1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Serpent-worship
Prevalence in varying forms.
From all parts of the world there is a very considerable body of evidence for the prominence of the serpent in religion, mythology and folk-lore. Snake-worship still prevails largely in India, and a writer in 1896 remarks that the previous census showed in varying the North-West Provinces over 25,000 Nāga (serpent) worshippers, 123,000 votaries of the snake-god Gūga, and, in the Punjab, some 35,000 special votaries of the snake godlings. The evidence from modern India can be supplemented by the medieval and ancient Indian sources, and, in particular, by the representations of the adoration of snake-deities on the Buddhist topes of Sanchi and Amravati. There we find, not indeed living serpents, but deities with serpent-symbolism, indicating a composition of various strata of religious belief, analogous to the evidence for serpent-symbolism from Babylonia, Crete, Greece or Peru; for the higher religions have almost invariably retained in their ritual and belief, sometimes with only slight modification, cruder conceptions which can still be studied in less elevated form among the lower races of India, Africa or America. The result is instructive when we turn to the numerous serpent myths and legends from the Old World and the New, to the stray notices in old writers, or to the fragmentary scraps of popular superstition everywhere. Modern scientific research has vividly illustrated the stereotyped nature of the human mind; there is a general similarity in the effect of similar phenomena upon people at a similar stage of mental growth; there is an almost inherent or unconscious belief which has been transmitted through the countless ages of man's history. At the same time, apart from the gradual evolution of religious and other conceptions there are the more incidental and artificial influences which have shaped them. Hence, our evidence for serpent-cults everywhere represents varying stages in the historical development of a few related fundamental ideas which are psychologically explicable; and it is impossible to deal with the subject geographically or historically. It is most useful, perhaps, to survey some of the general features of belief as an introduction to the more complex inquiries which involve a consideration of other subjects over a larger field.
and trees, mysteriously disappearing below ground, the serpent and all its kind invariably arrested attention through its uncanny distinctiveness from bird or beast. Its gliding motion suggested the winding river. Biting its tail it symbolized the earth surrounded by the world-river. Its patient watchfulness, the fascination it exerted over its victims, the easy domestication of some species, and the deadliness of others have always impressed primitive minds. Its swift and deadly dart was likened to the lightning; equally marvellous seemed its fatal power. It is little wonder that men who could tame and handle the reptiles gained esteem and influence. Sometimes the long life of the serpent and its habit of changing the skin suggested ideas of immortality and resurrection, and it is noteworthy that one Indian snake-festival occurs after or at thesloughing, when the sacred being is thus supposed to become purified.
Serpents' wealth and wisdom.
A very common belief associates serpents or dragons and other monsters with the guardianship of treasure or wealth; comp., e.g., the golden apples of the Hesperides, and the Egyptian gods Kneph and Osiris, and the Indian Krishna and Indra. Serpents adorned with necklaces of jewels or with crowns were familiar in old superstition, and the serpent with a ruby in its mouth was a favourite love-token. Many stories tell of the grateful reptile which brought valuable gifts to a benefactor. According to a common Indian belief a wealthy man who dies without an heir returns to guard his wealth in the form of a serpent, and Italian superstition supposed that to find a serpent's skin brought good luck (Leland). No singular preference for jewels on the part of serpents will explain the belief, and creatures like the jackdaw which have this weakness do not enjoy this prominence in folk-lore. A rationalistic explanation might be found in the connexion between the chthonic serpent and subterranean sources of wealth. Moreover, the serpent is often associated with metallurgy, and to serpent deities have been ascribed the working of metals, gem-cutting and indeed culture in general. The Aztec Quetzalcoatl taught metallurgy and agriculture, gave abundance of maize, also wisdom and freedom from disease. The Babylonian Ea, who sometimes has serpent attributes, introduced — like the American serpent Votan — knowledge and culture. The half-serpent Cadmus brought knowledge of mines, agriculture, and the “Cadmean” letters, while Cecrops inculcated laws and ways of life and was the first to establish monogamy. Although the reptile is not particularly intelligent, it has become famed for shrewdness and wisdom, whether in the Garden of Eden (Gen. iii. i; 2 Cor. xi. 3) or generally (cf. Matt. x. 16). The Ophites (q.v.) actually identified the serpent with Sophia (“Wisdom”); the old sage Garga, one of the fathers of Indian astronomy, owed his learning to the serpent-god Sesha Nāga; and the Phoenician γέρων Ὀφίων wrote the seven tablets of fate which were guarded by Harmonia. Not only is the serpent connected with oracles, the beneficent agathodaemon of Phoenicia also symbolized immortality. In Babylonian myth a serpent, apparently in a well or pool, deprived Gilgamesh of the plant which rejuvenated old age, and if it was the rightful guardian of the wonderful gift, one is reminded of the Hebrew story, now reshaped in Gen. iii., where the supernatural serpent is clearly acquainted with the properties of the tree of life.
Serpents in healing.
Serpents were supposed to know of a root which brought back their dead to life, and an old Greek story told how certain mortals took the hint. In one form or another the healing powers of the serpent are very familiar in legend and custom. Siegfried bathed in the blood of the dragon he slew and thus became invulnerable; the blind emperor Theodosius recovered his sight when a grateful serpent laid a precious stone upon his eyes; Cadmus and his wife were turned into serpents to cure human ills. “In 1899 a court in Larnaca, Cyprus, awarded £80 (Turkish) as damages for the loss of a snake's horn which had been lent to cure a certain disease” (Murison, p. 117, n. 9). Not to multiply examples, it must suffice to refer to the old popular idea that medical skill could be gained by eating some part of a serpent: the idea that its valuable qualities would thus be assimilated belongs to one of the fundamental dogmas of primitive mankind (cf. Porphyry, De abst. ii. 48). Now, serpents were tended in the sanctuaries of the Greek Aesculapius (Asklēpios), the famous god of healing. Among his symbols was a serpent coiled round a staff, and physicians were for long wont to place this at the head of their prescriptions. He is also represented leaning on a staff while a huge serpent rears itself up behind him, or (on a coin from Gythium) a serpent seems to come to him from a well. At Athens, Asklepios Amynos had a sanctuary with altar and well, and among the votive offerings have been discovered models of snakes. The god-hero came from Epidaurus to the shrine at Sicyon in the form of a serpent, and the serpent sent from Epidaurus to stay a plague at Rome remained there, and a temple was erected to Aesculapius. The sanctuary of the deified healer at Cos marked the site where another serpent brought from Epidaurus dived into the earth (Pausanias, ii. 10, 3, iii. 23, 4). Hygieia, goddess of health, passed for his daughter, and is commonly identified with the woman in Greek art who feeds a serpent out of a saucer. Moreover, the temple of the earth-goddess Bona Dea on the slopes of the Aventine was a kind of herbarium, and snakes were kept there as a symbol of the medical art. Even in Upper Egypt a few decades ago, there was a tomb of the Mahommedan sheikh Herīdī, who — it is alleged — was transformed into a serpent; in cases of sickness a spotless virgin entered the cave and the serpent-occupant might permit itself to be taken in procession to the patient. The place was the scene of animal sacrifices and a yearly visit of women, and apparently preserved the traces of an old serpent-cult.
