Draco, the Dragon
Most Awesome Constellation

by Lana Rings

Draco stars, as they appear at different times: on the left, right side up, on the right, upside down.



Draco stars, with lines connecting them, to form the outline of the dragon, or snake.

So who was Draco?

Draco, the dragon. Who was Draco, the dragon? Draco, at the hub of the universe, formerly on the axis of the night sky.

Today, our polestar, Polaris, our North Pole is a star in the Little Dipper. Because of the way the earth shifts on its axis in a kind of circle completed every 25,000 years, the North Pole changes, too. Several thousand years ago, around 2,000 or 3,000 B.C.E., the polestar was Thuban, a star in the constellation Draco.

As stargazers and astronomers know, the polestar has held a prominent place in human beings' consciousness regarding the stars and the night sky. The polestar, the North Star, has guided travelers from time immemorial. The polestar never "sets," as the sun, moon, and most other constellations do, all of them being in the visible sky only at certain times of the day (sun), the month (moon), or the year (stars). But the polestar and the stars just adjacent to and surrounding it are different. They never "set." They are always there, always "eternal," consistent, vigilant throughout the waxing and the waning of the year and of human life. They are at the "center" of the celestial universe as we perceive it. With such prominence, they should have been extremely important to ancient peoples, concerned with stars and their rising and setting and moving on in the yearly circle of nomadic wanderings or planting and harvesting.

Draco was at the center of things before the digital clock, before the atomic clock, before paper and pencil and printed calendars to mark time for us. Draco was at the center of things when the sun, moon, and stars were marking time for us and were our calendars, helping human beings know when to plant, when to harvest, when the Nile would flood.

Since all the stars around the polestar look as if they are rotating around the polestar as the year progresses, the constellation Draco revolved around itself. The dragon revolved at the midpoint of the heavens in a counterclockwise motion (a widdershins or female motion; clockwise being seen as a male motion in ancient lore).

Draco, in various positions during a twenty-four hour period

So who was this Draco, this constellation constantly visible, revolving around itself every clear night of the year, sometimes upside down, sometimes right side up, sometimes on its side, just like the wheel of fortune?

There are several stories about the constellation Draco. One of the most recent stories seems to be the Olympian Greek story, the story that has been frozen in time for us. If you look up the story in an atlas of constellations, you might find the following tale.

Athena, cousin to the Minoan snake goddess, whose sacred animals are the wise old owl and the wise old snake, also Roman Minerva, patroness of physicians, is said to have been in battle with the giants, and they threw a dragon at her, but she tossed it up into the sky, where it landed at the hub of the universe.

Why would such a serpent be given such a prominent place in the religious stories of the time? Perhaps this is a later, re-written version of other tales.

There are other stories about Draco. Some say that it may be the Python that was slain by Apollo. But why, then, isn't Apollo up there in place of the Python? Is the sky supposed to be the graveyard of the Python killed by Apollo? Apollo killed the Python at Delphi and took over the oracle that had belonged to Gaia, or Mother Earth. He kept the priestesses on, for never does one hear of priests being at the Oracle prophesying and giving political or religious advice. Why would Apollo not be up there instead of the Python? Or perhaps this is a later, re-written version of other tales.

Perhaps an earlier tale is that of the Hesperides. Draco may be Ladon, the dragon that guarded the apple tree in the paradisal Garden of the Hesperides. Actually, he guarded the Goddess Hera's apples in that garden. What is interesting is that the elements of the Adam and Eve myth are here for all to see: garden, apple tree, woman, and serpent. But the story is different. Hera was not evil Eve giving death to the world by eating apples. The tree, too, is according to Johnson the tree of life as well, not a forbideen tree, as it was in the Adam and Eve story; and Hera was the divinity and Ladon her dragon.

The Hesperides were names after Hera, "who became at times Hespera, the evening star [which is also Innana, Ishtar, Venus]. The garden lies at the edge of the Western Ocean" (Johnson, 153) and by some was thought to be the place humans went after death. "Three beautiful, sweetly singing maidens, daughters of Ladon, the never-sleeping dragon, all guard the golden apples of love and fruitfulness" (153). Note that the dragon is "never-sleeping," as is the dragon in the sky, Draco. Now, in this story, Ladon is male.

