SNAKES, SERPENTS, DRAGONS
The dragon evolved from the serpent as an icon of the elders and spiritual teachers of the Earth Mother religion. This was the symbol of the druids, vates and bards. In Native American traditions, clans of the Holy Men were often called the Snake clan. In Ireland, the dragon was less stylized and retained the appearance of a snake or serpent. Fire breathing dragons in particular have been source for numerous folk tales. Sadly we must report that the tales of Dragon slayers are little more than disguised stories that relate directly to the murders of Druids, priests and dedicated followers of the Earth Mother religion. Today we call this genocide, but under the authority of the time, it was an accepted practice to eliminate competetive philosophies. The direct relationship of fire and an obviously reptillian animal ties together two items of importance with an ancient origin. Fire and the ability to make fire were considered gifts to the wise. Anyone who could construct a fire was gifted with a special knowledge. Simultaneous within this era was a true and honest fascination of animals that reproduced by laying eggs. Humans have long witnessed the births of mammals and knew about impregnation, gestation and live birth from several hundred millennia of observation and notation. Mankind was well aware of its mammilian origins long before the word appeared in language.
Birds were held in very high regard because of the ability to fly which was assumed to be an ability to commune with the Sky Father, or the Creator. Birds, lizards, turtles and snakes are all egg layers with very few exceptions. All these animals were held in very special reverence. This fact has excaped notice of modern scholars and has received little or no attention.
The primary Celtic diety, Lugh, had shrines and monuments throughout Europe prior to Roman times. Little reference material is available. As a competitive religion, resource material has been culled from the records by Christian authorities. As a theocratic government, it directed the destruction of physical existence. It is reported by some Celtic scholars that his images were often accompanied by a cock, a turtle and a ram. Two of the three are egg layers and the third is an icon of the era, Aries; the Ram.
What demonstrates this line of thought clearly is examination of an image constructed to represent a dragon. More often than not, it is drawn as a large reptile with wings. We accept the wings without question, but to the ancients this was important. Wings indicated an ability to fly. The sky was understood to be the realm of the Sky Father or Creator. Any animal that could fly was deemed able to commune with this spirit. This is why Angels, Harpies, Griffons, Spinxes and Pegasus all have wings. This philosophy is also why flying carpets exist in Arab legend and mythology. All promote the idea that flight and a special communion with sky spirits, a supernatural power, coexist. An example of this fascination exists in the translation of the Phaistos Disk where the fate of an individual was determined by the behavior of a flock of flying birds.
The North American Native tradition of the Thunderbird fits into this scheme as well. Consider what event is precedent to thunder. If you came up with lightning, a brilliant flash of light you are correct. Lightning was equated into fire of the brightest kind, or true enlightenment. This in turn, worked out to be wisdom. Anyone who could speak with a "voice of Thunder" was not speaking loudly. He was speaking with the gifts of the enlightened. The Thunderbird was their substitute for the fire breathing dragon.
One rock art researcher came up with the fact that the elders referred to some snake figures as lightning snakes. He wrongly assumed this had to do with a rain dance ceremony or prayers for rain. When the icons are examined with knowledge and application of proper metaphor, they too, work out to be of the same genera as dragons.
For the most part, this discussion has dealt with items from European and North American origin. It must be noted that the Asian dragon exists with remarkably similar features to the European icon. Missing are the destructive aspects of mythology. In Asia, the dragon has not been subject to the derogatory Christian reworking of the icon and retains the feature of an item related to good rather than evil. Mexican dragons exist as well, but I lack the database to properly deal with them. Perhaps some readers will enlighten us.
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