A time to mourn, a time to dance…
For the Month of the Dragon to end on Samhain – Halloween – is fitting beyond measure. Indeed, in as much as Dragons have holy days – especially Westies – this is right up there at the top of the list.
It is thus appropriate that today we remind ourselves of a chapter in Dragon history full of blood and gore and nightmares that would make the strongest Dragon weep: of the late Dark Times and loss and grief they brought to the enchantments of Europe. A chapter also full of hope and magic and journeys between worlds…
By the 7th century the Trans-Atlantic Transmigration had already occurred, diminishing the continental Dragon count by half. Gone were the havens of grove and spring and standing stone. The weyrs were on edge: Queens laid smaller clutches – stress even forced some to skip generations of hatching altogether. For most, it was coming down to fight or flight, and the former didn’t hold much appeal.
This was when the sidhe came to the rescue. They offered the Dragons of Europe a way out, a refuge in the Otherworld. So it was that Dragons retreated into the mists – along with the unicorns and other rare and unusual beings – until the world of humans became more Dragon-friendly.
Yet, even in the worst of times, there was one day each year – Samhain – when the veil between the worlds of sidhe and human thinned, and an expectation for the strange and unusual was in the air. Regardless of what ever else was troubling the world, on that night, the Dragons would return. In the umbra of streetlight and balefire, through air sweet with windfall pomes and woolly bears, they flew over housetops and wing-tipped the frost-rimmed pumpkin patches. They danced across the face of moon – often mistaken at a great distance for large bats – and played hide-and-seek with those who, attuned to the mystical, could actually see them.
Then they were gone.
For another year.
Decade after decade, generation after generation, this tradition continued until, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the tide finally began to change. Perhaps it was the strength of the Enlightenment, driving out the darkness of superstition, perhaps the resurgence of mysticism and neo-paganism. Either way, it was the opening Dragons needed, the glimmer of hope that the worst of the anti-Dragon madness had passed.
From then on, every Samhain, more and more Dragons not only came through the veil, but chose to stay on our side of it.
So it is that October 31st is a time of somber and jubilant celebration, the day we mourn Dragons gone and rejoice in their return.
…By the blessing of the Great Dragon, we made it past the Dark Times and farther than many thought possible.
Out of the darkness, Dragons roared, reminding us we need them. Reminding us of their right to be. With horns charmed and scales ashimmer, they walk amongst us. They share our lives and lend mystery to the mundane. They fill the skies and sing in thunderous tones for all to hear, “We are Everywhere!” …The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook
Happy Samhain, everyone! When you are out trick-or-treating tonight, keep your minds open and your eyes peeled. And remember, if it is true that Dragons need us, it is the greater truth that we need them more.
 An exodus of a passel of adventurous European Dragons who were fed up with the rampant anti-Dragon sentiments coursing through Britain and the Continent in the Dark Ages. Shortly after the Saxon invasion of the British Isles, they heeded the call to “Go west, young Dragons!” and crossed the Atlantic. In the New World they made their way amongst the enchantments of North America.
“Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angelic
orders? And even if one of them suddenly
pressed me against his heart, I should fade in the strength of his
stronger existence. For Beauty’s nothing
but beginning of Terror we’re still just able to bear,
and why we adore it so is because it serenely
disdains to destroy us.” ….Rainer Maria Rilke….
In the struggle
to pluck Beauty from the ether
and satisfy my soul’s longing for home,
I must open myself to the angels.
But all angels are terrible.
Their perfection is death
to all that is considered to be human.
Their beauty: fierce, pure, perfect, relentless,
burns with such brilliance
as to dismantle the fragility of Being.
We cannot be in Their presence
without crashing to our knees,
as beggars of the ubiquitous,
And when the moment has passed,
we are the condemned,
to plummet into all that is dark, cold and listless.
A vision of Beauty shows the rents in us,
the stunted, less than perfect, clumsy attempts
to clothe what we have seen
with shoddy words and paltry thoughts.
Copyright Niamh Clune 2013
It’s Hermit Day. But all you draconic souls out there probably knew that.
It is a time to reflect, to step off of the hamster wheel of modern existence and look within. Of course, all this quiet introspection goes all to hell tomorrow on Mischief Night; but for twenty-four hours – or a fraction of those twenty-four hours – we can ponder, even experience and celebrate the reclusive life. One never knows what insights, draconic or otherwise, we might discover.
Here at Dragon’s Nest, I am delighted to celebrate Hermit Day with the reflections of Adriana Dragonwitch, friend and fellow dracophile. Enjoy.
There was a time before time began when Dragons roamed the earth unhindered. Their wings spanned across those ancient skies from sunrise to moonset. The air was fresh and sweet, and the seas were filled with life and possibilities. And in the midst of all, the Dragons lived by tooth and claw and wing, unchallenged. They roamed the world unfettered by any concerns.
