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Home > Dragon Symbolism

Dragon Symbolism
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Dragon SymbolismThe dragon is probably the most universal of all mythical creatures. It is most frequently described as a great flying reptile, a ferocious and untamed (but not necessarily evil) beast which embodies in many cultures the elemental forces of chaos and cosmic order.

Dwelling in the dark caverns of the earth, with lungs of fire, wings of a bird and scales of a fish, the dragon epitomizes the four elements of the ancient world, unifying them into a single presence that can inspire the imagination and haunt our dreams. The dragon carries opposite meanings representing the paradox at the heart of our being - the mutual dependence of light and dark, creation and destruction, male and female. But more than any other symbol, the dragon also embodies the unifying force underlying these opposites. In itself it is neither good or bad, but symbolizes the primal energy upholding the material world, which can be turned to either good or evil purposes.

In the Orient, the emphasis has traditionally been on the positive aspects of this primal energy. The dragon is depicted as a union of the beneficial powers of the elements. Uniting water (the serpent) with air (the bird, the breath of life), it represents the coming together of matter and spirit. This positive force was thought to be capable of animating the earth through the dragon pathways - symbolic arteries through which earth energy flows.

In pagan times the emphasis in the West, as in the East, was on the benificent aspects of dragon energy - as the Welsh flag, with its proud red dragon, still testifies. However, in the Christian era, with the relegation of the serpent to the symbolic role of Satan the tempter, the dragon came increasingly to represent chaos, raw destructive power, the evil inherent in the world of matter. Sometimes it is shown as coming between ourselves and hidden treasure (spiritual wisdom) or carrying off a virgin (purity) to its underground lair.

By an obvious logic, the dragon also came to symbolize the inner world of the emotions and the unconscious. In the West, it was the animal that lurks within us, the primitive energies which, left unbridled, can reduce us to the level of beasts.

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