Tuesday, May 22, 2012
"DRAGON": A Mass of Confusion, part two.
I found lots of water monsters the other day, which many people were calling "dragons", but nothing that I would. Today, I intrepidly wander out in search of Wings, and maybe also Fire. We'll have to see how much time and energy there is. The Chinese "dragon-not" above is really quite dragonish, but I need some wings, please. Right now that sculpture is of a great big reptile of interesting appearance.
But off to China we go anyway. I like Chinese "Dragons" and am prepared to give them some special place in the Dragon area of the cryptozoological zoo. They're NOT QUITE the dragon I'm looking for however. The Chinese dragons do fly about [some of them anyway], but wings are an optional decoration. Even in the old China legends, the dragons [often weather, storm, nature energy gods] will fly through the skies wingless, and then, upon reaching the magical age of 1000, they get some honorary wings. This is a charming idea, particularly as Chinese dragons are almost universally "good" elements in the Creation, but they do not fit the dark-bordering-on-evil presence of the much less serpentine classic winged dragon of Europe. Strangely, it seems as if most of the European and Oriental dragon traditions separately evolved.
There is a Chinese creature which appears more dragonish in shape: the Bixie. This is a much smaller entity which is, to my reading so far, totally benign. In fact, it is a "good luck charm". It does have small wings with which it flits around, and is otherwise very unlike the European dragon in behavior.
I like the name "bixie" though, because I can rhyme it with "pixie", and then remember that in the related Vietnamese legends, a dragon mates with a Faerie to produce the first Vietnamese people. Whether any of that makes sense, it seems to anchor an otherwise obvious thought: dragons are like Faerie in their nature.
Well, let's go further a'wandering. Old American cultures are rife with what we all know as "The Feathered Serpent". Toltec-Aztec had Quetzacoatl; Maya had Kukulkan; even the South American cultures' Viracocha may have been their rendition of the same entity. Quetzacoatl is usually represented as a big snake with a plume on his head. Also, a possibly feathered tail, always represented as multiply split.
Quetzacoatl was a knowledge-giver and a benign fellow --- properly venerated among the peoples as a technology and civilization bringer. Also a moral counsellor. The artistic depiction above is therefore of distinctly un-Quetzacoatl behavior, as, although sacrifices seem to have been made to him, his teachings forbid such. An alternative idea for Quetzacoatl is that he represents a great moral teacher who brought some spiritual teachings, as a human being, to tribes from South America to the North American plains.
The bottom line here is, however, that due to the zeal of some over-enthusiastic moronic missionaries of my Church back in earliest Spanish Intrusion days, we've lost too much of the Latin American texts to put together any clear understanding of what Quetzacoatl et al were all about. Whereas they seem to be serpentine, as pictured in the old carving on the Xochicalco monument above, and perhaps flew [though not possessing wings], they do not seem quite to be European type dragons, and, given their general benign and helpful character, relate a lot better to their Chinese cousins.
We seem to have found a kind of dragon, but not the dragon of Western Cultural Legend. So, let's try "western culture".... hmmmm .... what a brilliant thought. There do seem to be a few things flying about. Medea apparently has some large [wingless] snakes to haul her chariot around. Plumed too, I see. But not quite dragons. But we know that the Greeks did have some winged beasts, so where are they?
These things such as this Sicilian Griffin go back a long way. And our Griffin's general body plan seems getting closer to the "land-reptile-with-wings" that we're looking for, but, of course the Griffin is made to go about griffiny business and not dragonish business, so hopefully we'll probe deeper into the Forest of Myth.
Typhon. Typhon's kind of like the later Tiamat but with wings. It's a mixed up monster concept which has some dragon pieces in there, but has none of the potentially real or coherent feeling of the dragon. Typhon is scary, but...
Typhon is a very old concept, and I'd be very surprised if there was not heavy Babylonian influence in this. The statue/carving above is an Etruscan rendition. The humanoid features take Typhon completely out of the dragon search.
So, I'm still flummoxed. Maybe if I look for Fire....
There are some fire breathing somethings-or-others which could serve as inspiration for our dragons, but not directly. At least some have the advantage of going far back in time.
One of the best early fire-blasters was the Egyptian Cat goddess, usually said to be Sekmet, but probably more of the Bast nature. Bast was a fire-breathing lioness of a very early B.C. date.
More intriguing, if we knew anything at all about it, is a creature named Den-Wen which terrorized the countryside destroying everything by fire until an early king somehow killed it. It was supposedly a fire-breather and serpentine, but almost no information about it exists. The tablet above is of an even earlier king and shows what could be a dinosaurish creature at the top.
Greece has a bunch of fire-blasters. The monster Typhon shot fire from its eyes. An offspring of Typhon, the original Chimaera, had the front end of a lion, the back end of a big snake, and a goat growing out of the middle of its back. It was apparently the goat which spit the fire. [That's Bellerophon on Pegasus killing it above]. This thing is almost identical with a more ancient Hittite monster but that has a man growing out of the back rather than a goat. Needless to say, none of these chimaeras look like dragons.
Something quite like what we've been seeking resides in old Russian folklore in the form of the Zmey Gorynych, a perfectly good fire-spitting winged reptile, which despite the excess of heads, fits a dragonish definition quite nicely. BUT I can't find out if this thing is a really old legend, and if so was the thing portrayed this way way back then.
It's clear that I can't help myself on this, and that I need expert advice. In part three [whenever it happens] I'm going to ask God [The Bible] and an even more dragon-fluent expert, Tolkien. All I know so far is that the Great Red Dragon of the Apocalypse "ain't no Dragon" just another big snake. [despite that modern rendition above].
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- "DRAGON": A Mass of Confusion, part last.
- "DRAGON": A Mass of Confusion, part four.
- "DRAGON": A Mass of Confusion, part three.
- "DRAGON": A Mass of Confusion, part two.
- "DRAGON": A Morass of Confusion (at least to me).
- An "Angel" in Indonesia?
- Going Bump in the Day: another "Happy Poltergeist"...
- Something Small (and Confusing) This Way Comes.
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