“So listen up: I may have to go out tonight, but you should stay home, stay safe. It’s a simple Christmas gift you can give to yourself and your family.”
As we lean into the last weekend of October, some of you who are familiar with MotD may be saying, “But wait. Did I miss Take-Your-Dragon-to-Work Day?”
No you didn’t! This year, tomorrow, October 27, is TYDtWD. So tonight, give your Dragon a good scrub, burnish her scales, and remind her of proper workplace etiquette, for tomorrow she will be walking the halls of education, commerce, politics, you name it. It’s time for Dragons to represent in the work-a-day world.
But more on that tomorrow.
Today is still about telling Dragon tales. Or, more specifically, talking Dragon books.
The time for gifting is fast approaching and so I offer a few Draco-centric suggestions for the Dragon lover on your Yule/Channukah/Kwanzaa/et al. lists, beginning for a not-so-humblebrag of my own. As the Dragons keep reminding me, being a WAFDE VIP does have its privileges, so here goes.
They are a hearty welcome to Dragon Country!
With hard science and myth, empirical wisdom, and original line drawings, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook is the draconic enchiridion for the modern world, providing everything you need to know about these extraordinary beings. From disparate theories of Dragon evolution and the golden geometry of their form to modern conservation efforts and how to release a well-weaned orphan back into the wild, this book answers all your questions, even those you didn’t know to ask. From awe-inspiring Cosmic Creators to wee pisuhänds guarding hearth and home, discover the habits and habitats of Dragons and pseudo-dragons both familiar and rare.
Dragons for Beginners is an essential, comprehensive introduction to Dragons. Whether a casual dracophile or a dedicated Dragon keeper, come explore what Dragons have to teach us about the world and ourselves in science, religion, art, literature, and even occult studies. Discover how, with care and devotion, you can help save them from extinction.
Additions to the Draconic canon are made with every passing year. The following are among the more recent volumes I whole-heartedly recommend:
The 5th in the Lady Trent series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings is a delight. Those who have followed her draconic adventures since A Natural History of Dragons will not be disappointed. (If you are unfalmiliar with the good Lady, I suggest the other volumes in the series as well: The Tropic of Serpents, Voyage of the Basilisk, and In the Labyrinth of Drakes. All are available at your friendly neighborhood bookstore or – of course – on-line.)
After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent–dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field. (Amazon)
Jessica Feinberg’s Dragon series including Earth Dragons, Metal Dragons, and Water Dragons, are whimsically illustrated books available on Kindle.
I also want to mention a couple of up-coming publications:
For the Dracophile who has most everything, there is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Illustrated Collector’s Edition (Newt Scamander, J.K.Rowling; Olivia Lomenech Gill, Illustrator). A bit pricey but very elegant. And due out in time for Yuletide.
These are but a miniscule sampling of the Dragon books out there. Anyone with further suggestions – or books of your own, please let us know. As the saying goes, the more Dragons between covers, the better.
Chanukah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa – the next few weeks are rife with reasons to celebrate and exchange gifts. When better to spread a little draconic cheer – and wisdom. But what to give the dracophile who has most everything?
For the Dragon lover on your holiday list – modesty be damned – I recommend:
Here be Dragons.
…Not the slavering, whimsical monsters from childhood fancies, but real Dragons – fierce, complex, wondrous, and wild. They do not require our belief; they never have.
With hard science and myth, empirical wisdom and original line drawings, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook is the draconic enchiridion for the modern world, providing everything you need to know about these extraordinary beings. From disparate theories of Dragon evolution and the golden geometry of their form to modern conservation efforts and how to release a well-weaned orphan back into the wild, this book answers all your questions, even those you didn’t know to ask. From awe-inspiring Cosmic Creators to wee pisuhänds guarding hearth and home, discover the habits and habitats of Dragons and pseudo-dragons both familiar and rare.
The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook shows us how human and Dragon lives are bound together and why Dragons are now – and ever will be – relevant: In their wildness lie lessons for us all.
