Dragons: among the most extraordinary creatures that existed

The dragon is a mythical-legendary creature with features usually serpentines or in any case akin to reptiles, and is present in the collective imagination of all cultures, in the western ones as an evil being bearer of death and destruction, while in the eastern one as a bearer of luck and goodness.

The term derives from the Latin draco (nominative), draconis (genitive), in turn coming from the Greek δράκων (drakon), with the homologous meaning of snake. The etymology of the term has often been discussed: connected with the verb δέρκεσθαι (dèrkesthai) “to look”, probably in connection with the powers related to their gaze or to their allegedly acute sight. In Sanskrit and ancient Indian: dragh-ayami, or “stretch”.

The first Mesopotamian legends tell of great winged monsters of black or deep blue color, the dragons of the night and of the abysses.

The first known black dragon is Tamiat, a Babylonian female dragon who according to legend spawned an army of her kind who populated the planet.

Once they grew up, hungry, they devoured everything they found on their way, both animals and humans.

Heroes came from far away to free the lands from this scourge, an example is a village south of present-day Denmark which was saved by a Viking hero.

Europe was populated mostly by red dragons, and from here arose almost all the legends of the titanic clashes.

Among the ancient Greeks and, later, among the Romans, all the species of large and harmless snakes that could also be kept as pets acquired this name. Already with Homer we mention a dragon, an animal with a keen sight, the agility of an eagle and the strength of a lion, represented as a snake with legs and wings. In the Argonautiche di Apollonio Rodio it is a dragon that watches over the Golden Fleece, while Filostrato, in 217 AD, disserted about these beasts in The life of Apollonius of Tiana (II, 17 and III, 6-8).

The animal is already present in Greek mythology in various myths, such as that of the dragon Ladon, father of the Hesperides, killed by Heracles and placed in the firmament in the constellation of the Draco, or of the dragon Python killed by Apollo.

Extensive treatments on the dragon are also present in works by Roman writers such as Pliny, in his Historia Naturalis, Gaio Giulio Solino and Pomponio Mela.

In the Apocalypse of St. John the Apostle, one of John’s visions concerns a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, symbolizing the devil, who repeatedly threatens the Woman clothed with the Sun (identified by the Christian-Catholic tradition with the Virgin Mary or with the Church and with other symbols from other Christian traditions), but she eludes him and therefore fights against God and his angels.

In Phaedrus’s tale “The fox and the dragon”, the mythological animal appears for the first time as a guardian of hidden treasures, symbolizing the vice of avarice.

In China, dragons have been since time immemorial, together with the phoenix, symbol of the imperial family. The dragon has therefore become a mythical-legendary creature present in the collective imagination of many cultures, both as an evil being and as a guardian and defender of ancient treasures and magical places and bearer of great knowledge and knowledge. Furthermore, it is not unfounded to think that these stories may also have been fueled by hypothetical findings of dinosaur fossils, which were difficult to explain otherwise at the time: for example, as early as 300 BC, a mysterious fossil found in Wucheng, Sichuan, China , was labeled as a dragon fossil by that Chang Qu.

The word worm , or worm-snake, or footprints , is found in names of places such as Worms Head, Great Ormes Head, Ormesleigh, Ormeskirk, Wormelow, Wormeslea …

Black dragons did not like to face the enemy in duels. Whirling in the villages, fires or famines arose, for this reason the legends disappeared and ceased to populate, if not for the memory of great massacres, for the wickedness of the massacres and for their cowardice in avoiding any direct confrontation.

Most of the historical references and legends about dragons in Europe date back to the medieval period: a symbol of struggle, violence and war, their image was often the effigy that was used as a herald in battles.

In Christianity as we have seen, the dragon represents the devil.

Many historical sources and manuscripts testify to the presence of “the beast par excellence”. For example in the Bestiaries, we find detailed descriptions of both the appearance and habits of dragons.

Usually they used caves as dens in the top of mountains or in difficult to reach territories, from where they rarely came out and a single roar was enough to make all the animals run away, hiding in their many.

The extinction of dragons, according to western tradition, dates back to the Middle Ages. Wandering knights, adventurers in search of fame and glory and dragon hunters dedicated their existence to the fight against these animals.

The western dragon, also known as the standard western dragon, is perhaps the best known and most widespread, so much so that it is probably the first image that comes to mind when we hear the word dragon. This type of dragon is in fact the most classic one we can expect: pointed horns, four legs, membranous wings, a “lizard” appearance and scales and scales on the whole body, as well as the innate ability to spit fire: thanks to the glands in the lower jaw that secrete phosphorus. When the dragon contracts these glands and opens its mouth, the phosphorus ignites in contact with the air and saliva emitting the typical flame. Similarly, the bomber insect can spray boiling jets onto its predators in the wild.
Every year in Tarascona, France, the victory of the ancestors is celebrated over the monstrous Tarasca carrying a flag with the beast depicted in the streets of the city. The Tarasca amphibian, as large as a large ox, has a lion’s head and a rigid armored body covered with spikes, above the scaly body. It has six legs similar to those of the bear and the snake tail. Tarasca has as ancestors the Leviathan, a gigantic sea monster mentioned in the Old Testament (in the book of Job) and in the Apocalypse, and the Bonaso, a bovine creature that killed thanks to its excrements of fire. Bearer of great damage, the Tarasca unleashed the anger of the village that invoked the help of Saint Martha. This went into the woods and found the Tarasca grappling with his umpteenth victim, sprinkled it with holy water.

