“A big hand for all the scientists and medical workers – and yes, those smart politicians – who are helping get us out of this virus mess. Thank you!
Now, can you do something about the melting ice caps? PLEASE!!”
These are the days of spooks and goblins, ghosts and ghouls. Days when spirits cross between worlds and ban-sidhe wails ride the winds. Perfect time to stir the embers of nightmares: binge on horror flicks, attend a séance, visit a haunted house. Court the monsters of the shadows and the things that go bump in the night.
Long ago, when our ancestors huddled together in fire-warmed caves, just living was a frightful proposition. In the darkness lurked bears and lions, serpents and birds of prey, all much larger and fiercer than their modern kin. And, most frightening of all, there were Dragons.
Rightly or wrongly, they haunted ancient dreams and struck terror in primeval hearts. It’s an understandable turn of events in a draconically unenlightened world. Even today, though our interspecies relations are at a passing level of détente, I know a Dragon or two who still get quite kick out of giving us humans the shivers.
Lately, though, the Dragons of the world have themselves been shivering. Not since the Dark Times has their world been in such turmoil. It is only fitting, then, to ask what gives Dragons nightmares?
What can make these near-invincible, sentient, apex-predators toss and turn, tremble and quake? Sadly, the answer is what it’s always been: Humans.
Ignorant, selfish, careless Humans. Puny, thin-skinned, myopic Humans who put self-preservation on hold in place of short-term greed that would put Smaug to shame.
Over the past year, certain two-legged powers that be have been systematically undermining science and learning, dismantling efforts to combat climate change,and putting the future of the planet and all its inhabitants at risk. (The loss of 40,000 Adélie penguin chicks this year brings tears draconic eyes. “Don’t you see what you’re doing?” they demand. “Even if you have no care for others’ hatchlings, can you have so little for your own?”)As Humans have escalated tribalism, internecine conflicts, and weaponized pissing contests to the brink of world-wide cataclysm, courtesy, truthfulness, even basic human decency have become as rare as a snallygaster in New York.
“This isn’t politics,” the Dragons insist. “We have no use for politics, or religion, or any of your sillinesses. This is survival. Yours and ours.”
In the past, of course, Dragons had a distinct advantage over us hapless humans. They could always fade into the mists, bide their time until cooler heads prevailed. They did this during the worst of the Dark Times and survived. But then we two-legs lived, died, and killed on a local scale. Now we’ve gone global and even the misty realms are endangered.
“Destruction is so easy. We should know.But where we have learned, you have not. At the end of the day, who will be left rise from the ashes of your irresponsible stupidity? Who will be here to restore the wonders, the lives you’ve ruined? And many of you don’t even believe we are here. Is it any wonder we fear for our very existence?
In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald warned of the type of arrogant humans who now run roughshod through the world:
“They were careless people,… they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
They are the disasters waiting to happen; the Monsters of our modern world. They lurk beyond Dragon-fire and are fought in draconic dreams.
Before exploring the indigenous Dragons of the West, we here at the Nest urge anyone and everyone wishing to mark Columbus’s journeys to do so by contributing to the rescue/relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
Today in the States is a federal holiday. Schools, banks, government and postal offices are closed in recognition of a cruel, misguided European sailor, Christopher Columbus. This year, the 9th of October also happens to be Leif Erikson Day, in recognition of the Norseman’s crossing the Atlantic almost 500 years before Columbus.
During Month of the Dragon, we view the day differently. Of course.
We prefer to set it aside to honor the Dragons of the Western Hemisphere and the indigenous people whit whom they shared the land.
Some, like the Canadian Snow Dragons are quite familiar. Indeed, the Euopean Dragons who headed west during the Trans-Atlantic Transmigration felt quite at home among their Arctic kindred. [Note: When it comes to Europeans in the Western Hemisphere, the Dragons fleeing the Dark Times not only had Columbus beat by centuries, but Leif Erikson, too. The sight of them soaring over Vinland soars must have made the Vikings, in their Dragon-prowed long boats, feel right at home.]
And further to the south, the colorful descendents of the great Plumed Serpents Quetzalcoatl, Gucumatz, Kukulkan, and Campacti lit up the Meso-american canopies.
They are gems of the skies, bobbing and weaving through the mist round Venezuela’s tablelands, bathing in the Iguazu Falls. They are also increasingly endangered as their habitat is targeted and climate change takes its toll.
