Saint George and the dragon


San Giorgio is a figure who has always been very close to me since childhood. The story of this Saint originated in the Middle-East. He became then very revered in the greek orthodox church and his worship later diffused to the whole of Europe. George, the saint, has always always embodied the virtues typical of the code of chivalry: a strong hero, brave and spotless, who thanks to his valiant is able to save the lovely damsel from the clutches of the terrible dragon that terrorizes the city. The only thoughts that a similar figure could have existed always made me hope that everyone might have deep resources to deal with any situation. You do not need too much insight to realize that things are often not quite so.

To really understand a phenomenon, the first thing is to observe it carefully. In the example of Orthodox iconography of St. George the dragon is depicted as a monster that emerges from the bowels of the earth. In the story the dragon, often asleep, would suddenly wake up to collect his debt of blood. The dragon is therefore something primordial to the social context in which it imposes himself. In virtually every mithological story of the Western tradition the monster is a strength that can not be controlled and that arises suddenly. In some cases, the monster does not seem to be truly defeated, as it the case of Hercules, who recognises that one of the heads of the hydra he was fighting is immortal. In that case the hero’s only choice was then to bury his head in order for it not to arise again. Does this sound familiar?

There are far too many examples from the international scene that seem to be there to remind us that the pattern of the hero who defeats an enemy monster is not a model that works. Just think of all the attack of Ghedaffi Libya, Saddam’s Iraq and the fight against international terrorism. While many of these individuals or organizations were undoubtedly monsters is often all too clear that each of the attacks on this kind of mysterious dragon has not done anything but to generate new monsters to deal with. Threat, war, order restored. And then what? A new threat. Always and forever, in a spiral of violence. That there is probably something wrong with the model that we are told by tradition?

It makes you wonder if there is a better alternative to this scheme, perhaps one that could lead us to a deeper understanding of the real situation in which we live.

The need to understand this phenomenon becomes even more urgent when one realizes that demons are not evil creatures outside of us, but deep-rooted forces within us. All these forces we face every day in one way or another. They are found in feelings of anger if someone bumps us on the street, when we feel we are unable to say what we feel, wen we make ouselves smaller than what we are, or when we bask in doubt. All of those forces blur our vision and lead us away from compassionate action. We feel anger and then click an aggressive response. We feel frustration and then it arises a fake need to shake it off. There is a desire, and again one might end up acting blindly. All of this unaware and uncompassionate choices are like providing the dragon with more sacrificial victims. Those victims are parts of our soul, and attention. Also, we know all too well that this type of dragon will never satiate his hunger. Maybe it will be satisfied for a while, but then his hunger he will awaken again and who knows if there will be a few San Giorgio passing at that time.

Yet there may be an alternative which is a change in vision. One can play the same game again and again, until it is realized that maybe the dragon is not really a monster and that its desires are not his real needs. When the dragon manifests his first request the latter seems to indicate a certain need, and yet we often find that what really moves the dragon is qualcose different and deeper. To understand our dragons we must therefore learn toconverse with those monsters and understand what they might need.

Every time I have to do with my dragons, hence almost every day, the first impression is almost always fear of the monster, or the strong desire not to deal with a specific dragon. Followinf a closer look, however, I can recognize that my dragons follow specific trends. Certain things trigger them, others do not. In any case, all the dragons I’ve encountered (in a metaphorical sense!) have always proved to be fragile, frightened and anxious to be understood creatures. They are like everyone else who just want to find a cure to their pain. In this sense those dragons are more like children to look after. They must be observed, aided and cared after. If left to themselves, unobserved, we might end up being managed by our unwisest side. However, if one manages to adopt a compassionate conversation with those dragons, asking what they really need, those same forces might turn out to play on our side.

The trick around this is to be able to embrace what in us we find repulsive. If we do it openly and compassionately it can help you finding the words to express the energy that this hatching. The result is always a transformation. What at first was biting and kicking can become our ally and we can become a little freer, without the need to be heroes.


If you are interested in understanding more about the idea of the “dragons / demons” I suggest “Feed your demons” by Tsultrim Allione. So insightful!


One comment

  1. Pingback: It’s a matter of culture (Random thoughts on being a hero) | Pensieri Fuori Forma

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