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Different Cultures Believe In Dragons

QUESTION: How many different cultures believe in dragons?


According to the dictionary, dragons were fabulous animals usually represented as a monstrous winged and scaly serpent with a crested head and enormous claws -- also a monster, represented as a gigantic reptile breathing fire and having lion’s claws, tail of a serpent, wings, and scaly skin. Dragons are portrayed in the ancient mythologies of most cultures and were associated with the Great Mother, the water god or the warrior sun god. They were believed to be both beneficial and destructive, being all-powerful creatures of the universe.

The dragons live in the bottom of the sea where they guard vast treasure hoards that, most often, consist of pearls. Their breath is that of rain clouds and thunder as well as lightning, hence, the fire-breathing monster. Some traditions believe that misers assume the form of dragons by constantly gloating over their treasures.

Many of the stories tell us that dragons were loathsome beasts and evil enemies to humankind. They were born in a period before man at a time of chaos -- a time of creation out of destruction. The significance of the dragon was its control over the destiny of mankind. Therefore, dragons were thought by the Christian community to be a demon and/or the devil.

During the Egyptian period, there arose a dragon and serpent-worshipping cult that spread to Babylon, India, the Orient, the Pacific islands and finally the North American continent. The cult reached its peak during the time of the Roman Empire and disappeared with the arrival of Christianity.

In the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese culture, dragons played an integral part in the culture since the beginning of recorded history. In China, they are used to mark the stairways over which only the Emperor could be carried. It is considered a central figure of both good and evil in their legends. The Chinese say the dragon originated in their middle kingdom and has always had five toes. It is, by nature, a gregarious creature that wanders the earth. However, the farther it goes from China, the more toes it loses.

The Koreans say the dragon originated with them and has always had four toes. When the dragon travels east or north, it loses toes, but when he travels south or west, he gains toes. As he traveled west, he grew more toes, and by the time, he arrived at the Americas, he lost all of his toes and could no longer walk.

The Japanese culture used dragons in Buddhist temples as decoration and fountainheads for purification before worship.

The dragon is supposedly the enemy of the sun and the moon, both in Eastern and Western cultures. Eclipses were believed to occur when the dragon swallowed the heavenly bodies, which accounts for the dragon’s appearance in primitive astronomy.

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