Earlier this year I read Sadie Jones incisive domestic drama The Snakes. Although there were plenty of real snakes leaving behind their skins the plot focused on the two-legged variety. In this contemporary allegory, all seven deadly sins are committed. The privileged, especially, are exposed as morally corrupt and baseless creatures. No one is left unscathed while they slither about injecting their venom into those around them. Despite the fact that the actual snakes in this book were harmless, the symbolism of them being vile and cunning harkens back to the Old Testament were in the Garden of Eden the serpent brings about the fall of man.
However, if you look across cultures snakes are more complex and nuanced, their roles more varied. Many creation myths around the world were constructed around the snake either as Mother Earth herself or as an umbilical cord that tied humans to Earth. In African and Indian lore, there are several gods and goddesses are borne out of the serpent – each alert and ready to strike at a moment’s notice. The snake in this sense is a protector. Mayan texts regard snakes as having abundant wisdom whispering the secrets of the universe into the ears of their celestial beings. For some Native American tribes, the snake represents fertility. For this reason, they are often depicted with an egg in their mouth. The shedding of skin signifies the power that the snake has to regenerate and create anew. As a source of healing and immortality, the symbolism of the snake has the most power.
You may have noticed that snakes are gracing the cover of many new releases this fall.
Please join me in reading the books in this series entitled “Shedding our skins, revealing ourselves” where I will be considering the symbolism of the snake each of these texts.