Dragons

From: simon_hibbs@lycosmail.com
Date: Wed 22 Mar 2000 - 18:22:56 EET


I've been doing some reading on the web about dragons in mythology,
both oriental and middle-eastern. As I see it, dragons seem to
be the unpersonalised yet active (living) forces of nature.
Where gods are personifications of either natural phenomena or
philosophical concepts in more or less human form, dragons are
impersonal, inscrutable, capricious manifestations of the forces
of nature.

A storm god wields lightning bolts to punish the wicked, slay his
enemies or inspire awe. Dragon lightning just happens. With no
understanding of physical processes, or impersonal natural causes,
the ancient mind was at a loss to explain the reasons for natural
phenomena. The assumption was that these phenomena occur because
some concious entity wills it to happen. Belief in divine beings
may be an attempt to interpret natural phenomena in a human terms.
God has sent lightning to punnish sinners. The rain has come
because we prayed for it. The floods are late because we failed
to sacrifice. Yet it also seems that such things often happen
for no concievable reason. Even when all the omens are good, when
all the sacrifices have been properly made, when the gods are
surely on our side, suddenly an earthquake will flatten a city.
A dragon has awakened - an event that none could foresee or
prevent, not even the gods.

Dragons are the wandering monsters of the godplane. The gods have
motives and objectives, they have a reason for being. Dragons are
nature in the raw, yet they are still spiritual as well as physical
beings.

I'm sure this interpretation is far from universal. Sometimes
these entities can be conversed with. They don't always appear
to be devoid of personality, but they are always inscrutable.
They do have intelect, but they are often capricious and choose
their actions based on criteria beyond mortal comprehension, or
even logic. They may be helpfull, but their motivation for being
so is often mysterious and unreliable.

Does anyone have sources on the symbolism and meaning of dragons
in myth? What has Joe Campbell have to say?

Simon Hibbs

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