After the Mythic Imagination meeting last Thursday some of us stayed, which in this lovely group means to consider. We got to talking about the efforts to stamp out subsidized lunches for poor children in school, likewise food stamps and the general hysteria around people getting the healthcare they need. The people in the US Congress who are proposing these things have a wonderful healthcare plan paid for by the American taxpayer and are millionaires. What is this?
We considered the dragon. There he is, his huge bulk sprawled over the hoard. The smallest loss brings rage, retribution, fire and death. This is wealth as pure materiality. He cannot eat it, doesn’t even display it to other dragons, no trade, no movement of any kind. People who wish to return to the gold standard have this confusion, too. If you have a bizillion pounds of gold piled up with you on a desert island, it isn’t money. Money is currency – a current. It is only worth something in the process of exchange, the flow between.
Anyway, Dragons. The dragon that slays Beowulf was ‘snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup’*, which sounds an awful lot like the recent rantings of the venture capitalist Tom Perkins in the Wall Street Journal about the ‘persecution’ of the one percent being like the Holocaust. How odd. What is it like to be a dragon that this sort of comparison would make sense?
During the early part of a dragon’s adult stage it leaves its parents, greed driving it on to start a lair of its own…
Dragons, especially older ones, are generally solitary due to necessity and preference. They distance themselves from civilization, which they consider to be a petty and foolish mortal invention.
Although dragons’ goals and ideals vary among subspecies, all dragons are covetous. They like to hoard wealth, collecting mounds of coins and gathering as many gems, jewels, and magical items as possible…For a dragon, there is never enough treasure. Those with large hoards are loath to leave them for long… Dragons like to make beds of their treasure, shaping nooks and mounds to fit their bodies. By the time they mature to the great wyrm stage, hundreds of gems and coins are imbedded in their hides.**
The Norse dragon, Níðhöggr, gnawed at the roots of the Tree of Life, Ygrissil, the World Tree, as greed gnaws at the vessels through which flow the sustenance of life for everyone. An economy is an organization of the flow of resources. If any one part either dams up the flow too much or breaks the vessels through which currency flows (credit default swops anyone?), everything dies.
It is tempting to simply assign dragonness to the stealers of milk from children – and we should be clear-eyed about it – these people are sick with greed and fear. But that is not sufficient either as a description or a means of moving the dragon. We participate and have our own little dragon hoards, our own dragons. And somewhere in the hearts of the lunch-denying Scrooges, is a St George who knows that the dragons must not be permitted to eat the roots of the Tree of Life.
The Blake painting is of the Red Dragon in Revelations, looming over the Woman Clothed with the Sun, Standing on the Moon with Twelve Stars in Her Hair. He is waiting to devour the child she is about to give birth to. As strongly delineated into opposing qualities as the two beings are, Blake’s own perception about it was deep and subtle.
…I do not consider either the just, or the wicked, to be in a supreme state, but to be, every one of them, states of the sleep which the soul may fall into in its deadly dreams of good and evil, when it leaves Paradise following the serpent. – William Blake, A Vision of the Last Judgement
* JRR Tolkein in his newly published Beowulf translation
** research compiled by misticdragon