Dragons and New Beginnings

Dragons come in all sizes, real and mythical, benevolent and testy, interior and exterior. They’ve accompanied people from the dawn of time to the present day, and now welcome us into the Lunar New Year.

I’ve long been fascinated with dragons. In Chinese legendary stories, dragons are from the heavens. They’re mystic, noble and untouchable, the symbol of power. Chinese emperors wore dragon symbols on their imperial robes. In Western literature, I admit cheering for the dragon Grendel in the Old English heroic epic poem, Beowulf. When I first submerged into author Ann McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, my family wondered if they’d ever see a home-cooked supper again. Poor Smaug in The Hobbit, whose vulnerable underbelly was his undoing! (Maybe dragons aren’t so mythical after all – how many of us build outer shells to protect our vulnerable interiors?) And I loved that Norbert, Hagrid’s pet dragon, came to Harry Potter’s rescue in Goblet of Fire. (A rescued opossum who was part of Sulphur Creek Nature Center’s education team was fittingly named Norbert, too.)

One of my favorite cartoons shows a dragon leaning against a tree outside a medieval castle, picking his teeth with a knight’s lance. The caption reads, “Sometimes the dragon wins.”

A new kind of dragon – the internal kind – was introduced to me during my Kabbalah Tree of Life studies with the West Coast Kabbalah School. This kind of dragon hinders our growth. The internal dragon can be any addiction, or self-limiting thoughts and actions. The more we feed it, the stronger it grows. How to break that cycle? Teacher Megan Wagner says to “starve the dragon.” Day by day, week by week, keep from feeding energy to that addiction or self-limiting pattern. Not easy, but with attention and intention, that energy can be transmuted into fuel for one’s own growth. Free of the self-defeating behaviors, we can have a new internal beginning.

Why not start with Lunar New Year – the Year of the Dragon? The Chinese year 4710 begins on January 23, 2012. This celebration of the end of winter and beginning of a new year is found throughout Asian cultures. Each has its own traditions and rituals.

The focus of Chinese New Year is reconciliation – forget old grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone. One tradition is a thorough house cleaning to sweep away any ill fortune and make way for incoming good luck. Decorations feature red and proverbs with themes of good fortune or happiness.

Traditionally, a family feast is held on New Year eve, with special foods such as pig, duck, chicken, and sweets. The night will end with firecrackers. Early the next morning – the first day of the New Year – children wish their parents a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes. When many Chinese immigrated to other countries, often without their families, they found a sense of community through neighborhood associations. Today, those neighborhood associations host many of the festivities for New Year.

The Lunar Calendar

Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar calendar, with each month beginning after the darkest night, or new moon. The New Year begins on the first day of the lunar month that follows the one that contains Winter Solstice. It may fall in the last half of January or early February. This may sound complicated, but here’s how it works: In 2011-2012, Winter Solstice fell on December 22. The next new moon was on December 24. So Lunar New Year begins on January 23. Festivities will continue for fifteen days and conclude with the Lantern Festival, when the moon is brightest, on February 6.

New beginnings with dragons

  • What intentions do you want to set to transmute self-defeating energies and actions into ones that feed your own growth?
  • Take part in some of the festivities and enjoy the special foods around Lunar New Year. Check your local paper for dates and times – festivals may be held on the closest weekend instead of the actual day.
  • For fun, read Dragonsong, A Fable for the New Millennium, written by Russell Young and illustrated by Civi Cheng. A delightful story of a small dragon’s creative new way of looking at an old challenge. (Shen’s Books, www.shens.com, 2000)

Sources:

www.TreeofLifeTeachings.com

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/chinesenewyear1.html

http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/NewYearDays.htm

Dragon image from: http://www.draconian.com/dragons/chinese-dragon.php

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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