When I was a little girl, we would go to the mall for fun. We rarely, if ever, bought anything, but it was fun to look. Inside, there was usually a store with small sculptures made out of some kind of silvery looking metal. It might have been pewter, but I really don’t know. I would look among them until I found the dragons. And every one of the dragons I would find usually had a small, round gem of some sort nearby. Sometimes they held it, sometimes it sat on the ground in front of them, and sometimes it was set on a claw-like pedestal. I didn’t know anything about any symbolism associated with the gem, or that the sculptures I loved were a blend of Eastern and Western myths. I only knew that I loved the way it looked.
Those images stayed with me. When I first started outlining Shining Armor, I knew I wanted some sort of dragon equivalent to the smartphone, but something that kind of fit with the mythology and had a bit more oomph to it. I remembered the spheres, and started my research with that image in mind.
I found myself amazed at how often circles are associated with dragons.
The first one that comes to mind out of what I learned over the years is the ouroboros, the dragon that eats its own tail. It’s a symbol found in all sorts of places from Egypt to medieval alchemical texts. It symbolizes eternity, regeneration, and, in Plato’s description of a being eating its own tail in the dialogue Timaeus, true self-sufficiency. It’s also associated with divine power in Kundalini yoga.
This association with divine power shows up in an object that often appears with depictions of dragons in Asia. It’s described as a pearl, and often is associated with the power to control the elements, especially anything associated with water. To quote from Dragons and Dragon-lore by Ernest Ingersoll (yes, it was printed in 1928…it still seems to be an accurate description):
This extraordinary gem is represented as a spherical object, or ‘ball,’ half as big, or quite as large, as the head of the dragon with which it is associated, for it is never depicted quite by itself. The gem is white or bluish with a reddish or golden halo, and usually has an antler-shaped ‘flame’ rising from its surface. Almost invariably there hangs downward from the centre of the sphere a dark-coloured, comma-like appendage, frequently branched, wavering below the periphery…. the Chinese commonly interpret the ball with its comma-mark as a symbol of yang and yin, male and female elements, combined in the earth…
So, in Asia dragons typically are associated with round gems and in European mythology there’s the dragon’s horde, which often has a lot of items in it, including gems and round coins. Circles, again.
Or maybe I’m just reaching now.
My own creation isn’t nearly as full of symbolic mysticism, but it is a fun way to communicate and travel (like stepping through an odd-shaped door). If I can fix that one character, you’ll be able to see what I mean very soon.