Celtic Elemental Dragons

By “Tiger Lady” from http://tigerladysblog.blogspot.com
based on the Druid Animal Oracle by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm

Water Dragon
(Gaelic name – Draig-uisge)

One Sunday morning Lambton went
A-fishing in the Wear,
And catched a fish upon his hook
He thought looked verry queer,
But whatten a kind of fish it was
Young Lambton couldn’t tell;
He wouldn’t fash to carry it home,
So he hoyed it in a well
~From “The Lambton Worm”

The dragon began its life as a Worm – a large snake or eel-like creature, sometimes with horns, that lived in the wells, lochs, or the sea. During its mythological development, the Worm grew small wings and two feet and became known as the Wyvern. In its final development, into a mythological creature, the Worm became a Dragon with four feet, larger ribbed wings, and a barbed tail.

These dragons were said to sometimes leave the water and terrorize the hills and country they settled in. The ones that remained in the water were depicted as sea monsters, the most famous living in Loch Ness. The first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster tells of St. Columba saving a friend who was crossing Ness. The monster broke the water behind the swimmer and opened its mouth with a mighty roar. It was stopped when Columba declared, “Go thou no further nor touch the man. Go back at once.” The creature obeyed.

The water dragon has been sighted in the whirlpool of the River Taff at Cardiff, located in the capital city of Whales, and Llyn-y-Gader Lake in Snowdonia, located in the National Park of Whales. Legend states, that anyone who is unlucky enough to fall into either body of water is quickly consumed by the water dragon leaving nothing but swirls of blood!

Gateways to the Otherworld

In most all dragon stories, the dragon originates from a body of water whether it be river, well, pool, lake, marsh, bog, and/or sea. Water sources were considered sacred to the Druids who believed it a gateway to the Underworld or Otherworld. The Otherworld is the Celtic version of heaven where the domain of the Celtic deities and mythological creatures such as the Fae Folk and Dragons exist. Since the dragon is an Otherworldly creature it is fitting that it would come from the water or gateway of the Otherworld.

Druids were like early psychologists who linked the sacred animals to the human psyche. Monsters of the sea and their emergence can represent the unconscious realm of the human psyche. Breaking this down further, the sea represented unresolved desires, repressed and distorted drives that well up into awareness. The destructive water dragon symbolized the damaging nature of certain contents of the mind. To heal one’s self, these hidden drives must be brought to the light and dealt with. These hidden drives may at times overwhelm an individual with emotion, but in time the individual can achieve a sense of balance as the desire is integrated from the unconscious to the conscious. By doing this a metamorphosis of the psyche is required that can be seen as a symbolic death.

Earth and air dragons are rarely destructive if left undisturbed. But the elements of fire and water can be dangerous, the water dragon can overwhelm one with emotion and drown one is self-pity. If befriended the water dragon can invoke compassion, passion, depth of feeling and a connectedness with life. Basically, the Druids believed that instead of burying our hidden desires and allowing these desires to overcome us; we should confront them immediately and deal with the desire to create a balance. Further more, I believe this interpretation of the water dragon could be used in times of depression by making the water dragon a totem or spirit guide.


The dragon shall be in the tumulus, old, rich in treasures ~ Beowulf

Earth Dragon
(Gaelic name ~ Draig-talamh)

The large chalk figure of the Uffington Horse, located in Oxfordshire, England, has long been thought to represent a dragon instead of a horse. Those who argue that the symbol is a dragon, maintain that St. George once slew a dragon, on a nearby hill called Dragon Hill, and the symbol is a portrait of the dragon. The dragon’s blood poisoned the ground where he was defeated and to this day grass still does not grow in this spot. Although there is still controversy surrounding the symbol, the dragon and the horse share the same symbol of earth energy and with the power of the land.

The Barrow Guardians

In ancient times such places as barrows and hills, stone circles as well as single standing stones were thought to have spiritual powers. When these barrows became a grave for a dead warrior or chieftain and were filled with riches and valuables, a guardian was needed to protect the spot from gravediggers. The Druids would invoke a spirit to guard the treasures. As mythology matured, these spirits became monstrous dragons driven with jealousy and who guarded the treasure with lethal means. Some popular dragon guarded barrows in the United Kingdom are the “Dragon’s Hoard”, in Oxfordshire, the Old Field barrows in Shropshire, the Drakelow barrows in Yorkshire, and a barrow in Walmsgate, where the bones of a slain dragon is said to be buried.

Buried Treasure and the Inner Search

Buried treasure guarded by dragons can also be found in hillsides. Some popular known places are Wormelow Trump in Herefordshire, England and Money Hill on Gunnarton Fell in Northumberland. A hoard of gold can be found in Sussex in the Iron Age hill-fort of Cissbury. The gold is said to be 2 miles inside an underground passage. No one has ever successfully found the gold because it is said to be guarded by two dragons that hide halfway down the tunnel.

