Origins and History of Consciousness -or- Snake Mythologies

Animal Mythologies -or- The Symbolism of Snakes and Ladders 

"I hate snakes." Indiana Jones 

In the past and in the present, serpent symbolism is seen as one of the most universal of all the animal mythologies. The Ouroborus, also known as the snake biting its own tail is a time honored mythological archetype and symbol of nature. This Janus faced creature transcends the mythological binary oppositions of affirmation and negation, existence and non-being, good and evil, cure and poison, life and death, thereby providing a natural poetic symbol of wholeness of the never ending story of the life cycle and nature. 

Erich Neumann, "The Origins and History of Consciousness", sees consciousness growing out of the primordial mythological unconscious of the Great Mother (mother nature), represented by the Ouroborus. Said differently, the ouroborus symbolizes the eternal cycle of life, death and renewal of the fertility process of nature. The ancient Greeks mythology of the healing aspect of the snake is symbolized in Rod of Asklepius, and remains a medical symbol in modern times. On the other side of this ancient Greek mythological coin we find Medusa, a femme fatale with a deadly monsterous snakes laden coiffure. 

In the Bible the Devil takes on anthropomorphized form of a snake, who then seduces Eve and Adam to eat from the tree of knowledge, thereby leading them into the sin of self-consciousness and carnal knowledge. The snake is found to be one of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac. History informs us that modern chemistry is based on a day dream that Kekule had, that gave him an understanding of the ouroboric structure of the benzene ring thereby adding to the cultural mythology of the snake biting its own tail. 

From a popular culture perspective the film character Indiana Jones tells us; He hate snakes! This fear of snakes is called "Ophidiophobia". Staying with film, Gert Sauer "Traumbild Schlange" (Dream Image Snake) discusses the dream of a woman who dreamt that she was laying in a basket with rope thick snakes, she sits up and wakes up screaming and horrified. As her first association to the dream she thinks of Elizabeth Taylor in the film Antony and Cleopatra. The woman's personal life evidently made her identify and feel much the same as Cleopatra. Sauer sees the point of the dream being the need to wake up from her day and nightmare. 

As mentioned the snake like most other animals is overdetermined in its meaning. Kundalini Yoga, attempts to activate and awaken the libidinal snake like energies of our body. The cultural idiom "snake in the grass" is discussed in the IIDR dream interpretation, "English Cultural Idioms". If you haven't had enough of snakes yet, just watch "Snakes on a Plane" staring Samuel L. Jackson, about a popular game known as "snakes and ladders"?


All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.