Symbolism of the Snake
Symbolism of the Snake
The snake or serpent has been a powerful symbol and totem throughout history and all cultures where snakes are present. The overlap of the symbolism of the between cultures is significant. A snake is referred to as a serpent when in religious, mythical or symbolic context. The serpent has more meaning and symbology attached to it than most other animals.
The snake is a powerful creature; it is agile, strong, and dangerous to human life, it is often concealed under things or hidden. It is no wonder why they became such an important creature to many cultures. Any animal that can kill a person demands respect and the snake does it with such ease. Many people are afraid of snakes because they are often poisonous.
The snake sheds its skin when it starts to grow too big for it. A young snake that is still growing will shed its skin every five to six weeks. Because the snake sheds its skin it has become a symbol of rejuvenation and new life.
The serpent is identified with many different qualities, some conflicting, this gives it dual symbolism. Some cultures attribute it to the goddess and some attribute it to the god, some attribute it to both. It is thought to represent wisdom, cycles, rebirth, awareness, healing, intuition, protection, transformation and hidden knowledge.
The snake can be seen in the symbol of the ouroboros, a snake as a circle biting its own tail. Ouroborus translates from Greek to “he who eats the tail”. The earliest known use of this symbol was in the Egyptian Book of the Netherworlds. To the ancient Egyptians a snake biting its tail was a symbol of the sea, the eternal ring that enclosed the world. This symbol can also be seen as a dragon eating its own tail so the fact that it is a snake is not seminal to the symbology of the ouraboros in some cases. It is also a symbol in alchemy the refers to an eternal cycle.
This is a Haitian coin from 1821 featuring a serpent biting its own tail.
In India the snake is a symbol for the Kundalini energy; a snake coiling around the spine. The serpent in this culture is a symbol of life force, birth, death and mortality. Snakes are referred to as naga’s in Hindu mythology.
In the Christian book of Genesis the serpent is the giver of knowledge to Adam and Eve, the knowledge was said to be the knowledge of good and evil. It is not specifically mentioned in this book that the snake was evil but it was portrayed as a trickster. However, in the book of Revelations the serpent was equated with the Devil.
The snake is also used as a symbol of healing. In Greek mythology a god named Asclepius carried a staff or rod with a serpent entwining it. He was a god of healing and a physician. The significance of the snake in this symbol has been attributed to the snake’s ability to shed its skin and rejuvenate or its duality of life and death. This symbol has been confused with the caduceus wand of Hermes, which has two snakes intertwined around it. These serpents represent duality.
The snake is certainly a creature worth respecting, it can teach you much about enlightenment, of light and of dark.
Brad & Saskia