The serpent holds a special place in many religions in history as well as in the present day. Snake worship is seen in both Hindu and Cambodian mythology.
In native North America, the Aztec Quetzalcoatl was a feathered serpent-god; the Mapuche (Chile) feature the serpent as important in their flood myth. In Mesoamerica, the serpent was a portal between 2 worlds.
Ancient Egypt worshipped several snake deities: the cobra goddess, Wadjet; the gods Apophis and Set(h).
In Greece and the Aegean, there was: the Minoan snake goddess, Delphi’s earth dragon, Python; and Medusa with snakes growing from her head (all of these mythical figures were female). Asclepius was a male figure who was known for his healing knowledge, having observed snakes use medicinal herbs (symbolized later as the snake on the medical staff of A(e)sclepius).
In Mesopotamia, the snake was considered immortal as it would shed its skin and appear ‘forever’ youthful.
In Africa, there is the rainbow snake god of the Ashanti and the cult of the python of the Dahomey.
In Australia, tribes in the south revere the snake, Wollungua; in the north, the ‘Rainbow Serpent’ was creator of the world.
The Ophites, a Christian gnostic sect, worshipped a serpent coiled around sacramental bread, representative of the saviour. The serpent is a figure of temptation and evil, deceiving Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Even today, the ‘Church of God Signs Following’ practises snake handling in its rituals.
|The Alchemical Ouraborus|
But the serpent symbol which perhaps ties many of the ideas behind these myths together, comes from ancient Egypt-Greece. The ‘Ouraborus‘, a ‘sigil’ (magical symbol) was the image of the serpent, adopted as the basic mandala of alchemy.
The ‘Ouraborus‘, with its tail in its mouth, continually devouring itself and being reborn from itself, expresses the ‘unity of all things material and spiritual’ which never disappear but perpetually change form in an eternal cycle of destruction and re-creation.”