But the indigenous Dragons of the Western Hemisphere include a slew of lesser knowns as well. Many of these creatures are linked to the lakes and rivers of the land and tend to be less than genial. Though their places in Native American lore are often marked by tales of death and danger, they deserve our notice and respect.
In the southeast woodlands of what are now the Carolinas, the Cherokee crossed paths with Uktena, a horned serpent/water dragon, native to the regions rivers and marshes.
Further west, he is known among the Lakota as the Unktehi, a lake dragon with a formidable reputation.
The Illini of the Mississippi Valley told tales of the frightening Piasa dragon, aka the “bird who devours people.” He was imortalized in lithographs on the river cliffsides.
And the people of the Pacific Northwest, the Tlingit and Haida, Salish and Chinook, shared their lives with the great sea and forest Dragons of the region.
[The playful Dragons of Washington’s Willapa Hills were delighted when the recent remake of Pete’s Dragon was relocated in their neck of the woods. Though some took exception to the Dragon’s furriness, they did consider it recognition long overdue.]
These are just a handful of the Dragons native to the Western Hemisphere. Though urban sprawl and climate change – especially in the United States – are pushing many to remote regions, they are still here. As long as we honor them, they will remain so.
Month of the Dragon is winding down.
After a week of telling tales and getting a proper lesson in TANSTAAFL over Chipping-In Weekend, it is time to share the best of ourselves, our charitable selves, with our Dragon friends. It’s Adopt-a-Dragon Week.
The Adopt-A-Dragon program is an integral part of the Dragon Conservancy. It was started as an offshoot of WAFDE in the relatively peaceful decades following WWII, and came into its own at the end of the last century. In recent years of accelerated climate change and global upheavals, it is all the more important that we redouble our efforts to keep Dragons safe in the world.
Modeled after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management‘s National Wild Horse and Burro Program and the American Bear Association’s Friend of the Cubs, AAD is a way Dragon lovers around the world can stay connected to these marvelous creatures and feel like they are contributing to the continuance of Dragon welfare on a global scale. From the Tibetan Quad to the forests of Belize, Dragon-loving individuals can “adopt a Dragon.” You get a certificate of fosterage, and a weekend pass to the Dragon Sanctuary of your choice.
A recent adjunct is the KFD (Kids for Dragons) school outreach program, geared at classes of kids from the 6th-grade on up.* With parental consent—of course!—school groups can pool their resources and adopt a young Dragon. The fee is nominal and AAD tries to hook classes up with young Dragons from nearby sanctuary. As an environmental teaching tool and dispeller of negative myths, the program is without equal! And, as a field trip, nothing beats going to see the class adoptee, watching her grow through the years from gangly dragonlet to full-winged, fire-breathing adolescent. If you or your school are interested in partaking of all KFD has to offer, contact your local chapter of WAFDE.
Remember, AAD not only channels much needed support and goodwill into conservation efforts, it also provides dracophiles with a rewarding sense of chipping in. In this age of rampant species extinction, every little bit helps us all.
* Dragons are considered a little too terrifying for younger children. There are enough obstacles to our friends without adding irate parents and the wrath of the psychiatric community worried about youthful nightmares to the mix.
Not every threat to Dragons comes at the tip of a sword or in the belly of a bomb. In fact, today, one of the greatest risks to their survival is one they share with the rest of us: climate change.
Unlike certain politicians who shall remain nameless, Dragons don’t need doctorates in climatology to know that we are in real trouble. Dragons have been around for a very long time. They have survived natural extinction level events, big freezes and global thaws, floods, droughts, and years without summers.
They have watched and listened to the world around them, and their extensive knowledge puts them in a unique position vis-à-vis what has been happening over the past century. They know, for example, that what the planet is currently experiencing is not part of a natural cycle. They know that melting icecaps, rising sea levels, acid rain, holes in the ozone, and the accompanying loss of species, great and small, is a result of industrialization, over population, and the arrogance of one species (Homo sapiens) who believe they can use the world as they wish without negative consequences.
In time, Dragons on every continent will hurt from what we have been doing to our shared home. Right now, the weyrs most impacted are in the polar and boreal regions where glaciers are melting at an alarming rate and the wildlife who rely on them – and the Dragons who rely on the wildlife – are threatened.
For your Adopt-A-Dragon Week consideration:
On the shores of the Greater Saimaa Lake in eastern Finland is one of the world’s most northern Dragon habitats, Lohikäärme Weyr. Here the Dragons nest in the sheer cliffs rising above the water – reminders of the last Ice Age when they shared the land with great mammoths and woolly rhinos. Now they cavort with the inland seals during long summer days and spin wild tales during the deep winter nights.
