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…Springs, and Fountains.

Dragons and water go together like scones and clotted cream. Eastern, Western, and Feathered, they have been linked to pools and streams, sacred and mundane, since time immemorial. This is the week, warmed by the blush of Indian Summer, in which we celebrate that connection.

This has not always stood them in good stead with us humans. Competition for this necessity of life could be fierce, especially in the arid parts of the world. Being the more ancient of the species, Dragons naturally had dibs on the best flows. Wise humans, like the Druids and ancient Greeks, worked things out with the Dragons. They were enlisted as guardians of shared sacred spaces, and given all rights and honors attendant thereof.

Of course, where there is wisdom, there is also ignorance and, as is often the case with human beings, greed. In Europe, for example, with the rise of Christianity, the Dragon springs were viewed as excellent spots for monasteries and churches. This was spun among the populace as “respect” for the ancient spiritual sites, and, indeed, it earned the early evangelists points among the tribes. Unfortunately, it brought them in direct conflict with the guardian Dragons – beings regarded by the new faith as demonic monsters.

One of the most familiar accounts of such a conflict actually comes from the golden age of Olympian Greece: the genesis tale of Cadmus and the Dragon of Ares.

The gist of is is this: Cadmus, a hero, was on a hero’s quest: to rescue his sister, Europa, whom Zeus had hijacked for his own libidinous purposes. On this journey, Cadmus sought the advice of the Delpic Oracle, who told him to follow a “moon-marked” cow into the wilds of Boeotia. Where she lay down, he was to sacrifice her to Athena and found a great city. This he did. Unfortuantely, he needed water to prepare for the sacrifice and the only water at hand was a spring, sacred to Ares and guarded by the god’s favorite Dragon.

The long and the short of it was that the Dragon killed Cadmus’s men and Cadmus killed the Dragon (and the poor cow).

Cadmus & the Dragon ~ Hendrick Goltzius

Then, on the advice of Athena lest he be alone in the world, sowed the Dragon’s teeth. From them sprang fierce warriors who battled each other until only the strongest seven remained. With these men, Cadmus founded the city of Thebes.

Cadmus sowing the Dragon's teeth.

There are, of course, divine penalties for slaying sacred Dragons, and, for the rest of his life, Cadmus was plagued by retributive misfortune. In the end, he became so convinced that the gods loved Dragons more than men that he prayed to be turned into a Dragon that he might, at last, know divine affection. Immediately he began to grow scales, wings, and a whippy tail. His wife, Harmony, not wishing to leave his side, likewise transformed and together they lived out their days in draconic splendor.

So we start the Week of Wells, Springs, and Fountains with a cautionary tale. (Others, less grim, will follow in the days ahead.) As you celebrate the sacred waters, remember to honor their Dragon guardians. Give them respect and a wide berth, for as gods, demigods, and creatures of the mystic world, they were here first.

Have you ever crossed paths with a Dragon by a spring? Love to hear your tales!