Monday, August 12, 2013

The Virgin and her Snakes

Unearthing the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...

A few years ago, I traveled to a remote Greek island in search of snakes and miracles and wrote about it here.

I had heard that snakes mysteriously emerged from the earth on August 15 every year in a small town on the island of Kefalonia. 

Not only that - according to the locals, the snakes were believed to have healing powers. 

More intriguing was the fact that the snakes appeared on one of the most holy dates in the Orthodox calendar - the Assumption of the Virgin Mary - and the churches of this region incorporated the two events.

The combination of snakes and the Virgin Mary is enticing indeed.

Freud referred to the snake as a phallic symbol, and Christianity has demonized the serpent in the story of Adam and Eve as a symbol of temptation and evil. But the snake has deeper roots as an ancient symbol of the feminine archetype. Many cultures represent the power of the serpent as the feminine vital energy that exists, coiled at the base of the spine known as Kundalini.

The snake is a chthonic creature, or creature that lives underground. It represents the unconscious, and the intuitive sense which is often referred to as feminine. Its ability to shed its skin symbolizes the concept of renewal, as with the waxing and waning phases of the moon, often associated with female cycles of reproduction. The snake has also been associated with oracular capabilities. The uraeus, found on ancient Egyptian statuary, emerges from the forehead and is meant to symbolize foresight and prophecy.
Amenhotep II
The Minoan people of ancient Crete depicted their goddess figurines holding snakes
Snake Goddess, Crete, ca. 1600 B.C.
and the Delphic Oracle was referred to as the pythia, or one who can foresee the future.
The Pythia, Paul Christian, late 19th century
To see such an ancient and deep symbol emerge in a modern religious ceremony is deeply reassuring. Pairing a feast day of the Virgin Mary with snakes is a healing message in itself that we have not lost touch with our deepest and most powerful symbols. Elements of what Jung referred to as the collective unconscious are still with us, and if we only look around ourselves and really see, we can reconnect with this energy and its message. 

The snake is not only an ancient feminine symbol, is also represents our unconscious side, our shadow, a side of ourselves we wish away and do not want to look at.

But the lesson of the snake is to remind us: what gold, what treasure does this shadow self of ours hold?

6 comments:

  1. To say this is interesting is not enough. Perhaps, our evolution, mental and emotional lies on the understandings of things we can't see. Hence, the many rituals societies have invented to deal with what they feel but can't see.

    I would not be surprised if the viewing of the umbilical cord did not produce the connection with snakes at its most elemental way; as the entrails have been used to interpret all kinds of unseen events.

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  2. I know there is a feminine and masculine side in yoga practice, but didn't realize Kundalini energy was feminine. The spine is interestingly shaped to serve as a casing for a serpentine shape, come to think of it.

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  3. Interesting to me to see this type of religious ritual across the globe. Here in Kentucky there are many churches that handle snakes and revere them as symbols. We all share so much in common all across the world.

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  4. Interesting, I remember this post about Kefalonia. so many symbols and so different intterpretations

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  5. Such a thought provoking post! I have often seen old prints with Goddesses, and possibly Saints and snakes and wondered what the story behind all of this was. Thank you for sharing your research - (and wonderful photographs!) I feel enlightened now! Minerva x

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