Black Spirituality Religion : The Divine Serpent in Myth and Legend

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by Sekhemu, Dec 16, 2005.

  1. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2003
    Messages:
    6,489
    Likes Received:
    1,061
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    priest
    Location:
    new jersey
    Ratings:
    +1,064
    Since the very beginnings of time, on every continent on this earth where humanity worshipped divinity the serpent has been recognized and accepted as a god. From Africa to the icy wastes of Europe; from the fertile crescent to the deserted outback of Australia the serpent has been worshipped, feared and adored. Serpent mythology is arguably the most widespread mythology known to mankind.

    We will be dealing with the language that is found in myth and legend any discussion of a divine serpent, so we should take time to explain the use of the myth in religious and legendary areas before we begin. When we examine the history of truth or knowledge in the history of mankind we are faced with the fact the origin of myth lies in the greek concept of muthos, which as the definition of truth or knowledge predates the use of the Greek word Logos, from which we derive the word logic. Myth for the early human usually referred to those relatives which were known by experience, be it archetypal, unconcious, or based upon the cultural and ritual beliefs of human civilization. An esteemed 'egg-head' mathematical scientist, Albert Einstein once said; "Knowledge is experience; anything else is just information."

    In this article the word "myth" will be defined as a story of forgotten or vague origin, basically religious since we are dealing with the concept of divinity, which seeks to explain or rationalize an important aspect of the world or a society.

    Furthermore, in the context of this article, all myths used are, or have been at some stage, actually believed to be true by the peoples of the societies that used or originated the myth. This definition is thus clearly distinguished from the use of the word myth in everyday speech which basically refers to an unreal or imaginary story. Myth, as used herein, is also distinctly different from an allegory or parable which is a story deliberately made up to illustrate some moral point but which has never been assumed to be true.

    Originally myths were not expressed in verbal or written form because language was deemed inadequate to convey the truth expressed in the story. The myths were enacted, chanted, painted, customed, danced, sung and imgained, sometimes in hypnotic or hallicinatory states. In this manner the creative energies and relationships behind and beneath the natural world were brought into the concious realm. The myth was believed to not only to tell about but to create a chain from the metaphysical world to the physical one.

    Later in historical time myth becomes connected to and often and identified with another Greek concept. that of legend, which stems from the Greek Legion or logos. Which meant word or language. Myths then became written form. And Mythos/Logos is the activity of human conciousness which translates or transfers the underlying forms and powers from the unconcious to the concious, from the dream world to the world of activity.

    In our "modern" world we have so discounted the power and reality of the myth, denigrating them to the level of 'fairy tales' that we lost contact with our ground. We don't know who we are, and so we don't know how to act. We have thrown out the 'baby', our orienting myths of origin with the 'bath water', non-useful and unnecessary data which often accompanied these myths.


    Joseph Campbell is quoted as saying: "Throughout the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance, the myths of man have flourished; and they have been the living inspiration for whatever else may have appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind. It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation."

    I believe there could be nothing more absurd than to think that our modern scientific methodology could ever eliminate the poetic and mythic, for science is closed against certain dimensions of the real which only myth and the poetic can attain. It is the height of absurdity to imagine that scientific 'knowledge' exhausts reality!

    I would like to use the definition composed of many theories which meet my criteria for mythology framed into a single paraphrase: Myths are stories, usually, about gods and other supernatural beings. They are often stories of origins. how the world and everything in it came to be in illo tempore They are usually strong structured and their meaning is only discerned by linguistic analysis. Sometimes they are public dreams which, like private dreams, emerge from the unconcious mind; they more often reveal archetypes of the collective unconcious. Myths are symbolic and metaphorical, and they orient people to the metaphysical dimension, explain the origins and nature of the cosmos, and on a pyschological plane, address themselves to the innermost depths of the human psyche. Some of them are explanatory, being prescientific attempts to interpret the natural world (such as the shedding of snake skin). As such, they are usually functional and are the science of primitive peoples. Religious myths are sacred histories and are distinguished from the profane. But ,all tell of the truth by human experience which cannot be explained by normal use of language. It was the great scientist, Albert Einstein, who said " Science without religion is lame; Religion without science is blind."

    The myth in any primitive society, that is in the original living form is not a fairy tale but a reality lived. Myths are human experience, and when myths are narrated it is not usually the speaker who speaks but the wisdom of the myth holder and narrator.