Here Dragonfire sears the grass and the wind dances with Dragon-song. Here you’ll find true Dragons, real flesh-and-blood creatures that are as fiercely alive and majestic as they were thousands of years ago.
- Learn about the three true species: Eastern, Western, and Feathered
- Explore how Dragons evolved and the various types of pseudo-dragons
- Study the science of Dragons: size, diet, temperament, habitat, and more
- Discover how Dragons impact religion, art, literature, and occult studies
- Find out how to safely interact with Dragons
This essential, comprehensive introduction to Dragons is filled with what everyone must know about these extraordinary creatures. Whether a casual dracophile or a dedicated Dragon keeper, come explore what Dragons have to teach us about the world and ourselves. Discover how, with care and devotion, you can help save them from extinction.
St Audrey Fairs are winding down. Morris dancers are hanging up their bells and venders, eager to unload their wares rather than cart them home, are slashing their already reasonable prices. When better to find that little something – bright, tacky, and absolutely unnecessary – for your Dragon?
It needn’t be gold or encrusted with gems, just chosen with care and given with love. And if your neighborhood does not celebrate St Audrey’s tawdry, try an afternoon at the flea market. Treasures abide all around us. We have only to go looking for them.
Back in darkly superstitious – and Dragon-rich – 7th-century England,
there lived a very devout princess named Etheldreda. She was, by all accounts, a beautiful woman, and learned, to boot. In her younger years, she was fond of necklaces and beads, beautiful baubles of every description. While such finery was befitting a young royal expected to play a role in the political chess-game of the day, it was less apt for the saintly abbess she became once she’d extricated herself from not one but two unconsummated marriages and was party to numerous miracles. (Some say getting out of her connubial relationships a virgin was her greatest miracle of all!)
Etheldreda, aka Audrey, died in 679 in her early 40s (39-45, exact dates of birth were sketchy back then), young by modern standards. In the end, she succumbed to a great growth on her neck, which she attributed to divine judgment on her frivolous, necklace-loving youth. In recognition of this – and St Audrey’s pious legacy – St Audrey’s Fairs have become an annual tradition. Morris Dancers kick up their heels and colorful stalls are festooned with baubles and beads of less than stellar quality – downright tawdry, in fact – the word itself a bastardization of St Audrey.
As every Dracophile knows, Dragons have a warm place in their fiery hearts for baubles, tawdry or not. It is only fitting that, during the Month of the Dragon, we tip our hats to St Audrey and her deliciously tacky fairs. Thus, on October 16th, we celebrate Gaudy Bauble Day, a time to go to a tag sale or flea market or five-and-dime, and find a charming sparkly for your Dragon (or yourself). Remember, Dragons understand that their keeping is expensive, and so value the giving more than the cost. Gaudy Bauble Day is a celebration of the cheap and flashy – and a good time to do some early Yule shopping, too.
The Feast of Lights is fast approaching. Time to burnish the menorah, limber up your dreidel-spinning fingers, and teach the kittens about candle safety.
If you’re seeking something for that special Dragon lover in your life to plant beneath the Chanukah bush – and who doesn’t need a little something dragonish for the holidays – check out The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook and Dragons for Beginners.
Here’s a taste from Dragons for Beginners:
Three hundred thousand years ago, when Homo sapiens walked out of Africa, Dragons were everywhere. Around every river bend, on every mountain top, they basked at ease, the reigning predators in a wild and woolly world. Our ancient ancestors cast their eyes to the heavens and were wowed by the sheer otherworldly grandeur winging across the horizon. To primitive minds Dragons were nothing short of divine. They were the roar of sea and the blinding flash of lightning; gentle life-giving rains and inexplicable death in the night. They were the terrible danger lurking beyond the glow of village fires and the benevolent warmth of the fires themselves. Bigger, fiercer, more incredible than any other creature real or imagined, no beings—including man—have roamed so far or evolved so well. From the dawn of time, these were Dragons. They still are.
Don’t be so surprised.
