Why Dragons Loom So Large in Cultures Around the World

List members , Dragons existed in the folklore of almost every ancient culture , NOT just the Chinese . There maybe a grain of truth in these pervasive legends - it looks like such REPTILIAN creatures , whatever they were - used to emerge from underground realms and hideouts . It almost seems , they are consciously avoiding contact with our present day human civilisation on the Earth's surface :-

Why Dragons Loom So Large in Cultures Around the World

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When people are asked about their knowledge of mythology, sometimes they will talk about the divinities from their region of the world, their country’s folktales, or even some story about a creature either good or evil that has some relevance to their ancestral history. Interestingly, when it comes to the creatures talked about, some version of the prototypical dragon can be found in every corner of the world. Even more amazing is the degree to which they have characteristics in common that transcend the vast distances and times between the cultures in which they were created.

As an American who is a fan of the roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons and has seen the Hobbit movies and the fourth Harry Potter movie, the dragons were generally portrayed as large scaled, serpent like creatures that are rare, powerful and, most of all, dangerous to any man that might dare to cross them. In roleplaying games and stories like the Hobbit, dragons often have a benevolent or malevolent intelligence, though often the latter, and are general integral to the campaign or story. Even in fiction like the Harry Potter novels, which portrays dragons as more bestial, passion driven creatures than rational thinking beings, all seem to agree that these creatures should only be tangled with in the most dire of circumstances.

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Much of these details are similar in folklore from around the world, though there are some differences by region. In Asia there are dragons found in stories in India, Tibet, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines among others. These stories in this part of the world even go as far back as the ancient cultures of Sumeria and Babylonia.

Perhaps the most famous are those dragons from China, which you might have seen at some point included in pictures of a Chinese Dragon Boat Festival.

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Photo by Lachlan Gowen on Unsplash

In the Chinese hierarchy of animals, the dragon stands atop them all as the highest ranking. Its origins can be traced all the way back to Neolithic pottery from thousands of years ago. So important are dragons to China’s cultural history, they even play a role in the inspiration of Fu Hsi to eventually turn a picture of a dragon with dots that he saw into the system of Chinese writing, which he eventually penned into the book I Ching .

The benevolence of some of the Chinese dragons stands in contrast to how they are generally portrayed in the cultures of Europe. Generally, these dragons are portrayed as living at the bottom of rivers or in underground lairs like caves, and they are characterized as being greedy and gluttonous, with appetites very hard to satisfy. The ultimate demonstration of the ill-will held towards the European dragon is how often they are identified with Satan in the Book of Revelation.

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Perhaps the most famous European legend of a dragon is from the Golden Legend story presenting the struggle between St. George and a Dragon. In this tale, a dragon is repeatedly pillaging the town of Silene in Libya, where it voraciously consumes all of the sheep it can consume. Finally, after a shepherd is eaten, the people of the town provide two sacrificial sheep every morning by the lake where the dragon resided. Over time the people were forced begin offering up their children once the sheep were all eaten. Much like many European legends, it was only once the King’s daughter was offered up to the dragon that our hero, St. George, comes upon the situation and acts to gallantly save the Princess. Eventually St. George subdues the creature by stabbing it with his lance and making the sign of the cross. Leading the rescued Princess to Silene with the beaten dragon in tow, he promises the people that he will slay the beast if they but convert to Christianity. Though this is one of the most famous stories, more exist about dragons from Spain, Great Britain, France, Germany, Scandinavia, and Poland to include a few examples.

North and South American dragons have received a bit less attention, but they are nonetheless impressive creatures in their own right. In North America one you have most likely heard of is Quetzalcoatl from the Aztec culture.

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According to the Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl is a deity whose name means “feathered serpent.” To the Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl was the god of wind, air, and learning. There have even been some scholars who speculate that a belief that Spanish conquistadors like Cortés were actually their peoples gods contributed to their being an easier target to be conquered, though this has been thrown into question in recent decades due to the almost exclusively Spanish origin of the original sources.

In South America is the Amaru of the Incan culture.

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For the Incans, the Amaru or Katari was a mythical serpent of massive size that dwells underground, often under lakes or rivers. Interestingly, it was often presented as having the heads of a bird and pumas, and said to be capable of traveling between the spiritual afterlife and the subterranean world where it lived.

