Wishing one and all very festive holidays!
And may we all beat the odds and have a sane & peaceful 2017.
So, we’ve gone full-tilt down the rabbit hole and are entering a frightening time when a host of terrible things are possible. Indeed, some are fearful that a return of the Dark Times is just around the corner.
Here at the Nest, we want everyone to know: this is a SAFE SPACE.
For one and all. Now and always.
Another MotD has come to an end.
First, a hearty welcome to all new WAFDE members, and my thanks to one and all who have made MotD 2016 such a pleasure and success. You help to insure a profound, eternal, Dragon presence in the world.
I have always thought it fitting that MotD ends on Samhain (Halloween). This is a very special day for Dragons around the world – though Westies and the lesser dragons in their ken tend to lay special claim to it. Indeed, as much as Dragons have holy days, Samhain is right up there at the top of the list.
On this night of ghouls and goblins, it is only right to look at a chapter from Dragon history full of blood and gore and nightmares that would make the strongest Dragon weep. I am speaking of the centuries of loss and grief heaped upon the enchantments of Europe known as The Dark Times. For some of you, this may be a familiar tale, yet, here at the Nest, we believe it is one worth repeating.
Technically the Dark Times ran from 2000 BCE to 1450 CE, though it was the indiscriminate dragon slaying of the Dark Ages that nearly drove Western Dragons from the face of the Earth.
By the 7th century, the Trans-Atlantic Transmigration , which had diminished the continental Dragon count by half, was deeply etched into the historical record. 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. And 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.
Except on Samhain. Once a year, when the veil between the worlds of sidhe and human thinned, and an expectation for the strange and unusual was in the air, the Dragons returned. In the umbra of streetlight and balefire, they flew over housetops and buzzed 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. As night tipped towards dawn, a great lamentation coursed through the heavens, a keening for Dragons lost and lives left behind….
Then they were gone.
So it continued decade after decade, generation after generation. Then, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the tide began to change. Some say it was the strength of the Enlightenment, driving out the darkness of superstition, others the resurgence of mysticism and neo-paganism. Either way, it was the opening Dragons were looking for, the glimmer of hope that the worst of the anti-Dragon madness had passed. And from then on, every Samhain, more and more Dragons not only came through the veil, but chose to stay on our side of it.
October 31 is a time of somber and jubilant celebration. When we mourn Dragons gone and rejoice in their return.
As is noted in The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook:
It is now the twenty-first century. 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!”
Wishing you all a very draconic Halloween. Keep safe, fly high. See you all next year.
And for those of you in the States, don’t forget to get out and vote on November 8th (or earlier if you can). Dragons may have little use for politics, but this election is vital for us and the planet. Including our spikey-wikey friends.
 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.
Depending on local custom, the day before Samhain is set aside for tricks, not treats. Devil’s Night, Cabbage Night, Mischief Night – in centuries past it was a time for late night garden raids and scarecrows ablaze with Dragonfire. When humans got in on the fun there were eggs dripping off windows, frost-spoiled cabbages smashed hither and yon, and firecrackers blowing mailboxes off their posts. In all, it is a night of messy but harmless shenanigans. What Dragon wouldn’t want to join in?
Of course, any time Dragons are involved, a certain amount of prudence is advisable. Through no ill-will of their own, our friends can be a destructive, especially in urban and suburban areas. They are, after all, forces of nature. Very large forces of nature.
So it is best to establish some ground rules and stick to them. This will help keep injuries to body and property – and any ensuant legal actions – to a manageable minimum. Back in the 1990s there was a Mischief Night so incendiary – 130 + arson reports in one day – that Dragons and their people were under suspicion from New Jersey to Michigan. It took almost a decade of laying low and being on their best behavior for public perceptions of Dragons and Mischief Night to return to some semblance of normalcy.
So, keep things safe and fun. Raise a little ruckus – maybe offer dragon rides to the kids. After all, Dragons are better than cherry-pickers for getting toilet paper into high branches. Try not to spook the neighborhood animals. It makes for terrible Dragon press, especially in rural areas where frightened cows make edgy milkers.
