Snake is a very distinctive animal which, on one hand, is very simple – cold, without legs, without hair- but, it’s symbolism is very rich and various, it’s a subject to all types of representations and metamorphosis. Being an absolute contrast to the human being, it incarnates the inferior psyche, it is something what is incomprehensible and mysterious. It’s an abstract line, without beginning and without ending, but it’s a line which is alive.
That’s why snakes are seen as life givers, the principles of life, for example, Chaldeans had only one word for life and snake. It animates and keeps going. It is a double symbol of soul and libido. In tantrism it’s Kundalini. In Indian mythology Lord Vishnu is on a thousand headed snake which sends the primal vibration, the vitality source of the Universe. Snakes embrace the creation within the continuous circle which is called Ouroboros, the serpent biting it’s own tail. This symbol stands for the cyclic manifestation, it’s a sexual union within itself, a constant self -fecundation; it’s a perpetual transformation from death towards life. This image of circle is a dynamic one. Ouroboros is a universal animator and duration, it creates time. In Egyptian mythology, the divinity creator of world from watery chaos is Atum, sometimes represented as a snake. Every night the Sun is supposed to enter the underground world ruled by serpents, to become the serpent itself in order to fight them and to reborn in the morning. It’s a perpetual cycle of regeneration. In Greek mythology Apollo liberates the Delphi oracle from the serpent Python. It means the liberation of soul and intelligence which should fecundate the mind and establish the order. Dionysus is the figure which fully incarnates the image of serpent. It’s the total liberty: common ecstasies, trances, the revolt of the serpent within the individual. The father of Dionysus, Zeus transformed into the serpent in order to make a union with Persephone, Dionysus’ mother. It’s a union of soul and mind. Intellect recognizes the primordial principle where it comes from itself and it has to return to the primal chthonic sources in order to regenerate. Thus the serpent is a symbol of sexuality, of fecundity. The caduceus of Hermes represents two snakes surrounding the short staff.
In Christianity the symbolism of the serpent is rather negative but sacred texts testify it’s double aspect. The regenerating Christ itself is sometimes represented as a serpent on the cross. However, in Middle Ages, this serpent on the cross is understood as the serpent of Eve.