The last region of importance to folklore about dragons are those from Africa. My personal favorite is the Ancient Egyptian serpent of chaos known as Apep or Apophis.

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This deity was said to embody pure chaos and stood in opposition the solar divinity Ra who represented light, order, and truth. Apep was generally depicted as a giant snake stretching over sixteen yards in length and a head made of flint, though he is also sometimes presented as a crocodile.

Given the fantastical nature of these creatures, and exactly how much overlap there is across cultures all around the world, there are a number of theories about why these similar myths emerged at different times and in different cultures around the world in isolation of one another.

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The first of the three explanations presents the possibility of ancient peoples discovering different dinosaur fossils and, without a frame of reference, extrapolating what would become dragon-like creatures from the physical evidence. Seeing the size of many of these fossils, particularly the vicious looking teeth in some cases, and it is quite possible this explanation has some merit.

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A second explanation ties in current animals as being the source of dragon stories. Diving into particular examples, this one carries some weight as well. For example, the Incan Amaru often shares some puma-like characteristics, while the Egyptian Apep has been found to be portrayed as having crocodile features.

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Lastly, the third potential explanation can be best encapsulated by a book by David E. Jones book titled An Instinct for Dragons which argues that evolution imprinted an innate fear of predators in the human mind as a means to increase the odds of the survival of humanity’s ancestors by encouraging wariness towards these creatures which, in the past several thousand years has been manifested in folklore as dragon myths.

Each of these three theories can to some degree explain why myths of dragons and dragon-like creatures emerged the way they did around the world independently from each other. For my part, I’m extremely glad they did since the stories dragons appear in make for such interesting reading that I think the world would be poorer for them never being imagined.

This concludes the first of many planned articles on creatures from mythology and folklore. I hope you enjoyed it! My next post will be examining some of the individuals on the side of these kinds of tales: Dragon Slayers.

Regards

Sidhartha,

This is certainly a relevant article.

The author writes: “when it comes to the creatures talked about, some version of the prototypical dragon can be found in every corner of the world. Even more amazing is the degree to which they have characteristics in common that transcend the vast distances and times between the cultures in which they were created”. Well, if they are spoken about everywhere, and similar characteristics are reported, then what does that strongly suggest? This strongly suggests that they truly do exist because the source material in each case is unrelated and independent.

And the author further writes: “Generally, these dragons are portrayed as living at the bottom of rivers or in underground lairs like caves. So what does this suggest?That they probably live in caves and caverns. Don’t all reptiles live below? Snakes, for example, live in snake holes. Reptiles can come to the surface, but they live below in caves, underwater streams and such.

But then, the author presents three theories to explain how such “myths”, as he explains them, might have come about. The logic of his theories is very weak and is not convincing. I like my conclusions more than his. I am sure that you do, too.

Cheers!

@deandddd , I agree . You may also find this article on ancient dragon stories from the Rig Veda , the Persian Avesta and "Typhon" of Greek mythology - all very , very similar to each other .

The origin of such "dragons" was from some sort of subterranean realm and was linked to "blockage" of water...this might even refer (indirectly) to the MASSIVE glaciers from the last ice age and the lifegiving freshwater "locked" up inside those mythical "monsters" :-

Ancient Dragon Myths: Vritra, Typhon and Azi Dahaka

Posted on 19 January, 2017 by aurosjnc in HIC SUNT DRACONES, In Dracones

In a previous post I started a series of articles about the ancient myths that gave birth to dragons, and now I want to share with you the stories of three legendary beings that are closely linked with the dragon sagas: Vritra, Typhon and Aži Dahâka.

Vritra, the Firstborn of Dragons

The Rig Veda is the first of the four Vedas, which are the primary texts of Hinduism, and it is considered one of the oldest texts in Indo-European languages. The Rig Veda contains several hymns called sūkta, which were probably composed in the Northeastern regions of the Indian subcontinent (India and Pakistan) between 1500-1200 BC, and they were eventually written in Vedic Sanskrit around 600 BC. These hymns were dedicated to the work and feats of certain Vedic divinities, some of whom were essentially deified natural phenomena. Indra, the god of lightning, thunder, storm, rain and the rivers is one of them, and his fight against the dragon Vritra is one of his greatest exploits. Vritra held the waters of the rivers captive, thus threatening the progress of humankind, so Indra decided it was time to set the waters free. He drank Soma (a ritual Vedic beverage that was extracted from an unknown plant) in the house of Tvastar, the god of creation in the Vedas, in order to gain strength before facing Vritra. Once he drank enough Soma, Tvastar gave him the celestial lightning he forged so that he could defeat the dragon.

