By Tim Lazaro from:
There is a certain cosmic sensibility to the myths and legends of the Celtic peoples. A sense of things being bigger than they seem. Power flows beneath the skin of the world to the Celtic mind, accessible along the path of dragons and the mouth of stones. It was the Druids who could see it, interpret it for their brother-Celts, follow the lines of power and show them where to build their villages and sanctified places.
The Celts are a mystery even now. They once ranged across the width and breadth of Europe, from the forests of Germany to the hills of Northern Italy. Their greatest concentration was perhaps in Scotland, Ireland and England. The Celts of Great Britain are what many modern people think of when they hear the word ‘Celt’. But in truth, they were a people who spread from one end of ancient Europe to the other, and they left their mark stamped upon the face of the continent, though they themselves are gone now, for the most part.
Druids and Dragons
Druids and Celtic dragons, on the other hand, are more familiar to the modern mind. What do you think of, when you hear the term ‘druid’? A robed figure, mistletoe in one hand, a scythe in the other, standing over a stone slab and a screaming victim. Horror films have a lot to answer for in terms of our familiarity with the concept of the Druid. In reality, druids were the priests and seers of the Celts. Druids engaged the cosmic on a daily basis, pitting their knowledge against the raw force of the mystic energies which the Celts believed permeated their lands. They would pinpoint the best places to till the soil or carve stone or build a home, and show their people the places to best avoid. Too, they had a strange relationship with the concept of the dragon.
Dragons, while commonly thought of as fire-breathing marauders, were, to the Celts, indicators of places of great power. Where dragons trod, mystic energy flowed, and where they laired were invariably places of great sanctity and mystical harmony. While dragons were dangerous, they were also indicators of fertility, of life. ‘The Path of the Dragon’ was the Celtic term for ley lines. And ley lines, for the uninitiated, were the stretches of mystic power which criss-crossed the land. Druids hunted these lines, and made a ley lines map for their people, instructing them to build their temples and homes along the lines in order to harvest the energies.
Dragons, Druids and Celts are all inextricably linked by these bands of power. For the Celt, dragons, though deadly, and frightening, represented the continuation of life and health. They were omens of a good harvest, of a year of plenty. And the Druids were the ones who found the dragons and interpreted their meaning for a given group of Celts. For these ancient peoples, everything hummed and sparked with the lightning of the gods. Where dragons walked, the lightning was visible, and where Druids indicated, the lightning was controllable for the good of the Celtic people.
Animal Symbols of the Celtic Druids
Everything in Mother Nature is considered sacred by the Celtic Druids, so every plant, tree, animal, fish and bird is seen as sacred too. But in the same way that some trees and plants, such as the oak and mistletoe, receive special veneration, so do certain creatures receive particular attention by the Druids. According to their particular characteristics different animals were used by the Celtic Druids to symbolise different powers, attributes or gifts. They are often connected with the world of spirits and gods.
inspiration / imagination / wealth / power / vitality
The most powerful of all Celtic druid animal symbols, the Dragon represented the whole of creation. The Celts also associated dragons with the elements. Each element is governed by specific energies and qualities and are ruled by either the feminine or masculine aspect of divinity. Air,for example, is a masculine ruled element – The elder spirit, associated with the aspect of the Old Man. As part serpent and part bird, the dragon symbolises the union of the beneficial elements of water and air, of matter and spirit. The fiery breath of the Green Dragon was believed to purify and give new life.
To the Celts the dragon was a creature of a parallel world and played an important role in Celtic religion. It is gatekeeper to other worlds, and also a guardian of wealth. Dragons are also frequently found in churches, both outside, to ward off evil, and inside, often in the company of the Green Man symbol.
There are numerous references to dragons in Celtic mythology. Most cultures considered the dragon as a benevolent dweller of caves, lakes and the inner earth. In ancient times, it was a symbol of wealth and associated with the power of the elements (particularly that of the earth), but also of the treasure of the subconscious mind. Dragons often appeared in many varieties: as a water serpent or worm-shaped beast, as well as the more well-known winged depiction. The dragon represented the supernatural forces that guarded the great secrets and treasures of the universe.
The dragon has been a creature of myth and legend for centuries throughout the world. In his book, View Over Atlantis (1969), John Michell says, “In every continent of the world, the dragon chiefly represents the principle of fertility. The creation of the earth and the appearance of life came about as a result of a combination of the elements. The first living cell was born out of the earth, fertilized from the sky by wind and water. From this union of yin and yang sprang the seed which produced the dragon. Every year the same process takes place”.
It may seem strange to speak of yin and yang, so obviously Oriental terminology, when speaking about Celtic life and legend. While the terms may be from the Orient, the concepts are not uniquely so. Michell observed how the ancient practice of Feng Shui in China contributed to the harmony of the landscape and the people. He also observed that geomancy had been practiced in ancient Britain. When an ancient Celt, and especially Druids, would survey the land for any activity (i. e. building, festival celebrations, etc.) they would speak of the ley of the land. Today we use that same term, although it has a related, but different meaning. Today when we speak of the “ley of the land” we often picture exactly how the hills roll or the shape of the river as it flows; more of the concrete concept of how the land lays or actually and physically appears.
