The Dragon in one form or another was known to the majority of the world cultures in both the Old and New Worlds. It was one of the early symbols of the Great Mother Goddess of the matriarchies. Until the arrival of patriarchal societies, the dragon was considered to be a sacred, benevolent creature; its serpent body symbolized matter and life-giving water of creation, its wings spirit and the breath of life.
It was used as an emblem for divinity and royalty in Babylon, Egypt, China, Japan, Greece, and Rome. The Chinese Manchu dynasty, the Phoenicians, and the Saxons all showed it as enthroned, a symbol of the power of the ruler. The Chinese dragon symbolized the masculine yang power, very high spiritual power, and the emperor himself. This connection with imperial power carried over to England and Wales.
The dragon was known as the Ling of Larger Serpents to medieval writers. Dragons and bulls in the Western world were fought by such Sun-heroes as Mithras, Sigfried, Hercules, Jason, Hours, and Apollo.
In Hindu myth, Vitra, the Dragon of Waters, was killed by Indra so that the waters could be released upon the Earth. The dragon was also the emblem of Aruna and Soma.
There are two major categories of physical appearance of dragons: those of the East and those of the West.
The Oriental or Chinese dragon looked terrible and fierce, but was a symbol of prosperity, rain, wisdom, and hidden secrets. Oriental dragons did not have wings, but were shaped more like huge serpents with four legs. The early Chinese worshiped the dragon, and at one time had its image on national flags. Using the symbol of the five-toed imperial dragon was reserved for emperors. The guardian of the mansions of the gods was the Chinese Celestial Dragon, T’ien Lung; he also prevented the deities from falling out of their heavenly realm. Oriental heroes did not hunt dragons, as Western heroes. The Oriental dragons were said to leave their mountain caves or watery homes in the spring to bring fertilizing rains.
Both Chinese and Japanese believe that dragons can turn themselves into birds. The three-clawed dragon of Japan symbolized the Mikado, the imperial and spiritual power. Most Japanese dragons were said to live in lakes and springs.
Ancient Western writers wrote all kinds of terrifying things about the Western dragon. These creatures were built like enormous lizards with wings, their bodies were thicker than those of the Oriental dragons. Their throats and back legs were like those of an eagle, the grasping front legs like those of a reptile, and a tail that ended in an arrow-point. Western dragons were considered to be enemies of the humans, and heroes were always hunting them down and killing them. Under the circumstances, its no wonder that Western dragons stopped trying to get along with humans. They liked to live in dark caves, a few of them in water. They breathed fire, and their breath was supposed to spread plagues.
The dragon in alchemy had a number of meanings. If several dragons were shown fighting each other, it meant separating out the Elements, or psychic disintegration. A dragon biting its tail symbolized cyclic processes and time; this particular dragon was known to the Gnostics as Ouroboros. A winged dragon represented a volatile Element, while the wingless dragon stood for a fixed Element.
In spiritual definitions, the dragon represents the supernatural, infinity itself, and the spiritual powers of change and transformation.
Magickal Attributes: Protection, instruction in the spiritual, Element magick. Using the spiritual to transform life. Protection. Adding extra power to magick.
Dragons strong and dragons bright,
Dragons full of wisdom old,
Teach to me the spiritual light,
Let me walk in knowledge bold,
Dragon fire, lift me higher!
Animal Magick Copyright D. J. Conway 1995 Pages 242-243