The Nightshirt Sightings, Portents, Forebodings, Suspicions

Atalanta Fugiens (pt. 3): Dragons

The story of Hercules’ theft of the apples in the Garden of the Hesperides necessarily also reminds us of the story, even more commonly alluded to by alchemical writers, of Jason and the golden fleece. This story is commonly considered to be one of the most explicit mythological expressions of the alchemical process and objective. I will only briefly summarize it: Hermes had sent a winged ram, Chrysomallus, to rescue Phrixus and Helle from their wicked stepmother. Helle fell into the sea and was drowned, but Phrixus made it safely to Colchis, and in thanks sacrificed the ram to Zeus. He gave the fleece of the ram to the king, Aeetes, who put it under a dragon’s guard in a garden sacred to the god Ares (Mars). Later, the king’s daughter, the famous Medea, using divine magic, helped Jason and his crew of 50 Argonauts slay the dragon and steal the fleece. This last woolly substance is taken by all the great authors to symbolize the culmination of the Great Work.

The astrological significance of Ares is important. Many writers emphasize that the work must begin under the sign of Aries—astrologically, the Spring—and standing also for the planet Mars and the metal it rules, iron. And there are other things that rams and their mates symbolize—consider them all carefully. The dragons that guard the golden fleece, as well as the golden apples of the Hesperides, reward consideration too. “Dragon” comes, as Fulcanelli reminds us, from the Greek word derkesthai meaning looking or glancing, or “eyes always open.” It is sometimes said that a dragon is awake while it is sleeping.

It is traditional to place lions, not dragons, as guardians of our courts and other edifices of the Law, and this practice descends from the ancient practice of using lion statues to guard temples. Horapollo, an ancient exegete of the esoteric glyphs of the Egyptians, explains why: The Egyptians believed that lions, like dragons, are awake when they are asleep, and asleep when they are awake. Consider then what dragons and lions may have to do with rams, let the relationship simmer in your mind, and you will be rewarded.


Alegorric (pronounced "ah-WEH-gor-ic," not "allegoric") is a Polish alchemist and birdwatcher, who agreed (after much arm-twisting) to contribute on hermetic philosophy and related subjects for The Nightshirt. Born in Zakopane, Poland, he now lives in the Scottish village of Balmortie, near Loch Ness.

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