Serpent Wisdom

People often become upset when they first learn they are born in the year of the Snake, Rat, or Pig. But these animals do not have a negative connotation, especially Snake who is the Taoist astrology sign of beauty and wisdom!


Winter 2001, Vol. 2, No. 3, Page 12


The serpent is a universal symbol of death, healing, and rebirth. As the serpent sheds its skin, it is reborn. As the serpent crawls on the ground with grace and fluidity it is connected to earth and the powers of healing. The venom of this mysterious power animal can cause death. Serpent truly embodies many mysteries and has a place of honor in world traditions.

In ancient times, the serpent was worshipped worldwide. The crowns of ancient Egyptian pharaohs and deities were capped with a cobra. A golden sculpture of the cobra goddess Neith was discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Another serpent goddess of ancient Egypt, Uachet, was a desert warrioress invoked for priestly protection.

Ancient Greece was home to many serpent religions. The python was the sacred animal of Delphi, the famous site of oracle and healing. The ancient Greek seer Melampus learned to tell the future and cure people by understanding the language of birds (hear the subtlety of nature) after serpents spoke in his ear. An ancient Greek Pelasgian creation myth tells of the goddess Eurynome who divided the waters from the heavens. As she danced upon the waves, she created the great serpent Ophion who coiled about her and coupled with her. Eurynome became a dove and laid the universal egg. The serpent coiled around the egg until it hatched. Out of the egg emerged all of creation.

Images of serpents and serpent goddesses were found all over the ancient Mediterranean, such as Cretan and Minoan serpent goddess figurines. The goddess Hygieia, patroness of healing and midwifery, engaged the serpent as her symbol. The Greek doctor Aescepylus used the symbol of entwined serpents as his healing totem. Today the American Medical Association uses a wand wrapped by a serpent as their symbol of healing.

Serpent is important in ancient stories of death and immortality. In the Sumerian tale of Gilgamesh, serpent steals the herb of immortality to keep it from humans. Serpents do not die. Instead they shed their skins. The Old Testament tale of Genesis 3, serpent promises Adam and Eve that they will become immortal if they eat the forbidden fruit. In Greece and northern Africa, the goddess Medusa had serpents for hair. To gaze upon her caused death.

Serpent deities of America include Coatlique, an Aztec mother goddess with a double serpent rattlesnake head and skirt of writhing serpents. She wears a necklace of human skulls. Another Mexican serpent deity is the moon goddess Coyolxauhqui. Perhaps the greatest Aztec deity is Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent god. The Mayan Serpent god, Culculcan, was worshipped in the Yucatan. He is seen crawling down the pyramid of Chichen Itza. North American Hopi Indians honored the serpent and still use live rattlesnakes in yearly rain dance.

All over the world, Serpent was glorified. The African Dogon and many other cultures honor the serpent for its healing and regenerative powers. The Baga of Guinea honored the python, and python was a main deity of the Blue Nile region. The powerful deity of the Africans who were brought to Haiti during the slave trade was the serpent Damballa Wedo. The East Indian cobra serpent goddess Kadru gave birth to the naga serpents of India. One opened its hood to protect Buddha from raindrops.

Everywhere serpent was revered: The kundalini serpent of tantric yoga, the serpent mounds in Scotland and in the American south, the rainbow serpent Ngaqlijod of aboriginal Australia, serpent goddesses in Angkor Wat Cambodia, and the Northern European serpent god Midgard-Worm who was depicted with his tail in his mouth. In ancient China, serpent was honored as a celestial deity and is one of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.