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Unlocking the Secrets of Draco Alchemicus

There are more secrets revealed

One will save you, one will kill.

Which is poison, which is cure?

Learn to discern!

What is Draco Alchemicus? A faërie tale, fully illustrated, with dragons.

Why is it called Draco Alchemicus? “Draco” is Latin for “serpent” or “snake.” In English, the title might be rendered as “The Alchemical Dragon” or, more properly, “Snake Oil,” which should make you wonder about how (and why) scientists and physicians similarly use Latin to obscure the ingredients of the potions they sell. You know how doctors use fancy words to disguise the fact they are prescribing you poisons? So do drakes.

You claim to be writing as Christians. Aren’t dragons a symbol of Satan? This is another reason our title is Draco Alchemicus. Again, “draco” in Latin simply means “serpent” or “snake.” The ambiguity in the tradition comes from Psalm 148:7, where the “dracones” sing praises to God along with the other creatures. In the Dragon Common Room, our purpose is to recover fantasy for Christ, much as the dragons singing their praises in the psalm recover creation for the praise of the Lord. Thus, in our poem, the “Draco” is twinned: both Satan (the Dragon of the Apocalypse of St. John) and Christ (the Brazen Serpent lifted up in the desert, as noted in John 3:14-15).

Why the “alchemical” dragon? What is alchemy? Alchemy is the ancient and medieval philosophical tradition concerned with the transformation of matter, particularly the transformation of base metals into gold, and with the quest for a universal elixir or substance said to prolong life. Paradoxically, given its focus on matter and physical longevity, alchemy was also invoked as a metaphor for spiritual transformation. The Counter-Reformation Roman Catholic convert Johann Angelus Silesius (1624-1677) used this metaphor frequently in his epigrams, describing the soul transformed by God as finest gold, clear as crystal. Our story works on multiple levels, taking the metaphor of transformation both as a spell cast over modernity in its quest for gold and extended life, and as a promise of redemption through Christ.

Magic Cards.jpg

Is Draco Alchemicus a game or a story? I see playing cards in the Kickstarter rewards, but I don’t understand why. Draco Alchemicus is a poem, written in iambic pentameter, using the stanza form invented by Edmund Spenser for his great Elizabethan epic The Faërie Queene.


We made the playing cards as a backer reward for the Kickstarter to introduce readers to the main characters in the story: Damian Stone (Kings), Eliza Drake (Queens), Guardian (Jacks), Dove (Aces), and Dog (Jokers). We also designed special pips for the suits to symbolize the different time periods in which the story is set and to play off the symbolism of the original medieval Tarot suits. Our pips are Daggers (Spades; Elizabethan); Flowers (Hearts; Commedia dell’arte); Gears (Diamonds; Steam Punk); and Vines (Clubs; Casino Magic). 


I don’t read fantasy/poetry/comics. Why should I be interested in Draco Alchemicus? Draco Alchemicus is intended as a challenge both to the dumbing down and deconstruction of modern storytelling (think, Hollywood blockbusters as studied in college classes) and to the mystification of the great works of English literature as “inaccessible” or “high brow” (think, Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer as studied in college classes).


Rather than complain about the lack of great art, the Dragon Common Room has taken up the gauntlet and chosen to make some, while at the same time embracing the teachings of Augustine of Hippo on the importance of the sermo humilis—the mixture of rhetorical styles necessary for the communication of Christian mysteries. Whereas the ancient rhetoricians used only the sublime style to speak of the gods and their mysteries, Christian preachers, like Christ, use the low or humble style typically associated with comedy and common folk to speak of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. 


Perhaps the easiest way to describe Draco Alchemicus is as a crossover between Star Wars (itself modeled on Spenser’s Faërie Queene) and Shakespeare (a mastercraftsman of both comedy and tragedy, kings and fools). Much as in the Incarnation, God humbled himself to speak to us with human words, we, as Christian artists, use the low styles of fairy tales and comic art to lift the mind and heart to the contemplation of God.

Why should I read Draco Alchemicus? It will make you smarter. Just like listening to Mozart.


The Four Senses of Draco Alchemicus. Why good stories, like Ogres and onions, have layers.

On Christian Dragons. Why Christians should reclaim fantasy, including stories about dragons.

“I will eviscerate you in fiction.” On inventing stories, especially poems.

Alchemical Storytelling for the Electric Mosaic: Making the Old New. On recognizing that we already know the story, and being transformed by it.

“Pure as the finest gold, hard as the granite rock,

clear as a quartz crystal my soul shall be.”

—Angelus Silesius, The Cherubic Wanderer (1674)

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