I WILL declare the manly deeds of Indra, the first that he achieved, the Thunder-wielder.
He slew the Dragon, then disclosed the waters, and cleft the channels of the mountain torrents.
He slew the Dragon lying on the mountain: his heavenly bolt of thunder Tvaṣṭar fashioned.
Like lowing kine in rapid flow descending the waters glided downward to the ocean.
Impetuous as a bull, he chose the Soma and in three sacred beakers drank the juices.
Maghavan grasped the thunder for his weapon, and smote to death this firstborn of the dragons.
When, Indra, thou hadst slain the dragon’s firstborn, and overcome the charms of the enchanters,
Then, giving life to Sun and Dawn and Heaven, thou foundest not one foe to stand against thee.
Indra with his own great and deadly thunder smote into pieces Vṛtra, worst of Vṛtras.
As trunks of trees, what time the axe hath felled them, low on the earth so lies the prostrate Dragon.
He, like a mad weak warrior, challenged Indra, the great impetuous many-slaying Hero.
He, brooking not the clashing of the weapons, crushed—Indra’s foe—the shattered forts in falling.
Footless and handless still he challenged Indra, who smote him with his bolt between the shoulders.
Emasculate yet claiming manly vigour, thus Vṛtra lay with scattered limbs dissevered.
There as he lies like a bank-bursting river, the waters taking courage flow above him.
The Dragon lies beneath the feet of torrents which Vṛtra with his greatness had encompassed.
Then humbled was the strength of Vṛtra’s mother: Indra hath cast his deadly bolt against her.
The mother was above, the son was under and like a cow beside her calf lay Danu.
Rolled in the midst of never-ceasing currents flowing without a rest for ever onward.
The waters bear off Vṛtra’s nameless body: the foe of Indra sank to during darkness.
Guarded by Ahi stood the thralls of Dāsas, the waters stayed like kine held by the robber.
But he, when he had smitten Vṛtra, opened the cave wherein the floods had been imprisoned.
A horse’s tail wast thou when he, O Indra, smote on thy bolt; thou, God without a second,
Thou hast won back the kine, hast won the Soma; thou hast let loose to flow the Seven Rivers. Nothing availed him lightning, nothing thunder, hailstorm or mist which had spread around him:
When Indra and the Dragon strove in battle, Maghavan gained the victory for ever.
Whom sawest thou to avenge the Dragon, Indra, that fear possessed thy heart when thou hadst slain him;
That, like a hawk affrighted through the regions, thou crossedst nine-and-ninety flowing rivers?
Indra is King of all that moves and moves not, of creatures tame and horned, the Thunder-wielder.
Over all living men he rules as Sovran, containing all as spokes within the felly.

-Rig Veda, Tenth Mandala, Hymn XXXII, Indra

Indra subdueing Vritra, Art of Cambodia in the Musée Guimet, Paris, Reliefs of Phnom Kulen.

Because he was the one who blocked the waters and prevented them from reaching the earth, the dragon Vritra was commonly associated with draughts and deemed an obstacle for human civilization. However, according to another theory, Vritra could also personified the cold and ice from the Himalayas and the mountains from which the river Jhelum flowed before passing through India and Pakistan; in fact, it is believed that there was a huge body of water that was held by the ice of those mountains before the climate changed in that region, thus raising the temperature so as to let the Jhelum’s waters run their course (Griswold, 1999).

The battle between Vritra and Indra shares some similarities with the well-known motif of the storm-god and the deities that were associated with the most harmful natural phenomena. Perhaps the persistence and the defying attitude displayed by Vritra in the Rig Veda even before his certain defeat might have represented the slow transition between one severe season and a more favorable one.

