How to Train Your Dragon


In the 1981 film Excalibur, King Arthur, having learnt of Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair, rides out to the forest where he finds the two lovers asleep in each other’s arms. Burning with hurt, he drives the sword Excalibur between their entwined bodies. Thus is unleashed the chain of events that leads to his downfall.

The resulting imagery – the central sword driven between the entwined male and female polarities – strongly evokes the symbolism of the Caduceus, only here the Sword is not being used as a balancing force but rather as a weapon of repression. Wielded with angst, it drives the male and female polarities apart.

Whether or not the king’s actions are justified depends on the perspective. From one angle, it is an entirely human response – the king is merely expressing the hurt of betrayal. From another, it can be argued that the king’s hurt says more about his relationship with himself than with any external agency.


Excalibur is one take on the Arthurian myths. There are many interpretations, and to isolate a single cause of the king’s downfall is to miss the bigger picture. The events that led to the king’s “grievous wound” on the fields of Camlann can be traced back beyond Lancelot and Guinevere’s betrayal, beyond Arthur lying with his half sister and begetting Mordred, beyond even the “first deception” when Merlin elected to meddle in the affairs of men. From a wider perspective, the ‘cause’ of Arthur’s downfall is simply that the time wasn’t right for the Divine Feminine to be united with the Divine Masculine.

Nevertheless, the fateful scene when Arthur plunges Excalibur into the ground provides a powerful illustration of the maxim of “as above, so below,” or “the Land and the King are one.” Arthur’s internal angst resonates outwards across all levels of reality, with grave repercussions for the kingdom.

The Sword becomes a force of repression. Wielded in anger and hurt, it fixes the energies and causes stagnation. The principles hold true for all of us. Unless allowed a safe outlet, emotional hurt can cause deep-seated problems, even expressing on the physical plane.

The two choices commonly presented are either to act on the hurt, which can lead to more problems, or to internalize the hurt, which can lead to repression. A similar dilemma appears in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy.

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Two options, two downsides. What is needed is a third choice, a new way of wielding the Sword of consciousness.


King Arthur has two sons. Mordred is his physical son. Galahad, though sired by Lancelot and Elaine, plays the part of the king’s spiritual son. Mordred is a manifestation of the king’s deeper instincts while Galahad represents his higher aspirations. Arthur denies one while lavishing attention on the other, which throws things out of balance. This is a problem with many religions: they focus on the higher aspirations while denying the deeper instincts, which can lead to all kinds of pathology. Everything becomes black and white. Galahad is spiritual but sterile. Mordred is darker than dark.

There are interesting parallels to be found in another of Shakespeare’s plays, The Tempest.

In this case, Prospero is the benevolent king. Ariel is the Galahad analogue, while Caliban takes on the role of Mordred.

Prospero aligns with Ariel while shunning Caliban. Treated as a monster, Caliban reacts against the oppression and ‘proves’ his barbarism.

Caliban causes all manner of upset until Prospero takes responsibility with the words -

This thing of darkness, I acknowledge mine.


Taking responsibility is one of the fundamental steps in regaining sovereignty: stepping up to the mark and acknowledging our part in the creation of the universe.

In the film Excalibur, Arthur takes back responsibility when he says –

“I have lived through others for far too long. Lancelot carried my honour, and Guenevere, my guilt. Mordred bore my sins. My knights have fought my causes. Now, my brother, I shall be king!”

When dealing with the darkness in the world, a similar approach is needed. The only way of transmuting the darkness in the outer world is to face the darkness in the inner world. This can be easier said than done, but within the ancient myths are clues to how it might be achieved.


A major challenge when it comes to facing inner demons is to avoid getting entangled in the negativity.

Confronted with a part of us that we don’t like, a common reaction is one of judgement or even denial, which tends to push the negativity down further. This merely compounds the problem – the negativity is still there, but walled off by our negative reaction towards it.

What is needed is a new way of looking, free from judgement. That way, the negativity can be truly acknowledged, causing it to lose power and the trapped energy to dissipate, transmuting into a vibrant and uplifting flow.

This requires a degree of non-doing. Having learnt to rely on the conscious mind, which likes to solve problems, the temptation is to ‘try’ to demolish the negativity: blasting it with mind rays or righteousness or mental effort of one sort or another. But here the maxim that “whatever is resisted, persists” holds true: the more we force things, the more tension we create.

What is needed is a different way of thinking: yin thinking instead of yang thinking.

(“ I AM NO MAN ! ”)

The power of the Feminine is vividly illustrated in The Lord of the Rings when Eowyn meets The Witch King on the Pelennor Fields. Eowyn is a representation of the yin energy, with strong Earth goddess connections. The Witch King is the personification of base, corrupted yang energy. He stands in defiance of Eowyn and rightly proclaims, “No man can kill me!”

In symbolic terms, the Witch King cannot be destroyed by yet more yang energy, i.e. by being struck with the judgemental force of the conscious mind. What is needed is yin energy.

Thus is Eowyn able to reply, “I am no man!” before obliterating the negativity. The Feminine achieves what the Masculine cannot.

Yin thinking is a receptive way of thinking. It is about acceptance. It involves surrendering to the greater energies of the universe, relinquishing a desire for control in order for something more powerful to shine through.

When faced with negative energies while meditating, we need only be aware, with impartiality and non-judgement, and the deeper energies will take care of themselves. In the Eastern traditions this approach is known in as compassionate detachment. It is the ability to remove oneself from the drama in order to better deal with the situation.

While commonly attributed to Eastern philosophies, compassionate detachment also appears in Western traditions, most vividly in the myth of Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa.

The story of Perseus and Medusa is the story of taking an Underworld Journey and facing inner demons.

Medusa represents corrupted energies. In some versions of the myth, she was once a beautiful maiden who dared to compete in beauty with Athena, whereupon her beautiful ringlets were transformed into hissing serpents.

The curse of Medusa is that anyone looking directly at her turns to stone. This is an example of becoming entangled in the negativity. If we look directly at our inner demons, we tend to recoil, tense up, become frozen; we ‘turn to stone’.

Perseus is able to vanquish Medusa because he carries a magical item, granted him by Athena, the goddess of Wisdom. He carries the goddess’s mirrored shield, with which he is able to view Medusa from outside of himself; in other words with compassionate detachment.

Wisdom (Athena) tells us we need a new way of seeing. We need to look at ourselves impartially, as if we are observing from afar; this way we don’t get tangled in the mess.


When Perseus cuts off Medusa’s head, the winged horse Pegasus rises from the wound. This is an alchemical transformation, familiar to those who have experienced deeper levels of meditation (in particular, in this author's experience,Vipassana meditation). A dense knot of dark energy – observed without reaction, judgement or tension – dissolves, accompanied by an uplifting release of energy.

It is not a case of fighting or pushing down the serpentine energy but allowing corrupt snake energy to transmute into vibrant snake energy. This is achieved with the help of the Will: holding on to the Sword of awareness while letting go of the masculine (judgemental) mind. Our mode of thought shifts from an active state to a mindful, receptive state. When this occurs, the deeper energies are transmuted without effort.