"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dragons and Serpents

The Chinese Imperial Dragon: The four claws of Mang,the terrestrial dragon,represents the four elements ,Lung,the imperial dragon (above),was blessed with a fifth claw,representing ether - spiritual power that was fully manifested in the person of the emperor.

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 nor 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 beneficent 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.

The Dragonslayer: This image symbolizes the triumph of spirit over matter. The lance is a symbol of masculine power, and of the sun's rays slanting into the world.


Dragon Rising From The Sea

In the East, this was linked with scholarship and the creative mind. In the West, it was the symbol of the depths of the unconscious and the strange energies that dwell there. 

The Seven-Headed Serpent 

This symbol carries a double meaning. On one level it is Lotan, destroyed by Baal in the Canaanite myth, and probably the original Biblical Leviathan, which later served as a symbol of the seven deadly sins. On another level it is the combination of dragon or serpent with the mystical number seven, the number of the universe. As such, it represents the creative force in its most purposeful and complete form.


The snake swallowing its own tail brings together the symbolism of the circle and of the serpent. It is the water-element equivalent of the phoenix, representing totality, rebirth, immortality, and the round of existence. It occurs in ancient Greece and Egypt.


In Greek myth Medusa was once beautiful, but having made love in the temple of Athene, she was changed by the goddess into a harridan, with snakes for hair, who could turn a man into stone with her gaze. She symbolizes fear, specifically men's fear of women's swift transformations of mood. Medusa's head frequently appeared as a protective talisman on weapons and shields.

Entwined Snakes

A symbol of the dual creative forces (good and evil) within the world of forms. When twined around a staff, the two snakes form the caduceus, symbol of the messenger of the gods, Hermes (Mercury to the Romans). In myth, the caduceus was formed when Hermes used the staff to separate two serpents locked in combat, and thus came to symbolize peace. It is used nowadays as a symbol for homeopathic medicine, reflecting the notion that nature can cure herself.


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