St. George was born sometime between 275 and 281 and died in 303. He was born in what is now Turkey. Some historians doubt that he was an actual person. They think his story was created by putting together various legends and assigning them to one person. Personally, I don’t think it really matters whether he was an actual person or not. His legend is more symbolic than factual, so it’s meaning is what important.
St. George was a soldier in the Roman army and is usually depicted in armor on a horse. There are two major legend’s associated with St. George and both are very symbolic.
The most famous story is his defeat of a dragon. The dragon has made his nest at the spring that provides water for a town. In order to get water, the people have to lure the dragon away for a while. This they do by bringing the dragon a sheep. If they can’t find a sheep, they give him a maiden drawn by lot. One day, the princess is drawn. The King begs that she be spared, but the people will not make an exception for her. Just as she if offered to the dragon, the traveling St. George appears. He fights and slays the dragon and saves the princess. If this tale sounds familiar, it has been told with some variation for a number of other heroes.
I’ve covered dragon symbology on this blog already. In this case, the dragon is clearly one of the evil representations. It is believed to be an allegory for repression of a pagan cult. Another possibility is that it represents the devil much like St. Patrick and the snakes.
The second legend regarding St. George is that he was tortured on a wheel of swords before being decapitated. This was due to his confessing to be a Christian when the emperor Galerius ordered his soldiers to help persecute Christians. According to the most detailed story, George is told by God that he will suffer three deaths. A magician gives him two vials of a potion that can bring the dead back to life. St. George is than subjected to various tortures ending with the wheel of swords that cuts him into ten parts. The pieces are thrown into a well and covered. God and the Archangel Michael appear and revive George. The revived saint is then subjected to more tortures including having molten led poured into his mouth. He survives again, but stays dead after the third time.
Now I have never heard of this wheel of swords torture device before and, while it may very well have existed as a real thing, it is also highly symbolic. A wheel is a symbol of solar power. Also fate, time and karma, the cycles of life, renewal and rebirth. So while this torture of St. George may have really occurred, it may still be symbolic of him being “tortured” when he has to confront his ego and be reborn to his fate by the power of the Sun of Righteousness. The torture known as “the dark night of the soul” that many have to face before they can awaken their spiritual self.
Another interesting case of syncronicity. Just after I wrote the draft for this story, I sat down to watch TV and the History Channel was running a story about dragons.