Re: Medieval Dragons, dog/snake, Greek Dragons

From: mrcaws
Message: 17528
Date: 2003-01-11

--- In, "Glen Gordon" <glengordon01@...>
> Torsten:
> >When Sundaland perished in volcanic eruptions, the dragons in panic
> >came out of the forest and people had to fight them too, as if it
> >wasn't bad enough already (hello, Hollywood, are you guys
> His condition is getting worse. Now on to Cort...
> Cort:
> >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.
> >[...]
> >OK. I do agree that the dragon and the water are probably
> The latter comment negates the former, so, as I had already
> the dragon is a symbolic, not just a fantastical or fear-inspiring,
> construct initially representing rain, and as you've discovered for
> yourself, this particular connection is too common a motif to
> I can't deny that there may have been some desire to create awe-
> inspiring creatures out of rampant imagination but this is not
> the main inspiration of these ideas. The main inspiration is from
> abstract symbolism, the one thing that us Homo Sapiens are really
> at.
> >However, I am not in favor of reducing a mythological character to
> >natural phenomenon like "water" or the "clouds" ala Max Muller.
> >[...]
> >I think this kind of reductionist interpretation can blind us to
> >bigger picture.
> There's a difference between ludicrous reductionist theories that
> ignore the facts, and interpretation of mythological symbols based
> the facts. All creatures, gods and icons can and SHOULD be
> if their functions and origins are to be understood properly. I
> think defining the dragon's initial function in the mythological
> as the "bringer of rain" is offbase at all.
> Granted, it is overlayed with millenia of new symbols that
redefined its
> role in later belief systems and so you're very right to state that
> explanation "does not explain all of the significant elements of the
> dragon myth, especially in western myth". It wasn't meant to; it was
> meant only to explain the origin of the dragon's form and function.
> However, I think we can start with the rain connection as a strong
> and work our way out from there.
> >Couple of questions: What is up with dragons guarding sacred
> In honesty, that's a lesser connection at best and we're straying
> the core of the dragon's original function. However, it probably
> all the way back to at least the Indo-Europeans. Remember that
there is
> the story of the three-headed serpent stealing the cattle from the
> Now replace "cattle" with "treasure" and you start to get it.

How do we know which is the "lesser" motif and which is the "Core"
one? As you mentioned, the treasure guarding motif is an old one.
ladon and the Hesperides, the dragon guardign the golden fleece.
Ditto with the hero slaying the dragon-We can trace that to
Babylonian days with Marduk's battle with the Mushushu dragon that
Tiamat summoned in the Enuma Elish. Some consider Tiamat to be a
dragon as well. If so, she is certainly associated with the waters,
thoughin theis casase the primordial salt-waters rather than rain.
On the other hand I do agree there are instances

Three-headed serpent cattle thiefHmm...What about Cacus, a local
Roman fire-breathing cattle-stealing giant?

. Here we have dragon/giant tratis overlapping, and the classic tale
of the cattle theft

> >And by what means were they transformed into demonic hero-fodder in
> >Medieval Europe? Breathing fire?

But the dragon slayer motif is already present in the stories of
Cadmus adn Jason, Ladon

> The later reinterpretation of dragons as demons is simple to explain
> since it stems from Christianity where the Devil deceived Eve in
> the form of a serpent in the book of Genesis. From that, the serpent
> came to be a demonic symbol in the minds of all Christians. That's
> probably one reason why there are only three Mayan codices left,
> to those damn pyromaniac priests bent on converting natives to their
> silly serpentophobic cult. The Mayans were innocently using the
> serpent imagery in connection with Kukulkan, not the Devil.

However, the motif of the treasure-gurading dragon is witnesed in
Ladon and the Hespereides, the Golden Fleece, etc. The motif of the
herod doing battle with the dragon likewise. Also, Marduck did battle
with the Mushushu dragomns Tiamat summoned in the Enuma Elish. Some
argue Tiamat herself was a dragon, and she was certainlky was
associated wiuth waters, but in this case the salty wayers that
encircled the comsos, not rain water.

> >Also, there are numerous stories of fire-breathing multi-headed
> >and giants that closely resemble dragon stories. How are we to
> >explain the overlap here, if dragons are ultimately water/rain
> >symbols?
> If you speak of the Indo-European story of the three-headed serpent,
> there _is_ a connection with water as usual but yet again there are
> symbols overlayed on top of the original function.
> Actually, _that_ serpent may not be related to rain and so it's not
> "dragon" in the true sense. I was thinking that it was probably
just a
> cute little story to explain the origin of rivers. (In other words,
> serpent is slain by the hero and we end up with a giant, slithering
> river.) The three heads are probably because of the tripartite
> of the three social castes a la Dumezil. This symbolism exists in
> Indo-European mythologies enough to appear credible.
> Number symbolism is common in mythology. The number of heads have
> to do with creating a fearful monster (although this may be part of
> and more to do with abstract symbology.
> - gLeN
> _________________________________________________________________
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