Enter the quiet dragon... sleeping Earth Dragon artwork - plus a tiptoe into the dark caverns and barrows of the sleeping earth dragon to uncover his legends, myths, and folklores...
This post is part of a series about dragons - if you'd like to get started with the first post and loop back to this you can do that here - otherwise, just keep on reading, and I'll give you all the other links to explore at the end...
The earth dragons are the quiet, sleeping dragons of legend – guardians of treasure and part of our landscape…
Earth dragons are an ancient race and can be hundreds or even thousands of years old – so much so that they can actually become the landscape!
In Shropshire, Earl’s Hill and Pontesford Hill are said to be formed from a sleeping dragon.
And it’s said that the ridges of Glastonbury Tor in Somerset and Bignor Hill in Sussex are the imprints from the coils of an earth dragon.
Close by the famous Uffington White Horse in Wiltshire is Dragon’s Hill. One version of the St George and the Dragon story says that this is where St George killed the dragon – and the blood of the dragon left the top of the hill bare. There are some who argue that the White Horse symbol may actually be a dragon!
The red and white dragons at Dinas Emrys in Wales are discovered by the young Emrys (Merlin) in the underground lake beneath the foundations of a tower that King Vortigern was trying to build – and that kept collapsing.
The dragons were placed there by Llud, son of Beli (read more about this story in the the air dragons page). The two dragons fight – the red dragon represents the native Brits (correlating to the modern Welsh) and the white dragon represents the invading Saxons.
The red dragon defeats the white, symbolising victory for the Britons (under the leadership of King Arthur), while the white dragon slips back underground to its lair. Some versions of the legend state that the two dragons then were buried again in the very centre of the land, Oxford, and there remain, sleeping still, ready to defend the land in time of need.
There are surprising elements of historical fact in this dragon legend! In 1945, the location at Dinas Emrys was excavated by archaeologists who discovered an underground lake and the remains of a fortress dating back to the 5th century – the time of King Vortigern. The fortress walls had been rebuilt several times!
Guardians of Treasure
As well as being part of the land, the earth dragon may also sleep in barrows and burial mounds, where it can guard treasure…
Beowulf’s dragon sleeps peacefully in his barrow until disturbed by an intruder stealing the treasure – more about Beowulf’s dragon story in both the main page about dragons and the page about fire dragons.
Money Hill at Gunnarton Fell in Northumberland was said to have a dragon living in the hill, guarding a hoard of treasure.
At Bilsdale in Yorkshire, it was believed that a dragon lived in a tumulus protecting the treasure there. This may be at the round barrow of Drake Howe – the name Drake may be from ‘draco’ or dragon. The barrow is also known as Odin’s Grave.
At Castle Neroche, Taunton, Somerset, treasure hidden at the iron age hillfort is said to be guarded by a dragon and serious injury or death has befallen all who’ve attempted to recover it.
Two serpentine dragons guard the underground tunnel entrance to the Cissbury Ring hillfort, which is said to hold untold riches. The ghost of a druid also haunts the area, reputedly searching for the treasure.
At Devil’s Den, a hole in the earth at South Barrule on the Isle of Man, it’s said that a dragon with burning eyes guards the hole. An immortal prince, bound there by magical spells for more than 600 years, is also supposed to lie in the hole, still awaiting rescue!
The Power of the Earth?
At St Donat’s in South Glamorgan, Wales, it was said that dragons “could not make their way, for in the long ago, according to tradition, Irish earth was mingled with the soil.”
In the Christian tradition, it’s said that St Patrick threw all the snakes out of Ireland – this is thought to refer also to the dragon, which was often depicted as a kind of serpent and known as the ‘winged serpent’ in this part of Wales (see the section about air dragons)
The Ollipeist, also called the Caoranach, was the sea monster that St Patrick killed. You can read more about this in my page on water dragons.
It’s clear from this titbit of folklore, that the very earth of holy Ireland was thought to be inhospitable to the dragon, which in Christian times, was often a symbol of the devil, evil, or a pagan faith.
The fact that this was ‘according to tradition’ I find interesting – St Donat’s (in Welsh, Sain Dunwyd) is named after the Saint Dunwyd who was a contemporary of Saint Cadoc, in the 6th century. Saint Cadoc inspired ‘Saint Illtud the Knight’ (said to be a cousin of King Arthur) to give up his knightly career and choose a religious path instead.
Very close to St Donat’s is the site of Llantwit Major (Llanilltud Fawr) where St Illtud established a seat of Christian learning on the site of an earlier abandoned Christian university, Cor Tewdws, in around 500AD, with over 1000 monastic students.
It was known as the ‘University of the Atlantic’ and is regarded as the cradle of Celtic Christianity with links to other Celtic communities in Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany. It’s sometimes said that St Patrick himself may have studied there.
Did they bring holy earth from Ireland to protect the coast around this important religious site from evil and the scourge of the dragon?
Earth dragons may well be terrifying if disturbed or if the treasure they protect is threatened – but in general, more so than the other dragon types, earth dragons are the quiet, slumbering dragons of our landscape and may even be called upon to be our defenders in times of trouble – once again linking the idea of dragon to nation, kingship, and power (read more about this in the main dragon section and the section on fire dragons).
The spiral symbol of the earth dragon as it coils around hills, mounds, and barrows was a common Celtic symbol, which could relate to the cycle of life, inner journey, or the cycle of the sun or moon – with the double spiral relating to balance… that very balance of energies that the dragon symbolises (more about that in the main section about dragons).
Creating my Earth Dragon Art
I created my Earth Dragon artwork from my dragon and Celtic/Medieval pattern drawings - the drawings are scanned into the computer and uploaded into Adobe Illustrator where I can work digitally to combine them together to create the final artwork...
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You might also like to delve a little deeper into the myth and symbolism of dragons - start here with my main dragons blog post part I - and then continue with part II here...
I also explore dragonlore further in each of these blog posts about the elemental dragons in each of these artworks...
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