As remedy against snake bite.
Several practices conform to the idea that “a hair of the dog that bit you” is a sure remedy, and that the serpent was best fitted to overcome other serpents. At Emesa in Syria, watered by the Orontes, an image, the lower part of which was a scorpion, cured the sting of scorpions and freed the city from snakes. Constantinople was similarly protected by the serpent-trophy of Delphi which Constantine removed thither; an emperor was said to have performed an enchantment over the monument well known in Greek history. In modern India a walking-stick from a species of cane in the neighbourhood of a certain serpent-shrine protects against snake-bite. At Fernando Po, when there was an epidemic among children, they were brought to touch a serpent's skin which hung on a pole. The same ideas underlie the story of the Brazen Serpent which cured the Israelites of the bites of the serpents in the Wilderness (Num. xxi. 6-9; 1 Cor. x. 9). The object, however, was no temporary device; centuries later, 250 years after the founding of the temple of Jerusalem, the Brazen Serpent was regarded as unorthodox by the reforming king Hezekiah, and the historian who relates its overthrow ascribes its origin to the founder of Israelite national religion (2 Kings xviii. 4). The story in fact may have arisen to explain the object of cult; in any case it illustrates a general belief.
In wells and lakes.
According to primitive thought, rivers, lakes, springs and wells are commonly inhabited by spirits which readily assume human or animal form. Here the serpent and its kind are frequently encountered. In India the serpent-godlings are very often associated with water, and, even at the digging of a well, worship is paid to the “world serpent,” and the Sālagrāma (spiral ammonite), sacred to Vishnu, is solemnly wedded to the Tulasī or basil plant, representative of the garden which the pool will fertilize. It is often supposed that the Nāga (serpent) chiefs rule countries in or under the water, and in Kashmir a submarine serpent-king became a convert and built churches. Especially common are the popular stories connecting serpents with submarine palaces and treasures (Crooke i. 45, cf. § 2 above); and one submarine realm in the Ganges was reputed to possess “the water of strength.” In Palestine and Syria, where demoniacal beings are frequently associated with water, local opinion is sometimes uncertain whether the water is under the care of a jinn or of a patron-saint. Several springs are named after the serpent, and the sacred fountain of Ephca at Palmyra, whose guardian in the early Christian era was appointed by the god Yarḥibol, is still tenanted by a female serpent-demon which can impede its flow. Jerusalem had the stone Zōḥeleth (possibly “serpent”) by the well En-Rogel (1 Kings i. 9) and also its Dragon Well (Neh. ii. 13); in modern times the curative Virgin's Spring or St Mary's Well has its dragon which, when awake, swallows the intermittent flow of the water. Serpents of the water are often healers (cf. § 3). A serpent in a lagoon near Gimbo-Amburi in Africa could cure madness; another, which haunted an Algerian well, embodied the soul of a Mahommedan saint and could cure sore eyes. This feature is especially intelligible when the waters have medicinal qualities. Among the southern Arabs the hot well of Msa'ide was virtually a sanctuary, and the serpent-demon was honoured by annual festivals in the sacred month Rajab. As recently as 1882, when the grand Llama of Tashilumpo was not relieved by the hot springs of Barchutsan, religious services were held to propitiate the serpent-deities (Oldham, 203). Finally, although in the sanctuary of Aesculapius healing came directly or indirectly as the patients dreamed, it appears from the burlesque of Aristophanes (Plutus, 653 sqq.) that they first bathed in the sacred spring.
Serpent and Cosmological connexions.
which the earth rested. Sometimes the reptile lives in submarine infernal regions (with his wife, Crooke i. 43), and as the demon of the underworld it is sometimes the earth-shaker. The Greek demon or snake Poseidon, god of sea and springs, was an earthquake god. To the great half-serpent monster Typhon were ascribed numerous springs; he was also the cause of earthquakes, and when he buried himself in the earth he formed the bed of the Syrian Orontes. This river, which was otherwise called Drakōn, Typhōn or Ophites, is known at the present day as the “river of the rebel” (Nahr El-'Aṣi; Baudissin ii. 163). The waterspout, sometimes taken for a long-tailed dragon, is a huge sea-serpent, according to the Wanika of East Africa (Tylor i. 292 seq.). In ancient Persia the rainbow was the celestial serpent, and among some African tribes it is the subterranean wealth-conferring serpent, stretching its head to the clouds, and spilling the rain in its greedy thirst. An early Indian name of the Milky Way is “the path of the serpent” (Crooke i. 25), and a great dragon or serpent is often the cause of eclipses, so that in India, on the occasion of an eclipse, its attention can be attracted by bathing in a sacred stream, or by a ritual which includes the worship of the image of the snake-god (i. 22 seq.). Again the serpent is often associated with the lightning (Winternitz, 33). Hence, as the reptile's range seems to be boundless, one is prepared for the serpentine deity of the Samoan and Tonga natives which connects heaven and earth (Tylor ii. 309 seq.), and for the part theserpent plays in the traditions of a universal deluge.
Serpent and parentage.
The fok-lore of the Old and New World contains many examples of supernatural conception, an idea which is to be supplemented by the actual living belief (e.g. in Palestine) that supernatural beings can be fathers. In Annam where water spirits may take the form of serpents or of human beings, two deified heroes were said to have been serpents born of a childless woman, who drank from a bowl of water into which a star had fallen. Leland (132) cites the medieval belief that the household snake (see § 9), if not propitiated, can prevent conception, and in Bombay barrenness is sometimes attributed to a serpent which has been killed by the man or his wife in a former state of their existence. Hence the demon is laid to rest by burning the serpent-image with due funereal rites. In the sanctuary of Aesculapius at Epidaurus women were visited in their dreams by a serpent — the reputed father of the child that was born, and elsewhere Sicyon who had such a progenitor was regarded as the son of the divine healer. Similar also was the origin of Augustus in a temple of Apollo, the god who had his tame serpents in the grove on Epirus. Further, as the serpent-“father” of Alexander the Great came with a healing-root to cure his general Pompey (Cicero, De div. ii. 66), so in an Indian story the son of a king of serpents and of a virgin (or, in a variant form, a widow) was succoured in warfare by his sire (Fergusson, 266). In India the serpent origin of kings and rulers is famous. The same idea meets us in China, Greece (e.g. Aegeus, and Drakon or Cecrops the first king of Athens), the Arabian dynasty of Edessa, the dynasty of Abyssinia, &c.; it is proper, therefore, to notice the serpent-symbol of royalty on the signets of the Rajahs of Chota Nagpur, the fire-spitting serpent which adorned the head of Egyptian Pharaohs, and the dragons which entwine King Arthur as he stands at the tomb of the emperor Maximilian at Innsbruck. Sometimes the serpent stands at the head of the human race as the mother of all. This, following an old and still well supported interpretation of the name Eve (ḥawwah), was apparently also the belief of one branch of the Hebrews.
