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Martha and the Taming of the Dragon

Marta and the Taming of the Dragon

By on 2 December 2020

Marta and the Taming of the Dragon

The Taming of the Dragon by Saint Martha (drawing after the painting by an unknown artist from 1517 in the Martha Altar of St. Lawrence Church in Nuremberg. [1]original, see below).

Martha and the Taming of the Dragon

In the year 48,Martha of Bethany succeeded in taming the dragon Tarasque, who terrified the small southern French town of Nerluc.
According to a 12th century legend, the three siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus are said to have been driven from Bethany and fled by boat to the south of France, where Martha founded a monastery.

The legend of the taming of the dragon by St Martha

Tarasque, the water dragon

In the French town of Nerluc, people lived in fear and terror. For in the river, in the lower reaches of the Rhone, lived a huge water dragon with shimmering blue scales like steel. His name was Tarasque. He wreaked much destruction, devoured cattle, hikers and virgins, and destroyed the farmers' land and farms.

Hopeless situation for 16 brave heroes

Sixteen of the bravest men in the village had set out to fight him - without success. Half of them were burnt by the dragon fire, the others managed to escape.
The villagers had also asked the king for help in vain. The king had more important matters to attend to. The noble knights were also not interested in coming to the aid of the village.

Saint Martha, Martha of Bethany

Then a small ship docked at Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and a young woman in a white dress stepped ashore. It was St Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus. She agreed to help the inhabitants. Martha went to the river and began to sing.

Taming the Dragon

Attracted by her singing, the dragon came out of the water and lay down at her feet. Martha continued to sing until he fell asleep. Then she took her belt and put it around the dragon's neck. The dragon now followed her like a dog.

Slaying the Dragon

But the people outside Nerluc were terrified when they saw the dragon at Martha's side and threw stones at him. Before Martha could stop the angry crowd, Tarasque, hit by a stone, sank to the ground dead.

The Feast of Pentecost

In memory of this event, the town was renamed Tarascon. Every year at Whitsun, the town celebrates the Tarasque Festival.

On the outcome of the legend

The slaying of the tamed dragon

It is sad that the dragon, which had been tamed by gentleness, was nevertheless killed. Why? - Fear had made people blind, furious and without compassion.

Martha, on the other hand, had tamed the dragon through gentleness. She was able to do this because she had already overcome her own inner dragon.

The Dragon and the Human Collective

The devouring dragon, which is greedy, violent and without compassion, symbolises the full-blown identity of power. This is ultimately the old serpent in the human being, the ego, which rules over the instinct [2] (see also The snake in the head - our old reptilian brain)..

 On the individual archetypes of the legend

Martha of Bethany

From "stress monster" to servant

Of Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus of Bethany, the Bible reports that she kept a strict regime in her household. When Jesus visited the siblings, Matha tried to turn him against her sister Mary, who sat at his feet, saying. [3]:

Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me alone to serve? Tell her to help me!

Jesus broke the classic understanding of roles and defended Mary, who had left the housework to listen to him, by gently rebuking Martha:

Martha, Martha! You are worried and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful. But Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her.

The rabbi is saying that there are things that are more important than the fulfilment of duty. The all-important thing is the attitude of the heart: power or devotion? Martha obviously learned her lesson, because later, when Jesus was again a guest of the brothers and sisters, it was simply said [4]:

They made him dinner and Marta served.

Taming the dragon: Calming the emotions through song

In the legend, Martha tamed the dragon through song. In fact, agitated negative emotions can be soothed again, for example through music and song or through the meditation of positive messages and content. (For more see Strong Emotions and the Unconscious (Shadow Activity), The Third Eye and the King's Treasure and How do I concretely steer my life in a positive direction).

Martha Altar, Nuremberg

The female womb - the woman's belt as the dragon's collar

Martha put her belt around the dragon's neck.
It used to be clear: In the womb of the woman lies her power. For in it even new life - new reality! - can grow. The fire-breathing dragon, on the other hand, symbolises angry femininity in its power. The uterus (Greek hysterix) was already regarded by the Greeks as the seat of hysteria and was surgically removed by them.