Fafnir, the German dragon who guarded the Nibelungs Ring, and who Siegfried, in the Volsungi saga, killed and ate their hearts in order to understand the language of birds, was in all respects a Worm (Wurm or Wyrm). Also in Nordic mythology it is possible to find other of these dragons: Níðhöggr who tries to destroy the world by gnawing the roots of the Yggdrasill tree. Another serpent-like monster is Miðgarðsormr, son of Loki and the giantess Angrboða, thrown by Odin into the ocean. Miðgarðsormr is so large that it can surround all the earth and bite its tail by itself. Take the hook of Thor, while the latter is fishing; after a bloody struggle the god manages to put the monster to flight. Jormungand is predestined to kill and be killed by Thor at the time of Ragnarǫk. One of the dragons of traditional Germanic-Norse literature that best describes the stereotype subsequently accepted by popular imagination and fantasy is that of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf: it is a winged snake, which spits flames and holds an ancient treasure. Another characteristic of the dragon in Norse mythology is its linguistic ability. It can speak all the languages ​​it uses to lie and deceive. These dragons, mammoth lizards usually wingless and with elongated and sinuous bodies, are the British version of the Western dragon: they have hard scales like steel, very sharp teeth and like cousins ​​they can spit fire. Another famous worm was the one who faced old Beowulf, dying with him. Lambton’s Worm and Wantley’s Dragon were both killed by knights, and WormHill Hill is named after Lambton’s Worm. King Arthur adopted this breed as his coat of arms andworms became heraldic symbol of British kings.

The 1 ° April 2015 Nature publishes in its section of Zoology an article entitled ” Here be dragons “:

“ Emerging evidence indicates that dragons can no longer be dismissed as creatures of legend and fantasy and that anthropogenic effects on the world’s climate could inadvertently pave the way for the rebirth of these beasts.

Long considered legendary material, dragons cross cultures and continents. Until recently, however, little attention had been paid to the fact that the commonality in the cultural representations of such creatures indicates something more sinister. From depictions in ancient Greek literature and from the Slavic myth, to oriental dragons or allusions in Zoroastrian scriptures, the descriptions resonate. What if these legends were rooted in the truth? The differences in appearance – some lack wings, some have multiple heads and some seem not to spit fire – once thought to reflect local traditions, they can also be easily explained by speciation.

The 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 sparked an unprecedented investigation into the literary resources of the early Middle Ages. One of these documents, discovered by chance under a pile of rusty candlesticks in a locked cupboard marked as “loste propertie” in the depths of the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, provides clear evidence that the field of fantastic beasts requires re-evaluation. urgent. Attributed to the monk Godfrey of Exmouth, the treaty discusses many verified aspects of English history but, above all, provides evidence that for millennia dragons have periodically been a scourge for civilizations. 

“ As Godfrey of Exmouth attests, this was an era in which humanity as a whole was fully aware of the existence of dragons and all other magical beings. It is likely that the persistent antisocial behavior of dragons and the inability of seemingly powerful magical beings to effectively fight the scourge, led to a profound dislike: the witches lit up, the magicians who dared to imagine a heliocentric universe suffered the humiliation of the process and ridiculous.

The combination of decreasing temperatures and a sharp drop in the number of riders saw the start of the dragons of “The Great Sleep” around the beginning of the 15th century. Such a phenomenon is well recognized: many ectothermic beasts enter a period of misting (analogous to hibernation in endotherms) in adverse climatic and food conditions. The Big Sleep coincided with what is generally called the Little Ice Age. Historical records show that this period was a period of relative peace, at least as far as dragon attacks are concerned. Many believed that dragons – the fire-breathing species, in any case – had become extinct in the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries. This belief has been further extended to a bewildering level, so conventional opinion now claims that dragons, and in fact all other magical beings, be pure fantasy. This belief was a blessing for dragons, because it put an end to the persecutions … “

From the water wisdom we Dragons reveal
the ancient wisdom we carry
the false in our hearts in silence each time we fight
life and death we give value.
We are worthy warriors of the sun. We
are strength, pride, courage and honor.
We are dragons of fire who have always been present
in life and in death. We give value.
Between the winds and the clouds
we fly majestically we dragons of the air arouse the ardor
look in our eyes the cowardly do not dare
to life and to death we give value.
Over time we keep hidden treasures
of the living earth we have the color
of dark caves, from mountains sunny
to life and death we give value.

– anonymous poetry


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