Dragons and dinosaurs.

Aug 2013
155
Finland
#22
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.
I made this comment in the context of an original statement of yours: "The medieval fear of dragons is psychoanalytically seen as a symptom of the male fear of the female, which was extremely pronounced in the Middle Ages as an effect of clerical sexual hostility and reached its absolute climax in the sexual-sadist practices of witch persecution".

Since I have never heard or thought of the medieval concept of dragons specifically being feminine, I just wondered where it came from. The only pre-christian european dragons I really know anything about are the norse ones, but since those are male, I was wondering if that meant that dragons were seen as female by the christian church or if they picked that up from some older European tradition, like with so many traditions.

In The Adventure of Lludd and Llefelys (The Adventure of Lludd and Llefelys) there are two dragons of unspecified gender. I browsed through some variants of Saint George and the Dragon and there also the dragon's gender is unspecified. So while it could indeed be that the original dragon/serpents in mythologies and stories were female, at least it doesn't from my very limited research seem to mean that the dragons in the medieval stories were portrayed as specifically female. If the dragon stories should be seen as some kind of step in the continuation of the "male fear of the female" that leads into the witch hunts, should the stories from the time then not depict the dragons as female?

I don't disagree with the overall statment about clerical sexual hostility against women at all, but I have trouble seeing dragons in the middle ages as a part of that. I think the dragons could just as well represent Satan (who is male), like the snake in the Adam and Eve story does.

When looking for some dragon stories, I also found in Wikipedia (Dragon - Wikipedia) a mention about a story of a Chinese emperor being given a male and a female dragon as a reward.
 
Nov 2016
778
Germany
#23
Since I have never heard or thought of the medieval concept of dragons specifically being feminine, I just wondered where it came from
Due to time constraints, I'll go into the rest of your article later.

As far as the quoted passage is concerned, it should be borne in mind that according to psychoanalysis the motives of attitudes, actions and feelings are in many cases highly or completely unconscious. In my opinion, this also applies to the aforementioned medieval fear of dragons. The fact that they are masculine on the surface does not rule out that they represent something feminine for the unconscious, precisely because snakes and dragons were genuinely associated with the feminine, as the history of myths, I believe, proves unambiguously (I have given examples). Please remember that the first mythological dragon killing, the murder of Tiamat by Marduk, was directed against a female dragon (as I mentioned in my first reply). This should be an additional indication that the killed dragons in the Middle Ages also, unconsciously, stand for the feminine, even if they are shown as male.

More about this later.
 
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Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
33,770
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#24
The curious thing is the way dragons and dinosaurs are named in Asian languages.
Japanese: りゅう [ryū ] — きょうりゅう [kyōryū ]
Chinese: 龙 [lóng ] — 恐龙 [kǒnglóng]
Korean: 용 [yong ] — 공룡 [gongnyong ]
That's easily explainable.

They already had a word for dragon. When dinosaurs were discovered, they needed a native word to call these animals. so they made one up that comprised the existing word "dragon", that dinosaurs resembled.

The Japanese word literally means "scary dragon" - compare "terrible lizard" (dinosaur).
 
Aug 2013
155
Finland
#25
As far as the quoted passage is concerned, it should be borne in mind that according to psychoanalysis the motives of attitudes, actions and feelings are in many cases highly or completely unconscious. In my opinion, this also applies to the aforementioned medieval fear of dragons. The fact that they are masculine on the surface does not rule out that they represent something feminine for the unconscious, precisely because snakes and dragons were genuinely associated with the feminine, as the history of myths, I believe, proves unambiguously (I have given examples). Please remember that the first mythological dragon killing, the murder of Tiamat by Marduk, was directed against a female dragon (as I mentioned in my first reply). This should be an additional indication that the killed dragons in the Middle Ages also, unconsciously, stand for the feminine, even if they are shown as male.
Since today is a very slow day at work, I found a page of serpent-slaying gods and saw if I could find out something about what gender the serpents are. I started from the top of Storm gods and Serpents and then ran out of steam before the end, but hopefully this is a good enough list of examples.

