There is something about the fearsome Celtic dragon that ignited the imaginations of the ancient Scots. The giant serpents of their folklore — both with and without wings — terrorized the common man and battled the brave heroes of myth. Representing supernatural strength, power and wisdom, these great wyrms completed the circle of life as both the creators and destroyers of the natural world.
The Scottish Beithir
In common lore, the great venomous serpent (beithir-nimh in Scottish Gaelic) appeared to the unwary traveler on Summer nights after a close lightning strike. If a snake were beheaded and the head weren’t separated from the body by enough distance, the halves would come back together. As the sun set, the lightning would strike and a beithir would be born.
Like most creatures in Caledonian folk stories, the creature only served to kill the hapless human. While unable to breathe fire, the beithir possessed a venomous stinger and typically hunted among the caves and crags along the Highlands. According to legend, any person stung by a beithir must race the serpent to the nearest body of water. If the victim won, their life was spared. Should the beithir win, the victim would die.
In Scottish folk stories, the legendary hero Fionn mac Cumhaill went hand to talon against a monstrous serpent in a test of his worth as a warrior. In this heroic cycle, the serpent symbolized the twilight and chaos the early Scots associated with the Highlands. Fionn’s victory reminded them of man’s conquest over their harsh homeland and the triumph of light over darkness.
The Celtic Serpent
The ancient Celtic people believed that dragons were guardians of secluded treasures and forbidden knowledge. Like J. R. R. Tolkien’s Smaug, these wyrms possessed a wicked cunning and often magical powers used to protect and grow their hordes. While most Celtic dragons thought only of treasure and maleficence, others represented wise and ancient beings that blessed those who respected and honored them.
Our Favorite Dragons
Today, the Celtic dragon plays a wider number of roles in both fantasy and myth. They can be a cunning villain, noble steed, fearsome beast, playful trickster and more. Whether a Highland games, a Celtic fest or a comic con — at every event, someone wants a dragon. So, this week we introduced an eye-catching, unisex Dragon Viking bracelet — to pair with our popular bear and wolf — in durable stainless steel. All three have quickly become customer favorites. Whatever kind of dragon you love best (and yes, we all have a favorite!) you’ll find one here. Don’t see it? Let me know and we’ll fire up our imagination for next time.