Dragons and dinosaurs.

Nov 2016
882
Germany
#11
The medieval catholic church was dead against witch hunts and in fact largely denied even the existence of witches for large parts of the medieval period. Witchcraft started becoming part of the accusations directed against heretics in the late medieval period but the witch hunts as such are mostly an early modern phenomenon, from about 1500 onward and especially in areas touched by the reformation wars.
The witch topic is OT, but I say only one thing about it here. I agree with most you say, but you are understating the church´s role by far, I think. Without the encouragement and support of the Church, the later cruel excesses against innocent women and men would not have taken place to the extent that they did. Initiating were the teachings of Thomas Aquinas in the mid of the 13th century, inspired by Augustine, on the sexual intercourse of demons and devils with humans and the pact of humans with demons.

Such intercourse happens in such a way that the demon or devil first takes on a female form (succubus = lying underneath) and picks up a man's seed and later pours it into a woman in male form (incubus = lying above) in order to produce a devil's child. Heinrich Institoris modified this idea in his "Hammer against Witches".

The pact with Demon/Satan can be made expressa (explicitly, by words) or tacita (implicitly, by thoughts).

All this and the theological concepts further developed on this basis served in later secular trials against supposed witches and sorcerers as legitimation for the indictment. Without the theological dogmas about the connection of Satan and humans these processes would not have been feasible at all. Often theologians were involved in the processes as "experts".

Moreover, the method of "finding evidence" was based on the Church's trials against heretics. Since there was no empirical evidence of a connection between supposed magic and a worldly damage attributed to the accused, the judges used the torture customary in church heretic trials since the 13th century (bull "Ad extirpanda" by Innocent IV) to force a confession. Only on the basis of such sham confessions could the secular courts pronounce a verdict.

We are talking about Europe here of course, dragons in Asia have completely different symbolism attached to them.
The thread opener includes Asia in the question, so we can also address this region. In contrast to the Western and Near Eastern tradition, dragons have positive connotations in China, for example, but they are drawn as powerful and dangerous beings, similar to elsewhere, albeit in a positive function, especially in a spiritual respect, as they promote a spiritual transformation in people. This difference doesn't exclude these dragons from this thread, because it's about dragons in general and not only about ´evil´ dragons.

This peculiarity of Chinese dragons is explained by the fact that the female (with which snakes were religiously associated all over the world, see my first article above) has a higher status in the old Chinese religion than in the religions of those cultures where the dragons received a negative status (e.g. Babylonia, see Tiamat). It is assumed in anthropology that shamanism in China was originally and for a long time only practiced by women (Chinese shamans = Wu). Some experts (e.g. J. Ching 1993, S.M. Nelson 2008, L.W. Hurtado 1990) are convinced that the Wu in prehistoric times were exclusively women. According to G. Boileau (2002), the religious sphere in China until the Shang dynasty was a matter for women and the political sphere for men; only the Shang kings had assumed an additional priestly role, without female Wu being abolished. In the following Zhou period, according to Boileau, the reputation of the shamans declined; they were said to be close to impure spirits and even to black magic.

As far as the Chinese shamanic goddess Xi Wang Mu is concerned, Despeux and Kohn (2003) consider her to be the oldest Daoist deity. The image below shows her sitting on her throne, with a dragon head to her right and a tiger head to her left.

1562074807183.png

During the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE) Xi Wang Mu was regarded as the savior of mankind from terrible plagues and, like the gods of the Western mystery cults, as the lender of immortality. For this reason, according to the Han-Shu texts from the 1st century CE, processions of thousands of singing, dancing and hashish smoking people often took place in honour of the goddess through the whole country towards the capital. The same behavior was practiced by those who remained in their villages. Many of them wore their hair just as wildly as Xi Wang Mu.

The importance of female Wu suggests that prehistoric Chinese shamanism was practiced exclusively or at least also by women. The importance of the shamanistic goddess Xi Wang Mu as well as the fact that no male god in China is even nearly as shamanistic as Xi Wang Mu is characterized, is also an indication of the original femininity of shamanism.
 
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Jul 2016
9,521
USA
#14
My suggestion that these myths are based on observation of real animals and on psychological mechanisms that are universal (i.e. common to all humans) has a much lower complexity of prerequisites and is therefore a better example of Occam's razor.
So for you the simplest answer is that dragons existed?
 
Nov 2016
882
Germany
#15
Right you are. Basically, the word dinosaur in Japanese (and presumably in Chinese and Korean) means "a fearful dragon".
This can already be guessed from the fact that the word for dinosaurs has two parts, one of which is the word for dragon, so the composed word is derived from the simple one.

Japanese: りゅう [ryū ] — きょうりゅう [kyōryū ]
Chinese: 龙 [lóng ] — 恐龙 [kǒnglóng]
Korean: 용 [yong ] — 공룡 [gongnyong ]
 
Aug 2013
158
Finland
#16
The witch topic is OT, but I say only one thing about it here. I agree with most you say, but you are understating the church´s role by far, I think.
I did not mean to understate it, only to point out that during the medieval period the catholic church as an organisation was definitely a voice of reason regarding witches.