Indra – the defeater of dragons (A. Fantalov, 2001, watercolor on paper http://fantalov.tripod.com/)

Typhon, Father of Monsters and Dragons

But when Zeus had driven the Titans from heaven, huge Earth bore her youngest child Typhoeus of the love of Tartarus, by the aid of golden Aphrodite. Strength was with his hands in all that he did and the feet of the strong god were untiring. From his shoulders grew a hundred heads of a snake, a fearful dragon, with dark, flickering tongues, and from under the brows of his eyes in his marvelous heads flashed fire, and fire burned from his heads as he glared. And there were voices in all his dreadful heads which uttered every kind of sound unspeakable; for at one time they made sounds such that the gods understood, but at another, the noise of a bull bellowing aloud in proud ungovernable fury; and at another, the sound of a lion, relentless of heart; and at another, sounds like whelps, wonderful to hear; and again, at another, he would hiss, so that the high mountains re-echoed.

Hesiod, Theogony, lines 820-835

Typhon is one of the deadliest beings in Greek mythology. He is usually described as a monstrous giant from whose body grew hundreds of heads and tails of snakes or dragons, with fiery eyes and a powerful voice that echoed in the mountains. Like many other Greek myths, there are several versions of the story of Typhon; some of the best known ones appear in the Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogony (composed around the 7th century BC), the Homeric Hymn to Apollo by the rhapsodist Cynaethus (7th century BC), the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus (the true identity of its author is still unknown, but it was probably written between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD), and the Dyonisiaca of Nonnus of Panopolis (4th-5th AD). Most of them tell us that Typhon was the most terrible son of Gea, a primeval goddess that personified the earth, who was conceived to destroy the Olympian gods because they had dethroned the Titans, the first children of Gea; however, after battling Zeus, Typhon is defeated and thrown to Tartarus, where he lies imprisoned. The stories also say that Typhon joined Echidna to give birth to several monsters, such as Orthrus, Cerberus, the Lernaean Hydra, the dragon Ladon, and the Colchian dragon among other mythical beasts.

tifon

Typhon, the monstrous Giant, Munich 596, Chalcidian black figure hydria, c. 540 B.C.
Photograph copyright Staatl. Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, München

The myth of Typhon presents many of the elements of the storm god and the sea serpent legends, yet perhaps it is in the work of Apollodorus where the cross-cultural exchange between the ancient civilizations of the Middle East and Mediterranean Europe seems evident, as shown in the following fragment:

When the gods had overcome the giants, Earth, still more enraged, had intercourse with Tartarus and brought forth Typhon in Cilicia, a hybrid between man and beast. In size and strength he surpassed all the offspring of Earth. As far as the thighs he was of human shape and of such prodigious bulk that he out-topped all the mountains, and his head often brushed the stars. One of his hands reached out to the west and the other to the east, and from them projected a hundred dragons’ heads. From the thighs downward he had huge coils of vipers, which when drawn out, reached to his very head and emitted a loud hissing. His body was all winged: unkempt hair streamed on the wind from his head and cheeks; and fire flashed from his eyes. Such and so great was Typhon when, hurling kindled rocks, he made for the very heaven with hissings and shouts, spouting a great jet of fire from his mouth. But when the gods saw him rushing at heaven, they made for Egypt in flight, and being pursued they changed their forms into those of animals. However Zeus pelted Typhon at a distance with thunderbolts, and at close quarters struck him down with an adamantine sickle, and as he fled pursued him closely as far as Mount Casius, which overhangs Syria. There, seeing the monster sore wounded, he grappled with him. But Typhon twined about him and gripped him in his coils, and wresting the sickle from him severed the sinews of his hands and feet, and lifting him on his shoulders carried him through the sea to Cilicia and deposited him on arrival in the Corycian cave. Likewise he put away the sinews there also, hidden in a bearskin, and he set to guard them the she-dragon Delphyne, who was a half-bestial maiden. But Hermes and Aegipan stole the sinews and fitted them unobserved to Zeus. And having recovered his strength Zeus suddenly from heaven, riding in a chariot of winged horses, pelted Typhon with thunderbolts and pursued him to the mountain called Nysa, where the Fates beguiled the fugitive; for he tasted of the ephemeral fruits in the persuasion that he would be strengthened thereby. So being again pursued he came to Thrace, and in fighting at Mount Haemus he heaved whole mountains. But when these recoiled on him through the force of the thunderbolt, a stream of blood gushed out on the mountain, and they say that from that circumstance the mountain was called Haemus. And when he started to flee through the Sicilian sea, Zeus cast Mount Etna in Sicily upon him. That is a huge mountain, from which down to this day they say that blasts of fire issue from the thunderbolts that were thrown.