Children of the Sun, they were. Deep in their eyes was the glint of all the things we can only begin to imagine. All the things that humans ponder, they already knew. They were masters of the five elements. They walked upon the earth, swan through the sea, took flight and sailed upon the wind, and the fire burst from their mighty throats!
But the fifth element was the most precious of all. For the element of spirit brought the gift of magic. It brought with it wisdom, and knowledge; knowledge of all hidden things.
The Dragons guarded the secrets from beyond the veil, secrets they knew from the moment they hatched. In the dark places of the earth they hatched, where the gems were hidden and the fires of the earth ran in veins of fire and blood through mountains and valleys down to the sea.
There are those who believe Dragons lived and thrived among the dinosaurs. Then again there are those who believe they were dinosaurs, and that, when their time ended those millions of years ago, their great bodies merged with the earth and their bones became stones. Even though Dragon stories and legends span the globe, there are those who believe they never really were.
Adriana Dragonwitch is a lover of Dragons, and a student and seeker on the Dragon path. She started the Dragon’s Chest to create a place on Facebook for the exploration of Dragon-inspired thoughts and objects.
Happy Dragon Fire Festival!
A time to turn our eyes to the lights in the sky as “night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast.” (Thanks you, Mr. Shakespeare!) But more on that tomorrow – it is a two day festival, after all.
Today I present Dragon Books, Part IV.
Though not my field of expertise, I felt it would be remiss of me to discuss Dragon books without touching on the Old Age/New Age area of Dragons and Magic(k). So, for those who believe in Dragon Magic and working with Dragons in a ritual fashion, and for the casually curious, I offer the following books for your consideration. Some I have read, some I have only had recommended to me, so forgive me if my commentary is brief. As with all things Dragon, I urge you to explore for yourselves and come to your own conclusions.
D.J. Conway. Dancing with Dragons (Llewellyn, 2002) and Mystical Dragon Magick (Llewellyn, 2009).
D.J.’s books are considered by many primers for those looking to work with Dragons in a magical fashion.
D.J.Conway. Magickal, Mystical Creatures (Llewellyn, 2001). A favorite of mine, in no small way thanks to its more-than-Dragon scope.
Parker Torrence. Sea, Land, Sky: A Dragon Magick Grimoire (Three Moon Media, 2003). I have not yet read Parker’s book (it’s on my list!), but have heard only the most wonderful things about it from those who have – and who are in the magickal know.
Ian Corrigan’s The Book of the Dragon: A New Grimoire was until recently almost impossible to find. It has recently been released in e-book form so is again available. Corrigan’s considered a major figure in Dragon Magick and Pagan rites. Worth a look, for sure.
Ashley Dekirk. Oberon Zell Presents Dragonlore: From the Archives of the Grey School of Wizardry (New Page Books, 2006). This one I haven’t read, can’t vouch for in any way, but it looks fun. Amazon says: Dragonlore recounts the stories of dragons from Europe, Asia and the Americas, from the sea serpents Leviathan and Nessie to Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwock. This richly-illustrated book examines dragons in modern culture and the natural world, including the pterodactyl and other saurians, whose fossilized bones were inexplicable and awe-inspiring discoveries.
Scott Cunningham. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn, 1985). What is an herb book doing here? Well, I have found Scott’s book to be invaluable when it comes to planting with the mystical – especially Dragons – in mind. It is a reference no library, magickal or otherwise, can do without.
Love to hear from the magically inclined out there, thoughts on these books and any others I most certainly missed.
Half way through Month of the Dragon and it is time for severely interactive Dragon fun.
First things first. It is Paint a Dragon Week – All Week Long! Amateur or pro, in pencil, chalk, or acrylic, try your hand at glorifying our friends on paper (or computer, if you are a photoshopping wiz). Put them on the refrigerator or facebook; I will be delighted to post any that come my way here at the Dragon’s Nest. Remember, it’s all about the celebration, so have fun!
These wonderful drawings were done by school children in my town and part of the local Arts Guild’s Year of the Dragon exhibition earlier this year. Great work, great imaginations!
Today and tomorrow, depending on where you are in the world is the Dark of the Moon. This month it happens to coincide with Dragon Awakening Within, a spiritual time for Dragon people around the world which coincides with the New Moon in Libra. I will be posting more on that from individuals more in the know than I, so keep your hearts open and eyes peeled.
Other events upcoming are Gaudy Bauble Day on Wednesday, the best time of year – aside from Yule and birthdays – to treat your Dragon to a nice sparkly trinket. GBD emerged as an adjunct of St Audrey’s Bauble Fairs where tacky was the order of the day, so don’t worry about big expense. Keep it cheap and flashy and your Dragon will surely love it. (Oh, where are the 5 & Dimes when we need them!)
