The idiom „Stupid as a donkey“ is well known. What are the origins of it’s symbolism? In Ancient Egypt Seth, the great enemy of Osiris, had the image of a donkey. That’s why Apuleius in his Golden Ass describes a great metamorphosis, the transformation of Lucius to a donkey and his way back – spiritual evolution towards the human-being. In this case donkey represents sexuality, instincts, sensuality, ignorance. The Red donkey was one of the dangerous creatures whom the soul met in it’s journey after death. Continue reading Donkey
Salamander belongs to amphibians. Ancient authors ascribed fantastic features to this animal. It was believed to be able to survive in fire and was even identified with the element fire. They could also extinguish fire with the frigidity of their bodies. Egyptians had the hieroglyph Salamander which signified a man dead from cold. Some authors explain that this association with fire was invented because of the constant moisture on the skin of salamander and the milky juice it could produce if affronted. Others think that this description appeared from the fact that salamanders live in volcanoes. This creature was considered as very poisonous. It could instantly poison wells and orchards. French king Francis I chose salamander for his emblem. In medieval iconography it represented the man who never lost the peace of his soul (went through the fires of passion) and who was confident in God despite all troubles. So it corresponded to chastity, virginity, loyalty. It was also identified with Christ who would baptize the world with fire flames. In Alchemy Salamander was a symbol of a stone fixed in red (sulfur).
Dragons are one of the oldest and the most universal fabulous creatures. The word “dragon” itself comes from Greek and signifies a huge serpent or water-serpent. He is a guardian of hidden treasures – an adversary which has to be defeated in order to find and get it. The treasure itself is immortality. In Christian religion dragons and serpents are the same: their destruction is Christ’s victory against the evil. A very well known image of St George fighting with a dragon is quite a common symbol in Christian art and architecture. It symbolizes the victory of Christianity, the perpetual fight between good and evil.
The sources of this creature are in the European folk traditions, Greek and Middle Eastern mythologies and Oriental dragons (especially Chinese dragon which was a symbol of Emperor and the primordial principle). In Medieval art we also find two affronted dragons. It means a neutralization of adversary tendencies of alchemical sulfur and mercury. A dragon swallowing his tail is called Ouroboros and represents the eternal return or cycle, self-reflexivity. The image of Ouroboros is traced already in Ancient Egypt. Later it came to Greek philosophers. Plato described it as a first, circular, immortal and perfect creature. In Christianity Ouroboros means the limited boundaries of the material world.
Dragons were believed to be real for a long time and were present in wonder collections. It is not surprising that dinosaur fossils were taken for the bones of dragons. Besides, stuffed dragons were formed from dead rays (fish) and dried afterwards.