    In the theories of the eminent Swiss pyschologist, Karl Jung, the fantasies of the collective unconcious stem from the actual experiences of ancient ancestors, and the development of prehistory as a serious field of study is of considerable importance to the creators of myth. Certain facts exist in human history, and there are most often found hidden in myths. I have even been led to muse on the fact that the usual depiction of the double helix presenting DNA is remarkably similar to the ancient depiction of the serpents guarding the world tree, a figure still found in the caduceus.

    In Jung's view, the snake, as a chthonic and at the same time spiritual being, symbolizes the unconcious. In particular, according to Jung, the symbolism of the snake's has sudden and unexpected manifestation and painful or dangerous intervention in human affairs often has frightening effects. Crucial to the understanding of the serpent as a libido symbol is a consideration of the biologica characteristics of the actual creature. Jung stresses the fact that the snake is a cold-blooded vertebrate and with that fact alone the true psychic rapport acn be established with practically all warm-blooed animals comes to an end. Like the Gnostics of early Christianity who Identified the serpent with the human medulla and spinal cord, Jung regards the serpens as the psychic representation of the profoundly unconcious functions which are governed by these organs. I think that perhaps this is why the serpent is so often seen as a divine creature, a sort of god which lies behind all human functioning.

    To be Cont'd
     
  2. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

    Country:
    United States
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2004
    Messages:
    6,458
    Likes Received:
    1,282
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Author
    Location:
    Where the Niger meets the Nile
    Ratings:
    +1,290
    "Hero With a Thousand Faces" came immediately to mind. Are we not above all men the most miserable who study mythology and know its importance but cannot partake of its benefit because we know it's a muth. The poet is the least poetic person on earth.

    In the bible the serpent was fashioned on a pole and all who looked at it were healed of their snake bite. No christian would look at that serpent as an idol with healing powers in and of itself. But it was a channel through which the onlooker made contact with the healing power of God. How is this different from those who look at the sun and moon and see God's power working through these objects?

    If myth is the channel then there is no such thing as a pagan.
     
  3. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2003
    Messages:
    6,489
    Likes Received:
    1,061
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    priest
    Location:
    new jersey
    Ratings:
    +1,064
    Precisely!
     
  4. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2003
    Messages:
    6,489
    Likes Received:
    1,061
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    priest
    Location:
    new jersey
    Ratings:
    +1,064
    Part ll

    When we come to the snake as a divinity in Kemet we need look no further than the great crowns worn by the divine Pharaoh. No matter which crown, the Blue crown, the informal crown or the great double red and white crown we examine we will find the snake god of lower Kemet present. Even the vulture god of Upper Kemet is missing, the asp, or Kemetic cobra, is there. The serpent, in Kemet, has a varied career, the Ureaus, or cobra, and other mythical snakes are all considered quite differently. The spinal cord was symbolized by the snake and the Uraeus serpent coiled upon the foreheads of the Pharaoh represented the divine fire which had crawled serpent-like up the tree of life.

    The Uraeus, or asp, is a benevolent guardian god, a tutelary god of the delta region of Kemet. This is probably where this snake was most often found. Even today the swamp-like areas of the Nile delta is home to the Kemetian Cobra. This snake was also connected to the god Heru, and therefore to the living Heru, who is seen incarnate in the Pharaoh. The uraeus rules by day, and therefore is also connected to the sun god Ra, who is also a god of Pharaoh.

    When we come to night and darkness, the crocodile becomes supreme. Ra, the sun god of Annu is diminished. The solar ship has entered the realm of night and encountered darkness. The crocodile, in Egyptian legendary, is seen as an aspect of the serpent rather than a seperate creature. There are places in the world where the great saurians are not seen as serpents, but as a completely seperate genus of creature. The Americas would serve as an example of this, but in Kemet and other African nations , the crocodile is a serpent, no matter what from it is depicted.

