Michael D. O’Brien, my esteemed clansman, has a thing about certain kinds of fantasy being neopagan. (Well, yeah. Usually advertises it.) Unfortunately, he also has a slight problem with accurate identification. J.K. Rowling was obviously not writing anything anti-Christian; now we know that with the certainty of an anvil being dropped on Pius Thicknesse’s head.
Similarly, Michael O’Brien has a problem with monsters. He doesn’t like friendly ones. He particularly doesn’t like dragons, and feels that they are all the Dragon in the Book of Revelation.
Unfortunately for him, the medieval Biblical tradition disagrees. Just like lions, which can either be the lion roaring to devour souls or the Lion of Judah saving ‘em, dragons have their own place. Leviathan is a wonderful sea critter, “this sea dragon which God has made to play” in the sea, and which expects God to feed it. So dragons demonstrate God’s niftiness and creative power. The Septuagint and the Vulgate have many more examples: Job is “a brother to dragons and a companion to owls”. (Sounds like Harry Potter.) Nehemiah visits desolate Jerusalem on the sly and sees the well-remembered “dragon fountain”. “Praise the Lord from the earth, all ye dragons, and all ye deeps.” “The beasts of the field shall glorify me, the dragons and the ostriches.”
But my clansman is also turning his back on his own heritage. The thoroughly Christian and Catholic poets of the courtly medieval days of Ireland used kennings to praise lords and kings. One of the most common (like “lion” and “wolf” and “wolfhound” and all the rest) was “dragon”. If a poet said an O’Brien was “the dragon of Kincora”, he wasn’t talking sarcastically about Murrough of the Burnings. (Although I’m sure ol’ Murrough did get that from the satirists, now that we mention it.) It just meant that a man was tough and awe-inspiring, not that he was the Anti-Christ looking to devour the kid with the iron rod. This same sort of analogy inspired heraldry all over Europe.
But if that weren’t enough, the Church Herself speaks on her holiest day. Once upon a time, it turns out, Easter candlesticks were made in medieval Europe in two favorite shapes. One, the Arundina Serpentina, had the candles sticking out of a likeness of the brass serpent, which, in healing when hung up on a pole, was an image of Christ. The other improved this image by having the flaming candles come out of the mouth of a winged bronze dragon on a pole. Yes, you got that analogy right — Christ the Dragon, Christ our fire-breathing light. (The Anti-Christ is such a copycat.) And the lucky person who bore such a candlestick had the liturgical role of “draconifer”. (UPDATE: Also, the terms for carriers of banners and processional crosses were drawn from the terms for Roman military signifers. So one term for the cross carrier was “draconarius”.)
So, yeah, Michael O’Brien, I’m telling you this as I’ve told my own brothers many a time: You are wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You should apologize.