Earth has managed to spawn a stellar array of life. From microscopic viruses to macroscopic pteradons, from bear cats to short-nosed bats, blue skimmers to blue whales, sporting fur, feathers, skin, and scales. The planet’s bio-diversity is truly spectacular. Just walk through the woods with ears pricked and eyes wide and you will find creatures, great and small, extraordinary enough to fill even the most jaded city slicker with awe. Spanning the taxonomic continuum, the common and the rare are there for the observing.
Harder to see are the mystical and the fabulous, the beings we’ve come to consider truly otherworldly. Griffins, unicorns, dryads, phoenix—their numbers are legion, their names and forms as varied as local habitat and custom allow. Over time many have gone the way of the moa and mammoth, a way currently slick with whale oil and strewn with tiger pelts and lyrebird quills. Those mystical creatures that remain slip in and out of the shadows, struggling to survive as environs and belief grow increasingly short in supply. They dance along the margins of medieval manuscripts and through the peripheral vision of cryptozoologists, mythologists, and literary fantasists. Thanks to a dwindling familiarity with the arcane, many incredible creatures pass without so much as a second look from humans who wouldn’t know a kitsune (fox spirit) from a chipmunk. They wear the cloak of modest anonymity that allows them to avoid the dangerously acquisitive and fearfully ignorant. To linger among us a little longer.
And then there are Dragons.
Magnificent, preternatural, take-your-breath-away Dragons.
Soaring on the four winds, surfing the seven seas, Dragons have never indulged in anonymity. Tossing all notions of “local” onto the dung heap, they went global in a big way. They carved out niches in every ecosystem: burning deserts and glacial peaks, verdant tropics and scrub-grassed plains. They lashed the clouds with Dragonfire and bent low the trees with Dragonsong.
Both are available straight from Llewellyn Worldwide (along with a slew of other great gifts for the mystically inclined), or at Amazon (both in paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and your favorite neighborhood bookstore.
The day after Thanksgiving Yule trees were stacked against the local supermarkets, hardware and feed stores, early casualties in the annual collision between high commerce and high holidays. Black Friday, a day when, at least here in the States, madness sets in on the side of commerce. Mild-mannered, feast-sluggish human beings turn into fearless berserkers all for the sake of deals on stuff, briefly appreciated yet then long-added to the general clutter of their lives. And then there is Cyber Monday, for those who prefer their shopping on-line instead of in-line (a safer prospect, if reports from last week are valid). Now it seems that some retailers were so thrilled by the cash flowing into their coffers that they are extending the lunacy into today. (A sign of an improving economy people say, and I do hope they’re right.)
Being warriors, Mithras and the Maccabees would likely have enjoyed a knock-down drag-out at the gates of Walmart – taking the side of ill-treated employees, of course.
What about the Magi? The fact is, we turn our legends to suit our political, social, even economic needs, so much so that it is possible we got it all wrong in the process.
This lead us to a fertile swath of “What if…” thinking. What if, for example, that ancient trio of wizened cameleers (mentioned only in St Matthew, by the way, and thus verging on the apocryphal from the get-go) were actually on their way to Tyre for some sun and surf. In all that uncharted desert, they zigged when they should have zagged (it could happen) and wound up in Bethlehem – last stop before Jerusalem and a sharp left turn to the sea.
Of course, being foreigners, they were clueless about the census and attendant inn overflow (even for the well-heeled); still, there was room to put their mounts up for the night, and this simple traveler’s chore led them to crashing a poor lad’s birthday party. Not wishing to seem ungracious – or illiberal – they rummaged through their howdah bags and found gifts; just a few things of little import to men of wealth, but priceless to a family struggling to stay in the working class.
There was gold: coins most likely, though we’re never told. A handful extracted from a bag reserved for travelling expenses. A pittance to a mage (or monarch, depending on the translation), but a wondrous start for a young lad swaddled in manger-warm straw. (Makes me think of the Treasury Bonds so many of us got from our Grandparents.)
Frankincense: Interesting gift. The sort of thing any mage would carry for daily rituals (or, on the chance they were headed for Miletus, not Tyre, where frankincense was an expected offering to Apollo. He could be a generous god and not begrudge the lack of a nugget or two.)