Other tales, even older, link Draco with the serpent goddess herself, Tiamat. Perhaps Hera and the snake were separated versions of the older serpent Goddess. Tiamat with Apsu (female and male) were creators of the universe, but Tiamat was first. She got into a fight provoked by others, and was slain by her successors, Marduk and a later God. She was then divided up into two pieces, the heavens and the earth, and Marduk reigned supreme. If she was so bad, why did she have such a prominent place in the heavens?

Ultimately, the dragon was probably female and good and wise. Some of her vestiges remained in Crete until its demise through invasions and the great tidal waves from the enormous volcanic eruption of present day Santorini (in myth the ancient lost continent of Atlantis). This eruption occurred around 1500 B.C.E. But on Crete were found images of the snake goddess perhaps: a woman holding a snake in each hand, an owl sitting on her head. And she is Athena's predecessor, Athena of the owl and the snake. (See Serpent Holder.)

Archeology has unearthed some important information which may account for Draco. In Crete and earlier in Europe and the Middle East, there were images of snakes, goddesses/women, snake goddesses/women, snakes as goddess/woman, images half snake, half woman throughout many years of prehistory. The snake evidently was sacred for thousands of years before Marduk and Apollo and Hercules and others came along and destroyed it. It was sacred for its wisdom and its representation of life and death themselves. It was connected to woman, perhaps the great mother of the universe, the divine ancestress from whom we all came, the original "Eve." It may well be that our Draco in the sky is indeed this female serpent creatrix life-giver, life-taker of the ancient world. She would have been important enough for the celestial heavens to revolve around. She would have revolved in a counterclockwise, female direction. She would have been eternal, never-sleeping, vigilant life-giver, life-taker, from whom we all come and to whom we all return--everything that exists, from rocks to humans to animals and plants, sun, moon, stars. Draco revolved around itself around 2000 to 3000 B.C.E., when the Goddess/woman and snakes were still linked. It is probable, then that Draco is indeed some form of this great, ancient Goddess, for she had existed years prior to 3000 B.C.E., but she had not yet been destroyed by this time, as she later was in the Marduk epic (circa 2000 B.C.E.?), and in the Greek stories (first millenium B.C.E.).

Indeed, in Egypt she was once called the Raging Mother, and (at another time) the great Goddess Isis, Queen of the Heavens. In Babylon she was not only Tiamat, but it is said Hea/Hoa, two names linking serpent, teacher, wisdom, and--woman! In Chaldea she was supposedly bird and reptile, which would make her very ancient, for the bird-snake representation of Goddess/woman may an old, old image of sacredness from the Paleolithic.

When exactly Draco began changing from the great serpent or snake Goddess into an evil dragon is not precisely known. In fact, it probably took hundreds of years for it to change. Around 3000 B.C.E. it probably was still the sacred Goddess/woman. By Greek times there are only possible vestiges of that. The tale that comes closest is the story of Ladon and the Hesperides. By the time of the Apollo and Hercules stories, it is an evil creature that must be destroyed.

Thus, what we in essence have in Draco today is a symbol of an ancient religion that was consciously destroyed by later religions that called it evil and destructive and deadly/death. By the time we get to the Old Testament, Yahweh is killing Leviathan the serpent, just as Marduk killed Tiamat the great dragon.* Yet the ancient Draco is still there, even today, still almost revolving around itself, even though the polestar has changed. You can see it in the relatively early night sky in late spring and early summer. The great constellation of Goddess and/or woman.

The Four Directions

As I said, Draco turned on its own axis, since Thuban, a star in Draco, was the polestar, or the North Pole, around 3000 B.C.E. Thus, it seemed that Draco turned around itself at the center of the universe, for the North Star is the axis mundi, the axis of the world, around which all the stars seem to rotate. That rotation had a positive connotation, as did the symbol which stood for it, although that symbol has become the embodiment of all that was bad in Europe during the Second World War: the swastika. Draco seems to turn in a counter-clockwise, or widdershins, movement. (Widdershins movement is in legend female, while clockwise movement is male.)



Draco in four positions of its positions during a 24-hour timespan

Tiamat, 9/25/93

According to Barbara Walker, Tiamat is the Mother Goddess, Diamater (Dia=goddess, Mater=mother). The word is related to diameter. Is it also related to Demeter?


Tia mat

Dia mater

De meter

Dia meter

Tia mat

Te hom

The word 'Tiamat' is also related to 'Tehom,' 'the deep' and Toho Bohu, according to Barbara Walker.