Krishna vs Kaliya - Kaliya is male (Kaliya - Wikipedia)
Indra vs Vritra - Vritra is male (Vritra - Wikipedia)
Vishnu vs Ananta-Shesha - Ananta Shesha is male (Shesha - Wikipedia)
Tarhunt vs Illuyanka - Illuyanka's gender is unspecified (Ancient Dragon Myths: Tiamat, Yam and Illuyanka)
Apep vs Ra / Atum vs Apophis / Set vs Apep - Apep/Apophis is the same evil male dragon (Apep (Apophis) | Ancient Egypt Online)
Horus vs Sobek - Not sure if this really counts as Sobek was a crocodile? Also male (Sobek - Wikipedia)
Zeus vs Typhon - Typhon is male (Typhon - Wikipedia)
Thor vs Jörmungandr - Jörmungandr's gender is unspecified even if I could find some references to it as a he (Thor vs. the Midgard Serpent - Kevin Shau - Medium)
Marduk vs Tiamat - Tiamat is female as already made clear in the thread
Hadad vs Têmtum - Têmtum and Lôtān seems to be variants of the same creature. Têmtum is referred to as female in one source I could find: (Creation and Destruction)
Baʿal vs Lôtān - See above, if Têmtum is basically Lôtān, then Lôtān is female too.
Teshub vs Illuyanka/Heddamu - Teshub seems to be Tarhunt from above and therefore Illuyanka is the same too (gender unspecified)

My assumption was that if dragons an serpents in myths represent the feminine, then I would find that at least the majority of the examples of the serpents would turn out to be female.

But I ended up with 6 males, 3 females and 3 unspecified. Considering these seem to be variants of some very old common myth, where a storm god battles a serpent or dragon and the storm god is in every case I found male, the fact that the myths differ on the gender of the serpent is interesting. Maybe the serpent was in some original myth indeed female but in subsequent variations changed to male - however this would have happened very early on, at least a millennium before the middle ages.

Since there doesn't seem to be a consistent continuum of the serpent or dragon as female for at over a thousand years prior to the middle age, I don't really see how the gender of the Tiamat could anymore be seen as an indication that the dragon would unconsciously stand for the feminine in say Saint George and the Dragon. Would such an unconscious concept that the male dragons are really females survive over such a timespan? How would this unconscious idea be transferred across generations?
 
Nov 2016
778
Germany
#26
Since there doesn't seem to be a consistent continuum of the serpent or dragon as female for at over a thousand years prior to the middle age, I don't really see how the gender of the Tiamat could anymore be seen as an indication that the dragon would unconsciously stand for the feminine in say Saint George and the Dragon. Would such an unconscious concept that the male dragons are really females survive over such a timespan? How would this unconscious idea be transferred across generations?
The fact that most of the dragon stories handed down are about male dragons is probably due to the fact that patriarchy has gained control over almost all societies for several thousand years. It can therefore be assumed that older myths or dragon ideas with female connotations have largely been forgotten or rewritten into the masculine. I have already mentioned the example of the Python of Delphi (first female, then male). Therefore your statistics, as interesting as they are, have no deeper significance, they only show the extent of the overwriting of older (female connotated) dragon myths by patriarchal mythographs.

Now you might ask why these changes happened and why not all dragons were left female and why newly invented dragons were shown as male. Now, the motif that generally lies behind the killing of a dragon is, from a psychoanalytical view, the hatred against the feminine or better, against a special form of the feminine. This hatred is connected with the fear that the feminine is a threat to males if one gives it free play. The Tiamat myth, in which the dragon stands for chaos, is the best example of this. Assuming, then, that in earlier patriarchal cultures (not in Asia) the dragon appeared as a symbol of the dangerousness of the feminine, the fear it caused could certainly have led to the elimination of the femininity of the dragon, because otherwise it would have appeared too terrible. So the dreaded feminine was repressed and reversed (psychoanalytically: ´inverted´), and now appears in male mask, which makes it better to endure.

Here one can point to a similar displacement in the Genesis myth where the negativity of the woman is not shown directly, but as a result of the influence of the snake on Eve, the woman. Of course, here too the snake stands for the infamous feminine, which is not directly identified with Eve, because such identification would cause too much fear of the dreaded feminine, so the fear is alleviated by splitting the feminine into Eve AND snake. Instead of such splitting, the reduction of fear in the dragon myth is done by the inversion of the gender of the fiend.

As for the story about St. George and the dragon (whose gender is not, as far as I know, defined), you ask what this dragon has to do with the idea that, as I claim, killing dragons is unconsciously caused by hatred of women.

I have already indicated above that hatred is directed less against the feminine than against a particular form of the feminine. The patriarchal image of women is split, distinguishing between the good and the bad woman, or more precisely, the good and the bad mother, in the way toddlers experience their mothers in the first months (about half a year, according to psychoanalyst Melanie Klein). Good mother means: experiences of fulfillment, bad mother means: experiences of frustration. Melanie Klein speaks more precisely of the good and the bad breast, which can be internalized by the child as separate objects and projected onto various female figures in adult life. As examples I mention (1) the hatred of women which swept through the Middle Ages, as it happened with Thomas Aquinas and many theologians, and was reflected in devastating writings (examples I have mentioned), and (2) the exuberant Marian worship, which in the same centuries led to the fact that the population valued her almost higher than the figure of Jesus.