But to the ancient Celt, the ley of the land meant how the magic or cosmic forces flowed through and affected the area, or how the area affected those forces. The Celts believed that dragons were creatures of the parallel world and their power and presence would affect the ley of the land. “The places associated with the dragon legend, the nerve centers of seasonal fertility, appear always to coincide with sites of ancient sanctity”, Michell adds.
The path of the dragons, called a vein, was critical to the flow of energy or ley of the land. IF there was a spot that the dragon crossed often, a spot where the veins crossed or a spot where the dragon would stop to rest, that became a spot of heightened power. Stonehenge is thought to be one of those places. In addition, some believe that the Celtic Cross surrounded by a circle is a symbol of the crossing ley lines and how the circle of life should be centered on that power.
King Arthur himself was burdened by dreams of dragons; although it is unclear which color he saw. He saw them specifically at the time of Sir Mordred’s conception and before his death. He is eaten by dragons in his final dream and it is at his next battle that Sir Mordred kills him. It is said that when a king sees dragons there will be much ruin come to his kingdom and himself.
With the introduction of Christianity to the Celts came a change in the role of dragons. Some people even believe that there were no dragons in Celtic mythology until the English came, mainly because there is no record of them in the Celtic world until then. However, it is more probable that there was simply no written record of their existence–the Celts stories surviving by oral tradition. The “sudden” appearance of dragons when the Christians invaded can be easily explained by the meticulous effort Christians gave to written records.
The Apostalic Church was very good at taking local beliefs and using that belief for its own benefit. Take, for example, the story of St. George. Here the great power of the Dragon is turned into the power of the Devil. Traditional symbolism holds that St. George slayed the Dragon (Satan) to save the maid (Christianity). It is also very convenient that the Celtic symbol was the Dragon.
Today the dragon is continuously popular amongst the Celtic revivalist, especially story tellers and craftsmen; and we must not forget that dragons have never gone out of style for the Welsh, for it is their flag which proudly displays the Red Dragon and their motto which reads: Y Ddraig Goch Ddyry Cychwyn, The Red Dragon Leads the Way.
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Mythical Power Source
There is no more powerful symbol than Celtic dragons
To invoke such reverence from the Celts, who were one of the most fierce and rugged ethnic groups in ancient times, they must have been much more than just fire-breathing beasts.Although dragons are usually associated with Asia, these mythical creatures can be found in fairy tales and folklore all over the world, including Celtic Ireland.
In the secular world of Celtic chiefs and warriors, dragons are merely symbols of the power of the chief. Indeed the Celtic word for “chief” is Pendragon.
But in the esoteric world of spirituality, Celtic dragons represent much more…
What magical powers do these mysterious creatures possess that was so important that we can find tales including rituals of sacrifice to the mighty dragons?
According to Trevor Mendham of Dragonorama, “Dragons were an important part of Celtic lore. The Celts were highly attuned to the land and dragons were believed to influence the land…. Areas frequented by dragons were believed to possess special power.”
Dragons have always been associated with the Power of the Land. Even today, in many esoteric rituals, people believe that invoking the “Eye of the Dragon” will increase their personal power.
The ancient Druids believed the Earth itself was like the body of a dragon, and they built their sacred stone circles upon the “Power Nodes” of this body. They believed dragons connected us with the Earth’s magnetism and healing waters.
Many of us have heard the mysteries of the “ley lines”, especially in relation to the location of mystical sites such as Stonehenge and the site of many mysterious crop circles. What you may not know is that another way of saying “ley lines” is “Dragon lines”.
To the ancient Celts, the “ley of the land” was a term describing how the Cosmic forces flowed through and influenced the area, as well as how the area itself affected those Cosmic forces. Dragons were thought to have a tremendous influence on the “ley of the land”, hence the term “Dragon lines”.
But far from the terrifying creatures we see in films, dragons were more than fire-breathing beasts with the power to destroy.
The Anglo-Saxon word “dragon” is derived from the Greek word meaning “to see clearly”. They believed dragons had the gift of vision, wisdom, and prophecy. Dragons were considered the guardians of all knowledge and wisdom.
As Celtic artist Cari Buziak’s design demonstrates, Celtic art often depicts Celtic dragons swallowing their tails in a never ending circle, symbolizing eternal life, much like the symbolism of knotwork and triskeles.
The dragons were revered like gods, believed to bring Earthly and Heavenly forces together. Celts believed dragons guarded the gate to both the Heavens and the Underworld.
As guardian spirits who protect the Earth and all living things, Celtic dragons are arguably the most powerful of all the Celtic symbols.