drag.on \"dra-g.n\ n [ME, fr. OF, fr. L dracon-, draco serpent, dragon, fr. Gk drak-n serpent] : a fabulous animal usu. represented as a huge winged scaly serpent with a crested head and large claws
Dragon, a legendary reptilian monster similar in form to a crocodile and usually represented as having wings, huge claws, and a fiery breath. In some folklore of antiquity, the dragon symbolizes destruction and evil. This conception is found, for example, in Enuma Elish, a Mesopotamian creation epic written about 2000 BC. One of the central figures of the legend is the goddess Tiamat, a dragonlike personification of the oceans, who headed the hordes of chaos and whose destruction was prerequisite to an orderly universe. In the sacred writings of the ancient Hebrews, the dragon frequently represents death and evil. Christianity inherited the Hebraic conception of the dragon, which figures in all the important apocalyptic literature of the Bible, notably in Revelation, and appears in later Christian traditions. In Christian art, the dragon is a symbol of sin. It is often represented as crushed under the feet of saints and martyrs, symbolizing the triumph of Christianity over paganism.
In certain mythologies, the dragon is more generally credited with beneficent powers. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that dragons had the ability to understand and to convey to mortals the secrets of the earth. Partially as a result of this conception of the monster as a benign, protective influence, and partially because of its fearsome qualities, it was employed as a military emblem. The Roman legions adopted it in the first century AD, inscribing the figure of a dragon on the standards carried into battle by the cohorts. The folklore of the pagan tribes of northern Europe contained both beneficent and terror-inspiring dragons. In the Nibelungenlied, Siegfried kills a dragon, and one of the principal episodes of Beowulf deals with a similar achievement. The ancient Norsemen adorned the prows of their vessels with carved likenesses of dragons. Among the Celtic conquerors of Britain the dragon was a symbol of sovereignty. The legendary monster was also depicted on the shields of the Teutonic tribes that later invaded Britain, and it appeared on the battle standards of the English kings as late as the 16th century. Beginning in the early 20th century, it was inscribed on the armorial bearings of the Prince of Wales.
The dragon also figures in the mythology of various Oriental countries, notably Japan and China. It is deified in the Taoist religion and was the national emblem of the Chinese Empire. Among the Chinese people, the dragon is traditionally regarded as a symbol of good fortune.
Legendary monster usually conceived as a huge, bat-winged, fire-breathing, scaly lizard or snake with a barbed tail. The belief in these creatures apparently arose without the slightest knowledge on the part of the ancients of the gigantic, prehistoric, dragon-like reptiles. In Greece the word drakon, from which the English word was derived, was used originally for any large serpent (see sea serpent), and the dragon of mythology, whatever shape it later assumed, remained essentially a snake.
In general, in the Middle Eastern world, where snakes are large and deadly, the serpent or dragon was symbolic of the principle of evil. Thus, the Egyptian god Apepi, for example, was the great serpent of the world of darkness. But the Greeks and Romans, though accepting the Middle Eastern idea of the serpent as an evil power, also at times conceived the drakontes as beneficent powers--sharp-eyed dwellers in the inner parts of the Earth. On the whole, however, the evil reputation of dragons was the stronger, and in Europe it outlived the other. Christianity confused the ancient benevolent and malevolent serpent deities in a common condemnation. In Christian art the dragon came to be symbolic of sin and paganism and, as such, was depicted prostrate beneath the heels of saints and martyrs.
The dragon's form varied from the earliest times. The Chaldean dragon Tiamat had four legs, a scaly body, and wings, whereas the biblical dragon of Revelation, "the old serpent," was many-headed like the Greek Hydra. Because they not only possessed both protective and terror-inspiring qualities but also had decorative effigies, dragons were early used as warlike emblems. Thus, in the Iliad, King Agamemnon had on his shield a blue three-headed snake, just as the Norse warriors in later times painted dragons on their shields and carved dragons' heads on the prows of their ships. In England before the Norman Conquest, the dragon was chief among the royal ensigns in war, having been instituted as such by Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur. In the 20th century the dragon was officially incorporated in the armorial bearings of the prince of Wales.
In the Far East, the dragon managed to retain its prestige and is known as a beneficent creature. The Chinese dragon, lung, represented yang, the principle of heaven, activity, and maleness in the yin-yang of Chinese cosmology. From ancient times, it was the emblem of the Imperial family, and until the founding of the republic (1911) the dragon adorned the Chinese flag. The dragon came to Japan with much of the rest of Chinese culture, and there (as ryu or tatsu) it became capable of changing its size at will, even to the point of becoming invisible. Both Chinese and Japanese dragons, though regarded as powers of the air, are usually wingless. They are among the deified forces of nature in Taoism.
The term dragon has no zoological meaning, but it has been applied in the Latin generic name Draco to a number of species of small lizards found in the Indo-Malayan region. The name is also popularly applied to the giant monitor, Varanus komodoensis, discovered on Komodo, in Indonesia.
Poetry of the Dragon
In days long gone - out of memory's reach
The Enchanter his acolytes did teach
He taught of powers and of fire
He taught of love and man's desire
He taught of pain and taught of greed
He taught of fear and taught of need.
And when he'd done with sharing all
a student asked about the fall.
Five thousand years and some ago
the dragons lived, for it is so
written in the books of lore..
in a time long gone before.
And man was growing in the land
becoming like the desert sand.
Wherever dragons had their home
man was fearful there to roam.
But as their number grew in count
man's strength and fearlessnes did mount.
Often men did they venture far
to kill a dragon - called it war.
Until the dragons knew the day
had come. No other way
but to put a fearful end
to the slaught'ring bands of men.
Then followed war which scorched the lands
and put a stop to slaught'ring bands.
And after all was said and done
man retreated - no battle won.
Few dragons in the world remained
with death and turmoil - what was gained?
Leaving with remaining kin
the dragons were not seen again.
For deep within the mountain caves
the dragons chanted over graves
and took on them the forms of men
that slaughter would not rise again.
Enchanters know that from that day
the fire's within: the enchanters say.
For if you have the power within
then you're born from Dragon kin.
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