(As published in: Spirituality & Health, 3, Winter 2001 by Susanne Iles)
"‘But there aren’t wild dragons in Britain?’ said Harry. ‘Of course there are,’ said Ron. ‘Common Welsh Green and Hebridean Blacks. The Ministry of Magic has a job hushing them up, I can tell you. Our lot have to keep putting spells on Muggles who’ve spotted them, to make them forget.’" - Harry Potter and the Philosopher’ Stone
I believe in dragons. I believe in them for their claritas, their brightness. They shine in their ability to transcend the common-place, move past their archaic Western image of demon, and reveal themselves as representations of the sublime. No other legendary creature has captured the imagination of humankind like the dragon.
Since the beginning of time, the dragon and its myths have been found in every culture on every continent. Terrible or tender? It matters not. In my opinion, the endurance of such a universal symbol demands respect. The dragon is a symbol worthy of belief.
I remember being a wild child with perpetually dirty knees and torn stockings. My poor mother must have thought me a changeling, left behind to torment her waking hours. Not content wanting to be a princess, I wanted to be a Dragon Hunter. This flight of fancy was fed by a steady diet of J.R.R. Tolkien, the brothers Grimm, Aesop, Greek and Roman mythology, Nordic legends, and more. With such a strong mythic foundation to boost my courage, I moved forward, seeking out the dragons where I lived.
I found them in the unkempt corner of our yard, in a cathedral of five tall trees pointing out of the Earth toward Heaven. Mossy, cool rocks among the trees’ roots hid baby dragons of red and gold. They were salamanders, really, amphibians in this world, but little dragons in the world of myth. It was said they could live in fire without being consumed, their cold skin extinguishing the flames around them.
I lay on my back in this sacred place. My gaze followed the trees’ prayerful gestures toward the sky. Dragons moved in the shapes of clouds and I could feel my heart soaring heavenward, filled with the spirit of wonder and joy, aching with the beauty of it all. It was my axis mundi.
The tremendous feelings of being one with the world seeded my bliss and nurtured the artist within. As a child I expressed this delight creatively with pens and pencils and paints, expressing the Divine that surrounded me.
Growing older meant growing fragmented. More choices meant more responsibility. More information meant more opinions and conflicting beliefs. The impending sense of change was crystallized for me when my mother brought home a statuette of St. George and the Dragon. A beatific young saint in a white tunic sat astride a powerful white horse. Trampled beneath the horse’ hooves was a small, cringing dragon. Lovely St. George, a faint smile drawn by his pink lips, had cut the hapless creature’ throat. I stared at the delicate statuette, stunned.
In Asia, the dragon, Lung, was strong and kind, offering protection against evil and giving spiritual and material gifts to the people. The African dragon, Aido Hwedo was the Creator’ companion in the creation of the Earth, the guardian of the world itself. In Australia, the Rainbow Serpent was thought to be humankind’ teacher regarding laws of community, structure, ethics, and respect. Yet before my eyes the dragon was being crushed underfoot. Like everything man fears or questions, the dragon had become the enemy. I felt my invisible world shift. My well-meaning parents, seeing my sad face, tried to cheer me up by telling me St. George and his horse won in the end - the dragon was killed. I burst into tears.
In adulthood I learned how to compartmentalize my life out of convenience, ignorance, duty, fear, and desire to maintain the status quo. Although art had been my passion, I denigrated it to the status of hobby, casting it aside for a "real job." I believed in love but married for convenience. I had every material want filled but my soul cried for more. My heart dwelled in the lush forests of the countryside, but I lived in a city, subsisting in the sterility of concrete and glass. I wanted for nothing except the bliss sown when I was a child. I longed to transcend my duality and become whole. To my horror I realized I had become a princess when what I really wanted to be was a Dragon Hunter.
Like the ancient symbol of the dragon Uroboros biting its tail, my life has now come full circle. In my search for wholeness I had travelled deep into the dragon’ cave. Plunged into the darkness of the unknown I felt lost and frightened. What I took to be the light at the end of the tunnel was in fact the glow of the dragon’ treasure. The priceless jewel was my authentic self.
I still believe in dragons but I no longer hunt them. I paint them. Because art is my passion I live it. I believe in love and follow my heart. I know the difference between want and need. My life and closets are lighter for it! I’ve left the city to live on an island with plenty of salamanders and dragon clouds floating above. I want for nothing and the seeds of bliss sown in childhood are now trees that point out of the Earth to Heaven.
In ancient times the dragon was considered to be the messenger between our temporal and spiritual existence. By rediscovering the magic of the dragon we can bridge the widening gap between Heaven and Earth, embrace the mystery of the unknown and forge our path to wholeness. By choosing to open the lines of communication and communion, we reward ourselves with the capacity to create our own destiny and reclaim the sacred in our lives.