I have working recently on a presentation about dragons which I now share with groups and parties wherever there is interest.
My connection with dragon kind grew from a personal experience during my first practical introduction to shamanism – which was working with the horses of someone that I did not really know then but now I would call a good friend. At the end of a session I was left the message that “the dragons lie sleeping within the horses”.
I have carried that with me throughout my current journey of learning and enlightenment. In contemplating the “what are dragons?” question for my talks and workshops I have come a lot closer to understanding that statement and have been drawn back to my own personal muse, the great White Horse of Uffington. Those of you who have previously read my blogs will know of my love for this great Spirit.
But the journey starts in an exploration of myth and folklore, as well as the art of dowsing earth energies.
Beneath the icon image of the White Horse is the smaller yet no less enigmatic Dragon hill, a small and clearly constructed flat topped hill with a round circle of exposed chalk in its centre. It is separated from the horse by a strangely rippled valley called the manger. So why does this dragon beneath the horse? Intuition makes one wonder if it is some kind of viewing point – but that is not so because the horse is not clearly or fully visable from that point. Local topography really makes it impossible to properly see the horse from any point, in fact the only real view is possible from above. So what is happening here?
So let us look at what is known of the location.
Dowsers working with earth energies often refer to the lines or flows of energy that they observe as Dragon lines. We also read of Ley Lines, the ancient trackways rediscovered by Alfred Watkins in the 1920s. Both phenomena are present here. The hill lies on the Ridgeway an ancient trackway running thought so many sacred sites in that part of the England, including the monumental sites Avebury and Stonehenge. The famous St Michael line passes just to the south, the ancient which runs from St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall right through the heart of South-West/South of England right up to the Wash on the North Sea (Eastern coast). A line of Christian sites dedicated to St Michael (church atop Brentor/Glastonbury etc) – the great Christian dragon slayer was St Michael not our own George (the latter was by a comparison a small player).
There are actually two lines that weave around each other – the second being St Mary. And so we have a sacred duality laid out in the helix like interlacing of archetypal male and female energies in the landscape.
Recent dowsing work over the last 20 years by Gary Raglan Philips establish the Belinus line – a line which travels the North-South spine of old Albion, the Isle of Wight to northern tip of Scotland. This line passes straight through Uffington.
Dedications to St Michael throughout the world represent this suppression of the dragon – a suppression which most popularly understood to be the victory of the Christian light over the Pagan dark. It is widely recognised that early Christians christianized previous places of worship as it often proved challenging to take people way from such places of “power”.
And so the horse lies not only along this pathway of christianized sacred sites but actually proximate to the confluence of the ancient (Dragon) energies passing through this ancient land. And it is a place steeped in its own mythologies, tales which lie at the very heart of not just Old English, but Old English mythology Dragon myth.
Historically it is purported that the Horse was created in the 8th Century by Alfred to celebrate his Christian victory over through of the Pagan Danes that terrorised the good English folk. Though some dated evidence from the site and the nearby Uffington castle takes it much further back in time.
What I find interesting is why Alfred would have choose a stylized horse – bit is beak nosed – almost bird like. Certainly sitting atop its head one feels like one is sitting on a beast of the air not the land. This type of mixture feels more akin to the great creations of ancient myth – like the Chimera or Griffin. It is not of course the only merging of horse and bird – think of the winged horses such as Pegasus (there are numerous others out there when we did into equine myth – that’s another story!).
Ironically a horse which only a bird might observe. Maybe an offering the heavens – it has been suggested by some writers that it represents the constellation of Leo. Or something to only be viewed properly viewed in an out of body experience, which has very heavy shamanic overtones – remember our picture of this iconic form is only available to us courtesy of modern technology flight.
Returning to earth there is a circle of chalk on top – a spot where Dragon’s blood has been shed and that blood blighted the soil from bearing life – this was just the blood of any dragon, of course. According to legend, this was where St George famously carried out his act of heroism and so earned his Patron Saint status – albeit that it must have occurred as part of some bi-location stunt as he was actually busy gaining heroic notoriety in the middle-east – principally what is now Syria. Let’s face it myth is a wonderfully fluid medium.
Another tale has it as the burial site of Uther Pendragon – the father of Arthur – begot under the call of Merlin’s enchantment, an enchantment of creation which summoned the Dragon’s breath. Again the dragon raises its head beneath the horse.
Legend says that the horse leaves its location once a year to graze in the ‘Manger’ which lies below, running to the west of Dragon hill. Horse or whatever!
So what are we to make of all this?
If we immerse ourselves in wider dragon lore, i.e. we move beyond the fire-breathing, damsel grabbing and jewel hoarders of popular western myth we find very powerful elemental links. Perhaps what best describes the dragon is the embodiment of the powerful forces that shaped and breathed (and sustain) life into this planet we call home. A means of rationalizing natural events around them, or a manifestation of the energies they intuitively felt around them.
Modern humanity is very disconnected from the power and influence of these elements – they are something we have conquered –or believe we have. Defeated like the dragons, forgotten all but for occasional sudden shocks to the system. We have chosen to forget the animist reverence which once we chose to give life in the form of dragons.
We have disconnected from nature herself.
And this is where we come back to our horses. The horses offer us a connection back to nature herself. A connection to the dragon. It is our choice to facilitate that – it is our choice to open ourselves to the natural world, even in its current highly manipulated and manufactured form.
The White Horse of Uffington offers us the most literal clue. Its abstract representation in some ways making it an easier acceptance. The horses in our farms, barns and stables require a little more of an open mind.
Whichever the horses do connect us with that which is nature – even if we only chose to accept it at a superficial level. Nature is always there, just because we disregard her she does not disappear; she is always at worst a slumbering memory.
And if we accept the the dragon as an embodiment of elemental natural forces, then maybe just our title is correct, the dragons lie sleeping beneath the horses!
(c) The Mindful Horse, 2016