The Weyr’s banner is a study in blue and black with a frosty Finnish Dragon at the centre of a radiant sable sun.
The virtually unpopulated expanse of Canada’s Southampton Island is the perfect home to nesting Lesser Snow Geese and Canadian Frost Dragons. Frost Dragons are New World relatives of the Nordic Snow Dragons who came to the Americas following the Second Migration. A little smaller than their European kin, they are ideally suited to the environment of Southampton Island and Hudson Bay. They are also very protective of the many birds who use the isle as refuge and breeding grounds. The Weyr is named for the indigenous people of the area who, though now extinct, welcomed the Dragons in centuries past.
The Weyr’s flag shows an argent Dragon on a sable harpoon with six falling ermine/snowflakes, all set on a field of evening purple.
In the northern latitudes of Eastern Russia, not more than an afternoon’s Dragon flight from the Arctic Circle, the Penzhina River flows through Siberia into the Sea of Okhotsk. There, at the river’s mouth on the mainland side of the Kamchatka Peninsula, is Penzhina Weyr.
The Dragons of Penzhina like to think of themselves as hybrid beings: a lot of European Ice Dragon mingled with a little Oriental Sky Dragon. Though there is a lack of empirical evidence for their claim, the Dragons do display rather whimsical inter-species temperaments. They guard their neighbour bears and Unicorns and make snow Dragons well into May.
These capricious Dragons are represented by a black standard burning with two suns – one large and bright with Dragon fire, and one smaller, balanced by the yin/yang of the World Tree.
The glaciers and mountains of Alaska are a northern Dragon’s delight. Tonrar Pass Weyr is situated in the mountains southwest of Denali National Park. Like the land around it, it is one of the most expansive Weyrs in the world, embracing mountains, lakes, acres and acres of sub-arctic scrub, and woodlands. Sheltered from the bitterest of Alaska’s weather, it is home not only to Dragons, but also bears, caribou, marmots, wolves, and a variety of birds, nesting or simply passing through.
Until the advent of WAFDE and UNECESCO, the Dragons of Tonrar Pass spent much of their time keeping mineral hounds and oilmen at bay. Now they are protected, as is the wilderness around them, and they can devote their time to other pursuits – like stargazing.
Their flag is purple and white charged with a nonet of stars and a fiery sable Dragon.
If there is one beam of light in this dreary scenario, it is that Dragons have survived worse. Solace for them. If we don’t wake up soon, we may not be so fortunate.
**In the tradition of Month of the Dragon, everyone who leaves a comment here at Dragon’s Nest has their name go into a hat. At the end of the month, a name will be drawn and the winner will receive signed copies of my books, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook and Dragons for Beginners (both from Llewellyn Worldwide). Hope everyone is feeling lucky!
Every year, as Month of the Dragon winds down, the folks at WAFDE and the Dragon Conservancy reach out to dracophiles young and old with the Adopt-A-Dragon Program.
For those of you new to MotD and all it entails, a bit of history:
An integral part of Dragon Conservation, the Adopt-A-Dragon program was started as an offshoot of WAFDE and the Dragon Conservancy in the relatively peaceful decades following WWII. Growing steadily year by year, it came into its own at the end of the last century.
Modeled after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro Program and the American Bear Association’s Friend of the Cubs, AAD is a way for Dragon lovers around the world to stay connected to these marvelous creatures and contribute to the continuance of Dragon welfare on a global scale. For a reasonable annuity (sliding scales available), Dragon-loving individuals can “adopt” a Dragon anywhere from the Himalayan Quad to the forests of Belize. You get a certificate of fosterage and a weekend pass to the Dragon Sanctuary of your choice.
A recent adjunct is the KFD (Kids for Dragons) school outreach program, geared at students from the 6th-grade (first form, for our British friends) on up.* With parental consent – of course! – school groups can pool their resources and adopt a young Dragon. The fee is virtually nominal and AAD tries to hook classes up with Dragons from nearby Sanctuaries to facilitate visitations. As a scientific teaching tool and dispeller of negative PR, the program is without equal! And, for field trips, nothing beats going to see the class adoptee, watching her grow through the years from gangly dragonlet to full-winged, fire-breathing adolescent. If you or your school are interested in partaking of all KFD has to offer, contact your local chapter of WAFDE.
