My beautiful air dragon or celestial dragon in a colourful Celtic-Medieval style - with a closer look into some of the interesting myths, legends and folklores about our air dragons...
This blog post is part of a series about dragons -you can start here with part I of the main post about dragons if you like and loop back to this - or just keep reading and I'll share the links for the other posts at the end so that you don't miss out...
Most true dragons have wings and can fly, but some dragons are really in their element in the air, harnessing the power of the wind, thunder, and lightning to wreak their devastation…
The life-giving sun was also connected to sky dragons…
Dragons of the Sun
In Chinese cosmological mythology, a solar eclipse (believed to have occurred 2136 BC) was attributed to a dragon biting away a chunk of the sun.
It was a tradition in China to make lots of noise during a solar eclipse to scare away the monster. In Chinese culture, it was believed that dragons drew the chariot of the sun across the sky.
The Slavic dragon, Gorynych, was also known to take a bite out of the sun or moon to cause an eclipse – see the main dragon section for more about Gorynych...
In Ancient Greek mythology, the sorceress Medea drove a chariot across the sky ‘drawn by winged Drakones’ (dragon-serpents) gifted to her by her grandfather, Helios the sun god.
The Greek goddess Circe was daughter to Helios (and also an aunt to Medea) and she was said to be ‘borne away by winged Dracones.’
In the Celtic tradition, the Mabinogion story of Lludd and Llefelys tells that Ludd, son of Beli (Beli is often equated with Belenus, Belinus, Bel, or Beli Mawr, a Celtic sun god) discovered two mighty battling dragons – ‘his’ dragon, red and a ‘foreign’ dragon, white – who magically take to the air still fighting. Lludd buries both dragons in an underground cavern at Dinas Emrys, where they are later discovered by the young Merlin (read all about it in the main dragon and earth dragon pages).
Dragons of the Stars
The constellation Draco is a sky dragon. In Greek mythology, it’s said that Hera placed the body of her son, Ladon the dragon, into the sky after he was killed guarding her tree of golden apples – so the stars of Draco symbolise Ladon.
In Roman mythology, the constellation is said to be the body of Draco the dragon, which was thrown into the sky by the goddess Minerva after a war between the gods and the Titan giants.
Dragons of Flight
It’s sometimes said that ley-lines are actually ‘dragon-lines’ and denote the flight paths of dragons who would often fly between sacred sites…
Devon folklore tells of a dragon who flies nightly between two iron-age hillforts – Cadbury Castle, Bickleigh, Devon, and Dolbury Hillfort, Killerton, Devon. The dragon guards the treasure at each location, and also guards the ancient Fursdon family of Fursdon, Cadbury.
A 19th century Cornish clergyman and local historian, Richard Polwhele, writes:
“…a fiery dragon …. bynne often seene to flye between these hills, komming from one to the other in the night season, whereby it is there is a great treasure hid in each of them, and that the dragon is the trusty treasurer, and sure keeper thereof,”
Dragons are also reputed to guard the treasures of the Bronze Age burial mounds in the area around Challacombe, Devon – and have been reported flying between the burial mounds, breathing fire.
Elemental Sky Dragons
Some dragons can control the elements…
In Yorkshire, a terrible dragon took up residence around the healing wells of Longwitton, where it lived quietly and drank water from the wells. But the people were afraid, and when they went to attack the dragon, it was able to render itself invisible and as a whirlwind, shaking the trees of the wood.
Comets in the sky were also taken for dragons – as we see in the tale of Uther Pendragon and his dragon vision (see the fire dragon section) as well as the fearful fiery dragons, whirlwinds, and lights in the sky recorded in AD793 across Northumbria – I’ve taken a closer look at these fiery dragon phenomenon in my page on fire dragons, here…
Dragon Sightings in Wales
Incredibly, we even have reported sightings of dragons from Wales, nation of the dragon. I find these particular ones fascinating, as they actually centre around South Glamorgan in Wales, close to where I spent my childhood years.
This is also the area where the Welsh folklorist and author Marie Trevelyan collected many of her folk tales from local people, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The following were published in Marie Trevelyan’s book ‘Folk-Lore and Folk-Stories of Wales’, 1909.
An old man from the village of Penllyn had recalled that when he was a child, the woods around Penllyne Castle were said to be “frequented by winged serpents” that were “very beautiful”. They “lookd as though they were covered with jewels of all sorts. Some of them had crests, sparkling with all the colours of the rainbow.” They glided away “sparkling all over” and “flew over people’s heads, with outspread wings bright, and sometimes with eyes, too, like the feathers in a peacock’s tail.”
The gentleman insisted this was a fact and not an invented story – and that his father and uncles had killed some of them as they were “as bad as foxes for poultry” and “terrors in the farmyards and coverts”.
Another elderly lady, who visited Penmark Place as a child (just over 10 miles distant from Penllyn) also described ‘winged serpents’ in the woods around Penmark and ‘Bewper’ (Beaupre – also nearby).
It was said that where the winged serpents were seen, there “was sure to be buried money or something of value nearby”. Her grandfather and great uncle had decided to catch one of the dragons – when it took to the air, they shot at it and fought it and killed it! She, herself, had seen its skin and feathers that her grandfather had kept.
It seems likely that these reports of dragons did truly involve a real living creature of some kind – possibly some kind of bird? But they do show how dragons were real to ordinary people, even in relatively recent times – and so it’s not so surprising that they feature so vividly in our folklores, myths, and traditions.
So air dragons, or sky dragons, were terrible, fiery, and could control the elements of the air – sky, wind, sun, comets, lightning. They were also guardians, protectors of treasure.
Creating my Air Dragon Art
I put my air dragon drawing together digitally with drawn Celtic and Medieval patterns to create the final dragon artwork...
I wanted the effect to be similar to a medieval manuscript illumination with bright colours and intricate patterns - I've put sparkling stars into the wings and mane of the dragon and tried to get that beautiful bejewelled effect for the dragon's skin...
How to Buy
My 'Celestial Dragon' artwork is available as cushions, T-shirts, mugs, phonecases, shower curtains, journals, notebooks, bags, clocks and much more in my Redbubble store.
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