Of all the dragons, earth dragons have minimal contact with human beings and are hunted far less. Earth dragons remain dormant and hidden until provoked. Once provoked they carry a potential threat. The Druids believed that each of us have a dragon guardian that protects our inner most “riches” or secrets. This guardian keeps all from violating our innermost self and can even keep our own conscious thoughts from entering. Think of just how dangerous this is and maybe the reason our primal thoughts when acted upon shocks and scares our conscious thoughts.

The earth dragon is not only found in the center of a barrow or hillside, but also wrapped around the hill as well representing a spiral. The spiral is a powerful symbol of spiritual quest and discovery, a representation of the journey of the soul in and out of incarnation. The spiral the dragon creates around the “hill” or around the “treasure” itself, represents aspects of our self. Both positions place the earth dragon as a Guardian of the Threshold. This ‘threshold’ should be respected but challenged as well and sometimes overcome. If we are able to stand up to the dragon-guardian, which is nothing more than an aspect of ourselves, and befriend him, we can then reach into the inner depths to unlock the treasure hidden within and at this point truly understand ourselves. With this understanding will come the power to understand what is in the hearts of those around us and in the Earth herself.


The gaunt wolf and winged serpent held
Dominion o’er the vale ~ Polwhele

Air Dragon
(Gaelic name ~ Draig–athar)

Air dragons have been sighted throughout the different regions of the United Kingdom. Some believe that the sightings were nothing more than the bright heads and dark forked tails of comets passing close to the earth. With enough imagination these comets might look like a flying dragon, breathing fire. Stories of dragons may have also arisen from misfits wanting to keep the locals away from their stolen and hidden treasures. Some stories may have even been created when exotic lizards from foreign regions escaped their owner and entered the city. I agree with the authors of the book, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, there aren’t enough explanations that can ‘account for the universality of the dragon in the mythic and folkloric life of cultures all over the world’. At some point in time, as with all myths, one has to sit back and wonder how so many cultures came up with a particular mythological creature or story. There has to be some basic truths in the myth somewhere that may not be able to be explained through science. As a science lover, even I have to succumb. In the Tradition of the Air Dragon, I will go into more detail on certain regions of the United Kingdom where dragons dwell.

The Tradition of the Air Dragon

Snowdonia, Whales is home to the ancient city of Emrys, also known as, Dinas Affaron to the locals, which translates as “City of the Higher Powers”. In this city lived the dragons of Beli. Beli Mawr (Beli the Great) is the Cymric and Gaulish God of Death, also known as, “Lord of the Kill” and “Lord of (battle) Death”. Beli Mawr, whom is celebrated at Beltane, is often depicted riding a horse drawn chariot across the sky. He is also worshipped on Dragon Hill, below the Uffington Horse. After reading the Earth Dragon mythology and understanding the link/controversy between the horse and dragon, one must wonder if the horse leading Beli Mawr across the sky was not meant to be a dragon instead. In any case, Taliesin a Welsh speaking bard or poet/scholar, described one of Beli’s dragons in a poem called Protection of the Honey Isle in which he said, “A deep cavern opens before me, shadowed by great rocks. The dragon comes out and crawls toward the cups of song.” Taliesin’s own mythological birth is interesting in its own.

There are stories of the Goddess Ceridwen riding across the skies with her chariot drawn by flying dragons. But most air dragons exist on their own and are seen flying across the countryside encumbered by no one. In Devon, England a dragon is said to fly every night across the Exe Valley between the hill-forts of Cadbury and Dolbury Hill, solely to guard his treasure. At Henham in Essex, England, a small dragon – eight or nine feet long with large eyes, fierce teeth and small wings was “sighted” several times before he finally flew into nearby woods. In Somerset a fire-breathing dragon flew from Curry Rivell to Aller regularly, scaring the villagers’ with “the hiss of its wing-beat”.

The flight patterns of the Air Dragon were thought to be much more than just the guarding of treasure. In fact, some believe that these regular patterns represented the “dragon-lines” or earth currents from sacred spot to sacred spot; that were referred to above in the Earth Dragon section. The Druids believed that they could control negative earth currents through geomantic art. Iron stakes were driven in the ground to disperse the negative energy. Much like Chinese Feng-shui or Earth acupuncture.

Draig-Athar as Servant of the Sky God

The Air Dragon in Druid tradition is a sacred animal of the Sky God. The Air Dragon may have been born from the constellation Draco. As I noted above, Druids were like early psychologists who linked the sacred animals to the human psyche. The Air Dragon represents the descent of the spirit, a visitation from another world, and an invitation to soar to higher levels of consciousness. The Air Dragon can be fierce, striking all at once with thunder and lightning into the human psyche and intellect. One must learn to respect and work with the Air Dragon and all its ferocity; opening one’s mind to the “sudden flashes of illumination”. Befriending the Air Dragon, instead of closing your mind to him, can bring insight and clarity to thoughts and imagination. The Air Dragon’s arrival is a gift from the Sky God, one that should be embraced and not shunned. If the mind is closed to new ideas then it becomes in danger of adopting dogmatic practices. Only hatred and prejudice can be born from dogmatic ideals. But one must also stay steadfast and constantly be reality-checking. There is such a thing as too much faith in messages from the Otherworld. Remember, just because they’re dead – doesn’t mean they are right. Wisdom is born from many sources. As with all things balance is the key.