Thursday is Dancing Dragon Day (what Dragon doesn’t love to dance!)and Friday is Take a Dragon to Work Day (check with your employer, first!), but much more on those later.
So much to share, knowledge and good times.
Now, I’m off to draw a Dragon….
Note: Where I know the creator/source of an image, I will always cite it. If I use your picture without proper approbation, please drop me a line and I will correct the oversight asap.
Last night, as the clock struck twelve and the Year of the Dragon became official in my frosty neck of the woods, I sat up in bed and thought, Hmmmmmmmm. This was quickly followed by a tussle with Spike, the Demon Cat, (which I lost) and a battered retreat under the covers and back to sleep.
In the light of day – and following several cups of coffee – that amorphously draconic hmmmmm began to take shape, along with the realization that I have become too much of a politics junky for my own good (but I’m working on that).
Here’s the thing: Emperors, presidents, tyrants, and generals, ambitious individuals with their sights on being leaders of men and making their mark on history, have long craved the Dragon dancing through their lucky stars. Rumor has it, imperial astrologers of yore were not above fudging a date here and there in the name of the draconic agrandizement of their liege lords. And one has only to look at the public personae of Gingrich and Romney to know they not only wish they were Dragons but strut about pretending to be Dragons (which no doubt pisses off Dragons immensely!)
But – and this takes me back to my hmmmmm moment – the fact is that too often people, especially those in the political arena, think of Dragon traits as power, authority, fierceness, courage, resoluteness, and confidence to the point of arrogance. This is only half of the picture.
Which brings me to a story…..
Long, long ago, the Jade Emperor (who had a rather contentious history with Dragons from day one) was having trouble with Time. The days and moons and years seemed to tumble past without any proper sense of order and, well, quite frankly, it was giving him a headache not even ginseng tea could alleviate. (The Jade Emperor was a bit of a prima donna, so this may well have been hyperbole on his part.)
To give order to the temporal chaos, he summoned all the animals for a great cross-country race. The first twelve creatures to cross the finish line at the Emperor’s palace would have a a house in the zodiac, a place in ordering the calendar. The very fact that the Dragon was invited to participate illicited rumblings of discontent from the mundane animals. After all, unlike them, he was supernatural, huge (i.e. long-legged), and could fly, and the Emperor made no secret of the fact that he expected the Dragon to come in first (even had a side wager on him).
Still, when the animals crested the hill in front of the Imperial Palace, there was Rat and Ox, Tiger and Rabbit, each claiming their space in time, but no Dragon. Suddenly the great creature descended from the heavens and landed beside the Emperor.
“What took you so long?” demanded the Emperor.
The Dragon stretched his wings (Chinese Dragons had wings back then) and pulled his tail close. “If you must know,” he purred – only a Dragon dared speak to the Emperor like that – “I was sailing along, making excellent time when I looked down on your land, acre after acre parched to the bone. The crops were brown and shrivled, the people starving, their paper voices raised in prayers for rain. Well, I could hardly ignore their cries, could I? What sort of Dragon would that make me, I ask you. Hmmm?
“So I wrapped my tail around the clouds, sparked lighting, roared thunder, and sent the rains to slake the dusty land. Your people needed help,” he chided, stroking his whiskers. “This race could wait.”
The Emperor glowered for a moment, embarrassed at being called to his duty by anyone, then smiled. “Dragon, your care for Our subjects is noble, indeed. You keep us mindful of the world beyond these walls. When I forget, I know you—well, you will not let me forget, I am sure.
“Dragon, the fifth house of the zodiac is yours.”
It was thus that the Dragon took his place in the arch of time, anchoring the world. And from that day to this, every Emperor tries to live up to the Dragon’s example.
For all you latter-day power-hungry wannabes out there who long for the character of the Dragon, remember: strength, luck, and charisma are all well and good, but they are in ways only the outer integument, the glittery scales that shimmer in the sun and rattle like sabres. The spirit of the Dragon is a much more complete, complicated, and tempered thing. Dragons may not have much use for politics, but they know that power without kindness is nothing short of tyranny. They know that a Dragon lacking compassion and honesty, who ignores others’ needs for the sake of his own comfort and advancement—He is no Dragon at all. And never will be.
Happy Year of the Dragon.
If you are are not yet Solsticed out, drop by Word Shark Karen S. Elliott’s blog and enjoy a mythic tale, Of Avalon & Mistletoe: A Solstice Carol.
Having tipped my hat to Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, it crossed my mind that, at a time we weary of perpetual showings of It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, there must be wonderful, little-shown, unsung holiday films out there just begging for an audience!
Now, don’t get me wrong: I think both of those flicks are classics and for good reason.
