The Four Dragons

Fairytales, like myths and legends alike, contain wisdom similar to that of tarot; they all speak from the deeper layers of the human psyche, the unconscious. I was aware of fairytale based spreads before, but during my LogoArt course it struck me just how powerful these stories and their effect can be. And to combine them with tarot is something that contains magic entirely of its own. Stephanie (Arwen) Lynch, president of the ATA, has developed many spreads which combine tarot and fairytales. One of my personal favourites is the old chinese story of the four dragons and the jade emperor. Arwen’s spread based on this fairytale I found very powerful and ingenious. Arwen posted this fairytale and her spread on Aeclectic Tarot forum, and it is with her permission that I post both of them here.

The Four Dragons

Many moons ago, there was no water on earth save for the Eastern Sea of China. In this sea dwelt four dragons. They played together in the sea. Their names were Long Dragon, Yellow Dragon, Black Dragon and Pearl Dragon. One day the most daring of them, Black Dragon, suggested that they play hide-and-seek in the clouds. So off they flew. Great waves broke over the sea as they flew up to the sky to play their game. Pearl Dragon hid in a cloud far away from the others. While there, she saw something that broke her heart. She called to the other dragons.

“Come here! I am here! Come quickly.”

The other dragons immediately flew to her side for Pearl Dragon was their sister and they did not like her to be upset.

“What is it, little sister?” asked Yellow Dragon who was the eldest of the four.

“Look! Down there. Do you see what they are doing?”

The other dragons looked at the earth where they say people everywhere. All of them were putting out offerings of food and burning sweet smelling incense in prayer.

“What are they praying for?” said Black Dragon who was the youngest boy.

“For water! Listen!” The eldest sister, Long Dragon, pointed at an old woman.

The four dragons listened and heard her prayers.

“God of Heaven, God who is good, our children are starving. We need rain. Please send rain.”

And the dragons looked and saw that the crops had died. The grass had yellowed beneath the blazing sun. Nothing could grow without rain.

Long Dragon was moved to speak. “We must do something! The people will die if it doesn’t rain soon.”

Yellow Dragon listened to his brother and sisters as they all agreed. Then he nodded.

“You are right, brother and sisters. We must go and ask the Jade Emperor, the God of Heaven, to let it rain.”

He launched himself into the clouds closely followed by his siblings. They reached the Heavenly Palace in short time. But the Emperor was not happy to see them.

“Why do you charge in like this? Who has told you to leave the sea? I am in charge of all things in the three worlds, heaven, earth and sea.”

Even though they were very scared of the Jade Emperor’s anger, the four dragons had to speak. Long Dragon took a deep breath and bowed to the Emperor.

“Please, Your Supreme Highness, please listen. The crops on earth are dying and so are the people. Please, we beg you to send rain.”

The Jade Emperor didn’t care. He was busy listening to the music of his fairy singers. He agreed to send rain so that the dragons would return to their home.

The dragons waited in their sea for ten days without any rain at all. They flew to see the people and they wept. The people suffered greatly! They ate bark and roots and even some had to eat the white clay from the ground. And the Dragons hung their heads. They knew that the Jade Emperor would never care about the people. They had to do something, but what? They sat thinking. Then Long Dragon announced she had an idea. The others leapt up demanding to know what it was.

Long Dragon pointed to their home, the Eastern Sea.

“Look there! All this water in our sea. Why should we not scoop it up and toss it towards the sky. Then it will come down like rain to save the crops. What do you think of my idea?”

“It is a good idea!” Yellow Dragon approved. “But, Jade Emperor will hear of this and blame us.”

Black Dragon set his jaw and looked at Yellow Dragon with a fierce gaze. “Eldest brother, I may be only the youngest brother, but I will do anything to save these people and their crops.”

The others agreed wholeheartedly. And they all flew up from the sea with huge mouthfuls of water. They swooped all about the sky spraying water. Back to the sea and up to the sky until the sky was black! The people looked up. Could it be real? Was it really happening? They hugged one another and shouted for joy as the sky began to pour water down on them.

“Praise to God of the Heavens! He has heard our prayers.”

The plants drank in the water and straightened their stalks with glee. Wheat and sorghum and rice all began to turn green again.

But the God of the Sea saw that his dragons were misbehaving and he reported them to the Jade Emperor who was furious.

“How dare those four dragons bring rain? I told them I would do it! They must be punished!”

And he ordered all of his generals and their armies to arrest the dragons and bring them to him. The dragons came quietly to the heavenly palace.

The Jade Emperor called the Mountain God. “Bring me four mountains!”

The Mountain God whistled up a wind to bring in the mountains.

“Each dragon must be pressed beneath a mountain so that they may never escape.”

The Mountain God did as he was told but he was sad. As he did it, he told the dragons this, “The only thing that can harm my mountains is water.”

The four dragons never regretted their actions. They remembered what the Mountain God had told them and realized that they would have to transform themselves. Even though it meant never being able to play hide-and-seek or tag with each other in the sky and the sea, they turned themselves into four rivers which dug their way out of the four mountains.

Now they flow past high mountains and deep valleys crossing the Imperial lands of China from west to east. They are the Heilongjiang (the Black Dragon) who lives in the far north; the Huanghe (the Yellow River) who cares for central China; the Changgjiang or Yangtze (the Long River) who flows in the south; and the Zhujiang (the Pearl river) who lives in the very far south.

The other Gods realized that it wasn’t fair for the four to never see one another so they created openings into the Eastern Sea where the siblings can see each other. And the great land of China was blessed with the gift of water.”

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