Once the events that brought about the end of the power monopoly the catholic church had over western Europe, like the black death, the renaissance ideas of humanism and the reformation there was an unfortunate direction change regarding witches. Although protestants were the more eager witch-burners overall.

But this is indeed OT so let's continue talking about dragons instead :)

The thread opener includes Asia in the question, so we can also address this region.
Yes I was more limiting the area of my own reply since that concerned prosecution of witches (mainly women) and people who were otherwise seen as sexual deviants (mainly men), which definitely I think has nothing to do with Asian dragons, but for which I am open to the idea that there might be some common conceptual ground with dragons.

Witches (and sorcerers) and dragons in a sense represent something spiritual which is outside the control of the church. This makes anyone associating themselves with these powers automatic heretics. Dragons in the medieval period represented magic from the old pre-christian world where pagan deities were the enemy. Witches represented magic from the new christian world, where the devil was the enemy.

But I must say that I've never heard of or thought about the idea that dragons would represent something that was specifically feminine in Europe. The Norse dragons were for sure not feminine, so this must them be a specifically christian viewpoint?
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,586
#18
Most likely, yes.

One doesn't necessarily need to dig into the ground to find fossils as erosion quite often does the work. Some of the major discoveries in paleontology came about from fossils that were found exposed on the surface.

Ancient peoples also did mine for various metals or stone, and either one could have turned up fossils. People almost certainly have been finding the fossilized remains of various prehistoric animals for thousands of years before any scientists correctly identified the species those bones belonged to.

Myths about giants likely have similar origins as dragons.

I can't recall now where I read it, but awhile back I remember reading something about a temple in one of the ancient Greek cities that supposedly housed the bone of a giant or some other mythological creature. While it is possible the relic was a complete fake, a far more likely explanation is that the Greeks found part of a fossil from some prehistoric beast and simply didn't understand what they had found.

Ancient myths about global floods likely originated at least in part, from fossilized sea creatures that were found far inland.
 
Nov 2016
882
Germany
#19
So for you the simplest answer is that dragons existed?
Is that a joke question?

The dragon of Marduk is more akin to the Asian dragon.
As I wrote, Asian dragons are as a rule positively connoted while Tiamat is negatively connoted. I don´t see any similarity.

Ancient peoples also did mine for various metals or stone, and either one could have turned up fossils. People almost certainly have been finding the fossilized remains of various prehistoric animals for thousands of years before any scientists correctly identified the species those bones belonged to
But why is there no report at all in the ancient records about it, not even about a single case? Or do you know an example?

I already wrote that people's mythological imagination was enough to think up the craziest fantasy figures. It is not necessary to assume the discovery of fossils for the dragon fantasy.

(see also the example of the Egyptian fire-spitting serpent Wadjet in my reply below)

But I must say that I've never heard of or thought about the idea that dragons would represent something that was specifically feminine in Europe. The Norse dragons were for sure not feminine, so this must them be a specifically christian viewpoint?
I don't know what you're alluding to here with the "Christian viewpoint", it is certainly not mine, quite the opposite. Anyway, the fact that the Nordic snakes are male doesn't mean that mythological snakes in this region had always had this gender. We only know the traditions from historical times, but we don't know what it looked like in the centuries before. It is very likely that in the strongly patriarchal culture of this region there was a more original phase in which snakes mythologically had still female traits.

There is a precedent in Greece, regarding the Python serpent. Around 800 BCE, the sanctuary of Delphi, as excavation finds indicate, was erected on the remains of an archaic oracle sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Themis, who had taken over her function from her mother, the original oracle goddess Gaia, the earth goddess of the indigenous population and mother of the snake Python, who was female according to the oldest known Python myth, but was later transgendered.

The fact that snakes have originally female connotations has to do with their symbolic connection to the Great Goddess, who determined people's religious life globally in regionally different forms in early times. I have already mentioned the Daoist goddess Xi Wang Mu, who was associated with a dragon. It should be noted that she is the oldest deity in Daoism. Another primordial goddess in China is the snake goddess Nuwa, the mythological creator of humans. This shows how genuine the connection between snakes and women (or goddesses) is. The oldest snake deity in Egypt is Wadjet, a fire-breathing snake (attached to the king's forehead) that protects the empire from the enemies of Egypt. Tiamat in Babylonia is still the ´mother of all gods´, though transformed into an evil creature, thus she - a dragon - is conceptually the most genuine deity in Babylonian mythology.

Due to special historical circumstances, it was possible that originally female snake deities were attributed a male gender, as possibly in Scandinavia. This can no longer be analyzed in detail because such processes took place in the darkness of prehistory.
 
Last edited:
Apr 2017
707
Lemuria
#20
Is that a joke question?



As I wrote, Asian dragons are as a rule positively connoted while Tiamat is negatively connoted. I don´t see any similarity.
Tiamat is not even a dragon but a celestial body symbolized by a dragon. I'm talking about Mushkhushshu, which is serpentine like the Chinese dragon.
 

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