The first season of The Game of Thrones (so captivating!) ends with Daenerys Targaryen or Khaleesi having emerged from the funeral pyre with three newly-hatched dragons clinging to her body. A powerful sight. She personifies here the Great Mother, the maternal uoroboros (for more on this symbol see here: https://symbolreader.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/thinking-of-love/) in her more terrifying, fascinating and awe-inspiring aspect as the Dark Goddess. She is a fascinating character, who started in a seemingly losing position – exploited by her ruthless, ambition-consumed brother, married against her will, she used the situation to her advantage and developed her own, personal power. But in order to become the real lady of the dragons, to embrace her feminine power, she had to renounce and let go of two aspects. On that funeral pyre burnt two aspects of her old self: the corpse of her husband and the dark witch. She needed to understand that she is complete without a man, that no man defines her or owns her. Furthermore, she needed to renounce black magic – the use of her powers for evil causes or to try to change the laws of nature. Her sacred task is to guard the sacred natural laws. I have not seen the second season yet, so I do not want to know for now what kind of character she will grow into.
The inscription ‘Here be dragons’ was used to indicate unchartered territories on ancient maps. Psychologically, we all have these unchartered and untamed areas of the psyche.
In a great Book of Imaginary Beings Jorge Luis Borges writes this about the Eastern Dragon:
Generally, it is imagined with a head something like a horse’s, with a snake’s tail, with wings on its sides (if at all), and with four claws, each furnished with four curved nails. We read also of its nine resemblances: its horns are not unlike those of a stag, its head that of a camel, its eyes those of a devil, its neck that of a snake, its belly that of a clam, its scales those of a fish, its talons those of an eagle, its footprints those of a tiger, and its ears those of an ox. … . It is customary to picture them with a pearl, which dangles from their necks and is a symbol of the sun. Within this pearl lies the Dragon’s power. The beast is rendered helpless if its pearl is stolen from it. According to its will, the Dragon can become visible or invisible. In springtime it ascends into the skies; in the fall it dives down into the depths of the seas.
The Celestial Dragon carries on its back the palaces of the gods that otherwise might fall to earth, destroying the cities of men; the Divine Dragon makes the winds and rains for the benefit of mankind; the Terrestrial Dragon determines the course of streams and rivers; the Subterranean Dragon stands watch over treasures forbidden to men.
From that description the dragon appears to be a symbol of wholeness – it combines the powers of heavenly and chthonic powers and rules the four elements. There is no environment where a dragon would feel inept. The dragon seems to be an extremely universal symbol: it appeared in almost every culture, both in myth and legend of the cultures most primitive and most sophisticated. In Switzerland the famous mountain Pilatus is known as the mountains of dragons. I made a point of standing on top of it on my birthday. I walked through a corridor of caves and read plaque with fragments of dragon legends. They were quite poetic and I photographed all of them. One of them said:
So, one dark night as the pale moon is all but obscured by scudding clouds, a giant shadow might indeed sweep past, and a visitor to Pilatus may hear a distant flapping of leathery wings. Should a hint of healing energy drift his way, the visitor may consider himself a lucky man indeed.
Another one read:
Dragons are subterranean, winged, smoke- and fire-breathing creatures, hybrid go-betweens in a magical bond between heaven and the underworld, where they guard secret treasures and reign over fires and concealed palaces.
According to Cirlot, author of my favourite Dictionary of Symbols, dragons are an amalgam of elements taken from various animals that are extremely aggressive and dangerous, such as serpents, crocodiles, lions and prehistoric animals. It is an expression of the amoral realm of pure instinct, chaos and dissolution. It is a primordial enemy of many heroes. The symbolism of the dragon is three-level: it combines “the highest level of spirituality; the intermediary plane of the phenomenal life; and the lower level of inferior and telluric (i.e. related to earth) forces.”
The word ‘dragon’ comes from Greek derkein – seeing, which explains why they are such good guardians and also suggests clairvoyance and the gift of prophecy. In alchemy, dragons fighting with each other illustrated the state of putrefactio (separating out the Elements, or psychic disintegration –a process in which the old decomposes, rots to make way for the new). Putrefaction is a disattachment from the past, allowing it to die, rot and ferment. Out of the darkness the new content may emerge and enrich the Soul.
I find it quite interesting that the name of the Python that was killed by the God Apollo in Delphi, where subsequently the god established his oracle with the priestess called the Pythia, means “Rotter.” It was through slaying the Python that Apollo became a prophet. Wise kings throughout history have assimilated the dragon as their emblems, most notably Uther Pendragon (i.e. Chief Dragon), father of King Arthur.
William Turner, Apollo and Python
Jung equaled the dragon with the terrible mother – the regressive forces that threaten to swallow the hero, i.e. the ego seeking individuation. Liz Greene reminds that the violent split that occurred between the Greek sky gods and the Mother Goddess is a natural development of consciousness and is reenacted in classical myth and legends in which a hero fights a dragon. She argues, however, that the time has come now in the evolution of human kind to resolve this dramatic split. Redemption of matter and instinct, the acknowledgement of their wisdom, is what the return of the divine feminine is about. The Virgin does not need to be rescued, she can master the dragon herself. All of us, irrespective of gender, must face our inner dragon.
The Dragon of Krakow, my home town