Typhon (Emily C. Martin, 2014, mixed media on board http://www.megamoth.net/ )

This version by Apollodorus is somewhat similar to the myth of the serpent Illuyanka and the Hitite storm god Tarhunt: both deities are first defeated by the monsters they were facing; furthermore, they also lose those things which are vital to them –Illuyanka takes the heart and eyes of Tarhunt before he could escape, while Typhon takes the sickle from the hands of Zeus and cuts the sinews of his hands and feet. What’s more, both of them had to be assisted by others in order to recover what they had lost (Hermes and Aegipan in the case of Zeus, and Sarruma and his wife in the case of Tarhunt). On the other hand, the fact that in Apollodorus’ version the Olympian gods fled to Egypt and turned into animals might suggest an attempt to either explain or associate the Greek deities with their Egyptian counterparts (as most of us know, many of the Egyptian gods used to be represented by certain animals).

As an avatar of the destructive side of nature, Typhon is associated with the wind –both Hesiod and Apollodorus mention the powerful winds that came out from this giant–, but his imprisonment under Mount Etna (Apollodorus) and the flames that burned from his snake heads (Hesiod) may actually link him with the fire and the volcanic activity below the Earth.

Though it might not be completely accurate to consider Typhon a dragon, it is not hard to relate him to these mystical beings. Part of his body consists of dragon heads, the dragoness Delphine helped him guard Zeus’ sinews, he fathered some of the best-known Greek dragons, and his ability to spit fire from his eyes or mouth might actually be considered as one of the sources that inspired the fiery breath of dragons, an attribute that with time would be a part of the nature of the dragon.

Aži Dahāka, Destroyer of the Physical World

Thereupon gave H(a)oma answer, he the holy one, and driving death afar: Âthwya was the second who prepared me for the corporeal world. This blessedness was given him, this gain did he acquire, that to him a son was born, Thraêtaona of the heroic tribe,

Who smote the dragon Dahâka, three jawed and triple-headed, six-eyed, with thousand powers, and of mighty strength, a lie-demon of the Daêvas, evil for our settlements, and wicked, whom the evil spirit Angra Mainyu made as the most mighty Drug(k) [against the corporeal world], and for the murder of (our) settlements, and to slay the (homes) of Asha!

Zend-Avesta, Yasna IX, Hôm Yast, verses 7-8

In the Avesta, one of the most important collections of religious texts of Zoroastrianism, the ažis are the monstars that the evil spirit Angra Mainyu created to destroy the physical world (aži is the Avestan term for snake and dragon). The most prominent figure amont the ažis is the three-headed dragon Aži Dahāka, an enemy of Asha (the order of the world) and destroyer of the cities of its people, a monster that is considered one of the mightiest embodiments of evil and lie.

The yasts, the poetical hymns of the Avesta that are recited to invoke the favor of certain deities, tell us that the evil nature of Aži Dahāka was such that he even begged Vayu (a god of wind and the atmosphere) and Ardvi Sûra Anâhita (a goddess of water, fertility, healing and wisdom) to grant him their blessings so that he could vanquish all humans from the seven regions of the world (the Karshvares), yet his petition is denied despite his massive sacrifices. Aži Dahāka would eventually capture and enchant the daughters of king Yima, Savanghavâk and Erenavâk, the most beautiful women on Earth, taking them as his wives after that. Knowing this, the human hero Fereydun (Thraêtaona in Avestan) decided to rescue them, so he asked for the favor of the same divinities that denied Aži Dahāka’s desire, Vayu and Ardvi Sûra Anâhita, who do accept Fereydun’s offerings and grant him their blessings so that he could defeat the dragon.

‘Offer up a sacrifice, O Spitama Zarathustra! unto this spring of mine, Ardvi Sûra Anâhita . . . .

‘To her did Azi Dahâka, the three-mouthed, offer up a sacrifice in the land of Bawri, with a hundred male horses, a thousand oxen, and ten thousand lambs.

‘He begged of her a boon, saying: “Grant me this boon, O good, most beneficent Ardvi Sûra Anâhita! that I may make all the seven Karshvares of the earth empty of men.”

‘Ardvi Sûra Anâhita did not grant him that boon, although he was offering libations, giving gifts, sacrificing, and entreating her that she would grant him that boon.

‘Offer up a sacrifice, O Spitama Zarathustra! unto Ardvi Sûra Anâhita . . . .

