Dragon Gods and Goddesses
Origin of Dragon Deities
Gods and goddesses of the ancient world often held a connection with certain animals. Some say this is because the beliefs of our ancestors were animistic, meaning to believe everything in nature has consciousness and/or a soul. This would include animals. Wildlife was thought of as sacred in ancient times, and there are scholars who believe ancient land guardian spirits were once worshiped by tribes and would eventually rise to become great gods and goddesses. To find an image of a god or goddess in the likeness of an animal was commonplace. Some of the more obvious animal-god connections can be seen on the ancient temple walls in Egypt. For example, the ibis-headed god Thoth. Or the hawk-headed god Horus.
This link to animals also included mythological creatures such as the dragon. Probably the most terrifying and awe-inspiring beast of the Dark Ages was the dragon. Dating back thousands of years are stories of dragons. In nearly every culture around the world was a story of a dragon. The Celts and Chinese revered the dragon (among others), and from this reverence came a belief in deities who had dragons as guardians or who turned into dragons themselves. A French folklorist by the name of Claude Lecouteux theorizes that dragons were once guardians of sacred places in nature - caves, rivers, and mountains. These guardians of place were worshiped by our most ancient ancestors, and as time went by they became gods in our eyes.
Fuxi: The Chinese Serpentine God
Fuxi is a figure and god in Chinese mythology. Born to a powerful being known as Hua Hsu, Fuxi was said to be a half-man half-serpent creature that would incarnate and come to be the "first human being". Fuxi was born somewhere along the Yellow River, along with his twin sister Nuwa, who he would come to marry and establish the marital ritual for the Chinese culture. Fuxi's mythology is complex, as there are also Chinese tales including Fuxi as one of the first Chinese emperors.
Fuxi was said to have taught the Chinese how to hunt with weapons made of bone and bamboo, fish with nets, and cook. He is also said to be the creator of the I Ching. Because of his close ties to the rivers in China, this may be why he is associated with the dragon (the rivers in China were thought to be the bodies of dragons). Fuxi's godly form of half-man half-serpent lends to the dragon-Fuxi connection. Fuxi has a strong connection with the element of fire, as do dragons.
Medea: The Dragon-Taming Goddess
In Greek mythology, Medea was a niece of Circe and a high priestess of the ancient goddess Hecate. Medea's story is detailed in the Argonautica, written in the third century B.C. in which she bargains with Jason of the Argonauts. Jason promises he will marry Medea if she helps him retrieve his throne. Medea provides Jason with various magical charms - two of which involved dragons. First, Jason was required to sow a dragon's tooth in a field and henceforth fight off warriors that sprouted from this ominous seed. Medea gave him the secret to fighting off these otherworldly soldiers. And second, to gain the "golden fleece" which would give him his crown inheritance, Jason had to kill a dragon that was guarding the golden fleece. The problem with this dragon was that it did not sleep and would kill anyone who came near the golden fleece. Medea put the dragon to sleep using a mixture of sedative herbs, and Jason retrieved the reward.
Medea is portrayed in this tale as a woman with magical abilities and is thought to be a sorceress and priestess. Some consider her a goddess of herbalism, witchcraft, and healing. It is mentioned that she is a niece of a goddess and the daughter of the sun god Helios, so it would be right to assume she is also divine. Whatever her nature, one thing is for sure - she knows how to defeat dragons.
In nearly every culture around the world is a story of a dragon. The Celts and Chinese revered the dragon (among others), and from this reverence came a belief in deities who had dragons as guardians or who turned into dragons themselves.— Nicole Canfield
Melusine: The Serpentine Goddess of the Well
Melusine was a figure in French folklore dating to at least the thirteen hundreds. What we know about many female figures in folklore is that many were prominent goddesses in ancient times, slowly demoted and demonized to lesser (sometimes devious) forms. It is very likely that Melusine was once a goddess of sacred wells in Northern France, and perhaps before that she might have been a guardian nature spirit (one of the genius loci).
Melusine and her three sisters grew up on the Isle of Avalon under their mother's watchful eye. When Melusine is fifteen, she discovers why she and her sisters live on the Isle of Avalon - it is because their father broke his oath to their mother. The oath was that he would not enter her chambers while she gave birth or bathed, as she assumed an otherworldly form that no mortal should see. Melusine left Avalon to exact revenge upon her father, and when her mother learned of what she had done punished her. Melusine was to take on the form of half-woman half-serpent on Saturdays. Eventually, a man named Raymond of Poitou fell in love with Melusine, who also broke his promise to her and spied on her while in her serpentine form. She forgave him, until he called her a "serpent" in front of his comrades in court. Upon hearing this, Melusine transformed into a dragon and flew off.
Nuwa: The Creator Dragon-Goddess
Nuwa was the twin sister of Fuxi, the serpentine Chinese god mentioned previously in this article. Nuwa is known to be a creator goddess with the head of a woman and the lower body of a serpentine creature. In the Songs of Chu (circa 340 BC), Nuwa created human beings using yellow clay and then worked to repair damages to the pillars of heaven that had been created by two other Chinese gods. Nuwa was known as the "snake goddess", but as we have seen in many other tales the serpentine deities were also associated with dragons. Sometimes serpent and dragon could mean the same thing. Just like with her brother Fuxi, Nuwa is associated with fire.
In her efforts to repair the heavens, Nuwa cut the legs off a great turtle and used them as the pillars of heaven. In addition, she killed the great black dragon which provided relief to the Ji Province (the central regions of China).
Veles: The Slavic Dragon God
Veles, also known as Volos, is a Slavic god of the earth, water, and underworld. He is said to be similar to Mitra and Loki. The Slavs believed Veles was a god composed of different animal parts (the head of a bear and tail of a snake), and in this way he is said to have been a chimeric being - a dragon-god. Veles' nemesis was Perun, the thunder god, and therefore their worship and sacred places were kept separate. Veles was worshiped in the valleys, close to the water and earth, while Perun was worshiped on hills and mountainsides, close to the heavens.
When Perun and Veles battle, Veles first takes the form of a dragon. When fleeing from the thunder god's retalation, Veles hides among the earth creatures and people only to be found by Perun, killed, and his treasures bleed out of him in the form of rain. Because of this death ritual, Veles is said to be a god of the underworld and is closely associated with other underworld dragon beings. The tale of Perun and Veles is a representation of the wheel of the year (the changing of the seasons).
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© 2018 Nicole Canfield