February 10th marks the the lunar new year, the beginning of the lunisolar calendar observed by a large portion of the population in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. This calendar is most widely used by the Chinese, however even those who are not familiar with the Chinese New Year have undoubtedly seen images or videos of the festivities that take place including the spectacular dance of the dragons. Dragons are a symbol of luck and prosperity and are among the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Each lunar year is represented by one of these animals with the cycle repeating every 12 years, as well as one of the 5 elements to make a unique combination. 2024 is the Year of the Wood Dragon.
DRAGON SYMBOLISM THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
Dragons appear throughout the world as symbols of great power, the guardians of secrets and treasures, and keepers of the Heavens and the key to immortality. Dragon lore has themes of chaos, fertility, rebirth and the cycles of the cosmos. Their name derives from the Greek word “drakon” meaning “serpent”, and is tied to the Greek Ouroboros, a serpent swallowing it’s own tail representing the eternal renewal of the universe. The dragon is often observed in place of a serpent in ouroboros iconography and is one of the oldest emblems in alchemy. The constellation of the Dragon, Draco, corresponds to the direction of East and the Spring, more specifically rising with the Vernal Equinox and setting with the Autumn Equinox. The Chinese symbol of the dragon devouring the moon and the Arabic symbol of the Dragon’s tail and the “realm of darkness” comes from the head and tail of the Dragon being the nodes in the lunar orbit, the points at which the eclipses occur.
Creation & Cosmos
The dragon is a celestial symbol of life force and the power of manifestation, the primal waters or First Cause in countless civilizations across the globe. In Hindu beliefs the dragon is also associated with the First Cause and is said to produce soma, the elixir of immortality. Zu (or Asag), the Sumarian dragon who stole the Tablets of Law that maintained the order of the Universe from the great god Enlin and was subsequently killed by the Sun god Nintura to prevent the destruction of the universe is the oldest known legend of a dragon. In the Babylonian creation myth, there are two elemental forces: Apsu, male spirit of fresh water and the abyss, and Tiamat, the female spirit of salt water and chaos. Tiamat was a dragon that was killed by the creation God Marduk; her severed body created the heavens and the earth. The Babylonians also placed a spirit animal in the four cardinal directions of which one was the eagle-headed dragon. Quetzalcoatl was the Aztec and Toltec benevolent plumed serpent god that created humankind, civilized people by teachings them agriculture, how to write, keep time, music and dance. He was known as Kulkulkan to the Maya and Gucumatz to the Quiche of Peru.
Heaven, Earth & Alchemy
Referenced to as the “winged serpent”, the dragon embodies the bird, a symbol of the Spirit or God, and the serpent, a symbol of the Earth and matter. In the I Ching, dragon’s blood is black and yellow, the primal colors of Heaven and Earth. In the K’ien Principle, the source of Heaven and maker of rain, the six lines harness dragons and the six strokes of the hexagram depict the six stages of manifestation. This concept is not limited to the the Orient.
In alchemy throughout the world, the dragon often represented the seasons, both externally and internally. In Babylonia, Sumeria, and the West, the winged dragon represented the volatile elements and the wingless dragon represented the earth or fixed elements. In Chinese alchemy, the dragon and serpent are not separated and are symbols of mercury, the blood and semen. Jade is said to be the congealed semen of the celestial dragon deposited into the earth and explains why it is such a prized jewel. Chinese Philosopher Chuang Tzu taught that the dragon was the resolution of opposites, the yin-yang forces of dualism, and that as the dragon soma gives immortality, the dragon itself serves as the winged carrier to the immortal Heavens. In European and Islamic Hermeticism, we again observe this with two dragons facing one another, as well as in the snakes of the caduceus, alchemical mercury and sulfur. When paired with the phoenix the symbolism is explicitly that of the the union of Heaven and Earth, the Micro and Macrocosm, Male and Female, birth and death, and the divine potentiality in all opposing forces.
Chinese Taoist revere the dragon as the bringer of eternal change, “the Way”, often coiling itself among the clouds only partially revealing itself. The Tao is often depicted as the pearl of the sage that the celestial dragons retrieve from the mists of chaos. They are guardians of the Flaming Pearl or spiritual perfection. In the Japanese culture these are four dragon species, the celestial, rain, terrestrial or aquatic, and chthonian representing the four aspects of the divine force and spiritual vigor.