Relations with clans.
There are many instances of tribes or clans named after the serpent. These are not necessarily examples of nicknames, since a relationship between the two often shows itself in custom or belief. This feature sometimes applies, also, to cases where the clan does not bear the serpent name. In accordance with universal ideas of the reality of the “name,” there are tribes who will refrain from mentioning the serpent. Also there are clans like the American Apaches and Navahos who will neither kill nor eat rattlesnakes for purely “superstitious” reasons. Where the reptile is venerated or feared it is usually inviolable, and among the Brassmen of the Niger the dangerous and destructive cobra was especially protected by an article in the diplomatic treaty of 1856 for the Bight of Biafra (Maclennan, 524). The North American Indians fear lest their venerated rattlesnake should incite its kinsfolk to avenge any injury done to it, and when the Seminole Indians begged an English traveller to rid them of one of these troublesome intruders, they scratched him — as a matter of form — in order to appease the spirit of the dead snake. The snake-tribes of the Punjab clothe and bury a dead serpent, and elsewhere in India when one is killed in the village a copper coin is placed in its mouth and the body ceremonially burned to avert evil. These snake-tribes claim to be free from snake-bite, as also the ancient Psylli of Africa and the Ophiogenes (“serpent born”) of Cyprus who were supposed to be able to cure others. This power (cf. above § 3 seq.) was claimed likewise by the Marsians of ancient Italy, and is still possessed by the snake-clan of Senegambia. In Kashmir the serpent-tribes became famous for medical skill in general, and they attributed this to the health-giving serpent (Fergusson, 260). Moreover, the Psylli would test the legitimacy of their new-born by exposing them to serpents which would not harm those of pure birth, and a similar ordeal among the Ophiogenes of Asia Minor showed whether a man was really of their kin. This peculiar “kinship” between serpent-clans and serpents may be further illustrated from Senegambia, where a python is supposed to visit every child of the python-clan within eight days of birth, apparently as a sign of recognition. Also at Fernando Po there was an annual ceremony where children born within the year were made to touch the skin of a serpent suspended from a tree in the public square.
Relations with families.
We have next to notice the very general belief that the household snake was an agreeable guest, if not a guardian spirit. In Sweden, even in the 16th century, such snakes were virtually household gods and to hurt them was a deadly sin. Among the old Prussians they were invited to share an annual sacrificial meal, and their refusal was a bad sign. Mahomet, it is said, declared that the house-dwelling snakes were a kind of jinn, and the heathen Arabs invariably regarded them as alike malevolent or benevolent demoniacal beings. Among the Romans every place had its genius equally in the form of a serpent — cf. the doubt of Aeneas (Verg. Aen. v. 84 sqq.) — and household snakes were lodged and fed in vast numbers. They were the guardian-spirits of men and families, and stories are told of the way in which human life depended upon the safety of the reptile. As a chthonic animal the serpent has often been regarded as an embodiment of the soul of the dead. Grimm's story of king Gunthram tells how, while he slept, his soul in serpent-form visited a mountain full of gold (Paulus Diac. iii. 34) , and Porphyry relates that a snake crawled from beneath the bed of Plotinus at the moment of the philosopher's death (cf. the Indian story, Oldham, 79). In Bali near Java, where the Nāga-cult flourishes, a serpent is carried at the funeral ceremonies of the Kshatriya caste and burned with the corpse. Among many African tribes the house-haunting serpents are the dead, who are therefore treated with respect and often fed with milk. But it does not appear that every venerated serpent was an incarnation or that every incarnation was reverenced or even tolerated. Among the Nāyars of Malabar, the family-serpent is capable of almost unlimited powers for good or evil; it is part of the household property, but does not seem to be connected with ancestral cults.
As heroes and local guardians.
In Greece, however, “the dead man became a chthonic daemon, potent for good or evil; his natural symbol as such, often figured on tombs, was the snake.” “The men of old time,” as Plutarch observed, “associated the snake most of all beasts with heroes,” and in Photius the term “speckled hero” thus finds an explanation. At the battle of Salamis the serpent which appeared among the ships was taken to be the hero Cychreus. These heroes might become objects of cult and local divinities of healing; people would pass their tombs in awe, or resort thither for divination or for taking oaths. In Egypt not only are there serpents of the houses, but each quarter in Cairo had a serpent-guardian (Lane). This is said also of the villages and districts of Armenia, and Buddhist legends affirm it for India. The Satī (Suttee) wife immolated to accompany her deceased husband often became the guardian of the village, and on the Satī shrine a snake may be represented in the act of rising out of the masonry. Athene (“the Athenian one”) was primarily the guardian spirit of Athens, and at the Erechtheum her sacred serpent (apparently known to the 3rd century A.D.), was fed monthly with honey-cakes; when, during the Persian War, it left the food untouched it was taken as a sign that the protectors had forsaken the city. At Lebadeia in the shrine of Trophonios (to whom serpents were sacred) offerings of honey cakes were made to an oracular serpent. At Delphi a virgin superintended a similar oracle; and in the sacred grove of Apollo at Epirus a nude virgin-attendant brought offerings, and it was a sign of a plentiful year if they were accepted. So also at Lanuvium, south of Rome, in a grove near the temple of the Argive Hera, sacred maidens descended blindfolded once a year with a barley-cake, and if the serpent took it, it indicated that they were pure and that the husbandmen would be fortunate. On a Greek vase-painting the snake is the vehicle of the wrath of Athene, even as Chryse, another local “maiden,” had a snake-guardian of a shrine which she sent against Philoctetes. Similarly Orestes in serpent-form would slay Clytaemnestra (Aeschylus, Choēphori): the serpent is thus the avenging spirit of the deceased, the embodiment of Vengeance (cf. Acts xxviii. 4).
