Snakes: symbol of evil and of healing

By Raymond L. Daye

“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” (Gen. 3:1, KJV)
“And the Lord God said unto the serpent, ‘Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.’” (Gen. 3:14-15, KJV)
 
For as long as mankind has written about its relationships with nature, the snake has been a central figure.
 
It crawls on the ground and almost all other beasts tower above it, yet it strikes such fear into them that they bolt and run from its presence.
It is a symbol of evil -- and of healing.
 
The writer of Genesis states that the snake was the most cunning of all God’s creatures. It is also generally believed that it was among the most beautiful.
 
Did the snake really talk? Those who believe the Bible account of the Garden of Eden will say that Satan took the form of a snake and retained his ability to speak.  
 
Scientists disagree about the “rudimentary rear leg bones” found in some species of snakes -- including the boa constrictor.
 
Was it a boa that tempted Eve in the Garden and was cursed to slither on its belly from that day forward?
 
Some scientists say those remnants of legs are evidence to support evolution. Other scientists say what has been termed “leg bones” are actually found only in males and are part of the reproductive system. They note that there is no similar evidence of front legs or arms, and that an animal that stood upright like a man but had no arms would be a strange and inefficient animal, indeed.
 
The snake has also been a symbol of wisdom, of rejuvenation and of healing since ancient times.
 
The single-snake staff of Asklepios and the double-snake staff of Hermes are both well-known symbols in the medical fields.
 
After a plague of venomous snakes was sent on the Israelites in the Wilderness, God told Moses to create a bronze snake and raise it up on a pole. Those who looked on the snake and repented of their sins against God were healed.Those who did not, died.
 
Closer to home, the Mayans and other Native Americans in Mexico and Central and South America worshipped Quetzalcoatl (pronounced KWET-zuh-KWATL)), a name meaning “feathered serpent.” 
 
According to their legends, we owe a very sweet debt to that particular snake. He gave the native tribes the gift of chocolate, which they called “Xocoatl,” pronounced SHO-kwatl and meaning “bitter water.”
 
The Spanish gave the plant a Latin name, Theobrama cacao -- “food of the gods.”
 
The Mayans used the drink made from the cocoa bean for many things, including a remedy for snake bite.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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