Water, Fertility & Blessings
Dragons are a symbol of blessings, prosperity and power in the East, and those born during a dragon year are destined to have a long, healthy, happy and wealth blessed life. One full of fertility just as rain flowing from the Heavens makes the land fruitful. This is where we see the celestial or Heavenly dragon, the ouroboros as a symbol of the unmanifested, chaos, or the untamed struck by lightning (Divine inspiration) as seen in the Tree of Life (Lightening Flash or Decent of Manifestation) that the energy becomes manifested form or matter; the very act of creation. This is not the fire breathing dragons of the West. Far Eastern dragons have an angelic quality to them; they are benevolent, wise, beautiful and nearly always graceful. There are entire temples built to honor them, particularly by the water as they are believed to live in water and to control moving bodies of water beyond rainfall such as hurricanes and floods. It is said that when a spring bubbles a dragon is showing itself to you (as well as any instance in which water is thrashing or moving).
Emperors, Kings & Power
Dragons are also identified with sky Gods and their Earthly Heads of State, kings and emperors. This symbolism is easy to grasp once you consider that Emperors and Heads of State (Divinely chosen) are believed to be the mediators between Heaven and Earth, the same attribute of the dragon. In the Sefer Yetzirah, the Hebrew Book of Formation, Theli, the Celestial dragon that surrounds the universe is described as “a king seated upon his throne”. To this day dragons are symbols of the Emperors of China, the Japanese Royal Family, and the Celts, and are seen as a good omen and sign of a prosperous reign.
Among the Celts, the Red Serpent or Dragon represented the old Welsh God Dewi who later metamorphosed/reincarnated into Wales' Saint David to which the red dragon was placed on the royal arms of England by Henry the 7th, a Welch descendant, and is still the official emblem of Wales.
According to legend, the founder of China, Emperor Yu, was a dragon entity and the grandson of the Yellow Emperor was is told to have the head of a man and the body of a dragon. Legend holds that the Chinese people are descended from the Yellow Emperor and refer to themselves as Lung Tik Chuan Ren or “Descendants of the Dragon”. Lung, the Chinese Horned dragon is a symbol of the Emperor and imperial law, intelligence, power, prestige, nobility, boldness, perseverance, and immense blessings. There is a lot to unpack and even more up for debate on the existence of these individuals, their identities and attributes. However, the dragon is so significant that beginning in the Zhou dynasty, different dragons were assigned different qualities. During the Qing dynasty the dragon appeared on the national flag and was embroidered on court robes. During the Han dynasty, the five clawed turquoise dragon became the symbol of celestial power, the Emperor, the rising Sun and the East. The dragon’s pearl, a symbol of wisdom and enlightenment, is believed to be kept in the throat was the prestige of the Emperor’s word.
The Japanese royal family in said to be the descendant of Princess Fruitful Jewel, the daughter of a dragon king if the sea, and emperors are said to have the ability to transform into a dragon.
Interestingly in Christianity, Bishop’s coziers, the Shepherd's Cross stylized scepter that they carry to signify their position and being ordained by God was inherited from the Greeks through Hemes and often depicts an elaborately carved dragon or serpent head(s) rebirthing the Divine Lamb from it’s mouth.
Evil & Darkness
The dragon as a symbol of evil is predominantly seen in the Occident or Western world. It is here that we find tales and legends of battles between man and a mighty dragon, good vs evil. Biblically, the dragon is interchangeable with the serpent and serves as a symbol of opposition to God and good. In Revelations 12 Archangel Michael is said to have defeated the seven headed (seven deadly sins) dragon that was the embodiment of Satan. This same evil attribute is seen in Persia with the azhi (dragon) and in Scandinavian myths, it is a dragon that lurks in the pit of Hvergelmir, the Spring of creation, gnawing at the roots of the World Tree that supports the Universe in an attempt to destroy it. The Egyptian god of destruction Apophis is called the dragon of darkness and chaos and is overcome each morning by the Sun god Ra; again the symbolism of the Sun (Son of God) driving of the darkness (Satan).
Evil is not always the opposition to God and Creation directly, often times it is the mythical theme of the hero who faces the power of dark forces, the dragon, and in successfully slaying it is able to restore Divine order. Among the countless tales of fair maidens being saved from the clutches of a fire breathing dragon there is St. George, the patron Saint of England who was canonized following his bravery and defense of the weak by slaying of a chaos causing dragon and freeing of the virgin sacrifice in what is now modern day Turkey. In Leviathan (Psalm 74) the dragon is identified with the serpent and it is here that we see the iconic image of Archangel Michael or Archangel Gabriel crushing the dragon under his foot; a tent is to be made from the dragon’s skin to celebrate the eventual arrival of the Messiah. In the Near East there is the dragon Huwana described in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and in India the dragon Vrtra is slain by Indra in the Rigveda. It is important to note that the hero’s journey we see in these myths and legends are not only the return of the light in a civilization, but also an allegory for our hero overcoming his own personal shadow or “ungodly” self through self-mastery.