The legend makes the connection between the body of the saint and the dragon through the belt. In the illustration, moreover, the hind end of the dragon's tail is intertwined with the bow of the woman's apron.

Dragonfire - The Burning Shoot

The fiery red apron: The sex drive and the pain drive

But the problem is ultimately the drive. The male bodily drive and power drive has suppressed and exploited the feminine. In reaction to this, the female emotional drive has formed. Pain drive frenzy of pain and anger. The drive is indicated in the 16th century painting by Martha's large red apron and by the man's red tunic still hanging out of the devouring dragon's mouth (in the original painting, right).

Fire from the throat of the dragon: Dominance in the soul-spiritual realm

WATER is the element of the female soul and the unconscious. Reptiles are assigned to WATER and thus to the feminine. While the snake "only" crawls on the ground (EARTH/body), the dragon can fly (AIR/spirit) and spit FIRE. Thus, the legendary reptile represents full-blown negativity - in all four areas of earthly existence (symbolized by The Four Elements). Negative femininity, in other words, means dominance and rule on the soul-spiritual level ("AIR"), which expresses itself in condemnation, anger, violence and revenge ("FIRE"). Both men and women can be in the grip of this archetypal energy. The dragon appears in many traditions and was also the symbolic animal of the Emperor of China.

16 = 4 x 4 men: powerlessness in earthly reality

Four is the number of earthly reality: 16 = 4 x 4, i.e. four raised to the power of four. Symbolically this means: It is an exceedingly great misery which underlies the whole earthly reality. Sixteen of the strongest men are burnt or flee, which means that male potency and power cannot solve the problem. It needs another power, a spiritual power, namely the Pentecostal miracle (see below).

Dragon Fire or Hell Fire: The Great Feminine in the Underworld

The dragon lurking in the water symbolises the primordial theme of humanity. It is an image of the fact that the great feminine, the life in matter, has fallen into unconsciousness, namely into the grip of pain, disease and death. (See The Negative Animus as Devil or Body of Pain and The Great Feminine in the Underworld).
The first myths already tell of this. In the Sumerian tradition the goddess of the underworld is full of anger and pain and kills everyone who comes near her. In the 2000 years more recent tradition of the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic the female is brutally suppressed, raped and, as a "monster", pursued and slain by the "heroes".
The same fate befell the dragon Tarasque, as well as many women who were oppressed or persecuted as witches.

The slaying of the tamed dragon: The Fear Instinct and the Projection of the Shadow

It is sad that people pounce on the tamed dragon and kill it. The fear instinct has thus become "self-propelling" and empathy fails.
The legend says: This is what immature man is like. He sees in the other person his own inner monster, which he hates so much and therefore pursues with all vehemence. In this way, the legend shows that the people of the village (the humans) have their Shadow have not integrated their shadows, but project them outwards onto a counterpart. It is irrelevant to them whether what they think they perceive actually corresponds to reality or not.
For a long time, the problem of humanity was projected onto women alone as the root of all evil. Today, however, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction.

In the year 48 of the event a symbolic statement can be seen: "Salvation comes into the world". 4 x 12; 4 for the earthly reality with the 4 elements, which is penetrated by the 12 for paradisiacal wholeness).

The Feast of Pentecost: Healing and Wholeness

It makes a lot of sense that the town commemorates the legend on Pentecost. This shows the way out of the problem. For on Pentecost the coming of the Holy Spirit is celebrated. In the Holy Spirit, the feminine and masculine sides of the Spirit are united: love, the Word and power (cf. The Holy Wedding and From 12 to 10, the redeemed creation).

Concluding remark

In a vivid way, the legend addresses primordial human themes and points to the goal: unity and wholeness.



[2] Revelation of John, Bible, New Testament, Rev 12,9

[3] Gospel of Luke, Bible, New Testament, Lk 10, 38-41 (transcription by analogy)

[4] Gospel of John, Bible, New Testament, John 12:2 (note the number of the verse: 12 for paradisiacal wholeness and 2 for male and female integrated).

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