Plus, a civil Mischief Night makes for bigger, better treats tomorrow.
When I was a kid, I loved Kipling’s Just So Stories. Aside from being ripping good yarns, there was just enough fictional cosmogeny in them to keep this kid asking questions about the origin of the universe and her creatures.
The following story is a bit of a Dragon Just So tale. At least I like to think of it that way. Truth is, I don’t know where it originated or even remember when I first heard it. [If anyone knows, please tell me!] That said, I always felt it had a Japanese flavor to it, and have retold it as such. I hope you enjoy.
The Paper Dragon or How the Dragon Found Her Wings
Long, long ago, there was a village on the shore of the Emerald Ocean, and in the village lived a family. One of a hundred. There was nothing extraordinary about the family, mother, father, a daughter, and, of course, Grandma Hoshi and Uncle Jiro. Like their neighbors, they lived in a cottage, thatched and neat. Like their neighbors, the grownups harvested fish from the sea, eggs from the chickens, and vegetables from the garden; the child went to school, did her chores, and climbed trees with her friends. Even the cats kept their place, sleeping in the sun and shooing mice from the pantry. When needs be.
Of course, ordinariness is never as truly ordinary when dragons are around, and the most exquisite dragon lived on the wall of their cottage.
It was a paper dragon, with folded wings and a long tail that fanned out like a peacock’s. Each individual scale was painted in pearlescent shades that shimmered gold and silver, lapis blue and soft damask rose as the sun poured through the window on its course across the sky. Every now and then, the family would hang the dragon on a different wall, give it a different perspective on the world. This always gave the family a thrill, as if dragon energy flowed from every crease and fold, free as the sea breeze, blessing the household, grateful for the change of view. After all, being stuck in one place is no fun for anyone, especially not a dragon.
Visitors to the cottage marveled at the dragon, remarking on his sinuous curves and brilliant hues. “Where did he come from?” they would ask. But no one knew, not even Grandma Hoshi, and she was the oldest person in the village. But that’s as it should be with dragons.
One day a stranger from the North came to the village. He had a well-traveled air about him: tousled grey hair tumbling over a frayed collar, shoes scuffed and sole-worn. Not to mention a beard that had not seen a trim in donkey’s years.
Still he was polite and thoughtful and was made welcome.
“What brings you to our corner of the world,” the innkeeper inquired, placing a bowl of tea in front of the wanderer.
“I heard,” he said between steaming sips, “there is a rare and beautiful dragon here in the village.”
“Oh, yes!” she beamed. “It is the most amazing dragon. Go down towards the harbor, take the second left, then go all the way to the end of the lane. There’s a little cottage with a persimmon tree in the front garden. You’ll find the dragon there.”
The stranger thanked her, picked up his pack and staff, and coin on table, went on his dragon-seeking way.
Stopping at the garden gate, he peered in through the cottage’s front window. On the other side, the paper dragon hung all ashimmer on the wall.
The family came around the corner. “Young man,” Grandma Hoshi said, her arms full of ramps and radishes, “if you’re going to stare like that, you might as well come in. He looks much better up close, I promise you.”
And she was right.
The wanderer had never seen such a dragon, so perfect in every detail it fairly crackled with a mystical light.
Deft as a magician, he slipped the dragon from the wall, draped it over his arm, and went out into the yard. He tied a string around the dragon’s body, then, with the family close on his heels, he headed to a stretch of open shore.
As the breeze rolled off the sea, he let the string out and ran into the wind. Gusts filled the dragon’s wings, lifting it up over the harbor. The whole village poured down to the shore to watch the stranger with the dragon. Who would have imagined the dragon could fly?
Higher and higher it soared. With wings billowing, tail fluttering behind, it danced among the clouds. Then, suddenly, the string broke.
Untethered, the dragon continued to climb. Necks cricked, mouths open, the family stared at their beautiful paper dragon, rising into the heavens, a tiny speck, back-lit by the setting sun.
