“BEYOND HERE LIES …”
By Rev. John Holbrook M.S., PSI
In many cultures throughout history there is a creature that has been depicted as a villain or as a saint of the air, sea and land. This creature is known by many names, has been held as a God or a Devil, and in some cultures said to be mortal and in other cultures immortal. The modern world has one name for the creature I speak of and it is “Dragon.”
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes a dragon as, “an imaginary animal usually pictured as a huge serpent or lizard with wings and large claws.” Some of the historic names for Dragons are Wyvern, Lung, Lindworm, Knucker, and of course Western Dragon.
The Lung is the dragon of china. It was said to be able to fly although it is described as not having wings but rather a long serpent like body with scales, four or five toes, a feathery tail and long whisker like feelers around its head. The Lung had the capacity to shape shift into many different guises including human but its favorite from was that of a large Gold Fish or Carp and this may be why Coy ponds were thought to be spiritual places for enlightenment. It is believed that the Lung taught the Chinese how to write and many legends describe how the Lung shared their wisdom and power with the worthy.
The Lindworm or any of the worm dragons are the most associated with a family curse. They are described as being long like a snake some having two legs, aquatic by nature and belligerent by temperament. The Lambton Worm legend dated 1420 is said to have occurred in Durham England and is still talked about today in that community (read about the Lambton Worm in the Dragon Lore section). Knuckers are similar to Worms but have four legs and vestigial wings.
The most viewed dragon in modern films and literature is the Western Dragon. This dragon has been depicted as good or evil. It has four legs and wings and breathes fire. Historical accounts of this type of Dragon hold many of the modern descriptions except that none of the Western Dragons of olden times were good by nature and most were slain by the hero of the stories. These Dragons varied in type and color by the region in which they dwelled. The Frost Dragon would breathe a freezing wind that would instantly freeze its prey. In some cases the breath contained poisons gas or acid.
I like to believe in my Dragon and that he helps to guide me sometimes and dwells within me ready to lend his courage and wisdom to me in my time of need. Yes - I know that with the balance in all things there must be Dragons that are bad and some have been slain by the heroes of old. If you walk this earth as I walk it, you will see beings much more scary than any Dragon of history with more devastating weapons than fire. I will keep the flame of the Dragon as a light to see in to the darkness and I will remember that there are always more than one side to every coin and every situation. I will always keep the treasure of my heart close and guard it well keeping true to my own heart.
Last of all, if I find myself in an evil Dragon’s territory I will remember that I might taste mighty good with ketchup to him!
The All American Dragon
“Yummy, Yummy, Yummy”
In August of 1673, a Jesuit priest by the name of Father Jacques Marquette had one of the most terrifying times of his life when he spotted horrifying monsters which seemed to be hovering on the cliffs above the Mississippi River while travelling through Illinois (near Alton). Fortunately for him they were merely petroglyphs painted onto a cliff face about 80 feet above the ground.
According to his Indian guide, the petroglyphs had been created centuries earlier by the long forgotten Illini tribe who believed that a terrible dragon had inhabited the area. This dragon was called piasa which means “the bird that devours human beings.” The Illini lived in harmony with the piasa who dwelled in a cave just below the cliff. It never troubled humans and was content to eat large mammals such as deer. This peaceful co-existence was destroyed however when a warring tribe invaded the Illini territory. A bloody battle ensued and even though the Illini were triumphant, the carnage left so many bloody bodies that it was too much for the piasa to ignore. The taste of human flesh was a great feast for the piasa and it became a man-eater often attacking the Illini.
A grand meeting of the entire tribe was held with hopes of finding a way to destroy the piasa. This was very difficult mainly because the dragon was air borne making it difficult to fight and impossible to capture. A young brave named Massatoga proposed a daring solution… that the monster would be ambushed by luring it to ground level by using human bait. Twenty of the bravest warriors were chosen for the task and Massatoga volunteered to act as the “bait.”
The plan was set to start at daybreak just outside the piasa’s lair a time when the “bait” would be highly visible to the piasa. Massatoga stood by the river and raised his arms up to the sky. In a loud, clear voice he called out reverently to Great Spirit for assistance in overcoming his tribe’s great nemesis. As his voice echoed over the land the clear skies began to grow dark. It was the piasa making its presence known with an ear shattering shriek. As the great dragon descended Massatoga got a full view of its horrible visage. The beast had a tri color body of red, green and black with leathery wings. The entire body was covered with scales and it had knife-like black talons. It also had a serpentine tail terminating in a double fin and its head was graced with antlers. It was about 30 feet long, 12 feet high and its wings had a span of approximately 18 feet. Perhaps the most terrible feature was the face which bore a grotesque mask appearing almost humanlike yet demonic with glowing red eyes, apelike nostrils, a beard of stiff bristles worst of all, row upon row of razor sharp teeth.
The piasa swept down to grab Massatoga but he was too fast and ran for the shelter of some nearby trees. In hot pursuit, the piasa was forced to fold its wings in order to avoid getting them tangled in the tree limbs. The other nineteen warriors leapt from their hiding places and surrounded the monster barraging it with poisoned arrows. Many of the arrows were ineffective because they were repelled by the monsters tough scales but the warriors were relentless until the piasa lay wounded and blinded by the onslaught. Once it was disabled the warriors attacked its body with their knives and tomahawks until the beast was dead.
