|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
Part One: Chapter Sixteen
Dragons and the Earth Spirit
A Preliminary Essay
Valentine's Day, February 14
Nearly every culture and civilization on Earth has ancient legends and myths about dragons. These winged reptiles appear in many guises, including serpents, snakes and worms. Even the science of geology has its own dragon myths: The Age of Dinosaurs, when huge reptiles stalked the planet.
Repeated, persistent occurrence of this creature in ancient tales throughout the world identifies dragons as universal symbols for the primal powers of the planet. Their persistence in our modern world hints that dragons are still with us. These creatures of ancient legends are not only fanciful tales, but express in metaphor and symbol an understanding of the nature of the forces that shape our natural environment. They also are projections of instinctive primal energies which well up from deep within the human psyche. In dreams, dragons are classic manifestations of Jungian archetypes—symbols of the deep, impersonal Collective Unconscious—the Intuitive Mind.
Myths About Dragons
In the Far East, dragons remain firmly rooted in culture. No Oriental parade is complete without men dancing beneath a cloth serpent. In China, Feng Shui is their ancient art and natural science of sacred landscape design. Feng Shui means wind and water because it deals with the intangible, invisible forces of the environment which, like wind, can't be seen, and like water, can't be grasped. In Feng Shui, Turquoise Dragon and White Tiger represent the two primary polar forces in the land. Feng Shui's goal is to guide human development on the land so as to not interfere with the flows of energy that are Dragon and Tiger. Feng Shui's intent is to determine the auspicious site where the energies of Dragon and Tiger mix. The ideal is to harness the power of that auspicious point for human benefit.
In the New World, too, reminders of dragons also persist. In southern Ohio, a famous ancient earthwork depicts a serpent swallowing an egg. In Central America are found Aztec and Mayan legends of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent. Seneca Indians of the western Finger Lakes have an important legend about Bare Hill by Canandaigua Lake that had a huge two-headed serpent under it. Their neighbors, Onondaga Nation, remember in the Peacemaker Legend an evil wizard Tadodaho who had snakes in his hair. He controlled Onondaga Lake and was the last man to stand in the path of Peace. In the Southwest's Painted Desert, every summer the Hopi Indians perform their Snake Dance in which men dance with live snakes in their mouths. One purpose of this ceremony is to bring rains to ripen crops, and every year after this sacred ceremony, it rains.
In Europe, dragons abound in many traditional legends from the Arctic Sea throughout the mainland to Mediterranean cultures of Greece, Rome and Phoenicia. In Celtic Britain, King Arthur's father was Uther Pendragon ("the great dragon"), and Merlin is associated with dragons and sorcery. At England's Avebury is a huge megalithic stonework in the shape of a serpent. One of the most vivid of these European legends is a Scandanavian tale which states that a winged serpent traveling through the heavens became tired and curled in a ball to sleep. The Earth formed around the coiled ball of this serpent, whose name is Ourobouros. The legend concludes with the warning that someday the dragon will awaken and continue its journey.
Modern America is perhaps the only culture on Earth lacking any active dragon myths, although there are many dormant symbols of this ancient understanding. Today in modern western culture, the principal dragon myth seems to be the Hebrew tale of the serpent in the Garden of Eden who seduced Eve and Adam to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, resulting in their shame and eviction from the Garden.
However, despite this neglect and bad press, dragons keep cropping up in the modern Western world in bizarre ways. One is persistent sightings of a serpent monster in Loch Ness in northeast Scotland. Then there's Draco, the Dragon, coiled halfway round the Pole Star, still shown on astronomical star charts. Another are colorful colloquial sayings like "opening a can of worms." Curiously, Kekule, a European pioneer in organic chemistry, discovered the benzene ring's circular structure in a dream about a snake eating its own tail.
In a bizarre twist, in recent years there's been stories of a huge serpent in Lake Champlain between Vermont and New York. Its earliest sighting was by the first white explorer in the region, Samuel de Champlain, who wrote of it in his journal. Whether it's organism or apparition is undetermined and unimportant. Locals give it the affectionate name "Champie."
Power of the Earth Spirit
To a metaphorical mind, a Dragon is no mere creature, but a symbol for the Earth's power as a whole, living being. This image bestows personality and spirit on what science has reduced to mere physical objects of matter. As a Dragon, the Earth is alive, conscious and imbued with great power. What atom and molecule are to physical science, Dragon is to a metaphysical conception of Nature and the life that is the Earth. No scientist has ever seen an atom; atoms are "invisible" to our physical eyes. Nor have I met anyone who's seen a dragon. Nonetheless, both atom and dragon are useful ideas to describe our world and the forces that shape it.
Earth as a whole, then, is Ourobouros, a Great Winged Serpent coiled about itself. But any region of land can be presumed to possess its own lesser dragon. To speak of dragons is a way to describe Earth's power as manifested in the land.
Modern geophysical science tells us the planet is enfolded in a own magnetic field within which flow vast electromagnetic currents arising from entrapped solar radiation and impulses surging deep in the Earth. Dragon is a concept to define how impulses of the planetary energy field are stored up here and flow out there as channels and pools of terrestrial electromagnetism. To see a dragon is to perceive the channels of subtle natural energy at the planet's surface. The dragon's body is defined by the physical features of the land where these invisible telluric currents circulate and collect.
It's important to realize the dragon is no mere object, idea or collection of landscape features. Nor is it merely an energy flow in the landscape. Each is but a representation for our own reve lation to describe the living, vital spirit that inhabits and animates the Natural World. This concept of Earth-as-Spirit is lost entirely to modern technology and material philosophy that prevails and dominates today. And the rapid destruction of ecosystems highlights the dangers of this blind course. It's time for the modern mind to rediscover the Dragon.
