Snake Symbolic Meaning
Symbolic Meaning of the Snake
Snake symbolic meaning, overwhelmingly and in various cultures, deals with primordial life force and usually turns our attention to gender supremacy (both male and female).
Coiled within this polarity, we clearly see symbolism of duality and the search for balance. Other snake symbolic meaning includes…
Quick-List of Symbolic Snake Meanings
- Occult (hidden) Knowledge
- Male/Female, Yin-Yang, Duality
“Life is a moving, breathing thing.
We have to be willing to constantly evolve.
Perfection is constant transformation.”~Nia Peeples
Snake Symbolic Meaning in Culture and Myth
Snakes espouse bold meanings. But they also have soft, subtle, secretive meanings two. This makes it a powerful symbol of duality.
As a Native American Indian symbol (depending on the nation/tribe) the snake can be a masculine symbol, associated with the phallus of lightning which is considered a medicine staff of tremendous assertive power. Other tribes lean in the direction of feminine attribution for the snake and pair it with mothering (creation), and lunar (moon) symbolism.
Whether raising itself in masculine authority, or encircling the Earth in a motherly fashion the snake symbol of the Native American’s was highly regarded; utilized in ritual to invoke an element of pointed focus and weighty influence.
The ancient Celts were extremely nature-wise too, and approached snake symbolism from the behavior and life cycle of this magnificent creature. From the Celtic perspective, the snake was a symbol of secret knowledge, cunning and transformation.
Furthermore, the snake Celtic symbol comes from observations of the European viper (also known as the adder) which is the only (along with the common grass snake) species able to tolerate the colder climate of the ancient Celts.
In the keen Celtic mind, snake symbolic meaning of transformation came from the shedding of its skin. Physical evidence of leaving its form behind (casting off the old self), and emerging a sleeker, newer version made the snake a powerful symbol of rebirth and renewal.
As far as the occult (hidden) symbolic meaning in Celtic and other cultures, this can be connected to the sleuth-like ways of the snake. The saying ‘slippery as a snake’ is a small nod to its symbolic secretive nature. It’s nothing to do with slippery, but rather how snakes can dart quickly into hiding places high and low. Their effective camouflage is also symbolic of hiding, shadow realms, secrets. In this light, the snake as a totem offers the gift of manuevering under the radar. Snake is a friend among people who are good at laying in wait and then strike when the opportunity appears.
“Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed.
What would be left to strive for if everything were known?”~Charles de Lint
Disappearing in colder months and summoned by the sun marks the snake’s connection to the shadow worlds with its successful ability to live within the dark realms for extended periods of time. Alternatively, the snake softly moves into the embrace of the sun, and so it encapsulates the ancient magician’s creed of moving in perfect rhythm of natural forces.
The Tarot reinforces this concept. The Tarot is a great tool that is based on symbols. And the snake is a symbol on the Magician card. It is a reference to having authority over energy. The snake and the Magician in the Tarot salute the energy that resonates behind the veil. In short, recognizing the power of the unseen and utilizing that power.
Avia with a grass snake. She loves snakes!
In Eastern Indian myth the Sanskrit word for snake is naga and these are associated with the element of water. Picking up water’s symbolism of emotion, love and motion, nagas in this light are considered a feminine aspect and embody nurturing, benevolent, wise qualities. To this day, it is a common Hindu understanding that all nagas protect all water sources.
The naga is also said to be a guardian of big treasure and fortune…which could be water if it is (and often it is) a scarce resource.
This all reinforces the snake’s symbolism of fertility, renewal, and cleansing. Further in the Hindu tradition, snakes (naga) are considered kind and benevolent towards humans.
It is only when humans act out bad behavior that gets the naga ticked off. Often in Indian stories, the naga comes to strike down or eat whoever commits bad deeds. Not a bad argument for good behavior…nobody wants to be gobbled up by a gigantic cobra. Which, by the way, the naga typically is…some kind of cobra.
There is even a spiritual discipline in Eastern Indian alchemy based on the naga. It is called Nagayuna the practice seeks to achieve loving harmony between the physical and ethereal. Simply put, all of us striving to better ourselves by calmly easing into places of personal balance within the cosmic balance of the whole are practicing this ancient technique. In a way, we can all practice our own kind of Nagayuna.
We don’t have to go to a temple, don’t need strict rituals as Nagayuna practictioners do. To the relief of some, we don’t even need a real-life snake in our presence (also part of Nagayuna ritual).
But we can certainly embrace the Nagayuna way of harmony and balance. And the snake can help us get there in our minds and hearts. When asked, the naga (snake) will happily come into our energy and assist in balancing our lives.
I have a naga pair as a full back tattoo. The wrap around seven chakras. See the image shown. For example, my serpents (nagas) are wrapped around the seven prime chakras down the length of my spine.
This (to me) incorporates the kundalini power available to all humans. It’s about balance. Of course, it all varies according to the bearer of the serpent. You might associate different meanings to such a symbol tattoo. But ultimately, the double serpents are about : Homeostasis and harmony with the core energies that power the worlds of the seen and unseen.
Additionally, this entwined snake imagery hearkens to the caduceus, in which the staff of Asclepius is made of two polar (yet perfectly matched) serpents. This symbolizes balance, equanimity, union and regeneration. So much so, the staff of Asclepius is a symbol for the medical community. It’s roots are tied to Asclepius who was the Greek god of medicine, and utilized the snake as not only a symbol of healing (having shed its skin is synonymous with cleansing and healing) and also used in medicinal treatments.
Double snakes are common in almost all cultural symbolic languages. Ultimately the double snake is an icon representing the following…
Double Snake Symbolism
♦ Connection between primal forces
♦ Integration of opposites
♦ Advanced communication
♦ Joining together on a divine level
♦ Making whole what was once fragmented and doing so in a magical, organic way.
Carrying this dual snake imagery a step further, we could look to the language of science. Observe the formation of DNA and how it forms a perfect, serpentine double helix (shown left). This prompts us to consider how the energetic mind is connected to the grander whole, and how it so effortlessly makes graceful connections between the basic building blocks of data with the manifestations of the natural world. By association the double snake icon is a vital symbolic building block in cultural understanding.
There is no doubt, the snake is a unifying force embodying infinite messages to those who are energetically available to perceive them. Alchemists understood this, and thus incorporated the philosophy of snakes in their grimoires, practices, and even their daily life.
As an animal totem, the snake surfaces into our awareness with all the power of the symbolic attributes listed on this page (and more). Those who are drawn to the snake (and vice versa) are gifted at perceiving life through an uncommon lens. Other characteristics of those who are connected to snake energy include…
Ways The Snake Helps as a Totem and Animal Guide
♦ A natural ability to balance energies (you’re likely a gifted healer)
♦ Diplomatic and eloquent in areas of speech and writing
♦ Dynamically intuitive (often knowing other’s thoughts and emotional states without trying)
♦ Impulsive, but not without careful consideration. This may sound paradoxical, but those with the snake totem know what I mean here.
I invite you to step into the calming energy of the snake, and see what this noble creature offers you in the form of messages, growth, and enlightenment.
Further, it should be understood this page is but a miniscule sampling of the diverse snake symbolic meaning s available to us. Therefore, I encourage you to slither into your own personal ruminations, research and meditation of the snake. You will find your investment to be infinitely rewarding.
I trust you’ve enjoyed this page on snake symbolic meaning. Check out the links on this page for more animal symbolism and meaningful insights. Thanks for reading!
Don’t miss my page on Snake Tattoo Meanings here.
May all your snake encounters be enlightening.
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