To these characteristics of serpents and serpent-godlings we must add the control of the weather. This was ascribed to the nāga demi-gods and rajahs of India and to the “king of snakes” among North American Indians. It is significant that in India the widely-distributed Naga-pančami-festival occurs in the rainy season. We have seen how closely the serpent is associated with water generally (§ 5 seq.), and since we meet with the belief that sources will dry up when the serpent-occupant is killed (Bechuanas, Zulus), or that they will resent impurities thrown into their springs by causing storms (tribes of the Hindu-Kush), it is not surprising to find elaborate precautions for the propitiation of such powerful beings. Now, there are popular stories of springs and waters which could only be used in return for regular human sacrifices. In a story from the isle of Lesbos the dragon must receive a human victim twice a day. Curiously enough, an old authority tells us that the people of Lesbos were directed to throw a virgin into the sea to Poseidon, and the hero who vainly tried to save her reappeared years later with a wonderful cup of gold (Hartland, iii. 43 seq., 79, see Athenaeus xi. 15). In the Chinese annals of Khotan in Cashgar, when a certain stream dried up, a female dragon declared that her husband had died; one of the royal grandees sacrificed himself to meet the want, the water flowed once more, and the “husband” of the being became the guardian of the kingdom's prosperity. A careful study of all the related traditions suggests that they preserve an unmistakable recollection of human sacrifice to serpents and other spirits of the water, and that the familiar story of the hero who vanquishes the demon and rescues the victim (usually a female, and especially a virgin) testifies to the suppression of the rite.
its wealth to a serpent in a well which received yearly a maiden attired as a bride; the cessation of the practice brought drought and sickness (Hartland iii. 57 seq.). In Mexico the half-serpent Ahuizotl dragged into its pool hapless passers-by; however, their souls were supposed to go to the terrestrial paradise — see on this idea, Rohde, ii. 374, n. 2 — and the relatives became rich through the unhappy accident (Hartland, 86 seq.). But in India human sacrifice was actually made in the expectation of gaining hidden treasure, and doubtless we have a survival of this when snake-charmers, for a drop of blood from the finger of a first-born, will track the snakes which are guardians of treasure (Crooke ii. 135, 170 seq.). Indian traditions tell how reformers have persuaded the people in the past to stop their human sacrifices to serpent-spirits (Fergusson, 64, Oldham, 101), and a survival may be recognized in parts of the N.W. Provinces when, at the Guruī serpent-festival, women make vicarious offerings by throwing to Nāg Deotā, the river demon, dolls which the village lads beat with long switches (Crooke ii. 139). It is unnecessary to refer more fully to the evidence for former human sacrifice or to the popular stories and grim superstitions which indicate its persistence; the grisly custom of our ancestors has been attested by comparativelyrecent observation in Mexico. Peru, Fiji and W. Africa.
The famous Dahomey cult.
A conspicuous feature in serpent-cults is the prominence of females. In India, in Behār, during August there is a colourless festival in which women, “wives of the snake,” go round begging on behalf of the Brahmans and the villages (Crooke ii. 138). Among the Nāyars of Malabar at the ceremonies of the Pambantullel, the household serpent-deities show their benevolence by inspiring with oracles certain women who must be of perfect purity. In Travancore a serpent-god is the property of a family, the priests of a temple; the eldest female carries the image at the festal processions and must lead a celibate life (Oldham, 153 seq.). Far more noteworthy is the cult of the Python Dañh-gbi of Whydah, which after taking root in Dahomey, became the most remarkable example of a thoroughly organic serpent-cult. The python-deity is god of wisdom and earthly bliss and the benefactor of man (cf. § 2): he opened the eyes of the first human pair who were born blind. He is specially invoked on behalf of the king (the nominal head of the priesthood) and the crops, and a very close connexion was supposed to exist between the god's agency and all agricultural life. Initiated priests, after remaining silent in his temple for seven days, receive a new name and thus become ordained. They possess a knowledge of poisons and antidotes and thereby acquire considerable income (cf. §§ 3, 8). Children who touch or are touched by one of the many temple-snakes are sequestered for a year and learn the songs and dances of the cult. Women who are touched become “possessed” by the god. In addition to his ministrant priestesses, the god has numerous “wives,” who form a complete organization. Neither of these classes may marry, and the latter are specially sought at the season when the crops begin to sprout. These “wives” take part in licentious rites with the priests and male worshippers, and the python is the reputed father of the offspring (cf. § 7). Every snake of its kind receives the profound veneration of the native of Whydah, who salutes it as master, father, mother and benefactor. Such snakes must be treated with every respect, and if they are even accidentally killed, the offending native might be burned alive (cf. § 8). In 1890 a semblance of the penalty was still maintained: the offender being allowed to escape from a burning hut through a crowd of snake-worshippers armed with clubs; if discreet in his bribes, and lucky, he might reach running water and could purify himself there. On the day of public procession — the last took place in 1857 or 1858 — naked priests and “wives” escorted the company with songs and dances; death was the penalty of those caught peering from their houses, and, apart from this, the natives feared loathsome diseases should they gaze upon the sacred scene. It is said that Europeans who violated the prohibition have been poisoned. Occasional human sacrifice in honour of the god is attested (cf. § 11).
Various developments of cults.
While Dahomey furnishes this elaborate example of the modern worship of a god in the embodiment of a serpent, elsewhere we find either less organic types, or the persistence and survival of cults whose original form can only be reconstructed by inference. In the gloomy rites of the Diasia, the Olympian Zeus, as Zeus Meilichios god of wealth, has been imposed upon a chthonic snake-deity who is propitiated by holocausts of pigs and by a ritual of purgation (Harrison, Prol. 12-28). In the Thesmophoria, a sowing festival of immemorial antiquity performed by women, cakes and pigs were thrown to serpents kept in caves and sacred to the corn-goddess Demeter, who, like the Bona Dea, was representative  The Maenads (“mad ones”) or Bacchae, the women attendants of Dionysus, with their snake-accompaniments, are only one of the various snake-features associated with the cult of a deity who was also a god of healing. The symbol of the Bacchic orgies was a consecrated serpent, and the snakes kept in the sacred cistae of the cult of Dionysus find a parallel among the sect of the Ophites where, at the sacramental rites, bread was offered to the living serpent and afterwards distributed among the worshippers. Other developments may be illustrated from the cult of Aesculapius, who seems to have been merely a deified ancestor, like the Egyptian Imhotep (below) or the interesting Indian healer Sokha Bāba (Crooke i. 147, ii. 122). Introduced into Athens about 421 B.C., Aesculapius inherited the older local cult of the serpent “protector” Amynos (Harrison, 346 seq.). In Laodicea he apparently replaced an older deity with serpent attributes. In Egypt, he superseded the sage Imhotep at Memphis, and at the temple sacred to Aesculapius and Hygieia at Ptolemais the money-box has been found with the upper part in the form of a great snake. Finally among the Phoenicians he was identified with Eshmun, an earlier god of healing, who in turn was already closely associated with Dionysus and with Caelestis-Astarte.of the fertility of nature. Myth explained it as a celebration of the capture of Kore by Plouton.
