Snakes have been around for circa 94-112 million years meaning they have seen an awful lot of change. This also speaks highly of how adaptable they are, as does the habitat range of snakes; they are found on all continents except the Antarctica and sea snakes are found throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
The snake is often associated with venom but most species are actually nonvenomous. Those who do have venom use it to kill and subdue their prey. Other ways of killing are by constriction or simply swallowing their prey whilst it’s alive.
Their skulls have more joints than their relatives, the lizard. This is to allow them to swallow prey much larger than their heads – they have been known to eat crocodiles and cows!! Random fact, they have been known to explode when eating live pray, apparently no one knows why but I think trying to eat a cow might explain it! A very literal warning that you are biting off more than you can chew.
To hunt, they use their sense of taste and smell by using their tongues. Their sense of touch is heightened by their proximity to the ground; they feel vibrations in the earth through their bodies and through their ears. But I said they don’t have external ears? Yes, but they do have inner ears! And some snakes possess a sixth sense – the ability to sense heat and thus detect prey. Perhaps the snake is asking you to get into your body, feel and listen to your sense, including your gut feeling.
They do not need to hunt everyday. Anacondas and pythons can survive for up to a year without food after feeding. I’m not at all suggesting you try this but perhaps there is a message here about excess?
Their slender bodies affect their internal organs; paired organs (such as kidneys) appear one in front of the other instead of side by side, and most have only one functional lung.
This is a highly adapted creature. Don’t be fooled by it’s seeming simplicity.
Shedding your skin
Moulting serves a number of functions. Firstly, the old and worn skin is replaced; secondly, it helps get rid of parasites such as mites and ticks. It also acts as a wonderful metaphor for the ongoing circle of life, the phasic nature of our existence. This too shall pass.
Do you need to shed your skin? Do you need to move on? Let go? Transform?
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh loses the power of immortality when it is stolen by a snake. A concept captured by the ouroboros – an image of a snake eating its own tail in a clock-wise direction (from the head to the tail) in the shape of a circle – which represents the cycle of life, death and rebirth, and thus immortality. This symbol also encompasses the totality of existence and infinity.
Religion and beliefs
Perhaps because of how long they have been around, snakes feature in a lot of religions. Indeed, we know in the bronze age there were at least a few snake cults.
The ancient Egyptian snake god Nehebkau was the guard of the underworld, perhaps one reason why snakes are so revered. They were also considered very important in ancient Mesoamerica and in Mayan and Aztec calendars, the fifth day of the week was known as Snake Day.
The snake is regularly seen as a healer such as in ancient Greece, where they were also linked to fertility, and in Judaism. They also feature in the Rod of Asclepius which is associated with medicine and healthcare. Related to this perhaps, is the use of venom as medicine. I believe it’s been looked into as a cure for cancer but a lot of poisons can also be used healing, the difference being the dosage.
In Neo-Paganism and Wicca, the snake is seen as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge.
On the other hand, in Christianity, the serpent has been seen as representative of evil and sly plotting, seducing Eve and causing the downfall of women. As a result, the snake is associated strongly with sexuality.
In Chinese astrology, the snake is a seducer, a charmer. The snake doesn’t like things being left up in the air, as I guess it also literally doesn’t like being left up in the air!
The Rainbow Serpent or Snake is seen as a creator god in Aboriginal Australia.
Regardless of which belief system you look at, the snake seems to be a pretty powerful figure. And this power seems to be a primitive, essential, god like power. Are you embracing your own power?
Wild Unknown Tarot
In the wild unknown tarot deck, the wands court cards are illustrated using snakes. The wands are about primal energy, spirituality, inspiration, intuition and ideas. The suit is linked to the element fire – the spark of inspiration, the fire in your belly…
As you can see in the picture, there is a lot of energy – the light of the son, the colours in the background of the mother and the flash of lightening (ideas, inspiration etc) in the father.
The link between snake and fertility is perhaps one reason Kim used them for this suit – the snakes are giving birth to or creating ideas.
There’s a lot of things to think about when it comes to the snake, perhaps not surprising given how long they have slithered around for.
If you have drawn this card, think about what feels relevant to you, right now.
Do you need to step into your power? Do you need to shed your skin? Are you biting off more than you can chew? Are you feeling squeezed to breaking point?
These are big questions, being asked by a creature which has had a lot of time to acquire a lot of wisdom.
See also, Cobra