The Secret Life of Dragons

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed there’s been quite a resurgence of interest in dragons.

Friends of mine, who engage shamanically with the energy lines  criss-crossing the globe – often and wrongly called ley lines –  tell me that it’s because the dragons that guard them are waking up. They may be right. But I see their renaissance more in the sense of a magentic outpicturing of an inner reality of the group mind. That would be more in tune with my studies in comparitive mythology over much of my adult life, and for the last 20 years as a shaman, in touch with the inner worlds.

Anyway, it has all brought me to the conclusion that the dragon, leviathan or sea serpent of ancient myths, that our ancestors drew in the stars in the firmanental ocean of the Milky Way, are one and the same as the terrifying adversary that surfaces from our own watery subconscious realms to challenge us whenever we’re failing to face and deal with our shadows.

As the Emerald Tablet of the Egyptian god Thoth tells us: As Above, So Below.

Sea serpent by G M Binder

Please read on for more of this article or if you prefer, you can LISTEN TO IT HERE as a podcast.

The author of Mary Poppins, Pamela Travers – another mythologist, by the way – once wrote: “We have to take care of our shadows, so that our shadows can take care of us.”

Of course, you’ve probably realised that is also the same message we receive when J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan gets Wendy to sew his shadow back on.

So with dragons beginning to crop up more and more in our literature, in our films and in our computer games, from my perspective it means that it’s time to start to pay attention to our dark sides. It is only the dark side because we need the dragon’s flame to light it up, and burn away all from it that no longer serves our spiritual progress. If we fail to recognise our own dark side, we will fail to recognise it in others, and this is dangerous. So we need the adversary dragon to appear, even though it may come in the form of problems that cause chaotic disruption in our lives.

A dragon in this context is one whose consciousness disturbs and challenges the energetic creatures of the astral swamp that forms and stagnates, around ignorance … and this fiery force can often create something of an explosion.

The dragon uses its flames to burn to ash all the parasitic pondlife that has buried itself … sometimes for hundreds of years …in the weave of the consensual cognitive fabric. It is an act of purification which, once completed, gets the rivers of change and growth flowing quickly again. In other words, its burning sparks fertility as much as the ash of a forest fire is needed for fresh and verdant plants and trees to grow.

I’ve learned all this over the years from my spirit guides … to whom I am very grateful. But these realisations began to come about through my research as a mythologist … although you have to dig so deep back into history to find the treasure of the ancient wisdom that I came to call myself a story archaeologist.

So I would often find myself plundering the same rich, golden seams of ancient Celtic and Norse myths that inspired the imaginations of much greater writers that went before me, such as J.S. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. And as I stood here, trowel in hand, before these gloriously resonant archetypal images – such as the dragon Smaug, from The Hobbit, that hoards piles of gold – I became fascinated to find out where the mythological dragon originated from, so that I discover its deeper meaning.

To do that, I had to dig down even further into a dark, peaty layer that hadn’t seen the light of day for many thousands of years.

It took a long time, but I eventually came to a strata which showed me that the Celts and the Norse shared a common rootstock of myths that were probably Scythian in origin.

So who were the Scythians? They were nomadic tribes who keep reindeer in the Caucasus Mountains for untold thousands of years, and they only migrated down into the Europe when the glaciers started to melt at the end of the last major Ice Age. Then their colourful caravans fanned out all across Europe. Some went north to become the Saxons and the Vikings, and others went towards the Mediterranean countries and eventually became the people we call Celts.

We find these correspondences between the Celts and the Norse in their grave goods,  and there is also some DNA evidence. But we see it most clearly in the similarity of their myths – from the Norse Eddas to the Welsh Mabinogion – which were originally developed from stories written in the stars of the northern hemisphere.

And just like the Scythians, their stories feature dragons guarding gardens and apple orchards, and a beautiful goddess who offers the conquering hero the apple of immortality.

So this brings us on to the poetic resonance of the words ‘garden’ and ‘guardian’ …

And from that, we realise how the dragon who guards the treasure in the garden can, once we start to engage with him, turn from a fierce, troublemaking adversary into our guardian that holds the golden key to our enlightenment. 

In the myths of the Greeks – who also were once Scythians – we find the never-sleeping, hundred-headed serpent Ladon, who guards a garden of golden apples, or heavenly orchard, called the Garden of the Hesperides.

Ladon by Shade of Shinon on Deviant Art

This is all metaphor.

The apple in the ancient Mystery Teachings is the hidden occult symbol for a star. So orchards or gardens are starfields, and knowledge of the stars or enlightenment is what we gain from ‘eating the apples’.

That’s why an orchard or garden being guarded by Ladon could also be termed the Garden of Idun – which is pronounced like ‘Eden’. A young woman called Idun appears in the stories of the Old Norse Edda as an Aesir fertility goddess who carries around a box of apples, the eating of which grants the boon of immortality.

Idun, Norse fertility goddess

Just like pretty well everyone else in the ancient world, the Norse set their myths in a multi-dimensional universe; in the Three Worlds of Asgard (Upper World), Midgard (Middle World) and Hel (Underworld).  (The Hel of the Norse Underworld bears no relation at all to the Christian Hell and I promise you, there are no demons or flaming pitchforks there!)

The root word ‘gard’ of Asgard and Midgard meant ‘garden’. Idun with her box of apples came from Asgard, the garden of the gods of the Upper World – so could this be the Scythian origins of the Bible’s Garden of Eden?

Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, perhaps another way of framing the term ‘knowledge of the stars’ … in other words, the knowledge of how wisdom is gleaned from star stories, which is what you’re learning about here in this article.

In Celtic myths, the Plough constellation is operated by the farmer Hu Gardarn. The ancient Sumerians used the Plough in their star stories as a metaphor for ‘ploughing’ the vulva of the wheatfields of Virgo, which is guarded by another star dragon called Hydra.  

Hydra by Sidney Hall

In the Welsh language, garden is gardd, guard is gwarchod and guardian is gwarcheidwadd. I wonder then if the word ‘guardian’ originally meant a being who guarded a garden, just like Ladon and Hydra?

Hydra is, as are all mythological water serpents and dragons, associated in the Northern star lore with fertility and sacred sex rites –  otherwise known as tantric. This is another Mystery School practice that brings about knowledge of the true self and leads to enlightenment. It would have been the boon of the Tree of Life, from the original Sumerian myth that the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden is derived from.

I’ve already published The Dragon Whisperer’s Son, which is based upon on an old Welsh myth, and these metaphysical meanings are present in the deeper, subconscious stratas of the story. It’s available here on Amazon and all good online bookstores.

I’m also currently writing The Dragon Whisperer’s Handbook, in which I will be giving you ways to work with your personal dragon by channelling its fire into lighting up your own shadows that…until now….have been causing all sorts of havoc and barring the way towards your own metamorphosis and enlightenment.