells of a large dragon fixed atop a sharp lance, with large gaping jaws of silver with the rest of the body formed of colored silk. With the jaws facing into the wind, the silken body inflated and rippled, resembling a modern-day windsock. 

Norse and Germanic:

      There are several dragons and serpent-like monsters of Scandinavian myth. And most of them fit the modern day criteria of what passes for dragons today. In the final chapter of the poem “Beowulf,” the hero, Beowulf now a king, must confront a serpentine beast that is terrorizing his kingdom. Along with a group of men, Beowulf tracks the monster to it’s lair. When the serpent appears, all but one of Beowulf’s men flee in terror. Beowulf and Wiglaf,(the remaining man), battle the creature. Beowulf is mortally wounded and it is Wiglaf that slays the dragon.

      Although described in the poem as a serpent, the monster of Beowulf has characteristics in common with modern-era dragons, such as breathing fire and hoarding treasure. In fact, the dragon of Beowulf became a forerunner to dragons used in modern popular literature like  J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”   

        Other mythical stories that involve serpents and dragons of Scandinavian lore related to the giant serpent known as Jörmungandr. Also known as the Midgard serpent or World serpent, this creature is derived from Swedish and Dutch myth. Jörmungandr, who was one of the sons of the giantess Angrbooa and the Norse god Loki. He roamed the Earth’s seas and was a target of Thor, the Norse god of thunder. In one of the more popular tales, Thor and the giant Hymir  go fishing for the infamous serpent. Thor, using a powerful towline manages to hook Jörmungandr. When this powerful beast emerges from the water with blood and poison dripping from it’s jaws, confronting the two fishermen, Hymir is struck with fear and before Thor can strike Jörmungandr with his hammer, Hymir cuts the line and the serpent escapes beneath the waves.   

      In Norse legend, the two are prophesied to meet in battle for a final time when Jörmungandr emerges from the ocean and poisons the sky. Thor destroys him but the god of thunder having been poisoned by the serpent, falls dead after taking nine steps away from his fallen enemy.

Celtic Mythology:

      On the isle of Great Britain, one of the most famous dragon tales is that of the two warring dragons described in one of the books of the Mabinogion. Of Welsh origin, these books contain stories of both legendary and real life characters.

      The story opens up with the historically real 5th century warlord, Vortigern inviting the barbaric Saxons to settle in nearby Kent. Vortigern’s plan was to use the Saxons as mercenary troops to help him defeat the Picts and the Scots, who dwelled outside the Roman built Hadrian Wall. However, the Saxons revolted against him, killing his son, and overrunning his territory.

      Vortigern, with his remaining troops escapes to Dinas Emrys,(a rocky and wooded hilltop), in the North-western part of Wales.

      Here’s where the legend comes in. When Vortigern and his men try to build a fortress on Dinas Emrys, unknown forces wreak havoc on them, destroying any of their works during the night as they sleep. Vortigern hears of a young boy, born of a virgin, that lives in the woods nearby. His name is Myrddin Emrys. We know him today as…Merlin. Vortigern’s soldiers locate Merlin and bring him to their lord. Vortigern’s first inclination is to kill the boy to appease the supernatural spirits he thinks keeps destroying his fort. 

      Merlin talks him out of this though, by swearing to Vortigern that he beholds two dragons, battling each other inside the depths of Dinas Emrys, and this battle is responsible for the fort’s destruction.   Part 2of this article coming soon…

      

     

Dragons of Middle Eastern Lore: Pt. 2

Ancient Israel:

       From very old rabbinic writings of Hebrew Legend is the she-demon Lilith. Legend says she was Adam’s first wife. Haughty and demanding equality with Adam, Lilith left Eden. There are other stories of Hebrew origin about a demon called Lilith. Described as a flying serpent with the face of a woman, Lilith would kidnap and strangle newborn children. At times she would take human form and seduce men so she could give birth to demonic sons.

      Muslim legends tell of Lilith leaving Adam to have relations with Satan, thus creating the race of demons known as Djinn. 

      In the Hebrew bible, a beast known as a Leviathan is mentioned six times. Associated with a large and fierce sea creature, Job 41:1-41:34 describes the sea serpent,  His chest is hard as rock, hard as a lower millstone, The sword that reaches him has no effect, nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin, and  Behind him he leaves a glistening wake; one would think the deep had white hair. These are but 3 out of 34 descriptions of this monster of the deep. The Leviathan is also mentioned in Psalms 74 and 104, then again in Isiah.