    In the original Kemetic creation story we find a serpent and the primordial egg, which contained the "bird of light". In Chapter 175 of the Pert Em Hra (bood of coming forth by day i.e. book of the dead) we find the prophecy that when the world returns to its original chaos, the hidden aspect of the supreme god, Atum, will become the new serpent. There is a text found in the "Coffin Texts" which contains Atum description of himself:

    I am Atum, the creator of the Eldest Gods,

    I am he whoe gave birth to Shu,

    I am that GREAT HE-SHE

    I am he who did what seemed good to him,

    I took my space in the place of my will,

    Mine is the space of those who move along,

    like those two serpentine circles

    Later in a debate, which can be found in "The Book of the Dead [chapter 175] which takes place between Ausar and Atum, [ described here as the "High God", we find Atum's description of the end of all, when "Then I wil be what will remain just I and Ausar, when I will have changed myself back into the Old Serpent who know-no man and saw no god."

    Also, in the Book of the Dead, in the Eleventh section of the Duat, we find the story of how the boat of Afu Ra [the Sun God] passes the territory of the town of Sais. "The region to the left of the god is on fire, and close to the boat stands Heru who is working magick with the snake-headed boomerang which he holds in his hand, before him stands the serpent god, called "Seth-heh', i.e. the 'eternal Seth'.

    Before the boat is the great serpent Ankh-neteru, and twelve amikhiu gods, taking hold of the tow line, enter this serpent at the tail, and drawing the god in his boat through the body of the serpent, bring him out at his mouth.

    During his passage through the serpent Afu Ra is transformed into Khepera [the ancient god associated with the creation of the world] and is now towed into the sky by 12 goddesses."

    One of the chief powers of darkness is the serpent god Apep, who tries to swallow the sun ship. Apep is the great primordial serpent who lived in the waters of the celestial Nile [the Milky Way] and is considered the serpent of chaos and destruction. A mighty struggle took place and when the sun appeared in the east the next days prayers of thankfulness were offered that Ra was trimphant and the sun would continue to shine. Just imagine what chaos a solar eclipse would cause.

    The serpent Apep is seen in two other forms, or traditions. The first was most likely the crocodile and was called Typhon, or dragon. Two other serpent divinities mentioned in Kemetic mythology are Nehebkau,a serpent with human arms and legs. This fearful god, once he was tamed by Ra, became his faithful servant. The other serpent god is Am-Mut,the 'eater of souls'. The other name, and more extensive is Set, or Seth, or Sethos. This is a half-crocodile, half-human creature who becomes important in the Kemetic Pantheon. The serpent Typhon is the youngest son of Gaea and Tartarus in Greek legend. He was taller than any mountain, and had great wings, eyes of fire, hand made of dragons, and a lower body composed of vipers. He and Echidna gave birth to Hydra, Cerberis, Chimera and the Nemean lion. The Kemetic Typhon was a more simple serpend lord.

    Perhaps the most fearsome aspect of Set can be seen in the famous weighing of the soul picture in the Book of the Dead. Sitting beside the scales, waiting to devour the "sinful" sould of a condemned person is the half-crocodile, half jackal or hyena creature who is identified as Set. It was Set, as the brother of Ausar, of course, who slew Ausar.

    Set becomes a powerful god in the 'two kingdoms'. The cult of Amen, later Amen-Ra lasted about twenty dynasties, the cult of Ausar was relatively short lived, although Ausar was venerated for a very long time.

    The "cult' of Auset lasted into the Christian era as an active mystery cult. But, the original priesthood of the serpent god, Set, in ancient Kemet survived for twenty five recorded dynasties. It became one of the two central priesthoods of predynastic times, the other being that of Heru Wer (heru the elder).

    Unificantion under both philosophical systems, one in Upper, and one in Lower Kemet, resulted in the name of the 'Two Kingdoms' and its Pharaohs wearing the famous 'double crown' of Heru and Set.

    Set was originally a stellar deity, perhaps the cyclical counterpart of the solar Heru. But, later, the cults of Ausar and Auset recast Set as an evil principle. Set did return, for a short time during the XlX and XX dynasties, as the patron of the Pharaoh, but by the XXV dynasty the cult of Set began a decline

    To be cont'd!
     
  5. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2003
    Messages:
    6,489
    Likes Received:
    1,061
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    priest
    Location:
    new jersey
    Ratings:
    +1,064
    Part lll

    One more additional note concerning the Divine serpent Nehebu-Kau. He was the great snake under the world and upon which the world rests, and there is a winged serpent found in hieroglyphs which may be the ancestor of the Mesoamerican Quetzalcoatl.