A very similar split exists in the St. George myth, where a distinction is made between a beautiful virgin and the terrible dragon. The dragon stands for the evil mother (breast) and the virgin for the good mother (breast).

For today this should be enough.
 
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Nov 2016
778
Germany
#28
Humans ( and monkeys too ) have an innate fear of snakes.
Even so, snakes were symbolically associated with many female goddesses in ancient times and seen as positive beings. Here is an example from the Minoan culture on Crete from around 1,500 BCE (a snake goddess):

1562178320856.png

An example from India:

1562178603813.jpeg
 
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Aug 2013
155
Finland
#29
I have already indicated above that hatred is directed less against the feminine than against a particular form of the feminine. The patriarchal image of women is split, distinguishing between the good and the bad woman, or more precisely, the good and the bad mother, in the way toddlers experience their mothers in the first months (about half a year, according to psychoanalyst Melanie Klein). Good mother means: experiences of fulfillment, bad mother means: experiences of frustration. Melanie Klein speaks more precisely of the good and the bad breast, which can be internalized by the child as separate objects and projected onto various female figures in adult life. As examples I mention (1) the hatred of women which swept through the Middle Ages, as it happened with Thomas Aquinas and many theologians, and was reflected in devastating writings (examples I have mentioned), and (2) the exuberant Marian worship, which in the same centuries led to the fact that the population valued her almost higher than the figure of Jesus.

A very similar split exists in the St. George myth, where a distinction is made between a beautiful virgin and the terrible dragon. The dragon stands for the evil mother (breast) and the virgin for the good mother (breast).
This is interesting speculation, but in order for me to accept that there is some kind of truth to it, I would prefer to see some actual evidence that such a shift really took place or that the medieval writers really saw the dragon this way.

So far we have determined that at least as far back as the earliest myths for which there is written evidence, we can see some kind of shift from male heroes (storm gods in many cases) slaying female gods which have a serpent form to the male heroes slaying male serpents instead. This at least for a timeline of myths that starts from Mesopotamia and continues to medieval Europe. It could indeed be that this change was coming from a change in sensibilities that somehow males slaying female gods was somehow not ethical, or that such powerful beings as these serpents could not be female, they had to be male, which I understand to be your position.

But it could also be a false timeline in the first place. The cultures that spread around Europe were Indo-European. Meanwhile Sumerian has been classified as a language isolate and Akkadian as a Semitic language. So I don't really see it as a given that somehow the female serpents just shifted to male. It could also be that the Indo-European myths intermingled with local myths in Mesopotamia and spread from there into Europe.

In the Indo-European myths we have the storm god, who is male (Perkwunos - Wikipedia) and slays a dragon, whose PIE name has not been reconstructed but was called Veles in slavic mythology (Veles (god) - Wikipedia). This story is then told again and again in later Indo-European cultures (Proto-Indo-European mythology - Wikipedia). Even in Mesopotamia there is a Sumerian (pre-Babylonian) deity Ninurta that seems to be earlier than Marduk who slays both a dragon and a seven-headed serpent, neither of which is Tiamat (Ninurta - Wikipedia). These variants of the dragons are either male (like Veles) or seem to be just beasts of unspecified gender.

So one possible timeline is that the story of the hero god killing the serpent does not originate in Mesopotamia at or that even if it does, Tiamat is not the original serpent in the story. Either way, I see enough open questions to not just accept as truth the story that the original dragon was always female, and then the patriarchy for one reason or the other consciously changed the dragon to male.

Even if this story was true, I also have problems with accepting that somehow the ancient shift in gender still affected writers a millennium or more later and they still really unconsciously still saw dragons as feminine even when they were written as either male or just beasts. The only possible way I can see that happening if it's somehow connected to the fact that the word for snake is feminine in at least some gendered Indo-European languages (e.g. die Schlange in German). But then again dragon is masculine (e.g. der Drachen or der Lindwurm) as are various words for demons, devils and monsters so even that seems quite shaky.
 
Apr 2017
700
Lemuria
#30
Humans ( and monkeys too ) have an innate fear of snakes.
Yes, I come from a place where there are no snakes but being surrounded by snakes is one of my recurring nightmares. However I have no such fear of spiders, which can be deadly. When I'm awake, I virtually have no fear of snakes. I'm actually fascinated by them.
 
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