The words are all interrelated in meaning. Tiamat was the primordial oceanic waters from which all things came, the primordial womb, reminiscent of the oceanic waters of the womb (egg or mammalian uterus). According to the various myths the waters divided themselves or were divided to allow life to spring forth, again very reminiscent of the birth of humans, where the mother's body is "divided" or "rent" to bring forth life from the waters of the womb. Even the eggshell is divided to bring forth new life--reptilian or fowl. The primordial waters were also red, after which the Red Sea is named, and red because that is the color of the waters of life, the blood which issues forth new life in birth. According to Walker, the word 'diameter' is derived from Tiamat, Goddess Mother, and to this day means splitting in half of a circle--for it is the line drawn through the middle of a circle, splitting it in half, just as the Mother was "split" in order that all creation could come from Her.

The word 'diamater' (God Mother) is close to the word Demeter, Goddess of the Grain in Greek religion. She is the Grain Mother, in astrology she is also Virgo, the Virgin (Virgin Mother and/or Maiden Aspect of the Triple Goddess [maiden, mother, crone]). She is the Virgo constellation in the sky. So could she be related to Tiamat, who is thought to be the Draco constellation? Could they be aspects of the same Goddess or divinity? From different times or places or aspects of her? I think so.

The Tiamat story that I have read is not the only one. Walker refers to a book from 1901 that I would like to get: Assyro-Babylonian Literature, for the books I have contain only the one story, where the primordial waters were already both female and male (Tiamat and Apsu, she the salt waters, he the fresh waters, by this time perhaps representing the liquid of both female and male in intercourse and human embryo production, and finally female birthing "waters"). However, there evidently are other versions, and in one or more Tiamat is the original divinity. So I'd like to find those stories as well. The one I have read comes from around 1000 or 900 BCE, and scholars think its origins come from around 2000 BCE.

The Tiamat story is a metaphor for birth, I do believe, for light comes from darkness, and form from chaos. She is the primordial waters, and from the darkness of the human mother's womb, we are born into life and light. We also seem to assume form in the world after having been part of the "chaos," i.e., primordial waters of the mother at conception and throughout pregnancy. (I also believe Armaggedon to be each human being's death, for we all face it. I think that is where the idea of the end of the world comes, for it comes in reality with each human's death.)

Now, Tiamat is originally the primordial waters in the story I read, but later on in the story when she has been persuaded to fight the later Gods, she has form, for she has legs, chest, head, mouth, and when Marduk kills her, he cuts her in half and creates heaven and earth from her halves. In addition, in one part she is called a "monster." I wonder if in other stories she is called a serpent or dragon, because that is what some scholars think she was. In fact, Allen cites sources that maintain she was Draco, which would be logical. If she were the creator-destroyer divinity, around which all of creation turned, then it is quite plausible that she was indeed Draco, around which the whole of the sky turned when the polestar (north star) was a star in that constellation around 3000 BCE.

According to Johnson, Ishtar is another representation of Tiamat. She maintains they are one and the same. If that is so, that is quite interesting, for Ishtar is Aphrodite, or Venus, and is the morning and evening star. That then would link Draco, Virgo, and the planet Venus in the sky, as the same divinity, or aspects of the same divinity. In fact, Johnson goes on to state that Ishtar has both aspects to her, the creator and the destroyer, and her destroyer aspect is called AnZu (one word). Ishtar is a virgin Goddess, I believe, according to Johnson. The hymn to Ishtar is supposed to be from about 1600 BCE. It is from Mesopotamia. At this time in Crete, the Minoan Bird-Snake Goddess is being made. Are there any connections?

Certainly there are connections between Tiamat and Ishtar. According to Johnson, "[f]rom Ishtar's divided body, the firmament and the earth were born and all living things formed. An expression of the origin of the universe from chaos, this myth also describes the seasonal fruitfulness of the land where spring flood waters (Ishtar) are dispersed by the sun and winds" (p. 230). Ishtar is the waters, similar to Tiamat, and her body was also divided to make the heavens and the earth. Further, "[a]n alternate name for Ishtar, Tiamat, has as its root the Semitic word 'tehom', meaning "the deep of the ocean," which links her to the fish" (p. 230) and to the Old Testament creation story.