    Central and Southern Africa

    Traveling further south in Africa we find the great serpent "Anyiewo' who comes out to graze on rain and whose reflection is the rainbow. This is found in the Ewe "tribe".

    The Dogon people of Mali have a divine bing being named Lebe. Lebe is the first member of those creatures called the living dead, and he lives as a serpent.

    In Dahomey, the Fon people have a great serpent god who is seen as a rainbow named Danh, the son of Mtawu-Lisa. This serpent encircles the whole world with his tail in his mouth, representing unity and wholeness. This god, also called Da orders the whole cosmos. Da has a dual nature rather than a femal-male identity. Whe he appears in the rainbow, the male is the red part of the rainbow, the female is the blue. Above the earth Da has 3500 coils, called asa-xasa, and the same number of coils beneath the earth; together they support the world. Da is the name given to this god in action, Mawu-Lisais the name given the god of thought. This god was exported to Haiti and Surinam.

    The Fon Legend says that the world was created by Nana-Buluki, the one god, who is nither MALE NOR FEMALE. This god gave birth to twins. Mawu and Lisa and it is they who shaped the world, and control it still. Mawu, the female, is the moon and Lisa, the Male, is the In the beginning, before Mawu had any children, the rainbow serpent, Aido-Hwedo, already existed, and this great serpent assisted in the creation. For example, all the moutains were formed from the serpent's dung. Later, because Aido-Hwedo cannot stand heat, the oceans were created for him to live in. And there Aido-Hwedo has remained since the beginning of time, with his tail in his mouth [that tail-in-mouth representation is common]. Nana-Buluku charged the red monkeys that live beneath the sea to keep Aido-Hwedo fed, and they spend their time forging the iron bars that are the serpent's diet. When the monkey's supply of iron eventually runs out the serpent will be so hungry that he will start to chew his own tail. Then his writhing will be so terrible that the whole earth will tilt, and then slip into the sea, and that will be that!

    In what is now Zimbabwe, there is the legend of the creation of humanity. The first man. Mwuetsi [moon] was created by Mwari, the high god, He was given a wife, who gave birth to all the plants of the world. Then he was given Morongo, who bore goats, cattle, sheep, humans. On the fourth night Morongo warned Mwuetsi not to sleep with her, but he did so anyway. She then gave birth to snakes, scorpions, lions, and all other creatures which harm man. After this the Great Serpent became ruler and husband of Morongo and fathered a great tribe.

    In the land between the present Union of South African and Zimbabwe there lives a people calle the Vha Venda, who have a god who is a while crocodile. This crocodile is viewed as a serpent divinity of great strength and great wisdom wh watches over the people. This divine serpent creature is identified with the Vha Venda chiefs, who may be his sons.

    Perhpas the most impressive architecture in ancient Africa, with the exception of Kemet, would be the royal city of Benin in Nigeria. The most prominent feature of this architecture is the form of the serpent. Early artifacts found in this area also display the serpent motif.

    There is a famous legend told among the tribes of central African. The tale concerns two unmarried men, one too mild and one too bad-tempered to find wives.

    One day they met the great rock python. Moma. After the gesture of extreme kindness towards her she rewarded him with a wife, the most wonderuful wife in the whole village. The bad-tempered man was given the same opportunity, reacted insultingly, toward the serpent goddess and was rewarded with an ugly, nagging abusive wife.
     
  6. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2003
    Messages:
    6,489
    Likes Received:
    1,061
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    priest
    Location:
    new jersey
    Ratings:
    +1,064
    In Central America

    Not only do we have the primitive Mayan god Labna, but we also find, at differing ages and places Kulkulcan and Queztalcoatl, and his two similars Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilpotchili. Each of these later manifestations of the feathered serpent are much like Quetzalcoalt, with minor changes of additions. For example, Huitziipotchili is often called the "trickster" because he loves to play pranks which would normally be considered quite un-godlike.

    Among the Qiche Maya we find the serpent god who brought civilization and agriculture to the Maya who is called Gucumatz.

    The god kulkulcan was one of the major gods of the Maya, and was inherited by the Toltec as equally significant. Not only was he a god of the four elements, he was also the creator god and the god of resurrection and reincarnation. He may have originated from Toltec myth, where he was a divine hero who taught the Toltec laws, fishing, healing, the calendar and agriculture. His name means "the feathered serpent" and the Aztecs merged him with Quetzalcoatl.

