Beginning to unravel the mystery of the serpent in the Bible: It must be remembered that the serpent is responsible for Adam and Eve leaving the garden. According to the Bible it is the “fault” of the serpent that Adam and Eve ate the fruit which causes their expulsion. But think about this? The tree is Eve’s tree. The tree is named after her. It is the tree of life. The name Eve means life, making it in actuality the tree of Eve. She doesn’t need the permission of the serpent, a deity or anyone to eat from her own tree. It is her right. It is more than her right, it is an expression of her essence. In fact, if she doesn’t eat from the tree, she would never leave the garden of Eden bringing herself/ her life essence to fruition here on Earth. If it is the serpent who midwifed this process, then the serpent as well is responsible for bringing/birthing life here on Earth as we know it today. This is not a curse at all, but a precious blessing.
So was it legit to blame the serpent for Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden? I say resoundingly NO!
It was said among Rabbis of old that the skin of the serpent enfolded all of creation. This is, I believe a recognition of the serpent as SEED CARRIER. Seeds are the roots of all-potential. It is through seeds that life exists as it does on this sacred Earth we inhabit. The serpent has been likened to the umbilical cord which connects the developing one to its mother, providing nourishment for growth. The serpent is also the mystic umbilical cord feeding us nourishment of both the heavens and the earth.
In a Sumerian story, which comes from the Gilgamesh myths and is a precursor to the story of Noah in the Bible, the themes of seeds and serpent meet. In the story, he meets the Sumerian Noah named Utnapishtim, and pleads to him for the secret to immortality. At the ending to the story, Gilgamesh is able to find the seeds of immortality called “An Oldster Man Becomes Child,” in the “abyss,” that cauldron of chaos from whence life emerged. With the seeds in hand, Gilgamesh heads for home, planning to eat them when he grows old and needs the spark of youth. But in a moment when Gilgamesh isn’t watchful, a serpent finds the seeds, snatches them and disappears as it sloughs off its old skin and transforms.
This is partially why the serpent is always found coiled at the base of the Tree of Life. The tree of life contains the fruit which will confer immortality. The serpent is their guardian, their keeper, their protector, their grail. The fruit from the tree of life is merely the seed in another form (as is any drink or elixir of immortality – soma, ambrosia, fountain of youth).
Through the seeds, which the serpent embodies, life is created. The “fall” is merely birth, something to be celebrated, not pounding our chests in fears of some inborn “sin” of the human race. Without birth there would be no human life. Without the seed growing to maturity, there would be no human life. Without the serpentine connection we have with our birth mothers and continue to have with our spirit ancestors, there would be no human life. And for all this we can thank the serpent.
The world tree always has a bird in the branches and a serpent at the roots. Look at these two images. The serpent goddess above from the 2nd century CE, perhaps an early image of a mermaid, shows the goddess and the serpent as one. The familiar image of Isis on the right shows her with her wings. The goddess and the bird as one.
As archaeological scholar Marija Gimbutas wrote, “The Snake Goddess and the Bird Goddess appear as separate figures and as a single divinity. Their functions are so intimately related that their separate treatment is impossible. She is one and she is two, sometimes snake, sometimes bird.”[i]
AND, I would add she is all TREE OF LIFE just as the TREE OF LIFE is Her complete with Her feathered wings and Her serpent “legs.”
[i] Gimbutas, Old Europe; 112.
This post is a partial review of my last several posts: It is a passage from my book ONE GODS: The Mystic Pagan’s Guide to the Bible
Now that we’ve seen goddesses inhabiting trees in the two cultures closest to ancient Israel, wouldn’t it make sense for there to be a tree in the Bible named after a goddess?
There is just such a woman in the bible, although without the designation “goddess;” Eve, chavah or hawwah as seen in Chapter 2. In Hebrew, the “tree of Life” is the tree of ha-hay-yim.
Ha-hay-yim is a variation of hawwah (with masculine plural “eem” or “yim”). The tree of life, literally translated, means the tree of Eve (transcendent of gender) in its grandest, most powerful aspect. This is the same aspect of the “eem” plural seen in Elohim in Chapter 8. Ha–hay–yim is LIFE/EVE writ large in the fullness of all mystery.
Among the many languages deriving from the same source, called Central Semitic,[i] are Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew. Comparative etymology shows that it is not just the tree that is a namesake to Eve. As Walker points out, “In Arabic, the words for ‘snake,’ ‘life’ and ‘teaching’ are all related to the name of Eve – the biblical versions of the Goddess with her serpent form, who gave the food of enlightenment to the first man.”[ii] In Arabic and Aramaic the word for serpent is hayyat. The letters “w” and “y” are interchangeable.
Eve (hawwah) was encouraged by an aspect of herself (hayyat) to eat the fruit from another aspect of herself, the tree of life (ha-hay-yim). The three elements; tree of life, Eve, and serpent are one and the same, a unity of symbols, the Great Goddess in three aspects.
[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Semitic_languages; consulted February 214. Also in Jean; 53-55. He calls the common root the “Phoenician alphabet.”
[ii] Walker, Barbara G., The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects Harper SanFrancisco, 1988; 388.
Now that we’ve seen goddesses living in trees in two cultures that surrounded Israel (Sumeria, Egypt), shouldn’t we be able to find a goddess in a tree in Israel. Yes, we should! Here is how we find Her.
To find our goddess in a tree, we have to look into Hebrew. The word for life in Hebrew is chai familiarly known in the phrase l’chaim – a Hebrew toast meaning “to life.” Chai is two letters – hhets and yud.
Another form of the word life is chai’ah or hhets, yud and heh. Below are the words with their Hebrew and English letters lined up (as best I can with this formatting) and with the phonetic pronunciations in parentheses. Note that Hebrew is written from right to left so the first letter of a word is at the right.
Chai: yud (ya) hhets (ch)
Chai’ah: heh (ha) yud (ya) hhets (ch)
ח י ה
The name of Eve in Hebrew is Hhawah hhets, vav and heh
Eve in Hebrew:
Eve: heh (ha) vav (va’ or wa’) hhets (ch)
ח ו ה
In the Bible, the tree of life is the tree of ha-ch-ya-eem (or ha chaim):
mem (im) yud (ya) yud (ya) hhets (ch) heh(ha)
ה ח י י מ
What can be gleaned by examining these words and their spelling? 1) The words for life and for Eve are variations of each other. Eve means life. 2) The word used with the tree of life is the word for life (or Eve) made plural.
In English we make a word plural by adding an “s” to the end of the word. In Hebrew, there are two ways to make a word plural. One of them is to add the sound “eem” or yud mem to the end of the word. In English, when a word is plural it means more than one In Hebrew when a word is plural it can mean more than one but it also has another meaning – it can be mean something bigger, more immense, grander. For example, in English we would say “one flower” or “two flowers” representing amounts. In Hebrew, it could be “one flower” meaning a single flower or “one flowers” representing grandeur. “One flowers” is a flower which more: bigger, flower-y, splendid. This is the Hebraic logic behind the title of my book, ONE GODS.
Notice: The words for life, Eve and tree of life are all variants of each other. This means that the Tree of Life is quite literally the Tree of Eve. Next up: How we know the goddess and The Tree are one.