I was so inspired by Judith Shaw’s blog post, “The Serpent and the Goddess” (Feb 26th) that I began to dust off my old notes on serpent imagery. I was reminded a concept that kept jumping out at me. In discussing the Kabbalah, Rabbi David A Cooper, writes that mystics describe the universe as the “the skin of the serpent.” What a beautiful yet puzzling concept! I wanted to dig deeper.
The serpent’s connection to the Great Goddess has been an excellent place to begin this quest. Barbara Walker notes the etymological connection between the serpent, and the Great Goddess from the Bible whose name is Eve. Walker writes, “The names of Eve, the Serpent, and ‘Life’ are still derived from the same root in Arabic.” But the Goddess connection is not the totality of the serpent’s magic.
To deepen our understanding of the mysteries of the serpent, we can note that it is also connected with symbolisms of fire and male energy. The fiery serpent was known as the mate of the goddess who rose into the sky to create thunderstorms. As a component of its thunderstorm symbolisms, the serpentine shape of the lightning bolt was regarded as a serpent slithering amongst the stars.
Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor discuss how the serpent’s role in the skies is mirrored in its role on Earth (and vice versa), “Gliding as it does in and out of holes and caverns in the earth, the serpent also symbolized the underground abode of the dead who wait for rebirth. Its undulations symbolized the serpentine earth currents of underground waters. The serpent path on earth was seen as the terrestrial energy flow; the serpent path in the sky was the winding spray of stars in the galactic spiral-arm, or Milky Way.”
The serpent is a representative of several earthly opposites: water and fire, heaven and earth, male and female. Water and fire are the raw materials of creation. Heaven and earth provide the superstructure for creation. Male and female united create the seeds of life.