    The main pyramid of the Mayan/Toltec ruins of Chichen Itza is "El Castle", the pyramid of kulkulcan. This pyramid is often mistakenly called the pyramid of the sun becuase of its astronomical orientation, but it is clearly dedicated to Kulkulcan, the feathered serpent. It was originally built by Mayans about 600 CE, and improved by Toltecs around 1000 CE. The astronomical detail is interesting, showing the connection of the Great Serpent and the cosmos: There are 365 steps; 52 panels; 18 terraces, one for each month of the Mayan religious year.

    All four sides of the Feather Serpent Pyramid was originally covered by an elaborate facade of stone carvings. These carvings express the main visual messages of the Ciudadela [sacred city]. The main motif in both the rectangular panels.

    The Mayan Primal Creator

    The supreme god of creation of the May was Hun Ab Ku. He is the head of the Mayan pantheon and called 'god of the gods'. Hun Ab Ku rebuilt the world after three deluges, which poured from a great sky god, who is depicted in the form of a serpent. Even the Mayan war god was seen as snake charmer.

    The Aztec god of creation is both male and female, Ometeotl, the creative force, the god of fire and of time, is both father and mother of all. Ometeotl's four sons are aspects of himself. Each is associated with a color and a direction. (This symbolism can be also found in the Native Americans of the U.S.) The black Tezcatlipoca is the biggest and 'baddest' of them all. His direction is north. The white Tezcatlipoca whose direction is the setting sun, is also called Quetzalcoatl. Aztec legends tell of how Queztalcoatl becomes the sun and rises in the east.

    When the Aztec replaced the Maya and Toltec as lords of Mesoamerica, the feathered serpent stayed as an important god figure. The Aztec feathered serpent carried the name Quetzalcoatl. He symbolized the blending of heaven and earth. He is associated with the planet Venus, the wind and breath of life, the discovery of Maize, the invention of writing, birth and renewal. There exist codices wich identify Quetzalcoatl with Kulkulcan. From all appearances it seems that Queztalcoatl and Kulkulcan are one.

    The two highest-ranking priests of the Aztecs ministered, respectively, to the war god and the god of rain. Both bore the title Quetzalcoatl, or "feathered serpent", to elevate their status by association with the great god Quetzalcoatl and the Toltec god-king of the same name. Neither demanded human sacrifice.

    To be cont'd.
     
  7. toylin

    toylin Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Joined:
    May 17, 2004
    Messages:
    1,195
    Likes Received:
    17
    Occupation:
    Security Guard
    Location:
    Michigan
    Ratings:
    +17
    Healing powers.. snakes.. is that why the American Medical Association's symbol is a snake around a pole?
     
  8. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2003
    Messages:
    6,489
    Likes Received:
    1,061
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    priest
    Location:
    new jersey
    Ratings:
    +1,064

    Indeed, this is the main reason.
     
  9. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2001
    Messages:
    4,029
    Likes Received:
    114
    Location:
    New York
    Ratings:
    +114
    Re: the AMA symbol:

    The Rod of Aesculapius is an ancient Greek symbol associated with medicine...a snake intertwining around a rod or staff. The DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) profession also incorporates the Rod of Aesculapius as its symbol. Aesculapius was the god of healing in the ancient Greek pantheon, and was instructed in medicine by the centaur Chiron.

    The Rod of Aesculapius symbolizes the healing arts by combining the serpent - which in the act of shedding its skin symbolizes rebirth and fertility - with that of the rod or staff, which is a sign of authority. The snake or serpent wrapped around the rod is widely-acclaimed to be a species of rat snake known as the "aesculapian" snake.

    Some scholars have suggested that the symbol represents a worm wrapped around a stick or rod. In ancient times parasitic worms, such as the guinea worm, were common and were extracted from beneath the skin by winding the protruding end of the worm around the small stick. Physicians may have advertised this common service by posting a sign depicting a worm on a rod outside of their business establishments...
     
  10. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2003
    Messages:
    6,489
    Likes Received:
    1,061
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    priest
    Location:
    new jersey
    Ratings:
    +1,064
    This is an excellent piece of information.

    Thank you brotha Aqil
     
Loading...