It is he who, blazing, seeks burial mounds,
He, the smooth, spiteful dragon that flies throughout the night,
Enveloped in flame; all men fear him greatly

Fire Dragon
(Gaelic name ~ Draig-teine)

The name Pendragon brings to the imagination stories of heroic kings of Britain and probably the most famous of them all ~ King Arthur. My heart skips a beat at the mention of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Lady Gwenivere and the adventures my mind takes them on. The name Pendragon however did not start with King Arthur, it began with his father. Uther, the future king of sub-Roman Britain and the father of King Arthur, saw an image of a fire-breathing dragon in the sky (most believe the dragon to have been a fiery comet). Uther, in his excitement, immediately went to the Druid Merlin to decipher the meaning of the fire dragon he had witnessed. Merlin explained that the fire dragon was a two-fold symbol of his ill brother’s coming death, King Aurelius, and his own future kinghood. This symbol came at a time when Uther was trying to force Paschent and the Saxons out of Britain. **Backing up a bit, Paschent’s father, Vortigem, had previously taken the throne of Britain by murdering Uther’s brother Constans.** By this point in the story Uther and his other brother Aurelius had retaken the throne and killed Vortigem, but still had Paschent and the invading Saxon army to deal with. Uther did win the battle against Paschent and the Saxons at which point he assumed the name “Pendragon”, which literally means “Head of the Dragon”, and took the dragon as his totem beast. When returning to Britain he discovered his brother was poisoned by an assassin and immediately crowned king. He then proceeded to have two dragon statues constructed, one of which became his insignia. He also secured Britain and stomped out the Saxon invasion. King Arthur and later kings continued the Pendragon name and the dragon symbol became a heraldic emblem to stand behind.

Story of the Wales Dragon

The legend of the dragon on the Welsh flag is a very interesting tale, one that dates back to the time when Vortigem had taken the throne after killing King Constans. Votigem was trying to build his fortress at Dinas Emrys, but failed due to the continual collapse of its foundation. A young boy named Emrys, whom would later become known as Merlin, was brought forth to use his ‘mystical visions’ to explain why the foundation was so unstable. Emrys explained that there were two dragons below the ground in a lake in an eternal struggle, one which shook the ground in which the foundation stood. One dragon was red and represented the Britons, the other was white and represented the Saxons. Vortigem did not believe this tale and immediately had the ground excavated. The two dragons were found and began fighting immeditately. The red dragon defeated the white dragon and became the emblem of Whales.

Nwyvre ~ The Dragon’s Fire

Each of the four dragons I have explained thus far ~ Earth, Air, Water, and Fire ~ represent power and energy. Each dragon mediates this power or energy in a different way and we must learn how to weave all 4 “dragon energies” into our being, the key being balance. The Druids believed that the Fire Dragon represented kingship, leadership, rulership and mastery. For this reason, Merlin was able to predict Uther’s vision, as well as, his future accurately.

The Druids believed the Fire Dragon guards the ‘Inner Fire’ that burns inside our being which is called Nwyvre in Druidry. While Earth Dragons are seen as passive – coiling around hillsides and lying dormant for the most part, the Fire Dragon in mythology is seen mostly as a malignant force destroying all that lies before it. But the Druids did not see the Fire Dragon as only malignant. They believed the Fire Dragon to be neutral or having a mirror effect – being malignant or benign based on how ready we are to take on the ‘Inner Fire’ of our being. The Fire Dragon reminds us that not all power is for everyone. The Fire Dragon only becomes malignant when we take on too much. When the energies we surround ourselves with consume us and send us into “burn-out” and nervous exhaustion. One such energy is anger. Anger can erupt without warning or remain scattered making every effort to succeed fail. Anger can cause exhaustion and keep us unmotivated, therefore the goal we strive for is never reached. As with anything balance is a must physically and psychologically. The Fire Dragon can also become malignant during drug abuse, which causes the mind to become muddled and in time permanently damaged – creating an imbalance. In this case the unity of Mind, Body, and Soul is completely broken – I know this from experience. Abusing your “Inner Fire” and the Fire Dragon’s power can only create a dangerous situation and can most certainly become fatal, creating a fierce and ‘fiery’ situation.

However, learning to befriend the Fire Dragon can promote vitality, enthusiasm, and courage that will help one overcome obstacles in life. By befriending the Fire Dragon, what I mean to say is that we learn where our limitations are and how to work around them or with these limitations creating a positive spin. Once we learn how to balance stressful situations the Fire Dragon begins to “fuel” our “Inner Fires” allowing us to master leadership situations and to accomplish objectives.

(The information on this page was written by “Tiger Lady” from http://tigerladysblog.blogspot.com and is based on the Druid Animal Oracle by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm)