Sunday 8 July 2012

Taming the Mighty Dragon

Many cultures viewed the Dragon as a benevolent being, especially in the East where they held the belief that mighty Dragons once ruled the rivers, lakes, seas and skies. Dragons were well respected and even worshiped, especially in the agrarian settlements, for the welfare of men depended on the kindness of these supreme entities. The quantity of folklore that was spanned from their rich imagination has delighted generations of children.



In ancient times it was the province of the immortals to intercede on behalf of humanity with the raw power of nature symbolized by the Water Dragon.

Once upon a time in ancient India the people of a small kingdom, being incited by a demon, went on a rampage against the Buddhists and their monasteries. In the mayhem of destruction, some even stooped to steal the Buddhist sutras.

The Dragon King of the undersea, outraged by the unruly behavior of these humans, punished them all, the innocent as well as the guilty, by flooding their entire kingdom. As he deemed them most unworthy of benefiting from the wisdom within the holy writings, he took custody of the sutras and stored them in his palace.

In time the repentant people, having suffered so long, wanted the sutras back but nothing would sway the Dragon King’s resolve.  It took an extraordinary being, Nantimitolo, to subdue the dragon guard and restore the sutras back to earth. Hence he became a Buddhist immortal: the Dragon Taming Lohan.









In modern times we are still entertained by accounts of Dragons in various visual and literary forms but we have also learned to harness falling water, the most powerful of the dwelling places of Dragons, to benefit mankind in yet another way: for what would man do today without the use of electricity?

These pictures tell the story of one such mighty waterfall, its might and how it has been tamed by mere mortals:












 Posted by Bo and Steve Caunce
The End.


Thursday 21 June 2012

The Dragon Boat Festival

The History of the Dragon Boat Festival 


In Canada we are a multicultural community and, as a result, we are richer by far in our human experiences. One such experience is the Dragon Boat Festival. I became aware of this some years back and, though I am not of Chinese origin, it has held my interest just the same. The festival may have started in China countless years ago but it is now an annual event celebrated throughout the world with participation from well over 40 countries. 

In Toronto, from the humble beginnings of the first Festival in 1989 with only 27 teams participating until the 24th Annual Dragon Boat Festival, the event has grown tremendously. This year there are teams from all over Canada, from the U.S, the Caribbean Islands, Europe and Asia. It will be held June 23-24, 2012 at Toronto Centre Island. They are anticipating about 180 to 200 teams, including 11 teams of individuals with physical and developmental challenges, to compete with over 5000 athletes. The festival has an added advantage of raising funds for charitable organizations, this year the beneficiary will be the Canadian Diabetes Association.





For those history buffs, here’s an additional succinct account of the Dragon Boat Festival in Canada:



“As early as 1945, the Vancouver Sun newspaper contains a story and picture of a dragon-adorned silver plaque presented to the Mayor of Vancouver by representatives of the republican government of China immediately following cessation of hostilities of World War II in the Pacific. The news story explains that because Vancouver was the North American gateway to Asia, it could be considered as the ideal city to host the first dragon boat race outside of Asia. The proposed post war dragon boat festival was compared to the Mardi Gras of New Orleans. Since 1946 was to be the Diamond Jubilee (60th Anniversary) of the city, it was suggested that a dragon boat festival be convened to mark this occasion. However, this would have to wait until the city's 100th anniversary in 1986 and the world transportation exposition. 
In 1992, the (final) British Governor of Hong Kong, Christopher Patton, presented a teak dragon boat to the Canadian Prime Minister of the day, Brian Mulroney, to mark the close cultural, social and business ties between Hong Kong and Canada. This craft is now part of the permanent collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec. Canada reciprocated by presenting a carved cedar totem pole crafted by British Columbia First Nations members. This symbol of friendship is displayed in a park in Hong Kong.” 
Several of the larger dragon boat events outside of Asia include Vancouver’s Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival in Toronto, Ontario, and the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival in Ottawa, Ontario. These three Canadian festivals each feature some 200 crew and are all held on a weekend close to the June Summer Solstice, in keeping with traditional Chinese dragon boat traditions.” 

In case you are unfamiliar of the origin of this 2000 year old event, here’s a brief summary: 

The pre-imperial Warring States period (475-221 BC) is considered a classical age in Chinese history, during which Confucius, Lao Tse and Sun Tzu lived and the classic military strategy “The Art of War” was written.  In this period, in the southern state of Chu (present day Hunan and Hubei provinces), there lived a most notable statesman Qu Yuan (Chu Yuan).  
The great poet Ch’u Yuan became a minister for King Huai of Ch’u as a young man. He was saddened by how the people had suffered from ceaseless war
He is still considered a champion of political loyalty and integrity, as he tirelessly tried to maintain the Chu state's autonomy and hegemony.
The alliance posed an effective deterrent to Ch’in’s ambition. It also earned Minister Ch’u more prestige giving him the right to oversee a wide spectrum of domestic and diplomatic affairs.


Because he was a most upstanding individual he became victim to the malicious slanders of other corrupt ministers and jealous bureaucrats’ who had the ear of the Emperor and had him banished.


 A group of Ch’u aristocrats led by Prince Tzu-lan became jealous of Ch’u. They often complained to King Huai of Ch’u's alleged arrogance and waywardness. Hearing more and more complaints,the king became less satisfied with his minister  


 While in exile however, he continued to write some of the greatest literature and poems, expressing his ardent loyalty and love for his state and divulging his deep concern for its precarious future. 


The poem was read by people in the Ch’u court, and was used by Tzu-lan and Chin Shang against Ch’u. They told King Huai that in the poem he was compared with a despotic ruler. The king was enraged and dismissed Ch’u Yuan from his official post


Then one day, in the year 278 B.C. upon learning of the imminent invasion by a neighbouring State (Qin), he did his best to warn his Emperor and countryman.


Chang explained that, among the six states, Ch’i and Ch’u were the strongest. Once discord was sown between these two, the anti-Ch’in alliance would fall apart. He offered to make a trip to see if he could take the advantage of Ch’u's internal confilict to undermine the alliance.
He still believed the king would see the truth, but he was no longer summoned. He was so depressed that he couldn’t sleep at night. 
Ch’u Yuan despaired. He rushed back to Yingtu to help reorganize the resistance against Ch’in.
The alliance with Ch’i failed soon after, and beginning with the 27th year of King Huai’s reign, Ch’u was repeatedly invaded by Ch’in.
Ch’u was upset. 


Having failed in his communication however, as a form of protest against the corruption of the era, he strode into the Miluo River holding a rock, committing a ritual suicide.


He walked along the river, cursing the enemy and the greed of politicians. He was determined to arouse his people’s patriotism and condemn those who had destroyed Ch’u State by taking his own life.
He took off his clothes, tied a rock to his waist, and plunged into the river. That day was the fifth day of the Chinese lunar calendar
This was his last resort to awaken Chu to the impending danger.

The ordinary folks upon learning of Qu’s heroic act, rushed out on the water in their fishing boats to try desperately to find him in time to save him. In desperate attempt, they beat the drums and splashed the water with their paddles to keep the evil spirits and fish away from claiming the poet’s submerged body. They sprinkled rice dumplings in to the river to feed the fish to deter them from gorging on Qu’s flesh. Then late one night the spirit of the poet appeared before his closest friends and told them that the rice offering was being intercepted by an enormous river dragon. He asked that they wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon. These “zongzi” or sticky rice wrapped in leaves (instead of silk) has been the official commemorative food ever since. 


Believing that the patriotic poet would enjoy eternal life, they would row dragon boats out on the river to look for him. Ch’u Yuan became a symbol of patriotism for the Chinese people.
Indeed, from that time on at the anniversary of Qu Yuan’s death, the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar, the ordinary citizens in commemoration of his memory have enacted this folk ritual, by means of Dragon Boat Races. The modern times this has evolved into an international sport event held in Hong Kong since 1976. The boats used today are traditionally made of teak wood. These very long, narrow, canoe-style vessels are usually adorned with carved ornamental heads and tails of dragons. The decorative regalia is absent during training but the drum is always present. Dragons are represented here because of the belief that they are the rulers of rivers and seas and dominate the clouds and rains of heaven. 

Another interesting Fact about the name: Dragon boat races were traditionally held as part of the annual Duanwu Festival or Duen Ng observance in China. Duen Ng falls on the fifth day of the fifth month, also referred to as “double fifth”. It’s determined to be so because of the combination of solar and lunar cycles which are different from Gregorian calendar, where it is placed during the month of June. During 19th century European observers of the racing ritual, not understanding the significance of Duen Ng, referred to the spectacle as a “dragon boat festival”. This is the term that has become known in the West.

(Note: The Emperor Qin Shi Huang of Qin (or Chin) kingdom did eventually conquer all of the other states including Chu and unified them into the first Chinese empire.)

Saturday 5 May 2012

The Death of Fafnir (Part II)

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The Death of Fafnir the Dragon 

Part II, click here for Part I

Sibling rivalry exists among families of every race, there is nothing new there. What is interesting, however, is when it also manifests among the Gods and Immortals of ancient lore.

It so happened that Regin the Dwarf was consumed with utter hatred for his brother Fafnir, who had stolen their Father’s gold as well as the cursed ring Andvaranaut. Curses being as they are, the ring influenced the two rival brothers Regin and Fafnir to form an unholy alliance in order to kill their father Hreidmar.

That’s right, but once its hold was set on Fafnir, the ring fanned the fires of Fafnir’s greed and bewitched him into driving his brother Regin away in order to have sole possession of the entire gold hoard called the Ottergild. And here the story takes on a typical turn for Fafnir’s avarice became insatiable; so overwhelming in fact that it gradually transformed the Dwarf into a mighty Dragon. In the form of a Dragon he easily secreted the hoard away into a cave on Glittering Heath and from then on stood guard over it, lest any get stolen.

Meanwhile back at his castle Regin’s heart burned with revenge as his mind was increasingly bent on one thing and one thing only; securing that gold hoard he so coveted.

About this time the foster-son of King Alf, Sigurd (also known as Sigfried) was sent to live with Regin. The Dwarf, recognizing the strong qualities in the boy, schemed to make him his instrument for enacting his odious revenge.

Sigurd (Sigfried) knew very little of his parentage, being the posthumous son of Sigmund (who had died attacking a disguised Odin) and Hiordis who then had married King Alf. Furthermore, his only patrimony was the shattered fragments of Sigmund’s sword. Embarking on his dire plan Regin first strove to make Sigurd resent and abjure Alf’s household but, because Alf was a fair foster-father and shared anything with Sigurd, this ploy failed miserably. Alf even gave his son the horse Grani, sired by Odin’s own horse, Sleipnir.

In a last-ditch effort, Regin pretended to take Sigurd into his confidence and, in an extended dramatic rendition, related to him the story of his own past and the treasure of the Ottersgild. Convinced of the unfairness of Fafnir’s theft, Sigurd agreed to help Regin retrieve his treasure.

Delighted, Regin at once turned his smithing skills towards forging a mighty weapon for Sigurd. Unfortunately, his first two attempts failed. Each time Sigurd tested them on Regin’s anvil the swords shattered. With extra diligence Regin incorporated the fragments of Sigmund’s sword and finally made a superb blade, Gram. When Gram was tested by Sigurd, it proved so powerful that it cut clean through the anvil dividing it into perfect halves. Success at last! Surely this would kill the Dragon!

Sigurd_VS_Fafnir_by_Relotixke
Once Regin had a sword capable of piercing the Dragon’s tough hide, the only problem remained was how to incapacitate the fearsome beast long enough for Sigurd to strike a death blow.
Adept at cunning, Regin then developed the plan of digging a pit on the path Fafnir took down to the brook near his cave on Glittering Heath, hiding in the pit then stabbing Fafnir as he passed over it. In order to absolve Sigurd of the crime of killing his brother, Regin proposed that if Sigurd would cut out the Dragon’s heart, which conferred power over all other men, roast it and feed it to him he would forgo the family’s vengeance. The naive Sigurd agreed.

Regin and Sigurd went out and quickly dug up the pit, but Regin being fearful, made a false pretence and left the Sigurd to face Fafnir alone while he, himself, retreated to safety. After Regin had gone Odin, disguised as an old man, visited Sigurd and told him that if he stayed in the pit he would be drowned by the vast flow of Dragon’s blood pouring out of Fafnir’s body. Odin advised him to dig trenches to drain the blood into holding pits and, after the Dragon was dead, bathe in the beast’s blood, covering his whole body with it so that his skin would gain the property of invulnerability. After Odin vanished Sigurd dug the trenches just as Odin had directed then lay down in the main one on the path to await the arrival of Fafnir.
Fafnir by the Creek by BoSt

The earth started shaking and a loud, fearsome, noise was heard over the Heath as Fafnir approached, snorting venom ahead of him. All this was for naught, however, for Sigurd was not afraid. As Fafnir crawled over the pit Sigurd thrust the enchanted sword Gram upwards with all his strength, aiming at the heart and burying it up to his shoulder in the body of the Dragon. As soon as the blow was delivered Sigurd drew out his sword and leapt out of the pit to get a safe distance away from the thrashings of the Dragon’s body.

Fafnir knew he had been dealt a killing blow but was intent on finding out the name of his slayer so that he could hurl his death-curse at him. He roared, “Who art thou that has done this deed? Who is thy father and what manner are thy kin that ye should come to bear weapons against me?” (Dragons were very formal when weaving curses).

Sigurd knew to avoid the curse and answered that he was born of neither man nor woman and had acted alone.

Fafnir, of course, saw through this and challenged him once more to tell the truth and Sigurd then gave his name and the name of his dead father. Fafnir then asked who had counseled him to attack him. Sigurd again denied that he had any help, whereupon the Dragon then wove a web of assertions and questions that gradually, through circumstantial evidence, drew the answer, unspoken, out of Sigurd. “So it was Regin, my brother, who has brought about my end! It gladdens my heart that he will bring about yours, too, and thus all things will have been shaped to his will.”

“I have reigned in terror over this Heath for many years, spewing out poison so none would come near, and no weapon would be drawn against me. I thought myself stronger than all, for all men were sore afraid of me.”

Sigurd answered, “Few may attain victory by means of terror, for whoever does so comes to discover that no one man is for long the mightiest of all.”

Seeing that Sigurd was going back towards his cave, Fafnir called out, “Ride to my lair, then, and you will find gold enough to last your entire life long, yet that very gold will be your undoing, and the bane of whosoever owns it.”

“If by losing that wealth I would be assured that I would never die, then I would gladly leave the gold where it lies, but every man is fated to die, and I would fain do so with your wealth at my command. You, however, shall wallow in thy death pain until Hel and Death take thee, and thy gold will do thee not good at all.”
siegfried_kills_fafnir_by_katepfeilschiefter-d35g5yc
And so Fafnir died.

Sigurd then went over to one of the holding pools where Fafnir’s blood had gathered, stripped off his armor and bathed in the rank fluid so that it covered his whole skin, except for a spot on his shoulder where a linden leaf had fallen and stuck to him. Once he became invulnerable, Sigurd cut out Fafnir’s heart and began to roast it over a fire as he had promised Regin he would. While the heart was cooking Sigurd got some of the Dragon’s blood on his finger and licked it off. To his surprise he found he could understand the language of birds and some other animals.

Listening to Odin’s ravens as they talked in the tree above him, Sigurd discovered that Regin had indeed plotted to kill him after eating the heart of the Dragon. Thereby having knowledge of the doom Regin had planned, he beheaded him with one stroke of Gram as soon as the Dwarf reappeared to claim his prize. Sigurd ate the roasted Dragon heart himself and gained the gifts of wisdom and prophecy.

As for the Ottersgild treasure, including the ring Andvaranuat, Aegishjalmr the Helmet of Awe, the Golden Byrnie (cuirass), and all its attendant curses, Sigurd took it north with him to Hindfell where he met Brynhild the Valkyrie and had another, much different, adventure of no interest to us as it has no Dragons in it. If you are somewhat interested, however, you may find it told in the Opera by Richard Wagner called The Ring of the Nibelungenlied.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Fafnir the Dragon (Part 1)


The Origin of Fafnir the Dragon


The story of Fafnir is the story of how craving after material wealth destroys those who indulge in it. In this story the Dragon, and the Dragon’s treasure, came to symbolize the power of Greed. Now the moral is out of the way, just sit back and enjoy a good tale out of Teutonic mythology.

Dwarves loved gold and riches, and Hreiðmarr and his three sons; Ótr, Fafnir and Regin were no exception. Fafnir was the strongest and most belligerent of the three brothers and the duty of guarding his father’s house, including with its store of gold and gems, fell into his strong arms. Ótr, meanwhile, roamed the land during the day in the guise of an otter. Unfortunately Ótr came across Odin (All-Father of the Æsir), Hœnir (who helped Odin create mankind), and Loki, the unpredictable, and often mischievous, Jötunn who were travelling through the domain of Hreiðmarr the Dwarf King. Loki threw a rock which killed the otter and all three skinned the animal and kept the pelt. That evening the Gods came to the castle of Hreiðmarr and, during the meal, brought the skin of his son Ótr out while Loki boasted of his hunting skills. Hreiðmarr was livid, and ordered his remaining two sons to seize Odin and Hœnir to be held as ransom while Loki was to bring back a ransom to atone for the death of Ótr.

Loki left the castle with the otter’s skin and the task of filling it with gold and covering the outside with red gold and went immediately to see the sea-goddess Ran. Loki borrowed Ran’s net, which she used to capture hapless mariners, and went to visit the dwarf Andvari. Andvari (‘careful one’) lived under a waterfall and could turn into a fish at will. Using the net of Ran Loki was able to catch Andvari in the form of a pike and demand his treasure as the price of his freedom. Andvari had amassed his large hoard of gold using the power of his magical ring Andvarinaut, and Loki made sure that the ring was also part of the deal. Andvari, however, was also gifted in magic and cursed the treasure so that whoever saw it would covet it, and further cursed the ring Andvarinaut so that it would bring about the death of any mortal who owned it. Loki presented the treasure to Hreiðmarr, who fell under the spell of the Ottergild (Otter’s Gold) and forgot all about his dead son. As soon as the ransom was accepted Loki, Odin and Hœnir left the castle without a moment’s delay.

No sooner than the Gods had left than Regin and Fafnir demanded a share of the treasure and, when Hreiðmarr refused to share it, joined together to kill their father. After this odious patricide the two sons still fought among themselves until Fafnir, the stronger of the two, drove Regin away and took the treasure, and the ring, for himself. As the ring’s curse worked on Fafnir he became more irritable and even more greedy, eventually moving the treasure into a cave on Glittering Heath to keep the gold safe. Little by little greed and malice grew in Fafnir, turning him into a fierce Dragon. Once he had fully turned into a Dragon Fafnir breathed poison onto the heath around him so that nobody would brave the wasteland to get near his treasure. Fafnir grew so terrible and mighty that all the populace around lived in fear of his rages.

Just because he was driven away by Fafnir, Regin did not in any way give up on trying to get the treasure and the ring back. He plotted and schemed for many years until he came up with a plan to obtain his revenge.

But that is a story to be told later …



Thursday 12 April 2012

Dragons in Africa: Aido-Hwedo

The Rainbow Dragon:
Aido-Hwedo of the Fon People of Dahomey





http://www.susanneiles.com/aido.html
African Dragons are more like serpents or giant snakes but they permeate the myths of the African tribes and even appear in the Egyptian pantheon as Apep (Apophis). The most accessible of the African Dragons is Aido-Hwedo of Dahomey in West Africa. Aido-Hwedo, a rainbow-coloured Dragon that is both male and female, was brought into being by the Creator God Nana-Buluku to serve as his companion and instrument in his Creation of the World. The Rainbow Dragon was the only being capable of travelling between Heaven and Earth and it carried the Creator God in its mouth as it passed between the two realms. It represents the link between the Sacred and the Secular.
While it was in the Heavens it bent across the sky as a rainbow arch and its droppings became mountains and fertile soil and its writhing passage formed the rivers and valleys.



Aido-Hwedo and the Red Monkeys by ~Flame-Shadow on deviantART
 Aido-Hwedo was so large it could hold up the entire world, but once the multitude of creation was done Nana-Buluku asked Aido-Hwedo to coil up beneath the land to cushion it. Aido-Hwedo cannot stand heat so the Creator made the ocean for the Dragon to live in (like the Midgard Serpent in Teutonic legend). Inhabiting the undersea with the Rainbow Dragon is a troop of red monkeys who forge the iron bars that are Aido-Hwedo’s food.











When the iron runs out and Aido-Hwedo grows hungry it will start to chew on its own tail. The earth above will become unbalanced, be struck by repeated earthquakes and eventually slide off the Dragon’s back into the sea.


The Aido-Hwedo myth still carries the resonance of its transcendent meaning into modern times, as can be seen by the poem by Audre Lorde:

Call
 But I must recover my spirit first…
Holy ghost woman
stolen out of your name
Rainbow Serpent
whose faces have been forgotten
Mother loosen my tongue or adorn me
with a lighter burden
Aido Hwedo is coming.

On worn kitchen stools and tables
we are piercing our weapons together
scraps of different histories
do not let us shatter
any altar
she who scrubs the capitol toilets, listening
is out sister’s youngest daughter
gnarled Harriet’s anointed
you have not been without honor
even the young guerilla has chosen
yells as she fires into the thicket
Aido Hwedo is coming.

I have written your names on my cheekbones
Dreamed your eyes flesh my epiphany
Most ancient goddesses hear me
enter
I have not forgotten your worship
nor my sisters
nor the sons of my daughters
my children watch your print
in their labors
and they say Aido Hwedo is coming.

I am a Black woman turning
mouthing your name as a password
through seductions self-slaughter
and I believe in the holy ghost
mother
in your flames beyond our vision
blown light through fingers of women
enduring warring
sometimes outside your name
we do not choose all our rituals
Thandi Modise winged girl of Soweto
brought fire back home in the snout of a mortar
and passes the word from her prison cell whispering
Aido Hwedo is coming.

We are learning by heart
what has never been taught
you are my given fire-tongued
Oya Seboulisa Mawu Afrekete
and now we are mourning our sisters
lost to the false hush of sorrow
to hardness and hatchets and childbirth
and we are shouting
Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer
Assata Shakur and Yaa Asantewa
my mother and Winnie Mandela are signing
in my throat
the holy ghosts’ linguist
one iron silence broken
Aido Hwedo is calling
calling
your daughters are named
and conceiving
Mother loosen my tongue
or adorn me
with a lighter burden
Aido Hwedo is coming.

Aido Hwedo is coming.

Aido Hwedo is coming.



Wednesday 4 April 2012

The Nine Dragon Wall

The Nine Dragon Wall


The first Ming Emperor of China declared that the five-taloned Dragon would be the symbol of only the Emperor with the four-clawed Dragon reserved for the Imperial Nobility and certain Officials of high rank, and the three-toed Dragon left for use by the general public and lower Officials. Other nations under Chinese suzerainty were directed to use only the lesser Dragons as well. Misuse of the yellow five-taloned Dragon was treason and resulted in the sure death of the offender and his entire clan.
The number nine is considered auspicious because it is the highest single digit number, and has connotations of extended time. Dragons were also associated with the number nine, as there were nine forms of Dragon and nine offspring of the Dragon King. Therefore it was only natural that nine Dragons became the symbol of the Emperor and his immediate court. The Emperor wore robes with nine Dragons on them (with one Dragon hidden from general view) and his Officials wore nine Dragon robes under a surcoat.

