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  • Writer's pictureAndreas Kornevall

Dragon Trails - the Ouroboros and Creation part 1

"Here Be Dragons" (Latin: Hic Sunt Dracones) - this phrase was used on ancient maps where dragons would be depicted across any dangerous or unexplored territory. These map images reveal the strong and vital force the dragon has within our human psyche, especially in the place where our fears reside. On the map, the dragon stands as a warning of sea currents, swamps, or perilous mountain passes. The dragon image on the map is showing us the edges of our known world and the unknowing powers in our lives which can have terrifying jaws, and like a tsunami sweep away all sense of control.

In the deepest part of our psyche, where the light of intellect and reason cannot reach, the dragon lives with darting eyes. In Greek, “Derkesthai” means to glance dartingly, the root word for dragon. In many creation myths across the world there has been an epic battle against this scaly creature with a large snout. The dragon would represent primordial chaos that has to be harnessed and subdued for the Gods to create the new world. In the primordial waters, the dragon sees its own reflection and wants to devour it, creating the image of the Ouroboros. Some say the dragon who bites itself is able to copulate with itself and that it carries two genders. The dragon tends to appear at the beginning of the mythical circle and at the end. It is said that Indra fought the dragon Vrtra in India. Then of course we have the story of the Biblical traditions and the dragon with its affinity with Satan. Often dragons are seen as his ally. There we have the “red dragon” in the apocalyptic Christian text written around 95CE, making war against the righteous forces and the angels. In Egypt, Ra battles the dragon Apep and over to Mesopotamia, the storm-God Marduk fights against a Drakania: a rare she-dragon, named Goddess Tiamat. Tiamat personifies the sea of original creation, she is the primeval waters:

“And the Lord stood upon Tiamat's hinder parts,
And with his merciless club he smashed her skull.
He cut through the channels of her blood,
And he made the North wind bear it away into secret places.

Slicing Tiamat in half, he made from her ribs the vault of heaven and earth. Her weeping eyes became the sources of the Tigris and the Euphrates, her tail became the Milky Way.”

Myths from Mesopotamia. Oxford University Press.

Robert Graves considered Tiamat's death as an ancient shift in power from a matriarchal society to a patriarchal one. The Babylonian epic Enûma Elish says: "When above the heavens did not yet exist, nor the earth Abzu.” It goes on to say: "The subterranean ocean was there, the first, the begetter, and Tiamat, she who bore them all.”

Many scholars believe that female deities were older than male ones at the dawn of Mesopotamian history. Tiamat herself could have been part of the cult of Nammu, which held the female principle as a watery creative force. One of the oldest mythical source texts in Northern Europe - the Kalevala - also depicts creation from a watery source: the Goddess Ilmatar comes down to the primal waters and a bird lands on her knee and lays six eggs. The eggs form the earth, moon, stars, and sun. Another old memory relating to water vapour is found in Australia, Haiti and Sudan and are all consistent with the notion of the dragon being a rainbow, “the great rainbow serpent.” Professor Robert Blust describes it as:

“whenever the sun shines through at the appropriate angle, a rainbow appears and the alter ego of a dragon springs into view.” According to Blust, the rainbow serpent symbol has been depicted for 6,000 years in Australian Aboriginal art and has probably existed in the human imagination for 100,000 years. It is also a common belief among indigenous people of South America that a serpent, often an anaconda encircles the world-disc.

In the Northern Myths, the Ourobourus, the great Midgard Serpent lies wrapped around our world and there it holds it captured to its power, it is the periphery of our world and therefore also our consciousness.

Carl Jung saw the Ouroboros as one of the prime archetypes. Primal archetypes are mental images of our remote human ancestors. Jung found that these images are present in all our collective unconscious. Similar to the DNA we inherit physically, the archetypes are our mental DNA. For this reason, the dragon is found everywhere on Earth’s cultures. To Jung, the serpent biting its own tail was a symbol for the alchemists, where the Ouroboros offers meaning of infinity and wholeness; a symbol of integration and the assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow - biting your own tail and the creation that springs from it, the ability of death and birth to co-exist.

In the story of Ragnar Lodbrok, King Harraud gives a Lindworm as a gift to his daughter Þóra Town-Hart. The Lindworm receives its name after the linden tree as it is said to build a home in linden trees that are over 500 years old. Often children are forbidden from climbing mature linden trees for this reason. This lindworm in the story grew into a large serpent and encircled the girl and bit itself in the tail. Ragnar killed the serpent and then married Þóra. One intriguing image, the story tells us that one of Ragnar’s sons was born with the image of the Ouroboros and the snake encircled his iris. The son was named Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, another ancient connection to the dragons' association with rainbows, light and colour.

As the world is in a deficit of metaphor, when looking for the "Dragon Trails", I will not shy away from using psychological terms and ideas: I will seek to understand what it means to defeat a dragon, or the impact a dragon can have when working with our own shadow; this will be a common motif to explore from an inner view-point.

Our animal instincts with all its taboo desires are complex and have built religious systems to control them, which has resulted in conflict with the bodily animal and the physical reality, the Earth. We don’t need to look very far to see the effects of repressed sexuality and the utmost dire and criminal consequences this has on innocent victims. By repressing our shadow parts, the animal desires in us become uncontrollable and primal acts flare out, often in catastrophic forms, with effects of war and violence. There can be no bloodier war than between two righteous camps; I don’t have to spell this out, as any news bulletin will tell you over and over again.

Psychology tells us that dragons need integration rather than binding and destruction. But the whole weight of this proposition of integration means we need to become conscious and aware of our own views and actions that can lead to suffering, of oneself and others and this requires a significant moral effort. To put it bluntly: for an alcoholic this would mean to reveal the bottles hidden in the cellar instead of hiding them there to conceal their drinking. Once revealed there can be negotiation, there can be conversation and there can be the potential for healing. I will attempt to bring out this conversation.

Many of these stories can have real and valuable teachings to offer us, especially when looking at our own personal taboos and phobias and what we can do to negotiate with them.

This is why a deeper study of the dragon is at hand, especially, the spiritual and the psychological. Over the next few months or more, I will be walking "Dragon Trails" with camera, walking stick, boots and tarp across the British Isles and then further North into Scandinavia and hopefully Norway, Finland and there is also a talk of visiting Latvia and Lithuania. I will follow wherever tracks of the dragon have been found and I am sure I will stumble upon the old Gods and old saints and knights. I will follow portals and sites in the landscape such as henges and stone circles, lonely rivers, sacred groves, remote hills and springs.

Here is the first small video of the Dragon of Lyminster that lived in West Sussex in 1524 and he is supposed to return every 500 years, I guess that is a dragon hibernation time.

The story itself will be posted later.

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