Throughout this week, we are going to highlight certain weyrs which are especially distressed due to climate change and human interference – wars, habitat destruction, etc. Each has a story to tell, Dragons to treasure.
If you are interested in adopting a Dragon, take a tour of Dragon Nations, pick a weyr that appeals, and contact me here or through WAFDE’s Facebook page. Your certificate will be e-mailed to you, tout de suite.
* Dragons can be a little too terrifying for very young children.
There are enough obstacles to our friends well-being without adding irate parents and the wrath of the psychiatric community worried about youthful nightmares to the mix.
Frost Dragon Day
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, thermometers are dipping into wintry territory, leaving frost on the pumpkins and reminding us to pay homage to hardy Frost and Snow Dragons around the world.
Native to the high altitudes and lands beyond of the 67th parallels, these cold-weather beauties have adapted to some of the harshest climates on the planet. They battle the elements in deep, Dragonfire-warmed caves, their thick hides and shaggy manes keeping wind and creeping cold at bay. The lack of vegetation means they have an almost exclusively carnivorous
diet, hunting caribou, seal, fish, even migratory fowl (and in the south, penguins). The nutrients most Dragons pick up from greens, Polar Snows or Frosties– as they’re affectionately called – get from sea weeds, vitamin-rich lichens, and indirectly from ingesting herbivores.
Though Frosties seldom cross paths with humans, our species footprint impacts them more and more with the increase in climate change and the melting of the polar snows. Flight gives them a greater hunting range than the earth-bound predators who share their habitat, but Dragons are not immune to the destruction of their ecosystem. The ever-increasing effects of rampant carbon emissions, pollution, and global warming make accurate Dragon information – numbers, health, etc. – all the more essential. As with other Dragons in other environments, the Polar Snows are great measures of the health of the planet.
We must watch them with care.
In the New World the second week in October is a complicated time for holidays. In the United States, many people celebrate Columbus Day. It is more of a bank holiday and (yet another) excuse for sales, but it’s on the calendar, nonetheless. This understandably rubs millions of indigenous New World peoples (and other species), north and south, the wrong way. How can you discover lands already home to thriving civilizations and cities – some, like Tikal and Chaco Canyon Pueblos were major cultural centres when London and Paris were little more than mud-and-wattle villages?
How can you lay claim to land where ‘ownership’ is an alien concept? Muddy social, cultural and political waters, to be sure.
Here at MotD we try to set politics aside – when we can. This is a time to celebrate New World Dragons, after all. In the past we have largely focused on the Feathered Dragons of the New World tropics and rain forests, the brilliant, rainbow gems of the Dragon world.
They are rare and flighty and, for those blessed to have the experience, a wonder to behold.
The hostile nature of the northern climes meant only the hardiest of humans settled there and so Frost Dragons were virtually unknown until the end of the Dark Times and the advent of what is known in Dragon Studies as the Trans-Atlantic Transmigration.
The TAT was an exodus of a passel of adventurous European Dragons who were fed up with the rampant anti-Dragon sentiments coursing through Britain and Northern Europe. 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. In short, they merged rather than conquered, lending new Dragon blood to the New World!
The rugged topography and hospitable climate of the northern part of the New World were delightfully inviting to these exiles, and in a short time Weyrs were established from Greenland south to the Appalachians and west to the shores of Lake Superior. Crypto-archaeological evidence shows that, in time, alliances were established and the indigenous Dragons—as well as the indigenous peoples—accepted the immigrants as an integral part of their world. One can imagine Leif Ericson spying an enchantment of Nordic Snow Dragons cavorting with New World Frosties playing in the icy shallows off Vinland. He and his crew, in their Dragon-prowed ship, must have felt right at home.
Like all of their kin, New World Dragons are plagued by the incroachments of humans on their once pristine habitats. Feathered Dragons are retreating deeper and deeper into the Amazon and the Central American uplands, adapting to more arid realms as best they can. Frosties are facing a different set of challenges: as with polar bears, global warming is literally melting their world out from under them. Fortunately for Dragons, their ability to fly gives them far greater feeding latitude than the bears. But that does not address the rising temperatures and their devastating effects on breeding habits and clutch size. For those who keep insisting climate change is a hoax, if the rapid decline of polar bear populations don’t convince, an open minded look at the recent census of New World Frost Dragons just might. Our ever-increasing carbon footprint is pushing these great creatures to the very brink.
As go the Frost Dragons, so goes the whole world.