      Then there’s the famous account in Genesis when Lucifer, once an Angel of beauty and light, falls from grace when he speaks to Eve through a serpent. He convinces her to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. In turn, she convinces Adam to eat the fruit and the first man and woman fall from the favor of God and are cast out of the Garden of Eden.

Africa:

      The first dragon of African legend I have read about is the ‘Dragon of the Lake’. This legend more than likely stems from the Rift Valley, an area in Eastern Africa that is home to many lakes. While the exact lake was not revealed to me during my research, I strongly believe it may be one of the Rift Valley Great Lakes. These three lakes are Lake Victoria, Tanganyika, and Malawi. These are among the largest and deepest of lakes in the world.

      The legend speaks of a dragon that lived in a huge lake. A town close the lake relied on the lake for water, however the dragon would not allow this. To appease the beast, the townspeople offered up a female virgin to it. After devouring her the dragon allowed the people to collect water from the lake.

      In time, the need for water took a heavy toll on the town’s populace of virgins until there was only one left. Her name was Fatouma, a princess. The townspeople took her and tied her to a post on the lake’s shore as was the ritual. A Nubian prince named Hammadi rode into town with his personal entourage. Hearing of the princess’ plight, he and some of his warriors rushed to the shore and freed Fatouma. When the dragon emerged from the lake expecting to taste young virgin flesh, he was met by Hammadi and his men. They slew the monster and freed the town from it’s tyranny. Hammadi later married Fatouma.

     

Dragons of Middle-Eastern Lore: Pt. 1

      Legends and tales of dragons have persisted all over the world, but the middle-eastern dragon legends and even religious beliefs have taken a backseat to the more familiar dragons of the European and Chinese cultures.

 

      One of the greatest empires ever known that sprung up in the middle-east, Egypt, had they’re own version of the evil serpent that tried to cause chaos. Apep,(pictured below), was his name. Known by other names such as, Apophis and Apepi, this dragon was represented in Egyptian religion as a large serpent that Egypt’s chief god, Ra, god of the sun, had to battle against every morning to prevent Apep from keeping the sun from rising. Of course, Ra won every morning, slaying the serpent, only to have to fight him again the next morning.

 

     Illuyanka was a serpintine dragon slain by Tarhunt, the Hittite incarnation of the Hurrian god of sky and storm. It is known from Hittite cuniform tablets found at Çorum-Boğazköy, which was the former Hittite capital Hatussa. 

 

      In ancient Persia, the part of the middle-east now known as Iran, the principle figure of evil in their religion was Ahriman.(pictured right) This ‘evil or destuctive spirit’ was the twin of Spenta Mainya, the ‘holy and wise spirit.’  The fact they are called twins only refers to their simultaneous births into existence, other than that, the two are complete opposites in every thought and deed. The writings of the ancient texts known as the Zoroaster states this saying, ‘…the twin spirits were known as the one good and the other evil, in thought, word, and deed. Between them the wise choose wisely, not so the fools. And when these spirits met they established life and death so in the end the followers of deceit should meet with the worst existence, but the followers of truth with the wise lord.” While not depicted as a dragon himself, Ahriman created a monstrous dragon called Dahak.(below) So vile and destructive was Dahak that even it’s creator, Ahriman, regretted having made him. So he employed one of his champions, Thraetaona to bring him to an end. Thraetaona did not kill Dahak however, but chained him to Mount Damavand for all eternity.

 

      From Babylon, in the region of the middle-east known as Iraq, there comes the legend of Anzu. Born of the Babylonian bird goddess, Siris, he is sometimes depicted as a giant winged bird that beathed fire and water. The Musrussu,(pictured right), who you could say was the pets of Mardok, Babylon’s cheif deity. They were a species of dragons rather than just one individual. In ancient Babylon, their images adorned the gates of the city of Ishtar. Another was Tiamat, the dragon goddess of the deep.(depicted in the first picture above) She was depicted as a winged dragon having anywhere from one to four heads.       Part 2 of this article coming soon…

 

 

 

Dragons: Is There Truth Behind the Myth? Pt. 2: Animals That May Have Inspired Dragons

      Since many myths and legends have a certain amount of fact rooted in their origins, there must be real and living animals that caused man’s imagination and fear to create such beasts like the dragon. Nile Crocodiles of ancient times would sometimes make the voyage across the Mediterranean and appear in parts of Southern Europe. To the people of Southern Greece, Italy, and other European countries that bordered the Mediterranean, these impressive reptiles must have truly seemed like a creature of legend.

