In mythology, symbolism, and spirituality, snakes are everywhere, and they always hold a certain type of significance. Snakes are one of the most important symbols to understand, whether you’re hoping to improve your knowledge of occultism, religion, mythology, or simply human culture.
This article will explain some of the different symbolic meanings of the snake.
Common Meanings of the Snake
In its most basic meaning, the snake is often a symbol of life, fertility, and rebirth.
This is partly because of the way that a snake sheds its skin. ‘Shedding your skin’ has become an idiom for releasing something that you no longer need and bringing in something new. This means that snakes can represent the natural cycle of growth and death.
Snakes also symbolize rebirth, reincarnation, and the cyclical nature of reality. The symbol of the ouroboros, a snake eating its own tale, encapsulates this idea quite well
Snakes also tend to represent the dual nature of good and evil, helping us to remember that one is not possible without the other.
The Serpent in Christianity
One of the most popular tales in the Bible is that of Adam and Eve. The snake here is said by dogmatic priests to symbolize the devil, because it tempts Eve to eat the apple from the forbidden tree.
However, older interpretations of the Bible suggest that the snake is actually Lilith, a representation of the divine feminine and of fertility. It wasn’t until after the Christian crusades and genocide against paganism that feminist symbology was demonized. In fact, Christianity is one of the only religions that associated the serpent in such a negative connotation.
In the older interpretation, the snake as Lilith symbolized honesty and creativity and that the roles were switched: God was actually the ‘bad guy,’ having lied by telling Adam and Eve that they would die when they ate the fruit (which they didn’t) and trying to hold knowledge from them.
Here, then, the snake as Lilith was actually honest and only trying to share the Knowledge of Good and Evil with them.
Good and Evil being, of course, one of the greatest and most challenging dualities of all and another reason why the snake represents the duality between the two.
Other Cultures & Snake Mythology
The snake is a major symbol in pretty much every culture across the globe.
In ancient Mesopotamia, the messenger god of Istaran was a snake.
Prehistoric Iranian cultures recognized the snake as a symbol of fertility and worshipped them as such.
Serpents were huge in Egyptian mythology, and were prevalent throughout all of its years.
The Minoan Snake Goddess of Greece held snakes in each hand to symbolize her wisdom.
The Caduceus, one of the most famous symbols still in use today, features two snakes entwining around a short staff. The symbol has been used for over 6,000 years and is mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine (the Rod of Asclepius, featuring a single snake, would be the correct symbol for this).
The Caduceus, on the other hand, is associated with alchemy, wisdom, negotiation, and eloquence – nothing to do with health or medicine.
Written by Nigel Ford