I am lucky enough to live in Kifissia, a lovely green suburb of Athens, Greece. Not far from my home there's a quiet place with meadows and olive groves. I love taking meditative walks there. Just a couple of days ago, as I was walking, I came across a snakeskin. I felt chills down my spine as I remembered the powerful symbolism of transformation associated with a creature that can literally shed its skin.
This made me think that the forces of change are always with us. They're part of nature as much as they're part of our inner landscape and our social environment. Living in Greece has given me ample opportunity to experience the winds of change time and again these past few years.
There's a sense of history in the making in Greece these days. The people are called to vote in a referendum whether they agree with the harshest austerity measures they've ever faced. If they vote no, they're threatened with an exit from the eurozone and the European Union.
Scary? For many people yes. Yet sometimes what we most fear is precisely what we need to face. What may seem as impending doom may in fact be a propelling force towards a much-needed process of renewal. Which brings us to the topic of this blog post: for a very long time, the snake has been a powerful symbol of death and rebirth. Interestingly, it was also sacred to Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, the patron goddess of Athens, which is now the capital of Greece.
I've always felt a special affinity to the snake. As a teenager, I used to draw a serpent coiled around my ring finger. This much maligned animal seems to carry a message: facing your fears can be a path to regeneration and wisdom. Exploring the hidden meanings of the snake has become a source of inspiration for me. Allow me to share with you a part of an article I wrote about Athena as Snake Goddess.
Pallas, only-begotten, venerable offspring of the great Zeus…
The three skulls seem to be staring at me through their empty sockets. In times past I would have felt profoundly unsettled, but now these ancestral skulls seem vaguely familiar. It makes me wonder who these people were and what caused their deaths. I turn my eyes towards the woman lying in the middle of the hall.
Selene, the Moon Goddess, on a Roman sarcophagus. About 210 CE. Getty Villa. Photo by Harita Meenee.
To a Greek person, the word “August” brings two things to mind. One is the August moon. Captivating and erotic, we observe it with awe as it spreads its glow on the dark sea waters. It keeps on striking a chord. Strange? Not at all since the moon is a powerful archetypal symbol. Myths, which speak the language of the soul, adore it. Almost all peoples and cultures have created traditions and beliefs related to it.