S Serpent as Symbol: Lilith
There is no such thing as a neutral response to the serpent, at least for me. I remember as a young girl hopping gaily from rock to rock on the shore-line on my way home, when a snake slithered out from the shadows and crossed my path. I almost jumped out of my skin from fright and ran all the way home. That immediate experience of fear stays with me still – and yet, a life-time later, I write about her, have painted the ouroboros (the serpent with its tail in its mouth) from a dream, and continue to experience her in my daily life. Remembering also that Lilith is a light bringer –
The image above shows Hermes, the winged messenger and trickster. The two entwined serpents at the top end of his staff symbolise good and evil, health and sickness. The staff is rigid, straight and unyielding related therefore to the masculine, whereas the serpents coiled around it are flexible and yielding and therefore representative of the feminine principle. The image of staff and serpents illustrates the union of the opposites (masculine and feminine inter alia) contained therein.
Hippocrates, the father of western medicine (4000BC), is represented to this day as a healer carrying a staff, around which is wound the serpent. Aesculapius, the ancient Roman god of healing, is symbolised by two serpents, representing the principles of sickness and healing entwined around his staff. Serpents were also renowned for their ability to seek out healing herbs and plants for the treatment of illness in the human population.
Moses in the desert and his bronze serpent – an interesting paradoxical story –
While the Buddha was sitting under the Bo tree after his years of trials tribulations and travelling, now to receive his enlightenment, Mara sent down a bolt of lightning to strike him down dead. But, at that moment, the King of Serpents, the cobra, emerged from the shadows to offer the Buddha its hood for protection. That which is most low, is the very serpent that saves the Buddha.
That which can kill can also cure –
What has this to do with Lilith and our lives today?
The serpent sheds its skin, as we do too. We shed skins when we emerge from our various experiences of life events, all our stages and phases – baby hood to adulthood to old age and death. Marriage, divorce, grief, illness, joy, retrenchment, success – the list is endless. Each phase requires a stretching out and a shedding of a skin that no longer fits. Nature does this automatically, like the butterfly, emerging from its cocoon. We as humans need to work at it. Our old skin, or attitudes, beliefs, conditionings that no longer serve their function, need discarding, so that a new skin can grow to meet the requirements of an impermanent inner and outer world. We are sometimes loathe to shed our old skins, even if they do not fit. We are more familiar with our comfort zones – habit plays its part –
There are so many stories in the literature that tell of women’s harrowing descents into the underworld, scathed and scarred from the storms of sorrows they’ve endured, to return, transformed – Isis, Inanna, Penelope, Persephone, Demeter to mention a few –
‘Where there is sorrow, there is Holy Ground’ – Oscar Wilde
Lilith, her myth and symbolism, represents for me the serpent as the primordial feminine, as do other myths of this ilk, eternally emerging from the devouring darkness, renewing, shedding skins. Yet, by using the same energy as that of the darkness, she creates, more into her own being each step of the way –
The first two pictures are of the ouroboros, one a painting, the other a clay ‘fashioning’ from some while back.
This last one was using my left hand when my right hand was out of action ..
Can we look the hooded cobra in the eye?
Thank you for reading! Each time I promise myself I will keep these posts to 500 words or less – I fail each time –