Mythology of Dragons

Welcome to the Forever and a day blog! Here, each week or so, we’ll be delving into the things you might find in the store, their meanings, and the history behind them. For this post, I’ve chosen to start off with a subject I know quite well: Dragons. Dragons are symbols of power that are emblematic of those natural forces we cannot tame. Yet, between different cultures, the perspective changes a bit. Some of the big differences happen between Eastern and Western cultures, in which dragons take wildly differing alignments. On the one hand, Western dragons are known for their ruthlessness and wrath, and are often considered omens of calamity and destruction. On the other hand, Eastern dragons are often known for their benevolence, and are often seen as omens of blessings or luck.

To begin with, let’s discuss the Western idea of what a dragon is. If you’ve read fantasy books, watched fantasy movies, or even been to a Renaissance Faire, these are the dragons you’re probably familiar with. Having usually 2-4 legs, wings, and fiery breath, these are the creatures that inspired medieval fantasy and terrified the imaginations from which European folklore sprang. Their usual idiom? Hoarding gold and treasure, terrorizing the townfolk, and generally causing a ruckus. Dragons, especially in European folklore, tend to be the villains rather than the hero. This, however, is only one half of the symbolism of dragons. In many cultures, the dragons’ tendency toward destruction and chaos translated the serpentine creatures into a symbol of power. In fact, many a coat of arms from the late medieval period feature the heraldry of the dragon, and even to this day, dragons still feature as the symbols of various companies, sports teams, and political regions.

In the East, the story becomes a bit more neutral, if not outright benign. Most in the West are familiar with the long, snakelike Chinese Lung, and the symbolism of power and luck behind them. This seems to be the predominant theme, with a few exceptions, in Eastern folklore. The Eastern dragon is more known for having a predilection for magic and raw, natural power. Associated with the wind and water, they tend to be more of the benevolent, healing types rather than the plundering, rampaging idea of dragons in the West. With all of that being said, the Eastern dragon is still sometimes shown to be a force for destruction, especially in the same sense that their usual elements can be destructive in and of themselves. Rivers can always flood, and storms can wipe out crops and even villages. Sometimes, this can be attributed to the wrath of the local resident dragon. In these cases, as in Japanese folklore, the dragon is less a symbol of chaos and wanton destruction, and more of a force of nature.

In modern society, we know of dragons as creatures of fantasy books and movies. Creatures such as Falkor, the Nazgul, Smaug, and others have become common knowledge. Even outside of the bounds of ‘geek’ culture, dragons are a well-known trope with many variations. On the western side of things, we have the wyvern (a dragon with two legs and two wings), the hydra from Greek mythology with its many heads, the Hungarian Sarkany, having seven heads and seven tails, and the typical western dragon. Eastern cultures know such dragons as the Chinese Lung, the Japanese Tatsu, the Korean Mang, and other similar dragons. It can sometimes be hard to know the difference when viewing their iconography, as there has been a blending of cultures throughout the years. A tell-tale sign, though, is in the number of toes. Going from west to east, a dragon loses its toes. So a Chinese Lung will have five toes/fingers, while a Japanese dragon has only three. There are also differences in behavior depending upon culture. So a dragon in Korea will have a slightly different temperament than a similar dragon from Vietnam, and both of those will vary from a Chinese dragon in behavior as well.

Dragons remain an enigmatic symbol within the bounds of spirituality in particular, and are often called upon as guides, worked with as magical foci, and even simply as symbols for groups and practices. In most cases, the dragon is a force and symbol of the raw powers of nature, often called upon when one’s need for a greater power in a working is dire. Despite their aforementioned destructive symbolism, the power of dragons remains an alluring prospect, and they are often seen as more neutral in today’s practices than they at first appear in their prior mythologies.

These enigmatic creatures are known for their power, their stories, and their charisma. The focus of many fantasy and folkloric titles, Dragons have a draw to them that spreads across cultures and time periods, right down to the common era. Here at Forever and a Day, we have numerous dragon statues, pendants, and dragon-themed boxes to inspire your practice, or even just to decorate your home with. We also have dragon-themed tarot and oracle cards, so as to focus your readings toward the mythology of these winged, scaly beings. For those of you more into stones and crystals, we also carry Dragonstone Jasper, which can benefit your vitality and courage, in addition to connecting to the heart chakra. Next time you’re in the store, be sure to look out for these fierce and fiery beasts, and who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new friend to bring home!

Sources:

The truth is, a lot of my knowledge of dragons comes from what I’ve picked up from various sources, and is often a bit more patchwork than I like to admit. Thus, here are the sources I used to confirm and learn while writing this post:

www.draconika.com

A great site of dragon lore and mythology. I utilized this to confirm and research information on western dragons

http://www.blackdrago.com/easterndragons.htm

An article from another excellent compendium of dragon lore, from which I originally learned a lot of my lore on Eastern dragons, and which I used to check my knowledge of such herein.

http://bjordangemstones.blogspot.com/2013/04/dragon-blood-jasper-dragon-blood-jasper.html#.Wt6K-0xFyM8

I mainly used this site to research the benefits of dragon stone jasper in the latter part of this post.

Image credit:  Pixabay-momo_sc-outdoors-3106126_640