But, being a bit of a cinephile, I thought I’d toss a few other chestnuts onto the hearth. So, for your consideration, I suggest:
- The Lion in Winter – a brilliant domestic drama in royal trappings (and perfect reminder to be nice to each other around the Yule table!). Peter O’Toole & Katharine Hepburn are stellar.
- A Christmas Carol (a k a Scrooge)  – with Alistair Sims. The best of the best versions to this viewer’s eyes.
- The Dead – an exquisite rendering of James Joyce’s short story. The last film John Huston made, with Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann. Set at a Yuletide feast, it is a luminous tale of love and loss in Dublin in the early 1900s.
- The Mouse & His Child – a quirky animated film which starts at Christmas and follows our titular characters (two wind-up toys) through a year of hardship and joy in their existential quest to become “self-winding.” Not to everyone’s taste, but one I enjoy.
- In Bruges – Colin Farrell is his usual complicated self in this tale of two hit men holed up in Bruges (Belgium) over the holidays after Colin botches a hit, killing a child in the process. It may seem odd fare for the season, but is, at heart about the nature of goodness and redemption, which hit the Christmas points in my book.
- Joyeux Noel – a beautiful film about the spontaneous Christmas Truce on the front lines of WW I in 1914, and how it impacts the lives of 6 people, French, German, and Scottish. An indictment of war that’s almost painfully human. Also, one of Ian Richardson’s last films.
- A Christmas Tale – A French film starring Catherine Deneuve and Anne Consigny, about a fractious family gathering at Christmas to deal with, among other things, Mom’s need for a transplant. Touching and funny by turns as only the French can do.
- Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas – Jim Henson’s muppets, what more need be said.
- Peter’s Friends – Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson (she’s hysterical!) and friends, gather in the country for a week at New Years. It has a Big Chill flavor but punctuated by delicious British wit.
- A Christmas Memory – based on a Truman Capote short story and originally made for TV in 1967. with Geraldine Page, narrated by Mr. Capote, himself. This is the lyric story of a young boy and his eccentric aunt, Sook, as they go through their ritual adventure of making Christmas fruit cakes in rural South of the 1930s. A classic and very fitting for the times we’re living in.
- Oldies but goodies in no particular order (if you haven’t seen these, you should, at least once in your life!): The Bishop’s Wife; Holiday; An Affair to Remember; Come to the Stable; Shop Around the Corner; The Man Who Came to Dinner; Miracle on 34th Street; Christmas in Connecticut; Holiday Inn; Auntie Mame; The Apartment. (and more up to date: Go; Nightmare Before Christmas; Ice Storm; Shadowlands; Love Actually; Die Hard; Bad Santa; The Holiday; Perfect World; and Comfort & Joy.)
So, a few festive thoughts–a holiday share I hope you enjoy.
What are your odd and wonderful holiday favorites? Love to add to my list!
“Be patient with magic….The voice of silence will speak in its own time.”
…The Stone Dragon
I am always delighted when a book turns out to be an artichoke, with leaf upon tasty leaf encasing a succulent heart. Tom Kepler’s novel, The Stone Dragon, is such a book.
A coming-of-age fantasy full of sorcery and swords (with the accent, pleasantly, on the former), this is the story of Glimmer, a young apprentice mage growing into his own as a master of dream magic – if mastery any can claim over so fluid and dangerous a sphere. He is surrounded by friends and enemies, teachers and followers, each limned with distinction and purpose. And then there are dragons – magnificent, elemental, wise, and witty beings at the core of young Glimmer’s journey. But, as savory as this all is, it’s but one (outer) layer of many.
Tom Kepler uses Glimmer’s story to examine the nature of magic, of power, of consciousness, of the grand adventure of becoming. This tale is more metaphysical than physical – choosing the path of inner self-discovery, of meditative reflection. With lyric elegance, he explores the subtle interconnectedness of all things; the magic within us all just waiting to be awakened. As Western as The Stone Dragon’s external trappings are, the philosophical voice is decidedly Eastern. Indeed, though the book’s dragons are European in aspect – winged, scaled, and fire-breathing – they are deeply familiar with the ways (and the Way) of the East (Lao Tzu would feel right at home in the company of the dragons and mages of The Stone Dragon).
All this said, do not think for a moment that The Stone Dragon is short on action. Quests, both personal and altruistic, inform the tale as Glimmer and his companions go from one end of their land to another, sometimes with alarming celerity. And in the process, like Cabbage-pants, the gnome, they work the fertile soil for more tales to come (which I, for one, will read with pleasure).
Joseph Campbell said of our lives, “The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty ‘Yes!’ to your adventure.” The Stone Dragon not only says “Yes!” but insists that the reader say “Yes!” too. It is a rare journey well worth the joining.