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Welcome to the year of the Dragon! Over the last four years, I have served as the meta expert for three seasons of a TV Series called MYTHS: The Greatest Mysteries of Humanity, which has now aired on the History Channel, Sky, Channel4 and ZDF across Europe and the UK. We covered thirty myths over the course of three seasons, and the Dragon was espescially dear to me. As we move into the Year of the Dragon, I'd like to share some clips on Dragons from the series and my interview notes for Vivien Schwarzenberg's episode. For anyone interested in more clips from the series, I have shared a set of them on Instagram.

MYTHS: Myths represent understanding that transcends any single dimension—in myths, we find an early record of historical and natural truths, but we also find our spiritual insights and psychological experiences. Myths are treasures. They are understandings – of ourselves and of our world. Some of these understandings are older than our species, so too, are some of our myths. Resolved conversations end. Answered questions are put to bed. Recurring myths are centered around undying concerns. As long as we’re interested in the relationship of energy with matter and imagination with existence, the dragon will not lose it’s power. For a myth to be alive, it has to resonate. Myths that endure are those that, generation after generation, resonate.  We cannot hear what does not resonate. Lasting myths have lasting resonance, and this resonance is with our inner reality as much as it is with our world.  The more we tell our stories, the more we exaggerate them, and the more we hear them, the more we dislike cliché. As a result, stories become richer and less direct over time. Their meanings get buried in allegory. And we even forget what they mean.


DRAGONS OF THE WORLD: There's almost no part of the globe where we don't find dragon like creatures. They appear in some of our earliest myths. They're one of the first things we as a species ever dreamt up either to frighten us or to protect us, to nurture the world or destroy it.  Are there dragons everywhere because there was a global civilization with dragons at the center of its mythology or because there were common experiences around the world that inspired dragons? There are rivers and rainbows and spines and snakes and lightning bolts everywhere, and everywhere, they have roughly the same shape, and everywhere, there were poets and dreamers who saw.

FEAR OF THE SNAKE: If there is a common origin to the dragon, it is not a region of the world, it’s a region of the psyche. Snakes have been in our nightmares since before we were humans. By the time the first migrants were leaving Africa, Humans had been in a dynamic with snakes Our relationship with snakes, rivers, lightning and rainbows dates back further. The humans migrating from Africa took their imaginations with them, and these imaginations were themselves inherited. Associations of snakes with death and trees with life are far older than our species, so in the same way the motif of the upside down tree can be found from Africa to India and Australia, so too can the dragon-like serpent. Imagination is older than humans—so are its fears and associations—and the association of snakes with death is as old as it gets. The question is when we began to make connections between the serpent and what shares its shape—rivers, lightning, spines and rainbows. How ancient are the dreams that mixed them together?   

SHAPE SHIFTERS: When you look dead on at a serpent, it’s a point. When you pull it tight, it’s a line, but it can also be a wave, circle, or any other shape.Serpents and the dragons with which they’re associated are shape shifters, but shapes aren’t just in our world, they’re in our minds; and so the mastery of form represented by the serpent isn’t just a mastery of the world and it’s patterns, it’s a capacity to understand how the patterns in our world relate to the patterns in our consciousness.

OUROBOROS: The ouroboros, for example, the snake that bites its tail, is a mirror for the experience of going in circles and getting nowhere – of growing up and having babies so your kids can grow up and have babies like your parents grew up and had babies.

DRAGON WAVES: Think about the shape shifting that goes on in the wires to your headphones – the shape of the sound wave has become the shape of an electro magnetic wave that the speaker turns into a sound wave again that the ear turns back into an electromagnetic wave that the ear hears as a sound wave.

MASTERS OF FORM: Serpents are masters of the waves, masters of form. but another way to say this is that they are masters of form, and to the extent we see form and pattern as knowledge, they are masters of knowledge. At the same time, we associate form with, which makes them keepers of the knowledge of the forms, for which reason they are associated with knowledge but also archetypes.

DRAGONS AS LEADERS: Dragon leaders include the father of Arthur, monarch of wales, Chinese emperors, pharaohs—many all have been associated with dragons.

DRAGON AS HYBRID: The Buddha teaches us that a flower is not earth, water, light or seed—it’s what happens then they take form together. The same can be said of rivers, which are the shapes of their earthen banks, the water of their currents and the life forms they help circulate. This is what dragons are, this is what their being represents.

RIVER DRAGONS: Our understanding of the dragon came from rivers -- the Nile and Yellow River were explicitly Dragons for the first Chinese and Egyptian civlizations. The body of a river, however, is not material. The river is not its shape or its water or even its ecosystems or animals it is all of them. It the energy being itself, and this is the dragon. When it personifies the rainbow, it personifies a familiar phenomenon of energy taking form.

ENERGY BEING: Beneath the dragon it is always an energy being it is always being which connects many things in many places it is the circulatory system itself. And so we see these rivers, which unify a wide range of ecosystems and animals, as chimera, as beings that integrate many beings and energy that can take many forms—that can shift into many shapes—like the serpent.

DRAGON FIRE: Fire is what makes humans unique from animals, but this is the animal that produces fire from within, this is because it is an energy being – what it brings is vitality—through rain, fire or the currents of rivers and seas, rainbows and lightning – it’s all vitality taking form, over which, as a shape shifter, the serpent is master – master of form. And the forms aren’t just in the world or the energy that precedes it, as Plato describes, the forms are also ideas. So as the master of form, the dragon or serpent is the master of ideas and the shape shifting of our consciousness that enables them.

