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Ancient Celtic Coin Art

22 23 Many Iron Age scabbards are decorated with two facing dragons, and this may indicate there was an elite or secret society of dragon warriors. Greek and later Irish texts speak of dedicated warrior bands of companions, mercenary units living on the very edges of society. Between the dragon beasts there is often a treelike foliate or palmate pattern, suggesting tribal guardians. In historical times the dragon was a common emblem and war standard. Its ferocity and invulnerability acted as a strong talisman and as a hybrid of bird and snake it may have reflected the ambiguous status of these elite fighter, removed from everyday society. There are widespread traditions of dragons guarding treasure and the lands abundance, and of causing widespread destruction if disturbed. One coin lower right shows a central sword to the right of which stands a naked man touching the blade edge with one hand, while the other hand and arm is enlarged. On the left of the blade, attached to the sword by a chain, is a strange, sinuous creature with tentacle like legs and mane. This may be a warrior dragon, a composite of snake, horse, water creature and bird of prey, bound magically to the weapon and infusing its user with dragon power. The dancing pose and long arm both indicate supernatural strength and energy. Other coins show serpentlike horned dragons by themselves, but perhaps the most revealing are those that show warriors wearing dragon helmet crests, or with dragon forms writhing in their hair. dRAGONS and dragon warriors a. b. d. c. e. g. f. h.
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