My beautiful Celtic and medieval-inspired blue-green water dragon art - plus I take a deep dive into a dangerous pool of water dragon myth, legend and folklore...
Come on in, the water's lovely..!!
This post is part of a series about dragons and dragonlore - you can explore from the very beginning here and then loop back to this page - or just keep on reading and I'll give you all the links for the other dragon posts and artworks at the end...
Dragons have long been associated with watery places – from the very early Ancient Celtic serpentine dragons who were associated with healing deities at holy springs and wells, to the watery worms, eels, and wyverns of medieval and later periods.
The worm was essentially a serpent, often with horns or small wings – with two legs, it became a ‘wyvern’ – and with four legs and larger wings, it becomes considered a dragon.
Many of the dragons from the north of Britain are water-dwelling and are often described as a worm or wyvern...
The Loch Ness Monster
One of the most famous is, of course, the Loch Ness monster. Adamnan’s ‘Life of St Columba’ tells us that in August in the year 565AD, St Columba had a terrifying encounter at Loch Ness with a water monster who attacked one of Columba’s followers who had been swimming in the loch.
Columba called on God, made the sign of the cross, and told the monster in the name of God, “You will go no further, and won’t touch the man, go back at once.”
The monster itself was now terrified and fled – and everyone around (all pagan Picts) gave glory to the Christian god. (Dragons often symbolised ‘evil pagans’ to be overcome by Christianity – I look more at this theme in the main page about dragons).
There have been further claimed sightings of the Loch Ness monster in more recent times – all unconfirmed, despite much speculation, surveying, and research into the monster’s existence.
St Patrick, too, was able to see off a water monster. In Irish legend, Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) and his Fianna warriors hunted a witch and a worm escaped from her body. The worm grew into a huge sea monster called the Caoranach, who ate the people’s cattle. St Patrick slays the Caoranach and the monster’s blood dyes the water of Lough Derg red.
Back in Scotland, the Stoor Worm was an enormous destructive sea dragon that could only be appeased by the sacrifice of seven virgins each and every week. The dragon is killed by the hero Assipattle by lighting a fire inside its liver! Ugh!
In its terrible death throes, the dragon creates the Baltic Sea by the crashing of its tongue, the Orkneys, Shetlands and Faroe Isles are created by the monster’s teeth, and Iceland is formed by his body – with the volcanic activity in the country created by the fiery liver still burning inside the body!
The Lambton Worm
The Lambton Worm was a water-dwelling serpent-dragon living in the River Wear in County Durham – he fed on the livestock of the surrounding land and had even eaten some of the local children.
The dragon could not be stopped, as each time that villagers hacked a piece out of it, the dragon was able to re-attach the part back to its body. Several swordsmen were killed in the attempt, whilst a brave knight was beaten to death by the beast.
A local young wastrel, John Lambton, son of the Lord of the Manor, was said to have been out fishing on a Sunday when he should’ve been in church – he caught just a small worm or eel and threw it away down a local well.
Time passed, and John Lambton repented his earlier misdemeanours and went to the Holy Land to fight in the Crusades. By the time he returned home, the dragon-worm had made its way to Lambton Manor, John’s family home, where his father ruled as Lord.
Each day, the Lord ordered a large trough to be filled with the fresh milk of nine cows to placate the dragon – if there was not enough milk, the dragon would devastate the land. John knew that the monster was his small eel that he’d so carelessly thrown down the well.
John consults a wise woman who helps him to kill the worm by covering himself in blade-studded armour – so that as the dragon tries to coil around him and crush him to death, it just cuts itself into pieces…
The pieces of the worm are swiftly thrown into the river so that the monster can’t put itself back together again. And finally, John is able to behead the dragon.
John has been told by the wise woman that he should kill the next living creature he sees after killing the dragon-worm, but his joyful father is the first to run over and congratulate him – so John cannot bring himself to complete the task…
So although the dragon was finally dead, a terrible curse was upon his family for nine generations and Lambton men were said to be fated to die of tragic causes.
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