Thoughts on St George's Day
A whole new perspective - as always. Thankyou
I had my first ever proper Easter vigil service this year (a week earlier in the Anglican church) - very similar to what you describe. The church being slowly filled with light from the candles was amazing to be a part of - and the moment when it is declared that Christ is risen and the cries of alleluia return was one of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced.
What you say about the necessity of dragons instantly reminds me of something I've been thinking about a lot recently: the lizard on the shoulder in CS Lewis' "The great divorce".
There's a man with a lizard on his shoulder feeding him lies and tempting him, and an angel comes up to the man and asks "may I kill it?"
The man resists this and comes up with all sorts of rationalisations as to why the lizard is not all that bad and why don't we just let it be, etc. etc. The angel keeps repeating himself and calmly asking "may I kill it?"
Eventually the man relents and lets him kill it, but when the angel squashes the lizard, the lizard transforms into a beautiful stallion and the man rides off into the sunset on him.
Maybe killing dragons is something like that.
Yes, I agree, the Dragon is waking up, from the depths. I look at the image you have posted, Paul, and I see a hidden sketch, concealed, as if I have infrared vision. The plain fight and assertion for dominion is actually the desire for an embrace, all consuming. I hope that George will remember that he is Dragon and that the Dragon be Mercy. Thus I blow out the candle.
hello again ! - Ive enjoyed reading this so much today and felt I had to send a comment -- I am in Portugal again, at the moment and am aware that they don't celebrate 'bank holidays' [which I feel are just as you say else where !] - and it is 'Saint's days' or workers and freedom days that seem to be celebrated here ----
Your comments on St George and the Dragon made me smile too ! ..... taking 'the dragon' metaphor as a beast rising from the sea - On 19th March at 4.05pm  in the afternoon, a sizable earthquake was noted on Sao Jorge Island [ aka Saint George ] in the Azores which is situated on the mid Atlantic ridge, where 3 tectonic plates meet. This 'event' began a flurry of seismic investigations and experts and advisers arrived on the Island - which is probably named 'Sao Jorge ' because of the shape of the volcanic Island that protrudes from the sea does /could be said to resemble the back of a dragon . The rumbling dragon Island has continued shaking so much so, that some Islanders felt it wise to leave their homes and even the Portuguese president afforded a visited to the Island to show support as it continued to rumble alarmingly during March and April !
The other thing that has made me smile [Im afraid ]- is that on the day the dragon island of Sao Jorge began its rumbling in the mid Atlantic, by complete coincidence was also the exact start date and time ! [ie. 4pm on 19th March ] that an exhibition of 31 charcoal drawings that I did in response to an Azorean sculptor called Helena Amarels, ' Volcanic Basalt Stone Heads ' called the 'Sorrisos de Pedra '.The 'Sorrisos de Pedra ' - or- 'Smiles of Stone' /'Stone Smiles' opened here at the Gubian Gallery in Porto.
Helena Amarel ,sources the basaltic volcanic boulders and stones that she carves out a head from are found on various sites around the foot of 'Pico mountain', which also proudly holds the acclaim of being the highest mountain top in Portugal at once the crowning glory of 'Pico Island' - when Helena completes a head they are placed and can be found in locations all over Pico Island.
'Pico Island' looks over the sea to its close neighbour 'Sao Jorge Island'.
My exhibition of the 31 drawings [in burnt wood sticks of willow charcoal] were part of a collaborative book project that Id been working on for the last 2 years with a Portuguese poet - who invited 30 other Portuguese and Azorean writers and poets each to respond to a drawing that they were given at random to respond to with a new short poem or text - the bi-lingual book was published in December ---- it has made me smile though , reading your article this morning, again partly because of the co-incidence of the dates -- as the exhibition of the 'Sorisos de Pedra' in Porto closes today !
Apologies if my comment is at bit of a side track to your article , but it has made me smile alot and think too -- it had an analogy that I just couldn't resist mentioning here since Sao Jorge and the dragon [in the Azorean Islands ] could be thought or believed to be , infact ,one and the same as in nature .... as well as rising from the sea ?
Thank you, Paul and Happy Pascha. You’re absolutely right about St George and his status as England’s patron saint. The Anglo-Saxon church cherished a great many saints in shrines and monasteries throughout the land who were native-born, often with local significance to the places they were venerated. It was a very particularist expression of Christianity, similar, I imagine, to its contemporary Irish counterpart that has survived much better to the present. The Norman Invasion marginalised most of these cults and the Reformation finally killed them off. English Christianity (and national culture) is poorer for the vandalism that came with these events.
Check out Jordan Peterson's thoughts on St. George and the dragon in his series of lectures on the old testament stories. Unfortunately, you will have to listen to the at least the first seven of them. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL22J3VaeABQD_IZs7y60I3lUrrFTzkpat
I think you’d enjoy this YouTube talk by medievalist Eleanor Parker “Kings of the Angles, Kings of the English: Royals Saints in the Prayer Book calendar” https://www.medievalists.net/2022/04/kings-of-the-angles-and-kings-of-the-english-royal-saints-in-the-prayer-book-calendar/
Miss Parker has an excellent blog and Twitter account @clerkofoxford and she has written about Anglo-Saxon England extensively.
I think I would choose St. Etheldreda as patron saint of England.
