Dragons in Mythology and Legend
The world’s mythologies are full of tales about dragons. Sometimes they are portrayed as huge serpents, sometimes as the type of dragon known to the Western world, sometimes in the shape known to those in the Orient. But dragons have always played a part in the shaping of this world and its many diverse cultures. They have also had an important part in cultural perception of spiritual ideas.
Dragons have been portrayed in many forms and variations of these forms. Ancient teachings say dragons can have two or four legs or none at all, a pair of wings or be wingless, breathe fire and smoke, and have scales on their bodies. Their blood is extremely poisonous and corrosive, but also very magickal. Blood, or the life force, is a symbol of the intensity of their elemental-type energies. Depending upon the reception they received from humans in the area where they lived, dragons could be either beneficial or violent. One thing is for certain: dragons were regarded with awe by all cultures affected by their presence and interaction with humans.
Although one can speak of dragons as a separate species of being, there are numerous subspecies and families within the dragon community, as one can deduce from reading ancient histories and stories. The subspecies and families may have greater or lesser differences in appearance but still retain the basic traits that are common to all dragons wherever they are. One family of dragons, with very similar characteristics, lived in Europe, especially northern Germany, Scandinavia, and islands of the North Atlantic. A second family was recognized in France, Italy and Spain. A third family dwelt in the British Isles, including Ireland; these dragons, commonly called Firedrakes, included the subspecies of Wyverns (dragons with two legs) and the winged but legless Worm. A fourth family was found in the Mediterranean area, especially Greece, Asia Minor, southern Russian, and northern Africa; the dragons with many heads was common in this region. A fifth dragon family and the largest in number was the Oriental dragon of China, Asia and Indonesia. The sixth family, of very limited size and number, was found in the Americas and Australia.
In the Eastern world, dragons seldom breathe fire and are more benevolent, although hot-tempered and destructive when provoked. They are sometimes pictured as wingless, but can propel themselves through the air if they wish. The dragons of the Orient, Mexico, the Americas and Australia propelled themselves through the skies by balancing between the Earth’s magnetic field and the winds.