And then there is myrrh. I always figured this was Melchior’s contribution to the birthday haul. He’s depicted as eldest of the three, all grey haired and rheumy. It is not too far fetched to imagine him carrying his personal stash of myrrh just in case he didn’t make the return trip to those who would tend his corpse. Still, he must have been feeling rather spry to gift a baby with a portion of his sacred resin.
Aren’t “What ifs” wonderful?
Now that I have inadvertently offended some of you, I want to be clear: I am not anti-holiday, by any means. I deck my lemon tree with tinsel, keep Chanukah with dreidel games and bright abandon, and exchange Solstice presents with glee. I am also no Scrooge. I give when and what I can (frequently without rhyme or reason) and have written off more than a few loans over the years as the simple cost of friendship (aka the Polonius Effect).
All of which brings me, circumlocutorily, to my current dilemma: I am a writer. Writers survive by selling books. After the writing is done, we are more marketers and shills as artists – or at least we’re expected to be. And what better time to flog our wares than around the holidays when wish-lists are long and wallets are open.
Why then do I look upon the coming weeks with growing dread? (I mean, compared to some, my books aren’t even that expensive.) Because my strong anti-materialistic streak gets twitchy and prickly, eager to strike a blow against my financial self-interest and for the simple home-made gift from the heart. In short, the season remains an open invitation to unceremoniously face plant on the bitter macadam of commercialism.
Today is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Some are calling it Giving Tuesday. A time to turn away from the stuff lining store shelves and on-line warehouses and to giving a little time or money to those who need it most. Perhaps a bag of kitty toys for your local animal shelter or a box of books for the VA hospital. Perhaps just signing up for an hour or two at the neighborhood hospice or soup kitchen. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but the sort of giving that goes to the heart of the season.
And, if, at the end of the day, you have a Dragon-loving bibliophile on your holiday list and are still inclined to treat their fancy, I’d be right chuffed if you considered putting a copy of The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook or Dragons for Beginners under their Solstice tree. (also at Amazon and your friendly, neighborhood bookstore)
Baubles, Bangles, and St. Audrey’s Fair: October 15-17.
Back in the 7th century – in the thick of the draconic Dark Times – there was an East Anglian princess names Ethelreda, a k a Audrey. The secular life did not please her (or her three sisters, for that matter), so she looked to the Church, and took a vow of virginity. Though not poverty: Audrey was know for her fondess of trinkets and baubles and lace finery. But we will retun to that later.
As a princess in the 600s, the promise to remain virginal did not prevent her from being married off – twice. This was the way of the times, when the affections (and bodies) of royal daughters were used as chips at the political casino. Though her first husband respected Audrey’s vow to his (early) dying day, her second was not so understanding. Her new spouse, the King of Northumbria, soon tired of living together as brother and sister, and pressed the local bishop to release his wife from her vows. When he would not, the king, pressed his affections on Audrey, anyway. She fled to Ely, there to enjoy the protection of the Church, establish an abbey, and was, in time, canonized.
But let’s return to Audrey’s love of finery. Every year, in celebration of St. Audrey, the people of Ely would hold a fair which, in time, became one of the premier fetes in Medieval England. In honor of Audrey’s love of baubles, bangles, and gemstones, many of the wares for sale were inexpensive trinkets, the sort of thing which abounds at many ‘craft’ fairs today.
Among Dragon keepers, this has become a marvelous time to go treasure draconic troves, to celebrate their Dragons’ love of sparklies, and gift their charges’ with a shiny trinket that will please but not break the bank. Though the fictional likes of Smaug and Fafnir have made Dragons synonymous with rapacious greed among the ignorant, the fact is, Dragons can be very understanding about the human financial condition. True, a soft bed of gold is delightful and metals are used in their nests to conduct heat and keep clutches at optimum temperature. Yet, they have come to appreciate the thought as much as the object. If chosen and given with affection, the faux sparklies found at this weekend at Audrey’s fairs (or any other autumnal crafty gathering) are appreciated as much as if you’d lifted the Crown Jewels from the tower.
Go out, have fun, and gift with an open heart.
What is your Dragon’s favorite sparkly?