|Artist's impression of Excalibur|
Thursday, October 1, 2015
The Mystery of Dragons!
Who doesn’t love dragons? When I was writing The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, I was determined to find a place for dragons, or at the very least, a book about dragons. I managed to fit one in, actually a book not just about dragons, but a bestiary, which is a book about various animals and mythical creatures, and something that was very popular in the Middle Ages.
Stories of dragons appear all throughout history and almost every culture has their own idea about dragons. Some reasons for this could be the finding of dinosaur fossils. Dragons could be used to describe the bones of gigantic unknown creatures. Adam is disappointed at first when he hears a description of the ‘serpents’ on Excalibur, Arthur’s sword, because they don’t seem to resemble the creatures he saw on the hilt of the ancient sword in the Ashmolean Museum. However, he then finds out that in fact… “Then Archie said, ‘Of course, the serpent and the dragon were intertwined in Celtic mythology, the dragon being in essence a large serpent with legs and wings.’”
In Celtic mythology, the dragon was believed to inhabit a world that was parallel to the physical world. Druids believed that the dragon’s power affected the ‘ley’ or energy of the land. They believed that the path the dragons took, called a ‘vein,’ was important to the flow of energy through the physical world. Where dragons trod, magical power flowed, and where they laired were invariably places of great sanctity and mystical harmony. Areas where a dragon passed often, where dragon paths crossed, or places a dragon stopped to rest became more powerful than the areas surrounding it. Druids hunted for these lines and made ley lines maps for their people, instructing them to build their temples and homes along the lines in order to harvest the energies. Stonehenge is thought to be one of those places. In addition, some believe that the Celtic cross surrounded by a circle is a symbol of the crossing ley lines and the circle of life is centered on that power.
King Arthur himself was burdened by dreams of dragons; although it is unclear which color he saw. He saw them specifically at the time of Mordred’s conception and before his death. He is eaten by dragons in his final dream and it is at his next battle that Mordred kills him. It is said that when a king sees dragons then ruin will come to his kingdom and himself.
There are two types of dragons in Celtic lore. There is the standard winged version with four legs that most people are familiar with and there is a sea serpent that is depicted as either a giant wingless serpent or a huge serpent with wings, but no legs. The dragon was a gatekeeper to other worlds and guardian to the secrets and treasures of the universe. They were often depicted side by side with the Celtic gods. As creatures that protect the Earth and all living things, Celtic dragons are considered the most powerful of all the Celtic symbols.
Dragons are used as a symbol of power and wisdom among leaders. Dragons are seen on many coats of arms. The Welsh flag proudly displays the Red Dragon and their motto reads: Y Ddraig Goch Ddyry Cychwyn, meaning ‘The Red Dragon Leads the Way.’ Y Ddraig Goch, the red dragon, was derived from the Great Red Serpent that had represented the Welsh god Dewi.
As a heraldic symbol, the dragon varies greatly, especially the ears. The wings are always that of a bat, and its tongue and tail can be barbed or smooth. King Arthur was one of the first leaders to use the red dragon. It was prominently shown on his helmet. Dragons are often depicted in Celtic artwork, many times drawn with their tails in their mouths. This symbolizes the cycle of nature in the world and immortality. The dragon is usually twisted upon itself, with tail, ears, and body parts weaving in and out of other parts, much like a regular knot work piece.
If you’re looking for more adventures, then please visit The Quest Books, where Middle Grade authors Cheryl Carpinello, Wendy Leighton-Porter and I have teamed up to offer readers an array of exciting quests. Sign up for our monthly newsletter with exciting exclusive material and get your choice of any e-book on the site FREE!