In the book Warrior Woman, by Maxine Hong Kingston, I found one of the most compelling descriptions of dragons I have yet come upon in a book. It was an exciting find for me and I wish to share it here.
Dragons are one of the unknowable knowables. If someone tells you they know about dragons, be skeptical, because they are a mystery and must remain that way. The more you think you know them, the less you understand them. It is like wiping up oil with oil, all you get is more oil.
I have worked with dragons on mountains who seem to be one with the mountain as well as separate from it at the same time. I have seen dragons in divinations as ancient beings guarding the original fire of the universe, a dragon’s eye as the consciousness of the Earth, comets as dragons, water dragons, Earth dragons, fire dragons, air dragons, cloud dragons. I have made offerings to all these dragons and felt intimate with them and yet, I still do not know dragons at all.
In my book Notes from a Diviner in the Postmodern World, I wrote this of dragons:
“Dragons exist in all realms to hold the consciousness of the Nyamping (the old old ones), keepers of the fire, in all realms. Dragons are a “spark” of this Original Fire. Therefore, dragons are in all the elements (fire, water, Earth, mountain, wild). Our soul/consciousness is also a spark of this Original Fire. Each of us is associated with a certain element, and this where this dragon (spark) lives within us”(ND 32).
In the book, Warrior Woman, Maxine Hong Kingston is retelling the story of Fa Mu Lan, a famous warrior woman, swordswoman of China who is taken into the forest by an elderly couple who train her in the arts of Warriors. Kingston writes:
“After I returned from my survival test, the two old people trained me in dragon ways, which took another eight years. …Tigers are easy to find but I needed adult wisdom to know dragons. ‘You have to infer the whole dragon from the parts you can see and touch,’ the old people would say. Unlike tigers, dragons are so immense, I would never see one in its entirely. But I would explore the mountains, which are the top of its head. ‘These mountains are also like the tops of other dragons’ heads,’ the old people would tell me. When climbing the slopes, I could understand that I was a bug riding on a dragon’s forehead as it roams through space, its speed so different from my speed that I feel the dragon solid and immobile. In quarries I could see its strata, the dragon’s veins and muscles; the minerals, its teeth and bones. I could touch the stones the old woman wore—its bone marrow. I had worked the soil, which is its flesh, and harvested the plants and climbed the trees, which are its hairs. I could listen to its voice in the thunder and feel its breathing in the winds, see its breathing in the clouds. Its tongue is the lightning. And the red that lightning gives to the world is strong and lucky—in blood, poppies, roses, rubies, the peony, the line alongside the turtles’ eyes and the mallard’s. In the spring when the dragon awakes, I watched its turning in the rivers.
The closest I came to seeing a dragon whole was when the old people cut away a small strip of bark on a pine that was over three thousand years old. The resin underneath flows in the swirling shapes of dragons. ‘If you should decide during your old age that you would like to live another five hundred years, come here and drink ten pounds of this sap,’ they told me. ‘But do not do it now. You’re too young to decide to live forever.’ The old people sent me out into thunderstorms to pick the red-cloud herb, which grows only then, a product of dragon’s fire and dragon’s rain. I brought the leaves to the old man and old woman, and they ate them for immortality.
I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes. Pearls are bone marrow; pearls come from oysters. The dragon lives in the sky, oceans, marshes, and mountains; and the mountains are also its cranium. Its voice thunders and jingles like copper pans. It breathes fire and water; and sometimes the dragon is one, sometimes many”(WW 28-29).
Long live the mystery of the dragons.
©Theresa C. Dintino 2019
Dintino, Theresa. Notes from a Diviner in the Postmodern World: A Handbook for Spirit Workers, (Wise Strega Books, 2016)
Hong Kingston, Maxine. Warrior Woman: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts, (N.Y.: Random House 1975)
Theresa C. Dintino is an ancestral Strega (Italian wise woman), Earth worker, and initiated diviner in the West African Dagara tradition. For more than 20 years Theresa has studied and practiced an Earth-based spirituality. She currently helps others reclaim their personal lineages through her divination work. Theresa is the author of seven books which include her Tree Medicine Trilogy. Learn more about her books here.