The serpent in the Bible is treated as Eve’s partner in crime, a malevolent seducer who is responsible for humankind’s expulsion from paradise. But did you know there are serpents who figure positively in the Bible? There are serpent priests, a feathered serpent and a healing serpent. Check out this passage:
Be ye therefore wise as serpents
Levites were serpent priests as evidenced by the etymology of their name. The root word levi is seen in the name of the creature “leviathan,” the giant serpent. This is reminiscent of the Pythia, the oracle from Delphi whose title is derived from the root word python.
The feathered serpent referenced in Isaiah 30:6 is a seraph, usually translated as a “fiery flying serpent.”
The healing serpent sits upon a pole that Moses carries:
And the LORD said unto Moses
Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole:
and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten,
when he looketh upon it, shall live.
To this day, two serpents rising on a pole is the sign of health and healing found in doctor’s offices in the form of a caduceus.
Why are serpents so reviled then? Clearly there is more here than meets the eye.
One key to the symbology of the serpent in Eden is its connection to seeds. The serpent, like its close kin, the dragon, mythically guards treasure. For the dragon, that treasure is usually gold and jewels. But for the serpent, it is an even more priceless treasure; the Seeds of Life. Seeds contain all-life-potential. They are a primary agent of spreading life throughout our precious Earth, generating continuous cycles of renewal. The serpent, with its shedding skin, is also about renewal. Mythic World Trees throughout all cultures, have a serpent coiled around and protecting its roots.
In Biblical times, there was a Sumerian goddess named Tiamat who ruled the depths of dark cauldron-like seas. She was supremely chaotic, terrifying and yet the quintessence of fertility, giving birth to both gods and monsters. Her best-known form is that of a sea serpent or dragon. Tiamat makes an appearance in the Bible although completely de-goddess-ified. She is named Tehom and Her power has been translated beyond easy understanding. She is simply called “the deep.”
And the earth was without form, and void;
and darkness was upon the face of the deep [tehom].
Picture this: The foundations of life formed in Tiamat’s cauldron mixed with watery elements to create magical seeds of “all-potential.” But to develop roots and grow, the seeds needed land. What if the Great Serpent Creator Goddess Tehom/Tiamat shepherded the seeds safely out of the water? What if She then coiled her serpent body around The One Great Seed of Life to protect it? What if She knew that such a magical seed would grow into a most remarkable Biblical/Mythical Tree in a magical garden called Eden? Wouldn’t these stories be tales of pride not of curses?
As the Goddess of the Tree, Eve, correctly claimed the fruit as Hers. By eating the fruit of the Great Tree, Adam and Eve were able to hold and protect the seeds within their bodies and carry them out of Eden to inseminate life on Earth.
As within, so without. As it was in the beginning, so it continues. In the process of human reproduction our goddess sister bodies protect the fertilizing seed as it travels through dark, harsh and stormy bodily fluids to eventually land and grow life. If successful, new life stays protected within our bodies until it is ready for birth. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, the word for goddess contains the image of a cobra once again confirming the connection of the serpent with fertility and seeds.
As we saw in Part 1, the Tree of Life is a namesake to Eve. So, too, is the serpent. In Arabic and Aramaic, languages from the same source as Hebrew (Central Semitic), the words for snake and life are connected – hayyat.
Eve (hawwah) was energized by an aspect of herself (hayyat) to eat the fruit (with its seeds) from another aspect of Herself, the Tree of Life (ha-hay-yim). The three elements; Tree of Life, Eve, and Serpent are a unity of symbols, the Great Goddess in three symbolic forms, working in harmony to protect, nurture and disperse the precious treasure of the seeds.
Mythically speaking, if Eve had not eaten from the tree there would have been no seeds to propagate life on earth. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is considered a tree of duality while the The Tree of Life represents oneness. For birth to occur, we need to leave the oneness of the heavens to experience the duality which allows for human life. The Fall is simply our birth experience. When Adam is warned that eating of the tree will bring death (Genesis 2:17), that is correct, for such is the fate of all life birthed here on Earth. Eve heroically sacrificed Herself, willingly “falling” to earth and mortality so that we as Her children can experience the gifts of life.
Is this a blessing or curse?
How would our lives be different if our birthright knowledge and the foundational religious writings of our culture were best known as the Blessings of Eve instead of some ill-tempered curse? How would the lives of our mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, husbands and wives be different? It is ancient knowledge and it can be our present and our future!
Janet Rudolph is a twice ordained shaman, the latest as an alaka’i which is a Hawaiian spiritual guide. Rudolph has walked this path for over 20 years traveling around the world to learn and experience original teachings from differing cultures. Using a technique she calls “spiritual forensics” which includes cross-cultural explorations and ancient Hebrew translations, she has delved into the Bible’s pagan roots to uncover its hidden magic. Rudolph has written two books on the subject of ancient Biblical teachings. One Gods: The Mystic Pagan’s Guide to the Bible and When Eve Was a Goddess: A Shamanic Look at the Bible. A third book, When Moses Was a Shaman will be out in 2019.