Nine Dragon Wall in the Forbidden City:


The Architectural symbol of the Emperor’s power was the Nine Dragon Wall, and many of these walls were built in Imperial compounds throughout China. The three most famous are the wall in the Forbidden City, constructed in 1772 for the Emperor QuinLong, the wall in Beihai Park, and the Nine Dragon Wall in Datong.
Nine Dragon Wall in Beihai Park, built in 1756:


Luckily, for those of us who do not live in China, there is a Nine Dragon Wall in North America in the City of Mississauga just outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The Nine Dragon Wall in Mississauga, Ontario:



This wall, in many ways similar to the one in Beihai Park, is made of seven-coloured ceramic tile, and depicts nine five-taloned Dragons. It, too, is 27 meters long and 5 meters high, smaller than the Forbidden City wall.  We are very fortunate that this wall has been built so near to us so we can enjoy it in its entirety, even getting up right next to the ceramics.

The Nine Sons of the Dragon King (with no relation to the images on the wall) are:



Chiwen: seen on top of things. If you look at the roof-ridge of a building, his image is often carved there so he can gaze into the distance and provide early warning.

Baxia: found near water. His image will be carved on bridges and arches leading to piers so that he can take a swim when he likes and protect the traveler from the water.
Pulao: fond of his own voice and likes to roar, so his image is carved on bells.
Bixi: actually has a tortoise shape, but is considered to be one of the dragon legends. The Bixi is an excellent pack-animal whose image appears on panniers. Bixi are represented on the sides of grave-monuments and are frequently carved as the base for important memorials.
Qiuniu: loves music and adorns bridge of stringed musical instruments.
Suanni: fond of smoke and fire, so he twines up the legs of incense-burners. Suanni, who like to sit don, are represented upon the bases of Buddhist idols under the Buddha's or Bodhisatvas' feet.
Jiaotu: can keep his mouth shut like a clam. He appears as either a conch spiral shape or a clamshell shape. He is found on door lintels, front doors, and major entryways. He guards your peace and privacy.


Haoxian: a reckless and adventurous dragon whose image can be found decorating the eaves of palaces.
Yazi:  brave and belligerent, he can be found engraved on the handles of knives and the hilts of swords.












Map of the Mississauga Chinese Centre:




View Larger Map
If you can possibly do it, go to the Mississauga Chinese Centre and visit the Nine Dragon Wall. You will find it very enjoyable. Don't forget to take your camera.



Mississauga Dragon Wall Photos by Bo Caunce



Saturday 24 March 2012

Nidhogg and Ratatosk

Nidhogg and Ratatosk



The first world to be created in Norse mythology was Muspelheim, the world of volcanic fire. The next world that came into being was Niflheim, the land of ice and cold and, where it meets the world of fire, a world of mists. Between the two realms of fire and ice grows the World Tree, Yggdrasill, with the rest of creation, the worlds of Gods, men, elves and giants in its branches. One of the roots of Yggdrasill draws sustenance from the spring at Hvergelmir, located in Niflheim. Under this root, one of three that support and nourish the World Tree, lies the Dragon Nidhogg (Malice Striker) who, along with the Dragons Goin and Moin, gnaw on the main root while the Dragons Graback, Grafvolluth, Svafnir and Ofnir chew away at the twigs that grow on the tree. Even though the three Norns repair the damage every evening, Nidhogg will eventually gnaw through the root and Yggdrasill will topple, ushering in the end to all the worlds and the final battle: Ragnarok.
High in the branches of Yggdrasill perches a giant eagle in whom is housed the knowledge of all the worlds. The eagle abhors Nidhogg and his destruction of the World Tree. Using the squirrel, Ratatosk, as a go-between he and the dragon trade insults up and down the height of the tree, much to the delight of the quarrel-loving Nidhogg and the gossip, Ratatosk.
Niflheim is also the abode of Hel, daughter of Loki, and mistress of the unvaliant dead. Heroes and those who die in battle spend the afterlife in Valhalla feasting, drinking and telling tales of valor; those who live forgotten lives, who have no warrior traits and who died of disease, suicide or accident are sent to the Realm of Hel where they work, cold and miserable. The wickedest of these miserable shades are sent to Nidhogg, where their souls are sucked from them for his nourishment.
After the final battle Nidhogg will fly over the battlefield eating the souls of Fire Demon, Rime Giant and God indiscriminately until he, too, is killed by Surtur the Fire Demon.