[tied] Re: Medieval Dragons, dog/snake, Greek Dragons

From: mrcaws
Message: 17496
Date: 2003-01-10

--- In cybalist@yahoogroups.com, "Glen Gordon" <glengordon01@...>
> Joao:
> >What is the origin of Medieval dragons? These dragons are like
> >giant snakes or lizards, but with claws, ears, horns, like a
> >composite animal. [...]
> >Why Dragons became so popular in Medieval Europe? Oriental origin?
> Cort:
> >I think one possibility could be Mesopotamian and Anatolian
> >monsters.
> Dragons are merely a subclass of these "composite monsters".
> However, that doesn't answer where or how it first started.
> The reason for blending different animals together is not
> merely artistic, nor is it because these creatures once
> existed.

True, but the composite animals may have been put together in order
to create a fantastic monster without having to describe
characteristics outside of cultural experience.

> In fact, these creatures are really themselves the product
> of the larger habit since neolithic times to overlay multiple
> symbols on top of each other to form what appear to us now
> as senseless hodge-podge icons, creatures, gods and goddesses.
> We could lump other questions to the one above like: Why is
> Hathor a cow? Why does Athena burst out of Zeus' head? Why
> does the world hatch out of an egg? Were neolithic people on
> hallucinogenics? Probably, but the real reason is because these
> are visual symbols that sprang out of common sense conclusions
> about the world in which neolithic people found themselves in.

> Bull horns, for example, relate to the crescent moon in shape.
> Thus, bull horns are a symbol of lunar phases and the moon was
> important to the first farmers to know when to plant crops.

> Getting back to the question of dragons, again these are merely
> symbols that appear mysterious to us only because we have very
> different world views than those who created these symbols in
> the first place. We have to readjust our thinking to understand
> their origin. Dragons, lizards and especially snakes can be
> taken as a water symbol. Waves look like slithering serpents
> and this is certainly one valid interpretation of the snake
> imagery in the Middle-East and Europe. In fact, it then starts
> to make sense why the snake often is countered with a bird --
> the snake, the waters below; the bird, the skies above.

OK. I do agree that the dragon and the water are probably connected.
However, I am not in favor of reducing a mythological character to a
natural phenomenon like "water" or the "clouds" ala Max Muller. I am
equally opposed to Jung's idea that we can reduce the dragon to a
representation of the mother to be overcome by the hero.
I think this kind of reductionist interpretation can blind us to the
bigger picture.

> So, we may now explain away the mystery of dragons. The reptilian
> component of dragons symbolize the waters, while bird claws
> symbolize the sky. Stopping there we see now what dragons
> represent. They represent water from the sky -- the rain. Other
> additions added further meaning to the icon. Bull horns or ears
> emphasize a connection with the moon and with agriculture.
> (Afterall, you need rain to grow crops!)
> I believe that the dragon icon first started in Anatolia in the
> Neolithic and spread to Europe as agriculture began to be adopted
> there. It also spread into India and then to the rest of Asia.
> From there, the thunderbird spread into North America.

Interesting. The rain thing I could see, especially in Asia where
dragons were seen as largely beneficient and connected to rain

Couple of questions: What is up with dragons guarding sacred treasure?
And by what means were they transformed into demonic hero-fodder in
Medieval Europe? Breathing fire?
These seem to be sigificant motifs not easily explained by the rain
correspondence. I would argue the rain theory bears further
consideration but does not expliain all of the significant elements
of the dragon myth, especially in western myth.

Also, there are numerous stories of fire-breathing multi-headed ogres
and giants that closely resemble dragon stories. How are we to
explain the overlap here, if dragons are ultimately water/rain

Cort Williams

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