‘To her did Thraêtaona, the heir of the valiant Âthwya clan, offer up a sacrifice in the four-cornered Varena, with a hundred male horses, a thousand oxen, ten thousand lambs.

‘He begged of her a boon, saying: “Grant me this, O good, most beneficent Ardvi Sûra Anâhita! that I may overcome Azi Dahâka, the three-mouthed, the three-headed, the six-eyed, who has a thousand senses, that most powerful, fiendish Drug,

that demon, baleful to the world, the strongest Drug that Angra Mainyu created against the material world, to destroy the world of the good principle; and that I may deliver his two wives, Savanghavâk and Erenavâk, who are the fairest of body amongst women, and the most wonderful creatures in the world.”

Ardvi Sûra Anâhita granted him that boon, as he was offering libations, giving gifts, sacrificing, and entreating that she would grant him that boon.

‘For her brightness and glory, I will offer her a sacrifice . . .

Zend-Avesta, Yast V, Âbân Yast, Chapters VIII-IX, verses 28-35

I will sacrifice to the Waters and to Him who divides them . . . .

To this Vayu do we sacrifice, this Vayu do we invoke . . . .

Unto him did the three-mouthed Azi Dahâka offer up a sacrifice in his accursed palace of Kvirinta, on a golden throne, under golden beams and a golden canopy, with bundles of baresma and offerings of full-boiling [milk].

He begged of him a boon, saying: ‘Grant me this, O Vayu! who dost work highly, that I may make all the seven Karshvares of the earth empty of men.’

In vain did he sacrifice, in vain did he beg, in vain did he invoke, in vain did he give gifts, in vain did he bring libations; Vayu did not grant him that boon.

For his brightness and glory, I will offer unto him a sacrifice worth being heard . . . .

I will sacrifice to the Waters and to Him who divides them . . . .

To this Vayu do we sacrifice, this Vayu do we invoke . . . .

Unto him did Thraêtaona, the heir of the valiant Âthwya clan, offer up a sacrifice in the four-cornered Varena, on a golden throne, under golden beams and a golden canopy, with bundles of baresma and offerings of full-boiling [milk].

He begged of him a boon, saying: ‘Grant me this, O Vayu! who dost work highly, that I may overcome Azi Dahâka, the three-mouthed, the three-headed, the six-eyed, who has a thousand senses, that most powerful, fiendish Drug, that demon baleful to the world, the strongest Drum that Angra Mainyu created against the material world, to destroy the world of the good principle; and that I may deliver his two wives, Savanghavâk and Erenavâk, who are the fairest of body amongst women, and the most wonderful creatures in the world.’

Vayu, who works highly, granted him that boon, as the Maker, Ahura Mazda, did pursue it.

We sacrifice to the holy Vayu . . . .

For his brightness and glory, I will offer unto him a sacrifice worth being heard . . . .

Zend-Avesta, Yast XV, Râm Yast, Chapters V-VI, verses 18-25

Aži Dahāka represents several of the threats the Iranian tribes who embraced Zoroastrianism faced when they settled throughout Turkestan (the region between the Caspian Sea and the Gobi Desert). He was regarded as an enemy to the world and the principles of Zoroastrianism, and even though he does not seem to have been associated with a particular natural disaster, his capability to destroy the corporeal world and the settlements of humans might be a reminiscence of the destructive attributes of the dragons and sea serpents of the Babylonian epics. Furthermore, the Zoroastrians used to identify the lands of Bawri and the palace of Kivirinta –the very places where he offered sacrifices to obtain the favor of Vayu and Ardvi Sûra Anâhita– with Babylon and the lands of the Chaldean, the enemies of the ancient Iranian tribes (Mills, 1887).

