Virgins and Dragons

In line with my new book release, I thought I would have a little look at virgins and dragons in medieval times.

st-margaret-of-antioch-the-dragon-medieval-book-of-hours-illustartion
St Margaret of Antioch and the Dragon

The ancient medieval myth of virgins and dragons is dynamic and intriguing. In these tales a dragons holds a maiden captive and a knight comes rides to her rescue. The valiant knight slays the dragon and wins the maiden, who is often a princess, as a prize. He marries her and they live happily ever after. But what does it all mean, why are dragons after virgins? Though to be honest, no one knows for sure what allure human virgins have to huge, scaly, reptilian beasts that breathe fire, there are some theories on the subject.

Ancient people might have seen the loss of a maiden’s chastity as a symbol of first blood. So the virgin give the dragon some type of power that was a fitting compensation for the villagers stealing his hoard of gold.

Another idea is the brave knight is a masculine archetype and in conquering the dragon he was overcoming base emotions like anger. While in rescuing the virgin he was overcoming sexual urges or showing sexual prowess, you could look at it either way.

There is another take on dragons and virgins. In the Middle Ages, chastity was a highly desirable feature in a bride. They didn’t have DNA testing then and titles, kingdoms, riches, lands, even men sworn to fight for them were passed on from a father to his eldest son. If a bride was a virgin it was highly likely her first child would be legitimate. Therefore it was important a bride be chaste so the lord of the castle would know the heir was his actual son. So virgins were valuable. By offering a virgin to a dragon, the villagers are giving him a priceless item to keep them safe from the threat of one of his fiery rampages.

Another idea is these virgins could be goddesses. In Celtic mythology the triad goddesses of maiden, mother, and crone are quite powerful. The ancient Welsh worshiped Dewy, a god who was symbolized by a red dragon, which would have been his shapeshifting form. Little is known of him. There may have been a connection in forgotten mythology between one of the maiden goddesses and the dragon god Dewey. Celtic gods and goddesses not only made love with each other they had husbands and wives among the other gods and goddesses as well as with humans. Maybe it’s not a sacrifice, the dragon and the maiden goddess might love each other.

Of course these are all just ideas. To know for sure we’d have to find a dragon and ask him. That’s not likely to happen although it might make a nice premise for a story.

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