Fire and Water
A dragon unites the opposite qualities of primal natural energy symbolized as Fire and Water. These two antagonistic forces are but one of the many faces of the ancient Oriental Taoist symbol of Yin and Yang. Fire and Water have an opposite and inimical relation to each other; Fire is hot and goes up, while Water cools and flows down. A dragon harmoniously combines these contrary forces in one organism.
This alchemical union is most simply understood in the image that dragons live in water and breathe fire. From another perspective, dragons reportedly live in caves under mountains in underground lakes. They guard gold, silver, crystals, and precious metals hidden deep in the Earth. They also hoard virgins or guard eggs in a nest. Although myths depict dragons of both genders, most often they are female. These images provide clues to the nature and function of dragons in the minds of ancient peoples.
Dragons control air, winds and weather. They control Fire (lightning and mountains) and Water (streams, lakes and clouds), to create rain and winds. In mythic tales, they had wings and flew. They're reported to cause storms and violent weather, but this is only true when they're angry or disturbed. Normally they maintain a climate favorable to life and living creatures.
Dragons also control regenerative vitality, or fertility. This reproductive vitality results from the creative union of opposite polarities of lifeforce. Hence their mythic association with virgins—symbols of purity, fertility and procreative power. The beneficial influence of the dragon is necessary for animals and plants to be fertile. When natural energies flow harmoniously, then the land is fertile as plants and animals reproduce and thrive in healthy balance. If the dragon is disturbed, then the flow of lifeforce is obstructed and perverted, bringing infertility and devastation.
Dragons also control wealth, represented as precious metals in the Earth, especially Gold, Silver and Crystals. In many legends this wealth is depicted as jewels and treasure hidden in a cave guarded by a winged serpent. Gold and silver are not only precious metals with monetary value, but are the purest energy conductors. Jewels are Earth crystals which transmute energy much as semiconductor crystals resonate and modulate electronic impulses. The internal anatomy of the planet is a complex network of crystals and veins of metal to transmit and resonate the impulses of cosmic and terrestrial energy streams.
Dragons are associated with consciousness and awareness. They depict the Unconscious—the deep powers embedded in the human Psyche. As reptiles they symbolize a deep, ancient state of Mind in human evolution. The clearest myth depicting this comes from India where we find Kundalini, the coiled serpent power at the base of the spine which can be trained to spiral upwards along the spinal column to the brain. In the Iroquois Peacemaker Legend, the evil wizard Tadodaho had snakes in his hair, symbolic of his twisted state of mind, trapped in a lower, animalistic condition of instinctive consciousness. Even the myth of Adam and Eve seduced into eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil preserves this association between serpents and consciousness. In ancient Greece, Hermes (later the Roman Mercury) carried a winged staff with coiled serpents.
Dragons have an association with healing, too. Doctors still retain the Hippocratic Oath and symbol: two coiled serpents ascending a staff. And in the Old Testament, Moses raised up a staff of serpents to remedy the sickness of the Israelites.
War between Man and Nature
Unfortunately, European legends also include numerous tales of dragon slayers. In Britain and across the English Channel on the continent, St. Michael and St. George are the two most often remembered of these dragon slayers. In Ireland, St. Patrick drove snakes from the Emerald Island. Because of these ancient exploits, dragons were vanquished from Europe's culture.
Legends of dragon killers in Europe point to an ancient time when conflict erupted between Man and Nature, disrupting relations between the power that is Earth and human culture. In the centuries after this, European culture evolved in an unbalanced way, having severed its connection to the living Earth power. The mentality this divorce nurtured blossomed centuries later in the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of physical science and mechanistic technology as new ways were developed to harness and manipulate the ancient powers of Fire and Water. Dragon were vanquished to myth and fantasy as industrial civilization began its assault on Earth's natural resources.
This split between Man and Nature accelerated since the birth of Industry—a rift that now threatens the entire planet with devastation and destruction. This inevitable confrontation between Good and Evil was foreshadowed by the serpent's seduction in the Garden of Eden.
The lack of dragon myths in modern American culture exactly defines this broken relationship between Nature and human civilization with its materialistic technologies. To the modern American, dragons were slain or banished in ancient Europe. As a European transplant into New World ecology and culture, modern American culture has never truly connected with the spirit and lifeforce of Turtle Island.
Return of the Dragon
To modern Westerners, to think seriously of dragons is quaint, arcane and more than a little daft. In a world of atom bombs and atom smashers, it's really an absurd fantasy to use this symbol to explain the realities of Nature instead of the atoms, molecules and chemicals of physical science.
However, my investigations into dowsing, Geomancy, Feng Shui, macrobiotics, and meditative intuition hasn't destroyed all the knowledge I gained from modern physical science. Quite the contrary, my understanding has been greatly enhanced and given unexpected depth. My predicament now is that in the ongoing war of Man against Nature, I must side with Nature.
|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
144 pages, 8.5 x 11 soft cover
available from Turtle EyeLand
In trying to explain this children, I've found it simple to explain that despite the best efforts of dragon killers, dragons haven't become extinct. Some were slain, but many escaped by becoming invisible and hiding deep in caves beneath the Earth. As a result, no one has seen a dragon in 3000 years and most people don't even remember how to see one. Because some things, such as dragons, must be believed to be seen, while modern humans only believe what they see. However, the dragons are still alive. Many are asleep, much like animals, plants and insects which hibernate in the Earth during winter.
Indeed, it is no surprise to me that 1988, by the Chinese Calendar, is the Year of the Dragon.