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The Snake's Image In Culture

Rattlesnake
Picture Source: NPS

Has any of God's creatures been more maligned than the snake? The bible says that Satan appeared to Eve in the Garden of Eden as a serpent. The Book of Revelation states "that serpent of old" as "the Devil and Satan" (Revelation 20:2). The Devil supposedly tempted Eve while he was in the form of a serpent. Not all references to snakes in the bible are absolute, for example the Hebrew word zâchal could mean to fear, serpent, worm. Can you imagine worm substituted for snake, its almost laughable. The Greek word herpeton means reptile, small animal, serpent. Both these words appear in the bible and it is generally accepted that they refer to snakes but that could be wrong.

The serpent was not reviled in all cultures, however. Quetzalcoatl, was a plumed serpent that was worshipped by ancient Aztecs. Of course this was a mythical creature, but it was regarded as the Master of Life. The truth is that it was an actual person who was a 10th century priest-king and was later worshipped as the plumed serpent which was a divinity. He had been given the name Quetzalcoatl because he so impressed his religious teachers with his wisdom and piety, that he was given this great honor. Many serpent columns were made for the city of Tula, these were produced by excellent craftsmen who were deaf mutes imported by the king for this purpose.

In India a Cobra was thought to be the reincarnation of an important person. Those people were called Nagas. Because of this the event of January 7, 2003, must have been very upsetting to Rajkiran Rai of Pawapur Village. He found three Cobras outside his home and they had frozen to death. Snake charmers in India blow a horn called a pungi and the Cobra seems to rock back and forth to the music. Actually the Cobra is deaf but rocks back and forth to the rocking of the horn. Even a stick waved back and forth would accomplish the same thing.

There is a story that comes from ancient Greek Mythology that states that the mythical figure Aesculapius saw a snake use herbs to bring another snake back to life and that is how medicine was discovered. That is why we have the symbol of two snakes wrapped around a staff to denote medical units.

Snakes seem to get mentioned everywhere and even in places that may not have ever existed. One has just to search the web for facts on Atlantis and he will see references to ceremonies where snake were held high by priests doing twirling dances. The purpose of the snake, in this context, alludes me.

Ordinary Garter Snake
Picture Source: NPS

Ancient pottery has been found in Iran that has the depiction of a demon with a human body on it. The demon has his elbows bent and both hands raised in a gesture of conjuration. Two snakes extend their triangular heads toward the demon's armpits. This pottery is depicting evil associated with snakes. The ancient Iranians believed that evil created animals including the snake and evil caused disease and death to arrive on earth.

The ancient Egyptians had a snake goddess. She was the goddess of the Nile Delta and she was thought to be good. The Minoans also had gods taken from Egyptian culture, including a snake goddess.

When it comes to the worship of animals of any kind, most people think of this as a practice from ancient times, after all who would do this today? But is this necessarily true? NO. There are churches in the south, in this country, where handling poisonous snakes is a religious experience. Not only are these snakes handled but poison is drank and fire handled. These people see the snake not as an evil monster or maybe even Satan, but as a messenger of God. They have a saying, always be careful who you take a rattlesnake from. The basis for snake handling is Mark 16:18 "they shall take up serpents… and it shall not hurt them,"

A 4,000 year old fragment of a gourd from South America was found. On it, is the oldest deity yet found in that area. It is the Staff God and its left arm ends in a snake's head. Interestingly, this pushes the date back for organized religion in the area of the Andes more than 1,000 years.

A poisonous snake does not always inject venom when it bites.

Plains Western Hognose Snake - Heterodon nasicus The plains western hognose snake (Heterodon nasicus) can be recognized by the sharply upturned snout. When threatened the snake will flatten its head, inflate its body with air, and hiss loudly to intimidate the intruder. If this show proves unsuccessful, the hognose snake will turn over on its back and play dead. If the snake is turned upright it will again roll over and continue trying to convince its antagonist that it is dead. As you can see this snake doesn't even attack. Picture Source: NPS



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