Contests with serpents.
For the retention of older cults under a new name, Mahommedanism supplies several examples, as when a forest-serpent of India receives a Mahommedan name (Oldham 128). But sometimes there is a contest between the new cult and the old. Thus Apollo has to fight the oracle serpent of Gaia, and it has been observed that where Apollo prevailed in Greek religion the serpent became a monster to be slain. At Thebes — the Thebans were Serpentigenae — Apollo took the place of Cadmus, who, after killing the dragon which guarded a well and freeing the district, had ended by being turned into a serpent. This looks like the assumption of indigenous traits by a foreigner — cf. Aesculapius (§ 13) — much in the same way as Hercules has contests with serpents and dragons, becomes the patron of medicinal springs, and by marrying the serpent Echidna was the ancestor of the snake-worshipping Scythians. But an ethnological tradition appears when Phorbas killed the serpent Ophiusa, freed Rhodes of snakes and obtained supremacy, or when Cychreus slew the dragon of Salamis and took the kingdom. A story told by Herodotus (i. 78) admirably shows how the serpent as a child of earth was a type of indigenous peoples, and there was a tendency to represent the earlier conquered races as monsters and demons, though not necessarily unskilled (e.g. the Cretan Kourētes), or to depict the conquest of barbarians as the overthrow of serpents or serpent-like beings. This obviously complicates the investigation of serpent-cults. Moreover, the serpent or dragon may have an opponent like the eagle (see Goblet d'Alviella, 17), or a cosmical antagonist the lightning, thunder or rain-god. Indra, the rain-god, slew with a thunderbolt Ahi or Vitra, who kept back the waters (Oldham, 32 sqq.); the thunder-god of the Iroquois killed the subterranean serpent which fed on human flesh (Hartland iii. 151). Or the victor is the sun: the Egyptian sun-god Re had his fire-spitting serpent to oppose his enemies, of which one was the cloud and storm serpent Apophis, while in Greek myth the sanctuary of Helios (the sun) sheltered the young Orpheus from the snake.
It is impossible to trace a safe path through the complicated aetiological myths, the fragments of reshaped legend and tradition, or the adjustment of rival theologies. It remains to observe the overthrow or supersession of the serpent in Christian lands. At Axum in Abyssinia, where worship was divided between the serpent and the Mosaic Law, it is said that the great dragon was burst asunder by the prayers of Christian saints (c. A.D. 340; Fergusson, 35). At the Phrygian Hierapolis the serpent Echidna was expelled by the Apostles Philip and John. France had its traditions of the destruction of serpents by the early missionaries (Deane, 283 seq.), and the memory possibly survived at Luchon in the Pyrenees, where the clergy and people celebrated the eve of St John by burning live serpents. Christian saints have also stepped into the shoes of earlier serpent-slayers, while, in the stories of “St George and the Dragon” type, the victory of the pious over the enemy of mankind has often been treated as a literal conflict with dragons, thus introducing a new and confusing element into the subject. This purely secondary aspect of the serpent as the devil cannot be noticed here. At Rouen the celebration of St Romain seems to preserve a recollection of human sacrifice to a serpent-demon which was primarily suppressed by a pagan hero, and at Metz, where St Clement is celebrated as the conqueror of a dragon, its image (formerly kept in the cathedral) was taken round the streets at the annual festival and received offerings of food. Most remarkable of all, at Cocullo in the Abruzzi mountains on the border of the old territory of the Marsi snake-men (see § 8), the serpent-deity has a lineal descendant in the shape of St Domenico of Foligno (A.D. 950–1031). The shrine is famous for its cures, and when the saint has his serpent-festival on the first Thursday in May, Serpari or serpent-men carry coils of live reptiles in procession before his image, which in turn is hung with serpents of all sizes. The rites, we may suppose, have become modified and more orthodox, but none the less they are a valuable testimony to the persistence of the cult among people who still claim power over serpents and immunity from their bite, and who live hard by the home of the ancient tribe which ascribed its origin to the son of Circe. One may recall the old cult of Sabazios where men waved great red snakes over their heads as they marched in procession. One may even recall the cult of Dahomey. Moreover, we find at Madagascar the procession of the god of fertility and healing, the patron of serpents who are the ministers of his vengeance (Frazer, Paus. v. 66 seq.). In a Bengal festival the men march entwined with serpents, while the chief man has a rock-boa or python round his neck and is carried or rides on a buffalo (Fergusson, 259). Again, among the Moquis of America, where the snake-clan claim descent from a woman who gave birth to snakes, the reptiles are freely handled at the “snake dances” which are performed partly to secure the fertility of the soil.
Complexity of motives.
These last examples are important because they illustrate the immense difficulty of determining the true significance of any isolated piece of evidence. It cannot be assumed that isolated features which find a parallel in more completely known cults presuppose such cults; yet it may be inferred that they point to earlier, more perfect structures, to rites which perhaps linger only as a memory, and to conceptions and beliefs which have been elevated or modified by other religions. Hence also the impossibility of treating the present subject schematically. Apart from the more obvious characteristics of the serpent likely to impress all observant minds (§ 1), its essentially chthonic character shows itself markedly when it is associated with the treasures and healing herbs of the earth, the produce of the soil, the source of springs — and thence of all water — and the dust unto which all men return. Although much evidence connects the serpent with the dead, especially as a guardian-spirit over the living, any discussion of this aspect of the subject is bound up with the varying beliefs regarding ancestors and death. Among the Arunta of Central Australia, the ghosts of the dead haunt certain localities, and, entering the bodies of passing women, are constantly reincarnated; the Black-snake clan of the Warramunga tribe embodies the spirits which the original ancestor had deposited by a certain creek. On the other hand, the “rattlesnake” men of the Moqui are merely transformations and expect to return at death to their original reptile form (Maclennan, 357). It is another stage when only the more conspicuous mortals assume serpent guise, and the deification of heroes involves yet another course of ideas. Here it is evident that some of the attributes of prominent serpent-gods will be purely secondary. Moreover, it is a human weakness to manipulate one's ancestry, and the common claim to be descended from the local godling is not to be confused with the Arunta type of reincarnation.
