Grieving Slain Dragons

animal spirit celtic spirituality shamanism story

The last few weeks I’ve awoken with the moonrise – really the only quiet time in our house (if you ignore the snoring dog and romping kittens.) I have been experiencing a heavy grief, finally ready to move. Nestled in my belly for decades, its emerging as parenting peels away layers of youthful distraction. Sitting in the glossy moonlight I finally get to show up for whats been gnawing at me, taking away my sense of centeredness lately.

This is when meditation training from my twenties comes back to me, so valuable. My attention dances away – return to the feelings I tell myself, pull back, go in … yes – there it is. Just feel it, thats all you have to do, be present. Its a slippery process, like balancing a bowling ball on a handful of icecubes. Slowly though there is a release, the terrain opens up, revealing forests and fjords in my heart I never suspected existed. I see Dragons nesting there after the sorrow lifts. They’ve been waiting all this time.

I began to notice that all the Dragons were gone from the Western world when I was very young. People talked about them, but it was always connected to children’s stories or movies. The concrete canyons that made up my hometown were a written testament to their banishment. Surely no Dragon could survive in SLC Utah, still I was as certain then, as my son is now, that they flew the Earth once.



Salt Lake was always a place rich in soul for me, not the kind of transcendent-soul you might imagine in a town so steeped in LDS culture, but the more tangible soul that blossoms in cracks in sidewalks. For those of us living there without the official “I belong” membership of the dominant culture there was a space begging to be filled with something, anything. It could have been a burgeoning punk scene, a radical community theater, or an avant garde dance company. Maybe thats why I tended to sniff out things like missing Dragons. Things are never what they seem, Utah proved that to me time and time again.

I recently read a story written by someone who grew up in Sugarhouse Park, sort of a small town within the small town that was SLC back then. Sugarhouse was always a treat to ride our bikes out to with its candy stores, and the kind of library that feels more like someone’s home than the cavernous institutional libraries of the surrounding world. Turns out there were quite a few polygamist families living there.

In one small house, according to the story, a husband would gather with his three wives around the kitchen table for talk and their Friday night ritual: sharing a quart of beer.

That story hit me on so many levels – that I could have been there, riding my bike past their house. That they drank beer, that they shared it together. Four glasses, one marriage, one heart. The really sweet part was the secret within a secret. Not only were they a polygamist family (a BIG secret in the SLC/LDS world), but they were a polygamist family that drank beer together every Friday evening (likely a HUGE secret within their polygamist world – I can only guess). Double agents… triple agents!

Polygamists drinking beer in Sugarhouse on a Friday night… that was the real Utah. Knights slaying Dragons … hardly, there was something else going on.

Like some kids growing up in the cracks of our edificed world, I developed an awareness of what was missing, what the concrete was trying to hide and hold back. We spend so much time hiding from our soul-filled wildness. There were many casualties, some I was quite close to.

As I got older I found new ways to explore those spaces. One of my favorite memories is of walking with my friend Stephen through our suburban neighborhood at 1am just after a heavy snowfall remade the world into a place of new mysteries. We both plugged in to the same walkman, Vivaldi was playing, and soaked up the joy of untrodden snow, darkness and epic music as we wandered for miles. I learned that the world could transform itself, close around you in ways nobody really understood in just the blink of an eye.

Sitting in the moonlight, that appreciation for dark streets that open up to new experiences serves me well. Its so important to be unafraid of the empty spaces each of us are home to. When we’re willing to traverse them, fill them with our spirits, we become so much more grounded here. We also create opportunities to make new friends, Dragon friends.

When the last Dragon was slain, what treasures died with it?

As an adult I learned that the slaughter of our most powerful nature beings was a marker for the ending one age and beginning another. There are terminus points in the Celtic world, moments when an indigenous history ended and a Christian colonial history began. That final death meant letting go of a lexicon of culture to allow another to be born.

But in order to truly end an age the identity of Dragons had to be transformed as well. In many other cultures they are powerful nature beings, capable of compassionate support of human beings. According to some they still thrive as expressions of the divinity and the myrthe of life. Vidoes of Dragon sightings in Asia are posted to youtube. The Bhutanese people are known as being descended from Thunder Dragons, what an extraordinary identity to carry forth into the world.