Squinting beneath shaded brows, the village was all-but sure the little dragon had kited away. But on the back of their collective remorse, the painted dragon began to grow right before their eyes. And not just a little, either. Wings stretched wide, their fragile paper shed for sturdy leathern sails; body muscled, all covered by hard, iridescent scales. Her tail arced like a rainbow, then flicked and twitched, ruddering her across the sky. She was a real dragon now. Wild as the wind and big as childhood dreams.
She dipped her wings into the cove, then flew away.
Rolling the string back into a ball, the stranger turned to the family and smiled:
Animation, Dragon Keeper's Handbook, Dragonkeeping, Dragons, Four Dragons, Fractured Fairy Tales, Month of the Dragon, Reversal of the Heart, Short films, SIntel, Storytelling, Tell-a-Dragon-Tale, WAFDE
The Dragons here at the Nest have decided it’s time to jump into the 21st century – at long last – and include among this week’s tales those told in images as well as words.
So, from the delightfully ridiculous to the draconically sublime, I present a handful of Dragon-centric stories. We start by traveling back to whimsical days in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota when Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose entertained us with Fractured Fairy Tales. And thanks to the wonders of Youtube, we don’t even have to bother Mr. Peabody for the use of his Wayback (aka WABAC) Machine.
The Thirteen Helmets:
From the other side of the world – and the creativity of T Arts Detroit – there is the ancient myth of the Four Dragons and the Jade Emperor.
In “Reversal of Heart,” we exchange ancient sensibilities for modern ones. Carolyn Chrisman has created a touching tale of karma and being not always as one seems.
And, finally, a favorite of mine that goes right to the heart of Dragons, people, and what it means to be wild: Sintel – Girl With Dragon Story.
I hope you enjoy them all.
Tomorrow, a special treat: Guest Dragon tale-spinner, Cathy Sosnowski shares a taste of her book, Dragon Fire.
As we head into the last full week in October, MotD activities turn toward the literary. It is Tell-A-Dragon-Tale Week, a time to celebrate our friends – the fierce and the gentle, rampaging and wise – in word, verse, even film. (Thank you, Artists of the Internet!)
Today, since I fear I’ve given our Asian Dragons short shrift this month, I am starting with a tale from ancient Japan, The Bamboo Cutter’s Daughter. The original story is too long and involved for this space, but I did want to share my retelling of the section which is dragon-centric. Enjoy.
THE DRAGON JEWEL
Once upon a time, there was an old Bamboo Cutter and his wife. They were good, kind people who, though not rich, were blessed with everything they could want except a child. One day the old man was on his way home when he saw a stalk of bamboo glowing in the evening shade. He sliced open the stalk and there, inside, stood a radiant little girl, as small as a fairy and twice as lovely. He scooped her up and took her home; and he and his wife adopted the child as their very own.
The years went by and the girl grew into the sweetest, most beautiful young woman in all the Japans. And when it was time for her to be given a name, her parents called her the Bamboo Princess, because she was found in the bamboo and was more beautiful than any princess.
Word of the Bamboo Princess spread across from one end of the land to the other, and, as is the way of these things, five princes came pouring out of the woodwork to seek her hand in marriage. Now, there was just one problem. The Bamboo Princess didn’t want to get married to anyone. She wanted to be left alone to live the simple life in the woods with her parents. So she came up with a brilliant plan: give each of the princes an impossible task, and when they failed, she would have a good reason to turn them away.
The first prince she asked to go to India and bring her the stone bowl of the great Buddha. He failed.
The second prince was to bring her a branch from the jeweled tree on the floating mountain of Horai. He failed.
The third was to fetch a robe made from the skins of the legendary fire rat; the fourth, to bring her the magical shell which swallows hide in their nests. They, too, failed.
Which brings us to the last prince and the part about the Dragon: The fifth prince, Prince Lofty by name, was tasked with getting the great jewel that hung around the neck of Ryun-jin, the Dragon King.