The three heads of Aži Dahâka and his evil nature could have inspired another legend that appears in the epic poem Shahnameh by the Persian poet Ferdowsi, which was written between the 9th and 10th centuries (the Zend-Avesta was written around the 1st and 6th centuries, yet it was probably composed long before that). In the poem, Aži Dahâka seems to appear under the name of Zahhāk, an evil human king that took the crown of his father after murdering him. Soon after that, Ahriman (Angra Mainyu in Middle Persian) appeared before him under the disguise of a wonderful cook that delighted the king with sumptuous feasts for several days; when Zahhāk offered to reward him, Ahriman told him he just wanted to kiss the king on each shoulder once. Zahhāk agreed, but Ahriman vanished right after he had kissed him, and two black snake heads grew out from the same spots where his lips had touched his shoulders, which would only grew out again when he tried to cut them off. Later, Ahriman reappeared again before Zahhāk in the form of a talented physician, and he told the king that the only way he could prevent the snakes from devouring his body was to feed them with human brains, and from that point on, Zahhāk started to kill two men each day so that he could appease the snakes’ hunger. Over time, Zahhāk’s evil heart compelled him to dethrone Jamshid, the king of the world. When his vast hosts marched against Jamshid, he fled together with his army, only to be captured and killed. Zahhāk proclaimed himself as the new king of the world, and he forced the leaders of the realm to testify his legitimacy to the crown. Nevertheless, several leaders chose to support the young hero Fereydun so that he could take the throne from Zahhāk’s hands –he had previously tried to capture Fereydun due to a dream in which he was defeated by the young man. With the aid of his allies, Fereydun was able to fight and defeat Zahhāk after hitting his opponent in the shoulders, the heart and the skull. However, he could not kill Zahhāk, so he chained him below the mount Damavand, the highest volcano of Iran and Asia, where we was to remain until the end of time.

Zahhak’s dream by Juliano Zasso, from the book Armenian History in Italian Art

One very interesting feature of Aži Dahâka’s myth is the introduction of “the maiden and the dragon” theme, which also appears in the Iranian legends of certain dragon-slayers, such as Rostam and Āḏar Barzīn. The rain and the water that in the religions that preceded Zoroastrianism are guarded by a dragon or a sea serpent seem to have been replaced by the woman, who becomes the new symbol of life and fertility, which in Aži Dahâka’s myth is represented by the daughters of king Yima that are rescued by Fereydun (Russel, 1987). Also, it is important to highlight that in this story, the typical role of the storm-god has been trespassed to a human hero, a trend that will start to be common in the future dragon-slayer tales of the Middle Ages.

Aži Dahâka also plays an eschatological role in Zoroastrianism, as told by the Bahman Tast, a religious text in Pahlavi language.

“Now it is nine thousand years, and Frêdûn is not living; why do you not rise up, although these thy fetters are not removed, when this world is full of people, and they have brought them from the enclosure which Yim formed?”

‘After that apostate shouts like this, and because of it, Az-i Dahâk stands up before him, but, through fear of the likeness of Frêdûn in the body of Frêdûn, he does not first remove those fetters and stake from his trunk until Aharman removes them. And the vigour of Az-i Dahâk increases, the fetters being removed from his trunk, and his impetuosity remains; he swallows down the apostate on the spot, and rushing into the world to perpetrate sin, he commits innumerable grievous sins; he swallows down one-third of mankind, cattle, sheep, and other creatures of Aûharmazd; he smites the water, fire, and vegetation, and commits grievous sin.

Bahman Yast, Chapter III, verses 54-56

In the Zoroastrian conception of the end of times, Aži Dahâka would rise to devour great part of humanity and cause an unimaginable damage to the world; to stop him, Ahura Mazda (Angra Mainyu’s benevolent counterpart) will bring the hero Keresâsp to life, since he is the only one who can defeat the dragon without being destroyed by the wickedness that Aži Dahâka’s dead body would produce (the reason why Fereydun did not kill the dragon when he had the chance) because Keresâsp’s body is protected by the fravashi (spirit) of 99,999 righteous people. It is possible that Aži Dahâka is somewhat related to the figure of the great dragon of the Book of Revelations of the Bible or the serpent Jörmungandr of the Scandinavian Ragnarok, where the final fate of the Earth is determined by the victory of the savior and the hero over the evil that these beasts represent. This is what, in my humble opinion, makes the myth of Aži Dahâka a half-way point between the ancient dragon myths and the upcoming medieval sagas of the heroes who will face these fantastic creatures.

Corrupted dragon: Azi Dahaka (kuronneko, http://kuronneko.deviantart.com/art/Corupted-dragon-Azi-Dahaka-407202121)

Regards

Folks , while reading these extremely ancient mythical accounts of dragons from subterranean realms , I couldn't help thinking that "Godzilla" is not a new idea :)) People have imagined (or may have actually encountered) such terrifying creatures , right from the olden days...