I’m always struck by how the Saints of the home nations have been denigrated, even in the countries that venerate them more than us, the English. For example, St. Patrick’s day is an outpouring of national pride, curiously celebrated by many non-Irish more than they’d celebrate their own patron saints, that largely culminates in getting well-oiled and exhibiting behaviours and mindsets that St. Patrick wasn’t known for himself.
On St. George. I live in a small village in Northumberland and there are attempts to celebrate the day in the local pubs with St. George’s nights put on, a little bunting goes up, and for those not really into it, usually the out of towners, there are snorts of contempt.
I also work in London (as a Management Consultant for one of the big-4, which I’m sure you can imagine is quite a tear-your-hair-out environment on sociocultural matters) where these snorts are rarely heard because such days don’t register with the large majority. Almost certainly this is because it is the epitome of the rootless world you’ve written of so lucidly, Paul. Since reading your writings and those of Renee Girard, there are so many things I cannot now unsee in the world.
The ancient is not redundant, howeverso might be its slayers. What of the qualities of the dragon ?who rises without wings on electrical currents such that the old chinese took it and its mystical union with the pheonix as that equivalent of union that bares the 'philosophers stone' of the alchemists? is there not some redemption for the dragon as for our misunderstanding ? have we utterly forgotten the true nature of the saint ? and would you sit with a Daoist Master and discuss these things openly in late July in a walled garden in the midlands ?
there is an attainment beyond wordage that bestows original nature. there is a knowledge beyond words in the fasting of mind and heart, in the re-formation of the body, such that the tabula rasa, and the world spinning upon it might rest in the palm of a dragons claw.
Another great piece. I was very interested to discover that the flag of Wessex still has the yellow dragon on it today: I believe in the past it was white. My wife is Welsh, and the pre-medieval story of the red Welsh dragon (still very proudly on the Welsh flag) is that the red dragon of (Christian) Wales defeated the white dragon of the (then pagan) 'Saesneg'; Saxons. Saesneg is still to this day the Welsh word for 'English'. My English relatives did not realise that in this sense the modern prominence of the red dragon of Wales is in fact historically Christian, not pagan; although presumably its original tribal roots are pagan of course.
The red dragon as a Christian and Welsh symbol made it into the English Royal coat of arms with Henry VII, I believe - a proud Tudor, or 'Tudur' ("Tid-ear") in Welsh. It remained until the end of the reign of Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch: after which it was replaced by a Unicorn, the heraldic animal of Scotland, to celebrate the Union of the Scottish and English crowns under James VI & I (a Stuart).
Wonderful reflection. Keep thinking about the native saints of the British Isles. They're still a mighty lot, even if they do all seem to reside in the high and far off times.
And may you have a blessed and joyful Pascha. Christ is risen!
Wonderful reflection. One might argue that saints are more necessary now than ever before - they represent flesh-and-blood people who wrestled with demonic forces and engaged in heroic asestic struggles. The Orthodox prayer book celebrates “the God of our fathers,” after all, and not some set of bloodless and by now completely corrupted Enlightenment abstractions like “nature’s God” or “equality.”
The Holy and Right-Believing King Alfred would make a grand national saint for England, in my very humble opinion (you can obtain icons). And there is an astonishing wealth of pre-Norman English saints. My icon corner contains St Oswald of Northumbria, who defeated (and was martyred) by Welsh and Mercian pagans; St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (intriguingly, a black metal band called Ard has just released a concept album about St Cuthbert); and St Melangyll of Wales, the patron of small animals. My icon corner also contains images of the my own land’s patron “saints”: Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson, certainly paragons of the courageous and virtuous Christian.
One could also make the argument that we are living through the “death throes” of the Enlightenment/American dragon, and its utterly gnostic anthropology and teleology. That’s y hope and prayer, anyway.
I wish you the joy of Pascha. Christ is risen
Happy Easter! It is beautiful when one candle is lit until all lit candles flood the darkness
Your writing about saints/ England makes me remember of my very distant cousin several generations back from England, Saint John Southworth ( 40 English Martyrs). He was drawn, hung, and quartered. His gfather was sent to prison for housing a traveling priest. After being heavily taxed, property confiscated for not signing the Religious Uniformity Act, family members sent to the New Fleet Prison in Manchester-several members fled to Leyden and joined the Separatist community that sailed to America. Then there is the other side of English ancestors-those who came with London's Merchant Adventurers Company to seek their fortunes.
I always rather liked dragons. Those fiery creatures living under the earth in cairns and caves, protecting a treasure of great worth. Dragons are traditionally female. They were symbols of the fertility of the earth, of the life giving powers of terrestrial waters, and were symbols of immortality. The Dragon paths were the pathways where energy is supposed to flow beneath the earth and which are known everywhere, from ancient China, to Australia, (the Rainbow Serpent ) and in Neolithic Europe where the 'ley' lines connect ancient monuments and indeed, later, Christian churches. I think it is a lovely story that there is a source of life that arises out of the earth. I never really cared much for Saint Patrick's ridding Ireland of the snakes and the Serpent/ dragon beliefs that were part of the pagan culture he so actively tried to destroy. I don't think Paddy's Day is taken too seriously in Ireland as a Saint's Day. It's more about 'paddywhackery', as the Irish would say.