Now, Prince Lofty may have been rich and royal, but he was also a great boaster and a terrible coward. Oh, he promised to get the Dragon’s jewel, but he had no intention of doing such a dangerous deed himself. So he called his servants and soldiers. “I want you to go and get me the jewel from the Dragon King,” he said. “Here is gold for your trouble, and for your widows and children, should you not return. Now go, and don’t come back without my jewel!”
Well, this was too good an offer to turn down. The servants and soldiers pocketed the prince’s gold and took off, but not to confront the Dragon. Some of them didn’t even believe in the Dragon’s gem and those who did believe, well, they weren’t foolish enough to anger Ryun-jin by stealing it. If the Prince wanted the jewel he could get it himself; and if he failed, well, it was no skin off their noses.
Of course, Prince Lofty, being a prince, was used to having his orders followed. He never thought for a moment that they wouldn’t complete his quest and win him the hand of the Bamboo Princess. So sure was he that he would marry her, he spent his time building a wondrous palace for his bride-to-be, with a hundred rooms, great towers, and gardens on every side. His land had never known such a beautiful palace. All the wood was lacquered, carved, or inlaid with gold and precious stones. The walls were hung with silks painted by the finest artists.
Now, while all this building was being done, the prince couldn’t help wondering why his men hadn’t returned with the Dragon’s jewel. He waited a whole year for them to come back and not a single one showed his face again. Prince Lofty got angrier and angrier as it finally dawned on him: they took his money and ran! It wasn’t even the loss of money he minded, but the fact that he would have to go after the jewel himself.
He called together the few servants who were left and told them to get a ship ready. He was going to find the Dragon King! But the servants were frightened and begged him not to go. “The Dragon will destroy us all!” they cried.
“Cowards!” scolded Prince Lofty. “Cowards, watch me. I’ll teach you how to be brave. Do you think I am afraid of a Dragon?”
So they set sail, and for two or three days the sea was calm, the skies fair. All was well. And the prince stood on the deck, with his arms akimbo and bragged at the top of his lungs, “Ha! The Dragon hides below the waves. He doesn’t dare show his face, he’s so afraid of me!”
Of course anyone who knows anything about Dragons knows two things for sure: They have excellent hearing and they are not afraid of anyone, especially not a puny prince.
In his palace deep beneath the sea, the Dragon King heard Prince Lofty’s words and grew angry. With a lash of his tail he stirred the waters and with a mighty roar he ordered the thunder and lightning out of the heavens. The ship rocked and dipped from stem to stern. The great waves broke in foam over the deck and soaked the crew to the bone. The rain poured down in torrents. The lightning flashed and the thunder growled and roared. It was the fiercest storm the sailors had ever known.
Suddenly Brave Prince Lofty wasn’t so brave. He was sure the ship would be dashed to pieces. And if he did not drown, then he knew a bolt of lightning would come down and kill him.
Seasick and scared out of his wits, he begged the pilot and crew to save him. “Why did you ever bring me to this place?” he cried. “Did you wish to kill me? Is this how you care for the life of your prince? Get me out of this at once or I shall shoot every one of you with my great bow.”
The crew could hardly keep from laughing, for it was only at the Prince’s order they’d set sail at all. As for shooting them, they knew he could not lift an arrow, much less pull the bow.
The pilot, who understood Dragons far better than his master, answered: “My prince, it must be the dragon who sends this storm. He has heard you say that you will kill him and steal the jewel from his neck. You must promise that you will not hurt him, and then perhaps he will call back the storm and let us live.”
“Anything,” Prince Lofty said. “Just please, please, please, make the storm stop!” And there and then, he vowed to never touch the Dragon, not so much as a whisker or a hair on the tip of his tail.
Fortunately, the Dragon King took the prince at his word, and his anger faded away. After a while the storm died down, the lightning ceased, and the sea was as still as glass. Prince Lofty was too sick, however, to know what happened until the pilot brought the ship to land. There his men lifted the prince out of the ship and laid him under a tree.
