The Meaning of Dragons
Throughout many cultures, dragons have held significant meaning that spans centuries. In traditional Chinese culture, it symbolizes power, strength and good luck; in England, the Dragon Banner was waved during times of war. But when I started receiving messages about the dragon, I had come to a crossroads about my own definition of them. The recurring interpretations started taking on a very negative and dark connotation and I began to wonder what was their true meaning. Were they a sign of good fortune, or something exclusively insidious?
As I wrote in my previous article, “How to Have a Conversation with the Universe,” the universe speaks out to you specifically. In my case, it’s through stories. No matter what I read, there’s always a storyline between the lines that tethers these separate tales together. In Valis it states, "The nature of the universe is information and we are stationary in it" (Dick 1974, p. 17). Without the need for the person making much of an effort, it constructs its own story using time and various mediums. When you’re in tune with it, it speaks to you directly and my encounters with dragons at that time became some of the strongest I had ever experienced.
The dragon first appeared in the comic book mini-series Dark Nights Metal when Batman accidentally opens a seal to the Dark Multiverse that’s connected to the core DC multiverse through mysterious metals. When Batman and Superman go into the Dark Multiverse, they learn that at the beginning of creation, when matter and anti-matter came into being, a third being was also born: the World Forger. The World Forger created universes from fear and used his dragon Barbatos to destroy worlds until Barbatos turned on his master.
At that time, dragons kept returning as various metaphors in TV shows and books alike. One synchronistic event involved the metaphysical show Legion, where the story of Harold and the Purple Crayon was told. I’m sure that many people know this story, but I had never known it in full. The book follows Harold, a child who uses a magical purple crayon to build the world around him. In one part of the story, he draws an apple tree and a dragon to protect it—then, the dragon turns on him and Harold runs away in fear, reminding me of the World Forger and Barbados.
That same week, I learned about the Leviathan, and that’s when it took on an even darker connotation. Referred to as the dragon, the Leviathan symbolized the essence of evil. In the Hebrew Bible, the text reads, ”In that day, Yahweh with his hard and great and strong sword will punish leviathan, the fleeing serpent, and leviathan the twisted serpent; and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea” (Isaiah 12:1, English Standard Version).
Prior to this point, I had considered the dragon to be a relatively benign figure. Yes, in stories the dragon has been portrayed as greedy, lording over its treasures and representative of corruption, but in others, it was used as a powerful force that breaks free from the chains of bondage. I felt that I needed to dig into my own past and feelings toward it, to unearth the truth rather than relying solely on other works.
The Golden Age of Piracy
I never had much of a fascination with dragons and knights as a child outside of LoTR; I was more into modern age heroes of the ‘90s and relatable coming-of-age tales. It wasn’t until I was older when I truly appreciated the world of this kind of fantasy. My strongest correlation to dragons was in regard to pirates. I had never dreamt or cared much for pirates, but after researching them circa 2016, I found myself relating to them on a much deeper level. Like many, I had bought into the general belief of pirates, that they were ne’er-do-wells who loved to steal and were a blight upon society, but when I understood the unjust actions of the British Empire and the lengths at which they enacted “justice” I saw them in a different light.
In the series Black Sails, former Royal Navy lieutenant turned pirate Captain Flint said in defense of his pirating life, “They paint the world full of shadows... and then tell their children to stay close to the light. Their light. Their reasons, their judgments. Because in the darkness, there be dragons. But it isn't true. We can prove that it isn't true. In the dark, there is discovery, there is possibility, there is freedom in the dark once someone has illuminated it.” This helped me during a time of political upheaval when things weren’t making sense to me. My version of the dragon, like the pirates, was something that was misunderstood, not purely evil, but the signs seemed to be pointing to the opposite.
The Purple Crayon
I wasn’t sure where my new definition was going to exist in the symbol of evil or the symbol of misconception. Were the same thing? It wasn’t until I saw the two ideas collide in the most unexpected way; an ad that featured a fire-breathing dragon appeared on a program where the main character was dressed as a pirate. To anyone else, this would probably have been completely random and unimportant, but because of my running narrative, it gave me a different impression. It signified that two things can exist at once, much like Harold and the Purple Crayon, one’s own belief can dictate a symbol. It can be a thing of fear or a symbol of power because of the power within us.
Dick, Philip. (1991). Valis. New York City, NY : Vintage Books.
Sellier, Marie. (2008). Legend of the Chinese Dragon (English and Mandarin Chinese Edition). New York City, NY : Simon and Schuster.
Parker Eleanor. (2018). Dragon Lords: The History and Legends of Viking England. New York City, NY : Bloomsbury Publishing.