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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in snakes

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Call of the Horned Serpent

 Wrap your cold coils around the world,

bounding that which Is from what Is Not.


As Lord of Beasts, god of red life, the god of witches—him that we call the Horned—takes many forms. Among the least-examined of these in contemporary Witchdom is that of the Great (or Old, or Crooked) Serpent.

One readily understands why. Ophidophobia runs deep in Western culture. I'm afraid of snakes myself, though they fascinate me as well. (They say that fascinate originally referred to “the ability to induce an erection.” Make of that what you will.) The War between the Thunderer and the Earth Serpent is an old, old story, one of humanity's most widespread. It only becomes a danger when the War becomes morally weighted, as it does, most notably, in the Bible, in which the Serpent frequently embodies capital-E Evil: e.g. the polycephalous (many-headed) and polycerate (many-horned) Dragon of the bad acid-trip book of Revelation.

(Pagans, of course, knew—and know—better. Ba'al's adversary, Livyatán—who became the Leviathan of Hebrew mythology—is called náhash 'aqaltón: the “zigzag serpent.” Interestingly, Bible translators have tended to render this as “the crooked serpent.” Compare the two adjectives. One is morally-charged, the other merely descriptive.)

Here we see another reason for Wicca's aversion to the Horned Serpent. Wicca, for entirely understandable reasons, has tended to eschew anything that bears even the slightest taint of Satanism.

Old Craft is less fearful of Biblical imagery although—as Craft historian Mike Howard has observed—when it embraces it, it tends to do so for its own purposes.

One of the few contemporary Craft voices to speak about the Old Serpent is Tony Steele, who in his 1998 Water Witches writes about a purported Fam Trad, supposedly of Frisian origin, preserved among the canal-boatsmen (and -women) of the English Midlands.

Let me say up front that the credibility of his historical claims is gravely damaged by his decision to anchor them in the Oera Linda Book, a notorious late “19th” century forgery claiming to date back to Bronze Age “Atland” (i.e. Atlantis).

Well, for now let us lay historicity to the side. Steele claims as the god of these water-witches the Great Serpent “World”: in Frisian (supposedly) Wr-alda. (My Frisian-English dictionary doesn't turn up such a word.) Steele's ideas are most moving (and convincing) when he writes in a pagan idiom of the Earth Serpent, Whose power flows through the landscape. (Take a thoughtful look at the Great Serpent Mound to understand what he means.) It is less so when it seeks deep Craft meaning in the hallucinatory visions of the book of Revelations, where the Dragon is said to have seven heads and ten horns. Steele suggests that reflection on the uneven horns-to-heads ratio will impart deep insights into the nature of the god of witches.

Call me a skeptic, but I'm not convinced.

Still, Steele does indeed have his share of insights to offer, and I'd recommend a read to those whose ears the Crooked Serpent has tickled with His forkèd tongue.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The majority of sea snakes live in the warm seas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  Most of the species are found in the Coral Triangle region of Southeast Asia, with Australia a close second. Built for marine life, sea snakes have rounded bodies and flat tails.  Furthermore as they swim, small flaps cover their noses to keep the sea water out.

 The families of sea snakes differ in their need for land and fresh water.  The Hydrophiinae like the yellow-bellied sea snake spend their entire lives at sea.  They have glands under their tongues to discharge salt.  Also, the powerful lung of these snakes allows them to dive deeply, and stay underwater for a long time.  Great numbers of these sea snakes can be found floating out in the open ocean in a giant raft (“slick”).

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STILETTO SNAKES (Mole Vipers, Burrowing Asps): Expect the Unexpected

Found in Africa, Stiletto Snakes (Atractaspis) are well-suited for their underground life. Burrowing through the earth, They look for a tasty Lizard. Finding one, Stiletto Snakes stab the unfortunate animal with their fangs, and then eat Him. These Snakes can kill without opening their mouths. Highly venomous, Stiletto Snakes possess huge venom sacs. Because They live underground, Stiletto Snakes are only encountered by people when they dig in their gardens.

Because of their large horizontal fangs, Stiletto Snakes can strike sideways and backwards. With a jerk of their heads, these Snakes kill by a sideways stab of their fangs. (Unlike other venomous Snakes, these Snakes stab their victims instead with their fangs.) The stabbing injects the venom, earning these Snakes the name “stiletto”. Although these Snakes are venomous, They are not considered to be Vipers. Causing much taxonomic confusion among scientists because of their unusual fangs, Stiletto Snakes have been placed in their own family for the time being.

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Snake Spirits: Health and Wealth

"Snake, snake, come swiftly 
Hither come, thou tiny thing,
Thou shalt have thy crumbs of bread,
Thou shalt refresh thyself with milk."

-The Brothers Grimm, “Stories About Snakes: First Story”

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Another Knotty Problem

In my last post I explored the Minoan sacral knot, a religious symbol from ancient Crete that consisted of a length of fabric knotted together with a loop at the top. But the sacral knot isn’t the only instance of knotwork in Minoan religious iconography. And while the sacral knot may be related to the Egyptian tyet (Isis’ symbol), these other knots are more closely allied with snakes.

When Sir Arthur Evans excavated Knossos more than a century ago, one of the objects he found was a figurine of a woman covered in snakes (photo at the top of this post). They twine around her hat, down her chest and arms, and around her belly. The snakes that cross her belly form a large knot that’s a prominent feature on the figurine. Evans was intrigued by this knot, even going as far as researching whether snakes in the wild ever tie themselves into knots. For the record, blindworms do, but they’re not true snakes, though the Minoans might not have been able to tell the difference.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Tying a Sacred Knot

Many symbols and images have held sacred meaning within religious traditions around the world and throughout time: the circle, the cross, the pillar, the pentagram. These symbols don’t necessarily mean the same thing in every tradition, and sometimes we can’t even be sure what the original significance was for each culture. One such symbol is the knot. You may be familiar with the tale of the Gordian knot from Greek and Roman mythology (the one Alexander the Great famously sliced with his sword) or the tyet of Isis from Egyptian mythology, often found in the form of amulets but also related to the knot on some Egyptian deities’ garments. But there’s another one you might not have heard of: the Minoan sacral knot. Let’s explore this symbol and see what we can discover about it.

The famed ‘snake goddess’ figurine from Knossos (in the photo at the top of this post) has an object that Sir Arthur Evans identified as a sacral knot between her breasts, at the top of the girdle that encircles her waist. A second ‘snake goddess’ figurine, also found at Knossos, has a similar, though larger, knot between the front edges of her top. I find it interesting that the snakes themselves form a large knot over her lower abdomen. I have to wonder if that has any significance. What do you think? 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ruby
    Ruby says #
    When I first saw the image of the sacral knots my immediate thought is that it could be a birthing rope. Something like a rebozo u
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    What a great insight! Yes, I'm familiar with the rebozo as used by the women of Central America during labor and childbirth. The m

When I was younger, I used to be a regular at the local hospital. Nothing too serious, mostly check-ups, but I still owe a lot to a few doctors in my life. I've been fortunate that the operations I needed in my life all went well, and I attribute that mostly to the physicians who performed them. Today, at dusk, the festival day of the Asklepieia starts. The Asklepieia (Ἀσκληπίεια) was held on the eighth day of Elaphebolion, in honor of Asklēpiós, who was honored monthly on the eighth. The Asklepieia is linked to the Epidausia, celebrated six months later, as both were special days where those in the medical profession--as well as those seeking medical counsel--made sacrifices to Asklēpiós.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing!
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Very welcome!

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