Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Dragon Will Lead You to Water

From the modern legend of the Loch Ness monster in Celtic Scotland to the Biblical Leviathan that plays in the water of the Mediterranean in David's Psalms, to the equally ancient Chinese water dragon that does not actually live in the water but needs a daily soak in order to stay healthy.

What I am going to write in this blog entry is pure speculation on my part.  But I will tell my own legend of how the dragon attained the place of honor that he enjoys on our calendars, our protective amulets, our household decorations and even in the tattoos worn by so many.  The legends that elevated the dragon to a heroic or maybe even deified level in the ancient world may be related to the fact that dragons -- serpent like reptiles that have legs and a more expressive face -- are land creatures but must have a nearby body of water for survival.

A large lizard occupies the area of Gonur Depe, the site of the excavation of one of the sites of the Bronze Age Bactria-Margiana Complex.  His ancestor may well have pointed our ancestors to the Murghab River, where Gonur was founded some four thousand years ago.  When my husband was visiting the site, the workers always warned him that the 'dragon' might crawl into his tent; the warning was not that the dragon was dangerous, but that the dragon brought a bad odor into the tent.  You see, the dragon soaked for a while each day in the murky waters where no doubt a lot of waste had been dumped.
Given the needs of the dragons or large lizards that crawl through the deserts of Central Asia, migrants might have found the dragon a valuable guide to water.  Especially in the era of 4000 to 3000 B.C. there were great migrations from the Asian steppes toward settled regions or to still Neolithic nomadic herders.  By the end of that era, the herders, too were moving into contact with the more sedentary cultures that were farming and raising domestic animals such as pigs, cows, sheep and goats and even horses and donkeys.  The dog had domesticated himself long before this age.  The domestic canine was following the camps of Ice Age Hunters, helping in the hunt.
Noting the fascination held by birds, the fourth millennium cultures of Central Asia may have kept even large birds when they could be caught.  The eagle and the phoenix -- a really fancy chicken -- are displayed on a huge percentage of their amulets.
A note here on the migrants.  They were not nomads who had adopted the life style of constantly moving.  They were usually people who simply had to move from their home land to a more comfortable climate or culture.  Therefore, along with the pigs, the rams' heads and the magnificent horses that the people already honored by being buried with them, sometimes worshipping their statues, the ancients added the dragon symbol.

Another blog will be on the jade dragon and the bronze dragon.   Such as this jade one:

Old Hongshan Style Hetian Jade Necklace Hand Carved Amulet and Beads

The photo above shows the pig-drgaon amulet that might have developed from the veneration of the ancient settled farming community for its pig and the migrants' respect for the dragon.  In the late Neolithic and Bronze Age culture named Hongshan with archeological traces across much of the Northern part of what is now China, the pig dragon held sway as the most powerful spiritual symbol.  

Meanwhile on the other side of the Himalayas in what is now Afghanistan, migrants were moving into the high desert oasis called Bactria.  In Bronze Age Bactria they immortalized the dragon in small stone seals and cast bronze amulets.  Here is another image of a dragon amulet with the eagle image on the opposite side of the carved steatite seal from Bactria:


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  2. Thank you, City! I am glad you found this post.

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  4. Thank you very much for your comment.