Again, in the part taken by women in serpent-lore other problems of primitive society and religion intermingle. For example, when one considers how often milk is used in the tending and propitiation of venerated snakes, it is noteworthy that in Roman cult the truly rustic deities are offered milk (Fowler), and it is no less singular that many of the old goddesses of Greece have serpent attributes (Harrison). Now anthropological research has vividly shown that woman, naturally fitted (as it seemed) to understand the mysteries of increase, was assigned a prominent part in rites for the furtherance of growth and fertility. And the same thread of ideas seems to recur in the “wives” of the python Dañh-gbi (§ 12), the Shakti ceremonies in India for the increase of the divine energy of nature (Fergusson, 258 seq.), and, to a certain extent, in the providing of deities or demons of serpent-type with consorts. There is everywhere a danger of misunderstanding isolated evidence, of wrongly classifying different motives, and of overlooking necessary links in the chain of argument. There is an obvious development from the serpent qua reptile to the deity or the devil, and that the original theriomorphic form is not at once forgotten can be seen in Zeus Meilichios, Aesculapius Amynos, in the Cretan snake-goddesses, or in the Buddhist topes illustrated by Fergusson. But naturally there are other developments to be noticed when originally distinct attributes are combined, when, for example, Greek goddesses take the forms of birds as well as of snakes (Harrison, 322), or when the Aztec snake-deity Huitzilcpochtli, like the Votan of the Mayas, has feathers (Maclennan, 384).
Thus it will be perceived that the subject of this article involves at every turn problems of the history of thought (cf. the similar difficulties in the discussion of Tree-worship). There is ample material for purely comparative purposes and for an estimate both of the general fundamental ideas and of the artificially-developed secondary speculations; but for any scientific research it is necessary to observe the social, religious and historical conditions of the provenance and period of the evidence, and for this the material is often insufficient. The references in this article furnish fuller information and are usually made to works suitable for pursuing the subject more thoroughly. One may also consult the English and foreign journals devoted to folklore, comparative religion or anthropology (especially the volumes of Folklore, Index, s.v. “Snakes”), and the articles in this Encyclopaedia on the various departments of primitive religion. In general, works which endeavour to reduce the evidence for this fascinating subject to clear-cut systems are more useful for the data they provide than for their conclusions, and it is not unnecessary to warn readers against the unscientific studies of “ophiolatry” and especially against “that portentous nonsense called the 'arkite symbolism'” (see E. B. Tylor’s remarks, Primitive Culture, 4th ed., ii. 239). (S. A. C.)
- See W. Crooke, The Popular Religion and Folk-lore of Northern India (London, 1896), ii. 122.
- See the elaborately illustrated work of James Fergusson, Tree and Serpent Worship, or Illustrations of Mythology and Art in India (2nd ed., London, 1873); also M. Winternitz, “der Sarpabali, ein altindischer Schlangen-cult,” in Mitteil. d. anthrop. Gesell. of Vienna, xviii. (1888), pp. 25-52, 250-264. Both give abundant information on the various features of serpent-cults.
- Fergusson, p. 259. Perhaps the sloughing more than any other feature stimulated primitive speculation; cf. Winternitz, p. 28.
- See Crooke, ii. 1 and 33 sqq.; C. G. Leland, Etruscan Roman Remains, p. 283; Winternitz 37 seq.; A. W. Buckland, Anthropological Studies (1891), pp. 104-139 (on serpents in connexion with metallurgy and precious stones).
- Excavators know how the popular mind associates their labours with search for hidden treasure, and no doubt the wealth of dead civilizations often stimulated the imagination of subsequent generations. A gruesome Indian story (Crooke, ii. 136) shows how old treasure-chambers could actually harbour enormous and deadly snakes.
- Nonnus (Dion. xli. 340 sqq.), cited by W. W. G. Baudissin, Stud. z. Relig.-Gesch. (Leipzig, 1876), i. 274 seq. (pp. 255-292, Semitic serpent-cult). See, for Garga, C. F. Oldham, The Sun and the Serpent (London, 1905), p. 54; and, for the serpent's wisdom, F. L. Schwartz, Ursprung der Mythologie (1860), pp. 55 seq.; J. Maehly, Die Schlange im Mythus u. Cultus d. class. Völker (1867), pp. 9 seq., 11, 23 seq.
- See H. Gressmann, Archiv f. Religionswissenschaft, x. 357 sqq. A Babylonian cylinder represents two figures (divine?) on either side of a fruit-tree, and behind one of them a serpent coils upwards. The interpretation is uncertain, but the motive has parallels (see Goblet d'Alviella, Migration of Symbols, London, 1894, pp. 129, 133, 167 seq.). R. G. Murison, “The Serpent in the O.T.” (Amer. Journ. of Sem. Lang. xxi. 128), cites an American-Indian belief in a tree of healing, or rather of knowledge, inhabited by a serpent.
- J. G. Frazer, Adonis, Attis and Osiris (2nd ed., London, 1907), p. 153; also his notes on Pausanias, vol. iii. p. 65 seq.
- Similar votive offerings are known in India (Oldham, 87), and, though their true significance is uncertain, in ancient Arabia, Palestine and Elam (see H. Vincent, Canaan d'après l'exploration récente, Paris, 1907, pp. 174 sqq.).
- A. H. Sayce, “Serpent Worship in Ancient and Modern Egypt,” Contemporary Review (Oct. 1893), p. 523; cf. also Fergusson, 34.
- See, for analogies, Frazer, Golden Bough (2nd ed.), ii. 426 seq.
- Even clothes washed in the waters of Emesa similarly protected the wearers. See Guy Le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems, 353 sqq., and for other miscellaneous evidence, 396, 405, 495.
- Ruy Gonzalez de Clarijo, Hakluyt Society (1859), p. 35.
- Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, ix. p. 180.
- See Frazer's notes on Pausanias (1898), vol. v. pp. 44 seq.
- Crooke i. 42 seq., 49; see also Oldham, 51, 114; Winternitz, 259. The ammonite, here an instrument in a nature “marriage,” has elsewhere given rise to legends of the destruction of serpents, viz. by St Hilda at Whitby in Yorkshire, and perhaps also by St Patrick in Ireland (see E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, 1903, i. 372).
- W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, 2nd ed., pp. 168 seq., with references. Cf. G. F. Abbot, Macedonian Folk-lore, 261: “the drakos held back the water”; see further § 11 below.