THE MODERN DRAGON OBSESSION
Dragons have long been a fascination and fear for man, something that continues to this day. Consider the most famous benevolent water dragon of our modern day, the great water dragon Nessie the Loch Ness monster. How many hundreds of thousands of fans flocked to Game of Thrones rooting for Queen Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons, to take back her throne with her dragons Viserion, Rhaegal, and Drogon by her side. The exact number no one can be certain, but what we do know is that the show grossed billions with a capital B and people were so invested that is subsequently led to a spin off, The House of Dragon. It’s not just adults that have this fascination with these scaly flying powerhouses, children have long loved dragons. Before the wildly popular and again multi-billion dollar grossing How To Train Your Dragon movie series, there was the beloved classic “Pete’s Dragon” and so many others like Saphira and Mushu. While Raya and the Last Dragon was considered a flop at the box office, I personally love it and so do my offspring. Whether they are fierce and fighting for the oppressed or pastel and fluffy, dragons resonate with something in our DNA. They are both myth and somehow reality.
DRAGON, THE UNIVERSAL 8 YEAR & TAROT SECRETS
2024 is a Universal 8 Year in numerology and is associated with strength, personal power, confidence, will and so much more. In both numerology and Year of the Wood Dragon, 2024 is forecasted to bring opportunities, challenges and definitely change. This is a year were we can shift not only the course of our lives, but also our internal self and the course of humanity if we have the willpower to step up to the plate. Make sure to check out Universal 8 Year: 2024 Numerology Predictions.
For those of you who are not tarot readers, the Strength card is tarot key 8 and you’ll notice the sideways 8 above the woman’s head in the Strength card, this is the ouroboros. We could easily swap the lion of the Strength card with the image of a dragon, and in many dragon legends the dragon has a lion head like the Eastern dragon. Interestingly the Strength card’s Hebrew association is the letter Tet meaning “serpent” with a value of 9. Kundalini or the vital life force within us is referred to as and visualized as a coiled snake that lies dormant at the base of the spine until it is awakened. This dormant serpent power is often attributed to the number 8 and the ouroboros, and to the number 9 and dragon that has been transformed by lightening when it is awakened. In Chinese astrology the dragon is also associated with the number nine, a highly auspicious number in feng shui. If you really want something to marvel at and to spend some time in deep contemplation, you’ll want to check out the Nine-Dragon Wall featured throughout China.
8 Questions & Invoking the Dragon Spirit
The lore, symbolism and wisdom of the dragon gives us much to consider. As you step into this Lunar New Year of the Wood Dragon, here are some themes and questions to contemplate:
Where will you shed your skin and seek renewal this year?
What lightening flashes may tear down false foundations and inspire authenticity?
What will you water in your life to bring fruitful manifestations?
When the Eclipses occur in the Spring and the Fall, what or who are you being asked to release?
Where do you need a resolution between opposing forces in your life?
What dragons do you need to slay?
How can you best live in alignment with cosmic and universal wisdom?
Are you ready to be the Emperor of your own life and follow Divine guidance?
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON
Please do not stop at this blog post, this blog post only skims the surface of the wealth of information and wisdom that is out there regarding the dragon. There is so much more I want to learn about the dragon in the orient, and in a single thought my mind goes to several avenues and rabbit holes I wanted to share with you, but simply do not have the time. For my fellow seekers I leave you with a few breadcrumbs.
How does The Hermit, tarot key 9, play into this? Hint: check your Hebrew, look to the lantern and esoteric title
How does Scorpio interplay with the dragon? Hint: Evolution of the scorpion; the World and Wheel of Fortune tarot cards
What does the US National Bird have to do with the dragon? Hint: Freemasonry
Considering the Qabalistic Tree of Life. What do Hod (sephirot 8) and the fact that most “evil” dragon in legends are green and breath fire have in common? Hints: Hermes Trismegistus and Netzach
Why is the dragon so prevalent in the Judaism where Satan does not exist?
May the Year of the Wood Dragon Bless You
Copyright © 2024 Brandy Rachelle
Uncredited images from my personal collection or stock images