Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Is The White Horse Really a Dragon?

To celebrate St George's Day I am posting up an updated blog piece from a couple of years ago. I hope you enjoy it!

Dragon Hill near Uffington in Oxfordshire is in local folklore the place where St George, the patron saint of England (and many other countries), slew the dragon. As "proof" of this deed there is a patch of chalk on the top of the hill where the grass never grows because it is said this was where the dragon's blood was spilt. It's a wonderful legend and a fabulously atmospheric site with the ramparts of Uffington Iron Age Castle looming above and the sweep of the Manger below. It is said that on the night of the seventh moon the ancient chalk figure of the Uffington White Horse comes alive and goes down to the manger to graze.

According to one legend, St George was a soldier in the Roman army who killed the dragon to save a princess in true fairy tale fashion. However as is often the case with legend St George has many incarnations and his story many different interpretations. You can read more about St George here.

Some people believe that the figure of the White Horse is actually a representation of a dragon in homage to
the legend of St George. Another intriguing possibility is that Dragon Hill takes its name from being the burial place of a Pendragon, an early chieftain of Britain. Legend links King Arthur Pendragon to the village of Baydon, which is only a few miles distant. The intriguing connections of myth and legend weave a powerful web around this part of the country.

You can walk to the Uffington White Horse and Dragon Hill from Ashdown House, or vice versa. It is only a few miles along the ancient track of the Ridgeway, past the long barrow at Waylands Smithy. White Horse Hill was this week named by the organisation VisitEngland as one of the top places to visit in the UK. A walk in this historic landscape is a mystical and atmospheric experience.


Mrs Black the shoppe keeping cat said...

This subject has always fascinated us and we feature words from G.K. Chesterton and images on the bottom of our blog.

A favourite place!

Minerva x

Nicola Cornick said...

I've just read the quotation. Beautiful! And it sums up how many of us feel about the ancient mythical quality of the landscape around here. I like the idea that perhaps the horse was a unicorn. It's fascinating to see the different shapes it has taken down the years.

Thank you for the comment.

White Horse Pilgrim said...

I was travelling across the vale last week by train, looking across to the White Horse as I always do on such journeys. I fell to wondering whether distant ancestors not only used the White Horse as a symbol visible from afar but the Dragon Hill as the location for ceremonial fires that would have illuminated the chalk figure at night from a great distance. At the time it seemed like inspiration, thinking back to a world without electricity.

Nicola Cornick said...

A fascinating suggestion. Ceremonial fires would have looked stunning on White Horse Hill or Dragon Hill and I imagine could well have had huge significance for our ancestors.