- C. R. Conder, Tent-work in Palestine (1878), i. 313 seq., who notes the “moving” of the water in John v. 3, 4 (see R.V. marg.).
- Cf. Amos ix. 3 and the Babylonian Tiamat, a serpent of the sea; see Baudissin in Hauck's Realency. f. Theol. v. p. 5 (1898); T. K. Cheyne, Ency. Bib., art. “Serpent.”
- See Fergusson, 57; J. G. Frazer, Adonis, 165; and R. Lasch, Arch. f. Relig. v. 236 sqq., 369 sqq.
- Crooke ii. 144; Tylor i. 294; A. B. Ellis, The Eẁe-Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa (1890), pp. 47 seq.
- See also R. Lasch, op. cit. iii. 97 sqq.
- D. G. Brinton, Myths of the New World (1896), 135; A. S. Palmer, Nineteenth Century (Oct. 1909), pp. 694 sqq.
- For the latter, see J. T. Medina, Les Aborigènes de Chile (1882), 28 sqq.; D. G. Brinton, op. cit., 176 sqq.; Frazer, Pausanias, v. 44 seq.; J. F. Maclennan, Studies in Anc. Hist., 2nd series, 203 seq. The Babylonian story of Ea (see § 2) and the deluge finds an Indian parallel in the fish (or, otherwise a manifestation of Vishnu the many-headed serpent) which warned Manu. Among the Austrian gipsies the serpent is supposed to be able to swallow up prolonged rains, and it may be conjectured that the stories associating the commencement or conclusion of great floods with chasms (e.g. Lucian, De dea Syria, § 12 seq.) are connected with the beliefs associating wells or springs with serpents and other occupants.
- See E. S. Hartland, Primitive Paternity (1909); Frazer, Adonis (Index, s.v. Conception), and Totemism and Exogamy (1910; Index, s.vv. “Conception,” “Snake”).
- E. S. Hartland, The Legend of Perseus (1894–1896), i. 121. In many places streams or springs are credited with the power of removing barrenness which, in primitive thought, is often ascribed to supernatural malevolence. See Hartland, op. cit., i. 71 sqq., 133, 167 sqq.
- Journal of the Bombay Royal As. Soc. ix. 188; for sacrifices and snake-deities to obtain offspring, see Crooke i. 226; Winternitz, 258. In the Arabian Nights Solomon prescribes the flesh of two serpents for the childless wives of the king of Egypt and his vizier.
- Frazer, Adonis, 72 (with other examples). The Inca hero Yupanqui had as father a divine being with serpent and lion attributes who revealed himself in a well (Hartland ii. 14 seq.).
- Fergusson, 65; Crooke ii. 124; Oldham, 37, 85 sqq., 2OO sqq.; Maclennan, p. 526 seq.
- Murison, p. 130 n. 43; Maclennan, 527.
- Possibly the Kenite and allied families; cf. the conjecture associating Moses and the Levites with a serpent-clan (E. Meyer and B. Luther, Die Israeliten, 116, 426 sqq.). It is curious that Thermuthis, the traditional name of the princess who adopted Moses (Josephus, Ant. ii. 9. 5), is also the name of a serpent-deity (Aelian, De anim. x. 31 ; see Wiedemann on Herod, ii. 74 seq.).
- Examples in Frazer, Golden Bough, i. 456 sqq.; N. W. Thomas, Encyc. of Rel. and Ethics, i. 526, col. 1.
- Frazer, citing W. Bartram, Travels through N. and S. Carolina (London, 1792), 258 sqq.
- See Fergusson, 259; Winternitz, 257; Crooke ii. 151 seq.
- The 'Omar ibn 'Isa of the Hadhramaut had the same gift (so Makrīzī); cf. also Lane's account of the “Saadeeyeh” sect who charm away serpents from houses (Modern Egyptians).
- Strabo xiii. 1. 14. Serpents which would only attack those who were not natives were to be found on the banks of the Euphrates and also at Tiryns (Mir. Ausc. 149 seq. ; Pliny viii. 59. 84). In Sicily also, where Pliny (xxxvii. 10. 54) records some mystery about harmless scorpions, old John Maundeville in his travels (chap, v.) found a belief in snakes which were harmful only to illegitimate children.
- Frazer, Golden Bough, ii. 370 seq.; Totemism and Exog. i. 20. See also Crooke ii. 124, 142, 151 seq. (descent from a serpent involves immunity from its bite, and a serpent is supposed to identify the rightful heirs of a kingdom).
- See also B. Deane, Serpent Worship, 245 seq., Fergusson, 23; J. Grimm, Teutonic Mythology (1888), iv. 1490 sqq.; Tylor ii. 240.
- T. Nöldeke (on serpent-beliefs in Arabia), Zeit.f. Völkerpsychol. i. 412 sqq. (1860).
- So, in the stories of Tiberius and D. Laelius; Frazer, Adonis, 74 n. 2 (with references); cf. Fergusson, 19.
- 13 Frazer, Adonis, 73 seq.; for India, see Winternitz, 258.
- F. Fawcett, Madras Bulletin, iii. 279 (1901).
- Companion to Greek Studies, ed. L. Whibley (1905), p. 502 and fig. 97. The libations of milk which the Greeks poured upon graves were possibly for these embodiments of the dead.
- Pausanias, i. 36, 1; see Rohde, Psyche, 2nd ed., i. 196.
- See especially, on the Greek hero as a snake, Miss Jane E. Harrison, Journ. of Hell. Studies, xix. (1889), 204 sqq.; Proleg. to Study of Greek Religion (1903), 326 sqq.
- Abeghian, Armen. Volksglaube, 74 sqq.; Crooke ii. 127.
- Crooke i. 187 seq. To these local examples may be added the lord (or lady) of life, a serpent-deity of the Assyrian city Dēr (Winckler and Zimmern, Keilinschrift. u. d. alte Test. 505; for other evidence, see Index, s.v. “Schlange”).
- Herod, viii. 41. The serpent was probably regarded as the embodiment of the king Erechtheus; see Frazer, Adonis, 75; A. Frickenhaus, Athen. Mitt. xxxiii. (1908), 171-176.
- Sophoc, Phil. 1327; Harrison, Prol. 301 seq., 306 seq.
- Compare the snake attributes of the Erinyes; see Harrison, 217 sqq., 233 sqq.
- Fergusson, 48 seq.. 82, 257 seq.; Crooke, ii. 129; Oldham, 49-51, 121, 123, 129, 200; cf. Winternitz, 44 seq., 259 seq.
- Hartland iii. 2, 4, 10 seq., 14, 28, 30, 74, 87-94; Frazer, Paus. v. 45; Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship (1905), 183 seq., 192.