The Curse Of The Lambton Worm
“Be Careful What You Flush Down The Drain”
On the morning of Easter Sunday, 1420, in the village of Washington near the River Wear in County Durham, England, life would change for young John Lambton and all of his descendants…
John Lambton was a disrespectful and delinquent youth who liked to spend his time fishing on Sunday mornings in direct disregard for his elders. On the particular Easter Sunday morning of 1420, John’s favorite pastime was not panning out and he was unable to catch a single fish. Angry, he cursed aloud blaspheming the heavens blaming the Divine for his ill fortune. Suddenly there was a tug on his line…
Out of the water John pulled up a horrible creature with a snakelike body, the head of a dragon and the face of a devil. The eyes were like black mirrors staring at Lambton and it seemed to smile a hellish grin bearing rows of needle-like teeth. The monster seemed to hold Lambton in a trance while it squirmed around in a devilish mocking dance. Not knowing what else to do, young John rid himself of the aquatic terror by casting it down a nearby well. Sufficiently frightened by the whole experience he decided to mend his ways and a few years later he joined a pilgrimage to the Holy Land further hoping to find redemption for his former misdeeds. He left his castle and village far behind without knowing that he left a deadly legacy behind…
Unknown to the reformed Lambton, the creature he cast down the well not only survived but thrived growing more powerful with time. Eventually the villagers caught sight of the monster who liked to leave its well hole to bask in the sun on a nearby hillside. The monster was so large that it was able to wrap its serpent body around the hillside nine times. Wherever it went it left behind toxic slime and poisonous gas that killed any vegetation growing near it. During its reign of terror the “Lambton Worm” laid waste to the countryside and began to devour livestock and humans. The horrified villagers grew afraid to leave their homes and in desperation they thought to offer the Worm pacification.
In keeping with ancient tradition, a huge trough placed in the courtyard of Lambton Castle was filled with milk for the beast. The worm obliged and stayed passively wrapped around the trough until the milk ran out. Then it would go on a rampage until the milk was replenished. A few brave souls tried to defeat the Worm but to no avail. Even when the Worm was sliced up it would merely recombine itself until it was completely whole again. Of course the poor villagers who tried to kill the monster were immediately dispatched and eaten.
After many years, John Lambton finally returned to his castle. He was so horrified and guilty over what had happened because of his earlier decadence that he vowed to destroy the Worm. To do this Lambton knew he had to seek other-worldly advice so he consulted with the local witch who told him he would only succeed in killing the Worm if he wore a special suit of armor covered in sharp blades. It would also be required that he confront the worm in the middle of the river where he originally caught it. If this were no bad enough there would be a further price to pay. After killing the Worm, Lambton had to also kill the first living person he saw after defeating the Worm. Failure to do so would mean that his entire lineage would be forever cursed and for nine generations the heir to the Lambton Estates would die in his bed. Heeding everything that he had been told, Lambton commissioned the suit of blades he was to wear in battle with the Worm. Once it had been fashioned he set out to confront the worm.
Lambton maneuvered the Worm to the middle of the River Wear by swords play. The Worm was a fierce foe seizing Lambton in his coils in an attempt to crush him however the Worm could not maintain its grip because of the suit of blades. Lambton sliced the Worm into several pieces that the swift current of the river bore away before the Worm could recombine. Lambton had defeated the worm and rejoicing he set out for the castle.
Unfortunately the first person he encountered was his father and to slay his father was something Lambton could not do. He killed his most faithful dog in his father’s stead hoping this would satisfy the necessary human sacrifice. History relates that this was not enough and strangely for nine generations every heir to the Lambton Estates met a tragic end. The legend of Lambton Worm remains intact to this day.
The Four Great Chinese Guardians
“Tread Lightly But Don’t Carry A Big Stick”
The CELESTIAL DRAGONS of China protect the Heavens and support the mansions of the gods shielding them from decay and destruction. These are the only dragons known to have five claws. The earthly likeness of the Celestial Dragon that appears on imperial regalia also has five claws. The other dragons all have either three or four claws.
TREAURE KEEPER DRAGONS are subterranean by nature. They are in charge of all precious jewels and metals that are buried deep within the earth. Each of these dragons bears a pearl which is believed to multiply whenever it is touched. Each single pearl represents another treasure that is important to mankind… WISDOM!
The mighty WEATHERMAKER DRAGON is highly revered and great pains are taken to appease it. This is a spiritual dragon that is believed to govern the wind and the clouds and the rain. The Weathermaker is basically blue in color but it does change its hue or shade as it maneuvers across the sky. Since life depends greatly upon the weather, to anger this great creature could spell disaster.
RIVER LORDS or EARTH DRAGONS commanded the rivers. Every river in China had its own Earth Dragon King who ruled the waters from a palace deep beneath the surface. The Earth Dragon regulated river flow and also maintained the river banks. Other countries such as France also have legends and tales surrounding River Lords such as the story of the mesmerizing Drac who took a female slave to suckle its young.