      Then there’s the fossils of whales and dinosaurs that were occasionally mistaken for mythological animals. I would wager however, that in ancient times, due to ignorance and superstition, these cases of mistaken identity happened much more than occasionally. One example of this from history is a fossil discovery that was made in China in 300 B.C. by Chinese historian, Chang Qu. 

      In her book, The First Fossil Hunters, Adrienne Mayor, speaks of such discoveries and their power to propel beliefs in creatures of myth and legend. She goes on to write, “Fossil remains generated a variety of geomyths speculating on the creatures’ identity and cause of their destruction. Many ancient cultures, from China and India to Greece, America, and Australia, told tales of dragons, monsters, and giant heroes..” One of these culprits may well have been a now extinct crocodile known as a ‘Quinkana’.(above) These animals made their home in Australia and it’s been established they grew 15 to 20 feet in length. Another extinct reptile that would have caused a sensation in ancient times was a prehistoric Monitor Lizard. Known in Latin as ‘Veranus priscus’(below) by modern biologist. It’s Greek name, ‘Megalania’, means ‘Great Roamer’. These carnivorous giants grew to lengths of over 20 feet and weighed over 4,000lbs! It’s possible the first aboriginal settlers to Australia actually encountered these huge lizards.

      Another product of Australia’s prehistroric period was a giant snake known as the ’Wonambi’. Not in the same genus family as the Python, but still hunted prey by ambush and constriction, this animal would normally reach a length of 15 to 20 feet.

      Even today, the Komodo Dragons of Indonesia are considered a relic of larger extinct reptiles, perhaps related to some named above. They can grow to up to 9 feet in some cases and are meat-eaters. Also, they’re saliva is so bacteria ridden, even a single bite can cause infection and death in just hours if medical attention is not given. 

      In the Bible, Isiah 30:6 speaks of dragons in a list of animals known very well to science saying,  ”This is God’s message about the animals of the southern desert: “The ambassadors travel through dangerous country, where lions live and where there are poisonous snakes and flying dragons…”  According to this scripture, it would appear that dragons or creatures known as dragons were quite real, dangerous to humans, and had the ability to fly. What creature is the Bible speaking about?           Part 3 coming soon…

     

Dragons: Is There Truth Behind the Myth? Pt. 1

      The dragon is known as a legendary creature of medieval lore. Usually described in appearance as having traits of both a serpent and reptile, the dragon plays a role in many cultures throughout the world. The two most prominent cultures, however, that has the dragon legend deeply instilled in them are the Europeans and Chinese. While the two cultures are separated by thousands of miles of land and sea, to a small extent they have influenced one another, especially after the two began co-mingling in more recent times.

 

      The English word ‘dragon’ comes from a Greek word pronounced, (drákōn), meaning serpent of huge size or water-snake. In the Bible’s New Testament and found in the book of Revelation, Satan is described as a red dragon with seven heads, each wearing a crown and ten horns to battle the Archangel Micheal at Armageddon.

       In modern times, Eurpean dragons are typically shown with the body of a huge lizard, or a snake-like creature with two pairs of  legs, and able to emit plumes of fire from their mouths. Able to fly, European dragons have growing from their backs, two big bat-like wings. A dragon with no front legs is called a ‘wyvern’.

 

      Descriptions of dragons may vary from region to region but most have these following traits, ability to breathe fire, some are capable of being poisonous, having reptilian or serpent characteristics, they hatch from eggs, and are generally scaly, while still some are covered in feathers. They are sometimes portrayed as having especially large eyes for watching treasure very diligently, which is derived from another Greek word, drakeîn meaning to see clearly. In some myths dragons have a row of dorsal plates that run along it’s spine. Dragons of European folklore are mostly always winged. However, their Chinese counterparts are described most of the time as wingless and resemble large snakes.

       

      As well as having obvious strength and power, many cultures place a religious significance to dragons. In many Asian cultures dragons were, and in some cultures still are, considered representatives of the primal forces of nature and the universe. Some of these cultural beliefs also include that dragons are intelligent and even wiser than men. Others believe that dragons had the power of speech and in some legends, taught human beings how to speak as well. 

 

      The word dragon became part of the English language in the 13th century coming from old French, which in turn stems from the Latin word draconem (shortened version draco) meaning huge serpent or dragon.

 

      The beleif that represents the dragon as a monstrous opponent defeated by a heroic figure has it’s beginnings in the legends of the ancient Near East, coming from the peoples of Canaan, the Hebrews, the Hitites, and the Mesopatamian peoples.           Part 2 of this article will be published soon…

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