Sunday, September 9, 2007
Chinese Water Dragon
This dragon is a chinese water dragon, you can see the pads of water lily plants where his feet should be. He belongs on an old silk piano cover, (probably 200 years old) and is surrounded by beautifully embroidered chrysantheums. Fine grey silks on a background of cream, he hangs in the hall hopefully to bring good luck on the house. The myth legends of chinese water dragons can be found on Wikipedia, interestingly he is supposed to have formed from the long fish, or carp. And is said to swim upstream battling against all odds to reach the dragon gate. This is a bit like our salmon, swimming each year upstream of our rivers to spawn in quiet waters. Again the celtic salmon is a fish of knowledge and a very important symbolic element in celtic tales, though he has not turned into a dragon.
The chinese water dragon is also found in Chinese neolithic depictions and has a long history and a diverse upbringing. A five toed dragon belongs to the Emperor, four toes to his courtiers and a three-toed dragon belongs to the ordinary people. It would have been a treasonable offence to depict a five toed dragon.
An Anglo Saxon Dragon - Beowulf slaying Grendel in his barrow...
The king once more
took command of his wits, caught up a stabbing-knife
of the keenest battle-sharpness, that he carried in his harness;
and the Geats' Helm struck through the serpent's body.
So daring drove out life: they had downed their foe
by common action, the atheling pair,
and had made an end of him.
The Welsh Dragon, or Red Dragon.
At Dinas Emrys, the traditional site of Vortigen, it is said that a great battle took place between the red dragon of Wales and the white dragon of the Saxons.
Vortigen wanted to lay the foundations of his new capital at Dinas Emrys but every time stones were laid they all disappeared. Merlin, or Myrddin the young magician told the king the reason why. Apparently beneath the ground was a pool, and in the pool was a tent with two dragons sleeping there, if you waken them they will fight. And so, it is said, the two dragons woke up and began fighting the white dragon of the Saxons and the red dragon of the Cymru, they writhed about until they eventually disappeared from the hill. So that is why Dinas Emrys is a wooded tump and the red dragon lives, with only minor excursions from the saxons as they buy their holiday homes in Pembrokeshire and live fairly amicably with their welsh neighbours.
From; The adventures of Tom Bombadil
There was an old dragon under gray stone;
his red eyes blinked as he lay alone.
His joy was dead and his youth spent,
he was knobbed and wrinkled,
and his limbs bent in the long years to his gold chained;
in his heart's furnace the fire waned.
To his belly's slime gems stuck thick,
silver and gold he would snuff and lick:
he knew the place of the least ring
beneath the shadow of his black wing
Of thieves he thought on his hard bed,
and dreamed that on their flesh he fed,
their bones-crushed, and their blood drunk:
his ears drooped and his breath sank.
Mail-rings rang. He heard them not.
A voice echoed in his deep grot:
a young warrior with a bright sword
called him forth to defend his hoard.
His teeth were knives, and on horn his hide,
but iron tore him, and his flame died.
This is a fairly common medieval story of dragons, hoarding their gold waiting for the knight in shining armour to vanquish the poor old dragon....
Folklore and Myths about dragons
This is one of the dragons to be found on the font of St.James Church at Avebury, a christ like figure is depicted with two dragons at his feet, though I must admit finding only one dragon. The font is an earlier saxon font with later Norman embellishments, the arcading below the dragon is reminiscent of Norman blind arcading to be found at Malmesbury Abbey.