I believe that the idea that all that is came from primordial waters is fascinating. Modern physics and science agree to a great extent that life came from the waters, that we came about from the evolutionary of life forms from water. How our ancestors devised this belief system, I can only guess, but my guess goes somewhat as follows:

Our ancestors saw, better and more often than we, exactly how human beings and other animals come into this life: people from the bodies of our mothers, accompanied by blood and water; mammals the same way; snakes and birds from eggs which begin as fluid. And they probably extrapolated from that knowledge their ideas of how all of life and the earth began--through birth out of blood waters. They would have seen birth happening so often. We see it almost never. If we who are city dwellers do see it, it is often of cats or on TV or occasionally in the human birthing rooms. Most of us have never seen someone being born. Very few humans in our culture witness birth very often. But our ancestors did. And they probably also used any intuitive knowledge they had about their origins, for they were really quite close to what science believes, although at the same time quite different, for science often sees matter as "dumb," whereas they knew quite the reverse, for intelligence cannot come from dumbness. It's illogical. (And we downplay intuition and have underdeveloped our own. Only successful businessmen can say they followed their "gut feeling." But they never call it intuition, which is what it is.)

So our ancestors perceived the divinities originally as primordial waters, as darkness, as "chaos," but not with the negative ring it has today. And indeed form does arise out of chaos and return to it. Interesting.

In the Hymn to Ishtar, written about 1600 BCE (in Johnson), it is clear that she is the planet Venus (the morning and evening star). In reality, the planet Venus is the bright morning star for a long number of days, then it is the bright evening star for a long number of days. It alternates, even today. It is now the morning star, September, 1993. You can see it in the early morning not too far from Orion and the Twins (Gemini), and it is indeed the last star to fade in the early morning light. Here is the Hymn to Ishtar:

Praise the Goddess, the most awesome of the Goddesses.

Let one revere the mistress of the peoples, the greatest of the Igigi. (Igigi=great Gods of heaven)

Praise Ishtar, the most awesome of the Goddesses.

Let one revere the queen of women, the greatest of the Igigi.


She is clothed with pleasure and love.

She is laden with vitality, charm, and voluptuousness.

Ishtar is clothed with pleasure and love.

She is laden with vitality, charm, and voluptuousness.

In lips she is .... (continued pp. 153-154).


Note how wonderful this Goddess is. She is described as most awesome, greatest of the Gods. She embodies pleasure, love, vitality, charm, voluptuousness, joy, power, magnificence, compassion, friendliness, agreeableness, intelligence, cleverness, wisdom, greatness, life. She is sweet, rejoicing, glorious, beautiful, brilliant, her word is respected, powerful, and supreme; her decrees strong, exalted, and splendid. She also holds the fate of everything in her hand. She gives counsel. She protects, guards, and preserves.

There is nothing negative about her. The only negative idea that creeps in comes from the king wanting her to grant him all earthly power: "She has decided to attach [all peoples] to his yoke." This is not the same feeling one gets from the rest of the hymn which praises her. Even though she is being praised so that the king may have power and long life, she is praised for only positive things at this point. She is not praised for her combativeness, for her raising some people above others. All the praise that is given her reflects a philosophy of life that is affirming of this life. The physical, as well as the intellectual and emotional, aspects of life are all affirmed. There is no negation of this life at all. In fact, there is only affirmation of all that is. At this point, this Goddess is still life-affirming. Everything about life is embodied positively in this Goddess: from pleasure and love and voluptuousness to vitality and charm and beauty and power and protection and compassion and friendliness. What a joyous way of approaching life and the divine!! Ishtar!


* Consider the many myths where the deity or a great male is killing the serpent (gleaned from Stone, 67-68):

God Killing the Serpent/Snakes

(Later Religions Killing Off Earlier Ones?

Since Woman/Goddess/Snake had been connected and the male God killed the snake/serpent?)


God or, later, Man

Serpent He Destroys

Hittite Anatolia

Storm God

Dragon Illuyankas


Indra, Lord of the Mountains

Goddess Danu & son Vrtra

Northern Canaan

Baal (Storm God of Mt. Saphon & brother/consort of Goddess Anath)

Serpent Lotan or Lawtan (in Canaanite Lat means Goddess)

Babylon (Kassite control?)


Goddess Tiamat Dragon

Mitannian-controlled Assyria


Goddess Dragon

European Greece


Serpent Typhon (son of Goddess Gaia)

European Greece


Serpent Python (also son of Gaia)

European Greece


Serpent Ladon who guarded the tree of Goddess Hera

Hebrew areas of Middle East (Canaan, etc.)

Yahweh (Jehovah)

Serpent Leviathan (another Canaanite name for Lotan)


St. George



St. Patrick



source: http://langlab.uta.edu

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