In alchemical symbolism dragons are associated with fire and the primal chaotic material. The Western concept of dragons is to portray them as fire animals spewing fire. Something to be hated, feared, and destroyed.
However, in the Far East these negative traits are minimized and the symbolism is ambivalent. In iconography, for example, two dragons are depicted as facing each other, and especially in European and Islamic hermeticism this confrontation is depicted as being similar to the serpents of the caduceus.
This is the neutralization of opposing tendencies, of alchemical sulfur and mercury; while immanent, undeveloped nature is portrayed as in the ouroboros, the dragon biting its tail.
Even in the Far East the dragon possesses different aspects, in that it is simultaneously a creature of water, of Earth, of the underworld, and of the shy. This makes it akin to the Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec, plumed serpent.
Symbolism from Carl G. Jung’s Mysterium Coniunctions: Dragon is personification of Sulphur and is by far the male element. Since the dragon is said to impregnate himself by swallowing his tail, then the tail is the male organ and the mouth is the female organ.
The dragon consumes its entire body into his head. Thus, partaking of his most dangerous and evil nature turning it into the inner fire of Mercury.
This evil dragon nature which sulphur shares is frequently called the «dragon’s head» (caput dragonis), which is a «most pernicious poison,» a poisonous vapor breathed out by the flying dragon.
However, the «winged dragon» that stands for quicksilver becomes a poison-breathing monster only after it unites with the «wingless dragon» which corresponds to sulphur.
In psychological terms these two dragons represent the opposites; the winged dragon tries to prevent the wingless dragon from flying. They are always in confrontation until the wingless dragon flies, symbolizing the conquering of an obstacle, or obstacles, preventing total individualization.
In other words, the winged dragon represents personal obstacles that must be overcome to insure a more-perfect being; thus, leading to the saying: «You conquer the dragon or he will conquer you.» A.G.H.
Chevalier, Jean and Alain Gheerbrant. A Dictionary of Symbols. (Transl. by John Buchanan-Brown). New York, Penguin Books. 1996. pp. 142-145.
Biedermann, Hans. Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons and the Meanings Behind Them. (Transl. by James Hulbert). New York. Facts On File, 1992. pp. 54-55