DRAGONS OF WAR: Dragons are seen in the war campaign, in the torch line of warriors through the night. A mighty dragon s one who can raise this dragon of warrior torches byunifying a fighting force, which requires a narrative. Dragons are poet-leaders. 

STORM DRAGON: Fire breathing dragon is also a storm — lightning that turns into burning trees and homes. Great serpents are associated with storm and chaos through the god Apophis and other deities who bring rain and energy and vitality. 

DRAGON AS UNBORN CONSORT: The understanding of reality distilled in the dragon precedes the homo sapien species and its ventures from Africa. Already in Neanderthals, we see the burying of dead and belief in the afterlife. This reflects an understanding of the spirit or soul as distinguishable from body. And so when myths around the world present dragons or serpents as the consort of a mother—from Hanuwele in the Pacific to Eve in Eden and the mother of Alexander herself—we see spirit taking form to be born as a body, sometimes even as our first bodies. So on one level, this motif can be traced back to early humans, and on another, it continues to represent something central to us—our contemplation of the relationship between matter and energy, body and soul, imagination and existence.  

DRAGON CONSORT: The maiden and serpent are consorts throughout world mythology. From Eden to Tonga, the serpent is experienced as a seducer. Which reveals the obvious association of the serpent with the male organ. When damsels are distressed by the dragon, femininity is distressed by the masculine. Her symbolic rescue, then, and union with the hero, is a balance restoring myth. When this story occurs as the dream of a single dreamer, and it does, the dreamer is freeing his own femininity from his own masculine imbalance.     

DRAGONS ARE FROM THE SPIRIT WORLD: Chinese dragons are from spirit world and do not visit human realm often. They are assosciated with mountains, thus mountain tops: where above meets below, but also the gold within that breaths into fire above. The dragon is the volcano is the storm. 


IMAGINE DRAGONS: Dragon power is power of the imagination, and so the association of the dragon with the placebo is a recognition that the imagination can heal.

PLACEBO & THE DRAGON: The Placebo effect is very real, but it only works when the imagination of the sick expects to be healed. Dragons heal by healing the imagination (just like dragons are killed to kill the imagination).

ST. GEORGE: In the story of St. George we see the wishful fantasy of evil defeated and the devil subdued, which soothed a very scared and traumatized medieval soul. Add the fact that there really were no snakes in Ireland, and that St. George was said to have achieved this feat, and we see hope for a world that will someday be entirely free of its devils.

DRAGON SLAYER: To slay a dragon is to vanquish what they represent. Sometimes we see them as hoarders, sometimes as tyrants, but they are also energy beings with magic and knowledge. To kill a dragon is often presented as the killing of fantasy, of magic, and life force itself.

DEMONIZING THE DRAGON: The demonization of the dragon is the demonization of energy – the dragon is a river, an energy being. We are dragons, energy beings. Rainbows, lightning bolts – these are examples of energy taking shape, and what the dragon represents is that energy within that shape, beneath that shape – dragons are the vitality that brings rain and the vitality of rivers – not just their circulation of life but their circulation of culture and ideas. The subduing of the dragon is, unfortunately, the subduing of the energy being, of the river, and the creation of a king, a leader, a monarch – and so the king takes the dragon’s face and says he is the dragon, but he is not the dragon, and it has confused us into thinking that the dragons are the tyrants, they are not. The tyrants have taken the image of the dragon.

DRAGON OF GOOD OR EVIL: Conquerors demonize their enemies, so when rivers were conquered, the dragons that represented them became seen as demons. Because China’s river valley civilizations were never conquered by outsiders, they still valorize their dragons. However, the other great river civilizations that grew around their ability to feed people were defeated in the iron age, by greater weapons. And as the river valleys were subdued, stories emerged of dragons defeated by heroes. The conquering emperors of China took a different approach, instead, they claimed to be the dragons and usurped their icons.  The same can be said of Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur, who, by stealing the dragon’s image, conflated it with tyranny. The dragon, itself, is not a tyrant. It is the flowing river, the flowing lava, the rainbow of freedom. Tyranny is when the river is conquered, when the mountain becomes a symbol of hoarding, and the rainbow becomes a mere call for gold. The dragon is cast as a demon by those who displaced those cultures that worshiped them and by those who wanted to conquer their rivers. Then it gets cast as a tyrant when their inheritance is claimed by tyrannical kings.


DRAGON BLOOD & THE WEAK SPOT: Dragon bones coal and dragon blood is the fluid in which we quench steel blades.  – this has to do with iron armor, which makes us invincible. When Segfried became invincible by bathing in dragons blood, but where a leaf had remained on his body, he had a weak spot. This is like the weak spot of Achilles, dipped in the Styx by his heal. But this is also the weak spot of metal, when quenched in a fluid to make it hard. A weak spot remains where it’s held by the tongs. This is clarified by a myth in the Caucasus, where the man of steel is created in the smithy, and who retains a weak spot where held by the tongs. In these stories, dragon bones refer to coal that was used to heat the iron, which is revealed as the dragon blood that protected Siegfried – a poetic representation of Iron armor, including its flaw.



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