When at last he felt firm ground under him, Prince Lofty wept aloud, and swore that now he had land beneath his feet, he would never leave it. Though he was on an island far from Japan, he would not return on a ship, not for a thousand princesses. “You never know with Dragons,” he said. “He might just change his mind.” And so he stayed on the island, ruling over monkeys and tree crabs, for the rest of his life.
It’s the third weekend in October. Here in New England, the leaves are piling high and begging to be raked.
Yesterday, our Dragons got to tag along as we went through our work-a-day routines. This weekend it is time for them to not only observe but lend a paw, too.
Of all our companion beings – including even some of our bipedal significant others – Dragons are aware of the expense their care accrues. When it comes to our bank accounts, they are high maintenance, for sure.
And they are keenly aware of the need to chip in and earn their keep.
This weekend, we celebrate that cooperative spirit as Dragons and their pople come together to mulch leaves, clean gutters, and put on the storms. (Dragons are especially helpful with those tricky upstairs windows.)
Today is Take Your Dragon to Work Day! And I hope everyone is out and about with their Dragons, spreading good Dragon will throughout our everyday worlds.
And, honestly, not all Dragons are work savvy. So be mindful of situational etiquette. If you work in a china shop, be sure tails are calm and wings at ease. Teachers, if your Dragon is up for giving rides during recess, be sure your students have permission slips signed and on file. (I’ve found most parents are delighted to have their kids interact with Dragons, and Dragons love kids.)
But enough said.
Everyone, go out. Have a marvelous day.
Hearken back to the grit and grimy days of England in the 7th century. Towns were few and far between and wolves and Dragons still ruled the wilds with fang and claw. Fun Anglo-Saxon times.
This was the age of deep superstition and early conflict between the budding Christian church and old-time Paganism. Of strict class structure and more rights for cattle than women. It was into this world that Princess Æthelthryth (Etheldreda to those more Roman and Anglo-Saxon) was born of a most saintly lineage – according to the Venerable Bede, she, her brother, and three sisters were all canonized. She was a comely aristocrat with a fondness for beads and trinkets and more interest in heaven than earth. In the way of Medieval women, she was also a pawn in politics and religion for much of her short life (636-679 CE). Still, she was blessed to be a woman of wealth and property and so had leverage most women lacked.
After numerous exploits including two marriages (tricky propositions when one vows to remain a virgin), minor miracles, Æthelthryth founded an abbey in 673 at the Isle of Ely, an historic district in Fenlands she’d received as a dower gift from her first husband, King Tondbercht. She remained there as Abbess until her death from an unsightly tumor on her neck she attributed to divine judgement on her youthful liking of necklaces, gewgaws, and baubles.
What can this possibly have to do with Dragons, you ask? Was she personally familiar with our fierce friends? The strong anti-Dragon stance of the church would have made this highly unlikely. No, the connection comes posthumously, when, in honour of the saintly Æthelthryth – Audrey to those who knew her well – the people of Ely got together to celebrate her life with an annual fair. St. Audrey’s Fair. At these gatherings, in remembrance of Audrey’s jewelry obsession, simple, inexpensive trinkets were bought and sold. (The word ‘tawdry’ even comes from a bastardization of Audrey’s name.) Where better to pick up a little something for one’s Dragon without incurring a mountain of debt or the suspicions of the local constabulary?
St. Audrey Fairs are still held around the UK, and there is a growing effort among certain Dragon aficionados to spread the festivities to other corners of the world. Dates vary, from June 23 (Audrey’s Saints Day) to the more MotD-friendly time, October 16-17, Gaudy Bauble Day. Those who don’t have a proper St. Audrey’s Fair near by often substitute the experience with an afternoon of October tag-saling.
Hectic personal lives not to mention the advent of e-bay and other on-line vending venues have made actual ‘fairing’ more than a casual undertaking. Still, it’s autumn! The foliage is gorgeous and the air spiced with apples and woolly-bears. When better to go out with your Dragon and mingle with others of our kind among bins of dazzlers and sparklies.
It’s a great time to get a leg-up on your draconic Yule shopping ,too.
[repost from MotD, 2012]