Regards

List members , I don't want to make this thread a forum on mythology , but I find the evidence so compelling - ancient myths from opposite corners of the globe tallying almost exactly ???? The Chinese were NOT the only ones with a Dragon mythology - even the far away Scandinavians had similar stories.

Now , I am myself speculating here (want to say that upfront , when I do) - could some of the surviving dinosaurs from 65 million years ago , have taken refuge underground and gradually over time , "evolved" into intelligent , dragon-like creatures ?

Unless ALL of our ancient ancestors were telling the EXACT same LIE , or consuming the same Hallucinogenic substances (ancient Shamans used to do so) - by the way , even if that were true , how did everyone coordinate to tell the same lie , OR get hold of the same substance ??

The more likely and SANE answer is that far , far back in time , all humans indeed had common ancestry , from the Hollow Earth perhaps (which is why the myths are so similar) ??

Dragons in Norse Myth

Posted by Ms Elly on April 24, 2018

Dragons in Norse myth

Mysterious. Powerful. Perplexing. Majestic. Those are the words to describe the mythological creature – the dragon. In some folklore, the dragon most of the time is illustrated as a dangerous and unpredictable creature. No one can ever neglect its prowess and unexplained abilities. In Norse mythology, there were three figures who were assumed to be dragons: Jormungdandr, Nidhogg, and Fafnir.

Image of Jormungandr encircling Midgard and Nidhogg entangling Yggdrasil roots

Jormungandr

Jormungandr was the son of Loki and the brother of Wolf Fenrir. People called him the Midgard Serpent whose body encircled the whole Midgard with his tail in his mouth. Actually, the appearance of Jormungandr was supposed to be the combination of both dragon and serpent.

Image of Jormungandr

Odin once cast Jormungandr deep in the dark ocean. However, it was prophesied that when Jormungandr rose above the waves, the dark days of Ragnarok would begin. And Ragnarok did come. Jormungandr joined the army of his father and brother. Together they came to Asgard the Home of Aesir Gods to slay them.

Jormungandr encountered his mortal enemy – Thor who then killed Jormungandr with the incredible blow from his hammer – the Mjolnir. Thor succumbed to the serpent’s venom.

Jormungandr has by far become one of the most notorious creatures in Norse myth. In the modern sense, this enormous serpent-like dragon presents the cycle of destruction and reborning and presents the wholeness or infinity. Many jewelry designers get the inspiration for their jewelry ideas from the image of Jormungandr, such as Jormungandr ring, Jormungandr bracelet, etc.

Nidhogg

The second dragon was Nidhogg who entangled himself within the roots of Yggdrasil – the Tree of Life. Deep down there, he gnawed the roots of Yggdrasil and ate the corpses. The eyes of Nidhogg dragon sparkled in the darkness splaying its jaws. During the Ragnarok disaster, Nidhogg joined the giant army to dethrone the Aesir Gods – the Asgard dwellers. Nidhogg was one of few Ragnarok survivors to witness the new period of cosmos.

Image of Nidhogg

Fafnir

Fafnir, on the other hand, had nothing to do with Ragnarok. In Norse mythology, Fafnir was the son of the rich dwarf king. From the beginning, Fafnir did not take the dragon form. But when he was under the curse, he killed his father hoarding his wealth and fled into the forest. There he slowly changed into the form of a dragon to guard his stolen treasure.

Despite illustrated as evil in myth, the Norse dragons in the modern sense represent the beginning and ending cycle. They are also the keepers of “gold” treasure, whether it might be literally gold or figuratively wisdom. The dragons thereby remains a mystery within the hearts and minds of the humankind.

Regards

Sidhartha,

The Indo-Europeans certainly had a common ancestry with the Central Asians and the Hindus. From the Arctic regions, certain Vedic off-shoots migrated down through Europe, down through Central Asia, and into India. This is why their cultures, which became dispersed and isolated from each other, had so much in common. And they encountered the same influences once they left the Arctic shores; the Dravidian culture, which was widely dispersed along the southern and northern Mediterranean; as far as Spain, and as far away as Cameroon. (and even as far away as Guatemala)

And they encountered the same underground creatures.

Cheers!

Yes @deandddd , that must be true in some way , else there is no logical explanation for such astonishing similarity in the most ancient legends of people living on opposite sides of the globe .

Regards