To finally destroy them in our culture they first had to be painted as physically real, then evil, then slain, replacing many Gods with one God. But if Dragons are larger forces of nature, they cannot be slain anymore than you could kill the rain or wind.

The problem with slain Dragons is that they’re not gone, we have just lost the soul part necessary to see them.

It came to me slowly, year after year of offering healing work shifted my experience of our souls. Its not that I hadn’t seen peoples energy before, its that I had no sense of its tangibility. Thats what happens in shamanism, the intangible becomes tangible in its own way. You begin to understand spirit and this world. You know that perception is always there for almost all peoples, its just we Westerners who’ve blinded ourselves.

There is a reason that virtually every human community has had some concept of spirit, that spiritual presence was one of the essential threads of all relationships. Spirit as a tangible presence in daily life was not just delusion, it was based in direct experience. Our Western notions of spirit, if they exist at all, center around a transcendent soul that belongs to the hereafter. We have become desensitized to its presence, century after century of disconnected living.

That loss of presence brings with it many other losses too, there is a hefty price to pay. It carves chasms in our inner landscape as our way of life cuts huge swaths through the natural world. Our inability to reckon with our tangible souls and those of the natural world wreaks extraordinary destruction. We sit at the beginning of the age in which we, the main beneficiaries of our world-consumption, will reap the harvest of our blindness.

As I sit in the moonlight I’m able to receive some those feelings of loss, to begin to digest my small portion of this harvest. The cauldron of grief that was filled in the first part of my life is ready to transform. The gift: in its place, the yearning to connect to the Earth fills me like a warm loaf of bread. Grief surrounding a rebirth.

Somewhere a Dragon, a Selkie, a Sidhe and a Shaman are all sitting down on a Friday evening, sharing a quart of beer.

There will always be those of us who flourish in the cracks, but ultimately we have to outgrow those limited spaces, claim our own terrain, share our experiences. That can be difficult, savage at times, filled with overwhelming grief over the feelings of alienation. But then again, who among us gets to sit on a Friday evening and share a quart of beer with the likes of Dragons, Selkie and Sidhe? Its always good to be Pagan on a Smahain night!

We have to start carving out a space in this world, perhaps somewhat secretively, where our Dragon allies can flourish again.

I’ve already experienced my connection with Dragons in dreams and journeys to the lower world, lately I’ve been meeting them in the middle-world. I have known others who had deep connections to Dragons, I’ve seen their spirits moving in this world. I thought it would be good to connect with surviving Dragons here, visit them to see if I can understand what our relationship used to be like, what it could mean now. I need to know how we’ve abandoned them, what restitution might be paid.

A Power Animal took me to meet a Dragon in the British isles, this Dragon was so settled, so unrecognized it appeared as stone to me. Upon approaching, grief arose again, but I was ready for it. I couldn’t tell if it was my grief or the Dragons grief or just a feeling arising from the land. After greeting the Dragon it slowly came to life and began talking about healing my relationship with the land.

“You and your people need to dance to raise the power of the land, to feel your connection to it. You need to dance to restore your connection to the land. Dance to bring the power of the land back to the people.”

I worked with my Power Animal to offer this Dragon healing. I was directed to work at brittle places where the land was most dense. In doing so I was also being healed. I saw myself as a young dancer, frightened to step into the world, not knowing how I would make my way there, feeling so unwelcomed. Perhaps the Dragon felt the same, unwelcome in this age, frozen.

Sitting up after that journey, putting my hands on the land, I felt the power of a greater presence enfold me, I was within an enormous Dragon. All the land around me was a Dragon, and I living unawares inside it, always. Unwrapping my grief restored some part of my sight, allowing me to feel the world anew.

What if you were within a Dragon, right now,

sitting in your cubicle, at home with your family, in your car?

What if the land itself was a vast Dragon spirit and you were in her belly – held there with grace, always.

Yes – right now – just so.

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