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January 23.2012.

The moon is dark, the air (at least in northern latitudes) is blue-ripe with a whiff of snow. And around the world, millions let loose a sigh long held in draconic anticipation. It’s the Year of the Dragon—at last!

There has been a lot of ominous chatter about 2012 – including many wrong-headed apocalyptic scenarios promulgated by those who insist on viewing the Maya long count of life as a two-dimensional progression, linear not spherical. Yet, as Marcus Aurelius reminds us in a decidedly Old Testament moment:

Each thing is of like form from everlasting and comes round again in its cycle.

So it is with this dodecennial Year of the Dragon.[1]  A time of fierce opportunity and eternal change, especially for those born under this most auspicious sign.

More specifically, this is the Year of the Water Dragon, the Black Dragon[2], the Keeper of Rain, Master of Lightning.

"And when I breathed, my breath was lightning.".... Black Elk.

Of course some folk believe all Dragons, especially those from the East, are Water Dragons; and it is true that they have an intrinsic tie to the waters, salt and sweet. In China this can be traced back to the early moments of Universe and the creative sacrifice of the Cosmic giant, Pan Gu.

According to legend, he was aided in his efforts by the Divine Quartet – Lung Wang the Dragon, Qi-Lin the Unicorn, Gui Xian the Turtle, and Feng Huang the Phoenix

…Known as the Ssu-Ling, this original Gang of Four were guardians of the cardinal directions, the seasons, and the five elements. Like Pan Gu himself, each of these auspicious creatures held within them a union of yin and yang. Of the four, the Dragon was the most exalted. Embodiment of positive, active, yang energy, he was the guardian of the east where the day begins, of spring when life begins.

When Pan Gu died, his body discorporated: his eyes became the sun and moon, his beard the stars; the wind whistled from his final breath and his body became mountain and fertile plain. From his blood flowed rivers, from his sweat poured the rains. And the fleas on his fur became the fish and animals of the earth from tiniest mudskipper to largest pachyderm.

…And each blessed being staked out his/her protectorate on the planet….The Dragon, favorite of Pan Gu, dove into the waters – blood and sweat of the Creator, and claimed them as his province….[3]


In the millennia following Creation, Oriental Dragons continued to be associated, first and foremost, with water, most notably the Four Dragon Kings of China—Ao Chin, Ao Kuang, Ao Ping, and Ao Shun—who ruled the rains, seas, and depths below. Every village had its Dragon shrine where oblations and orisons were offered in hopes of fertile rains and bountiful seas. Dragons are likewise revered by the people of Japan and the Pacific Rim, people dependent on the waters for life and livelihood.

Japanese Dragon ~ Hokusai

Is it any wonder, then that the Dragon is the most influential of the Zodiac Twelve? How can a rat or a pig, charming though they may be, compare to the supernal grandeur of a Dragon?

Of course all human Dragons share certain traits. Those blessed to be born in the Year of the Dragon are driven nonconformists, passionate, fearless, prone to big ideas and mercurial tempers. The subtleties of the draconic personality are influenced by an individual’s guiding element, Water Dragons being the least selfish of the lot, the most inclined to go with the proverbial flow.

…They are flexible, able to give and take, to compromise—even accept defeat graciously—where other Dragons are apt to just dig in their heels and roar. They will even surrender power if it contributes to the greater good. Water Dragons are excellent negotiators, knowing just when to push, when to ease off. If they have a failing, it is excessive optimism which sometimes blinds them from recognizing a no-win situation, cutting their losses, and moving on. That said, the Water Dragon’s laid-back nature—at times verging on the shy—makes them easy to be around. They are draconic delights….[4]

But enough about us….

Though some humans choose to shut Western Dragons out of the coming festivities, I most certainly will not. Such divisiveness not only diminishes both species, but sucks the very life from the wonder to come. Remember: All life needs water, and few creatures are as full of life as Dragons.

Draco dances across the heavens, reminding us that Dragons are Dragons, on land, in the sea, under the vaulted firmament. It’s time to celebrate them in all their majestic diversity. To accept their wisdom and their blessings..

2012 is their Year.

"I am a being of Heaven and Earth, of thunder and lightning, of rain and wind, of the galaxies." ...Eden Ahbez

What are your plans for the Year of the Dragon? How will you regale these supernal creatures?

[1] Ok, granted some of you will insist dodecennial isn’t a proper word, and I will leave that to your personal lexicographic idiosyncrasies (and I know you all have them!). Anyone wondering what it means, I suggest you dig out that tattered copy of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth and travel to the Land of Digitopolis. Even rarer, of course, is the hexacontaennial Year of the Water Dragon.

[2] This is a strictly symbolic hue. In the wild, Water Dragons take on the aqueous blues and greens of their surroundings, the better to live undetected in a hostile world.

[3] The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2011).

[4] From my upcoming Dragons for Beginners (Llewellyn Worldwide, September, 2012).