Tag Archives: serpent

Cobra Goddesses

By Lesley Jackson

Stele representing the cobra-goddess (upper tier) and snakes (lower tier). Department of Egyptian antiquities, LouvreBeing a contrary child I always liked snakes and was later delighted to discover that they had a very close relationship to the Goddess. I could never understand why snakes were considered evil when other deadly creatures were viewed as merely dangerous. This link to the Goddess subsequently explained it. The ability of the snake to shed its skin symbolises rebirth and cyclical time and links it to the ever-changing phases of the moon and so to women through their menstrual cycle. The snake is also a symbol of infinity, portrayed by the tail-eating Ouroborus. The symbolism of snakes is, appropriately enough, endless and far too vast a topic to dwell upon in one article so I will confine myself to three Egyptian Snake Goddesses.

Snakes were widespread and common in Egypt and there are numerous spells to prevent and cure snakebite. Despite this the Egyptians never viewed the snake as intrinsically evil just because it was potentially deadly. This is in contrast to most other cultures who saw a logical progression from dangerous to evil and as evil meant ‘anti-men’ the snake could then be vilified along with the Goddess it portrayed. Symbolism aside snakes did perform one very useful role for an agricultural people. They preyed on vermin, such as sparrows and rodents, which ransacked the food stores and spread disease. There were many snake deities in Egypt and the Snake Gods range from benevolent, though dangerous, to the ultimate evil. Not so the Snake Goddesses, they were all good though not necessarily safe. The Snake Goddesses are all portrayed as cobras; indeed the determinative (a symbol used to clarify the meaning of a word but which is not pronounced) for ‘Goddess’ is a rearing cobra. Why the cobra is considered feminine is not clear. Certainly the rearing cobra with an erect hood is very impressive. Maybe the hood gives the cobra curves that are more suggestive of a woman compared to the straighter, more phallic form of other snakes. Read More...

Excerpts from Goddess in the Grass: Serpentine Mythology and the Great Goddess

by Linda Foubister

"Lilith", John Maler CollierGoddess in the Grass explores the relationship between the Goddess and her sacred symbol, the serpent, by focusing on myths and fairy tales from cultures around the world and from the dawn of humans to the present day.

The serpent is associated with renewal, fertility and prosperity but like many images of the Goddess, it has come to symbolize evil. Goddess in the Grass examines the symbolic meanings of the Serpent Goddess, revealing her origins as the life-giving, death-dealing Great Goddess. This excerpt looks at the renewal aspects of the Serpent Goddess.

The Renewing Serpent Goddess

In prehistoric times, images of the serpent indicated seasonal renewal, the coming of spring and summer. In Europe, the emergence of the snake in spring from its winter hibernation took on a prophetic quality, with certain signs predicting either a prosperous or a difficult new year. The ability of the snake to shed its skin led to the old belief that snakes were immortal. The Serpent Goddess was worshipped for her ability to renew life, healing illness in the process. Read More...

Beowulf, the Goddess and a can of wyrms

By Geraldine Charles

“Just don’t take any course where they make you read Beowulf”

 Woody Allen in Annie Hall, 1977

Beowulf and the dragon – J. R. Skelton

Maybe Woody was right.  This can be a pretty dreary read for a woman who flicks over the battle pages in novels and is bored to tears by chest-beating.  If you must be a hero, guys, please be the strong, silent kind that I can ignore. However, I’ve had a strange fascination with Beowulf since I was a teenager, an odd, melancholy thing that I’d almost forgotten about until the recent movie2.  That got me started thinking about Grendel’s Mother and the possible presence of a forgotten goddess in the poem, although it is pretty unpromising at first sight.  But no piece of literature survives for so long if it doesn’t speak to us on many levels, including the subconscious, which is perhaps where much of our longing for the divine feminine now resides.

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