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Dragons in Swtizerland July 17, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

Dragons may be a thing of the past, but there are some surprisingly recent reports that seem to describe the fiery-breathed ones among us. Take this curious record from the works of Athanasius Kircher (obit 1680), Mundus subterraneus, quo universae denique naturae divitiae (Amsterdam 1664-1668).

Where to even begin?

In 1619 as I was contemplating the serene sky by night, I saw a very bright dragon with flapping wings go from a cave in a great rock in the mount called Pilatus [pictured above] toward another cave, known as Flue, on the opposite side of the lake [Lucerne]. Its wings were agitated with much celerity; its body was long as well as its tail and neck. Its head was that of a serpent with teeth, and when it was flying, sparks were coming out of it like the embers thrown by an incandescent iron when struck by smiths on an anvil. At first, I thought it was a meteor, but after observing more closely, (I saw) it was truly a dragon from the recognizable motion of the members. This I write to you, your reverence, in case you should doubt that dragons truly exist in nature.’

Dum Anno 1619, noctu caeli serenitatem contemplarer, ecce prafulgidum draconem ex immensi scopuli antro montis, quem Pilati uulgo uocant, ad aliud in opposita lacus parte, antrum quod uocant, alis celerrimo modo agitatis transuolare uidi; forma erat praegrandi, canda longa, collo protenso, caput in serpentis serratum hiatum desinebat; dum uolaret, de se scintilias, non secus ac quando candens in incude fabri ferrum tundunt,spargebat. Censebam primo meteorum quoddam me vedere, sed postquam diligenter singola obseruaui, uerum draconem fuisse ex ipso motu membrorumque omnium constitutione cognoui. Haec, Reuerentia uestra, scribo ne de uera draconum in rerum natura existentia amplius dubitaret.

And the witness? A shepherd who’d quaffed a little too much of the local beer? The village idiot who had an unusually literary bent? Not a bit of it. The writer here was none other than Christophorus Schere, prefect of Uri County. This is the seventeenth-century equivalent of a modern UFO researcher stating ‘law-enforcement agents are the most reliable witnesses’.

So what did Christophorus actually see? The dragon was luminous: it is ‘very bright’ and is seen at night in the dark – a moonlit night? It is also mistaken for a meteor, whatever meteors were in the 1600s. Then there are the sparks that are coming out of it.

It would be tempting to fall back on that natural phenomenon that is used to explain so much that is wild and luminous in nature: ball lightning. Of course, the problem with that is that there was the serpent’s head, ‘the recognizable motion of the members’: the talons, feet and wings waving on either side? But then again it shot from one side of the lake to the other with ‘celerity’ so there cannot have been much time to see anything, particularly the teeth.

Any ideas: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

Note that a quick shoot through Google suggests that Mount Pilatus is associated to this day with dragons: was there a pre-existing tradition or did Schere’s report mark the beginning of said tradition?

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18 July 2011: Two interesting emails on this today. First, SY notes that this passage and the longer part to which it has belonged is translated on the internet on an interesting Christian Latin site. Second, KMH reflects on the question of dragons and need and possible links to cryptozoology: ‘It is possible that the myth of the fire-breathing dragon originated with warm-blooded reptiles. Their breath could have produced a cloud of water vapor generally mistaken for smoke. However, we know of no biological basis for actual fire created by any organism. So that leaves us with  only one option – the dragon was a paranormal entity, much like the chupracabra or mothman of today.    Among other functions, paranormal entities may be seen where the real biological species don’t exist anymore, but the culture or religion continues to relate to them. For example, the red dragon of Revelation 12: 3. If no dragons actually exist now on earth, then Christianity could be considered outdated or obsolete. So, sporadic sightings must continue on for a particular region, even if they are only paranormal in nature. However, modern sightings of dragon-like creatures in Central Africa, South America and the islands of Southeast Asia are not unheard of. In North America the lizard-like Thunderbird is still seen today. The question is, are these animals completely natural, or are they subsidized or given special help to survive by higher beings (angels, etc.)?  I am inclined to believe they all (reptile or mammal) receive special assistance, since the human race also seems to receive much more assistance than it deserves.’ Thanks SY and KMH!