- Hartland iii. 73 seq.; cf. also J. G. R. Forlong, Faiths of Man (1906), iii. 268.
- See Deane, Serpent Worship, 245 seq. (Livonia); and for more modern evidence, Maclennan, 216, 219; Oldham, 40, 50, 100 seq.; and A. B. Ellis (§ 12 below). Folk-lore adds to the survivals some of the customs for producing rain, e.g. bathing and drenching willing or unwilling victims, dipping holy images in water, and otherwise disturbing springs and fountains (Frazer, Golden Bough, i. 95 sqq., 108, 111 seq., 209 sqq.). Here also are the superstitions which associate rivers or pools with the safety of human life (e.g. Frazer iii. 318 seq.; Hartland ii. 20, 22 sqq.; G. L. Gomme, Ethnology in Folklore , 71 sqq., 77 seq.).
- F. Fawcett, Madras Gov. Museum, Bull. iii. 277. (For the stress laid upon the personal purity of the females, cf. p. 282). For other evidence for the prominence of females, see Fergusson, 82, 257 seq.
- A. B. Ellis (above, § 6, n. 7), 47 sqq., 140 sqq., cf. Frazer, Adonis, 57 sqq. The cult taken by slaves to America is the Vōdu (Vaudoo or Vaudoux) worship of Haiti (Ellis, 29 seq.).
- On their marriage to the god these devotees are marked with his image (said to be imprinted by the god himself); cf. the story that Atia, the mother of Augustus, when touched by the serpent in the temple of Apollo, was marked with a stain like a painted serpent.
- Harrison, 109 seq., 120 sqq., and art. Thesmophoria. The rites included the “pursuit,” possibly derived from the intentional opportunity of escape allowed the victim. Plouton, also associated with Proserpine, the great mother-goddess, was patron of the chasms with mephitic vapours in the valley of the Maeander (see Frazer, Adonis, 170 sqq.).
- A Greek vase shows snake-bodied nymphs at the grape-harvest (Harrison 259 seq.), and in Egypt the harvest goddess Rannut had snake-form (F. Petrie, Relig. of Ancient Egypt, 1906, p. 26). The serpent-god revered by Taxilus (king of Taxila), which was seen by Alexander the Great on his way to India, was identified by Greek writers with Dionysus or Bacchus. For the serpent in the cult of Sabazius, see Harrison, Prol. 418, 535. A kind of sacramental communion with a snake is found among a Punjab snake-tribe (Frazer, Golden Bough, ii. 441 seq.; Punjab Notes and Queries, ii. 91).
- For this and other Phrygian evidence, see W. M. Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, i. 52, 94, 104.
- Ag. Zeit. xl. 140 seq. Aelian (De anim. xvi. 36) mentions a huge serpent at the temple dedicated to Aesculapius. Serapis (Osiris-Apis) who came to acquire the attributes of Aesculapius and of Pluto, god of the dead, sometimes had serpent-form, and even in the reign of Constantine popular belief connected the rise of the Nile with his agency (Frazer, Adonis, 398).
- See on this branch of the subject, W. W. G. Baudissin, Zeit. d. morgenl. Gesell. lix. (1905), 459-522, and Orient. Stud. Theodor Nöldeke (ed. Bezold, 1906), ii. 729 sqq.
- Harrison, Journ. Hell. Stud. xix. 223, cf. Proleg. 392; and E. Rohde, Psyche, i. 133 seq.
- Herod, iv. 9; for Hercules and healing waters, see Frazer, Adonis, 174 seq.; cf. above, § 5. Here arises the question of the tendency to attribute to outside aid the introduction of culture (cf. § 2), and even of law (F. Pollock, ed. of Maine's Ancient Law, 1907, p. 19).
- Cf. the similar view of serpent-conflicts in Persian tradition (Fergusson, 44 seq.), and the story of the colonization of Cambodia, where the new-comer marries the dragon-king's daughter (ib. 53).
- Cf. the serpent-pillars found in the old Roman provinces of Europe (Frazer, Pausanias, ii. 49, v. 478 seq.). For the Kourētes, the fish and serpent-like peoples struck down by Zeus or Apollo, see Harrison, Annual of Brit. School at Athens, xv. 308 sqq.
- In popular Macedonian lore the lightning or thunder is the enemy of the serpent-dragon (G. F. Abbott, Macedonian Folklore, 261; cf. also Schwartz, 150 sqq., W. R. Smith, 175, n. 1; Winternitz, 45).
- W. M. Ramsay, op. cit. i. 86 seq.; cf. Gutschmid, Rhein. Mus. (1864), pp. 398 sqq.
- Fergusson, p. 29, n. 2 (see, however, Frazer, Golden Bough, iii. 323 seq.). For analogous traditions, see Fergusson, 32.
- See Antichrist; Devil; Dragon.
- See further Frazer, Kingship, 184-192; Schwartz, 73 seq.; Hocker, Deutscher Volksglaube (Göttingen, 1853), p. 231. Similarly, food is offered to the snake of dough in the Punjab festival already mentioned (note 2 above).
- The festival is described (as seen in 1906) by Marian C. Harrison, Folklore, xviii. (1907), 187 sqq. A combination of a cult of the house-snake with that of the (Christian) saint of the master of the house is said to prevail in modern Greece (J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Religion, 1910, p. 260).
- J. G. Bourke, Snake-Dance of the Moquis (1884), p. 180 seq.; see Frazer, Totem, and Exog. iii. 229 sqq.
- Here one will note the prevalence of the ideas of “mother earth,” and also the association in higher religions of chthonic powers with the serpent, so, e.g. the winds (viz. Boreas in Greece, cf. Harrison, Prol. 68, 181), subterranean gods (for Assyria, cf. Zeit. f. Assyr.  p. 116, and for the Finns, Fergusson, p. 250 seq.). For the serpent (sometimes with anthropomorphic hints) in the Tabellae devotionis, see R. Wünsch, Sethianische Verfluchungstafeln (Leipzig, 1898), 100 sqq., and for a Carthaginian triad of the under world (cf. the threefold Hecate) including ḥ-w-t (cf. ḥawwah, Eve, “serpent”), see G. A. Cooke, N. Semit. Inscr. (1903), p. 135.
- Spencer and Gillen, N. Tribes of Central Australia, 162, 330 seq. (Frazer, Adonis, p. 80); A. Lang, Origins of Religion (1890), p. 124.
- There appears to be a fundamental inclination towards ideas of rebirth and reincarnation (see F. B. Jevons, Introd. to Study of Comp. Religion, 1908, pp. 50 sqq., 59 sqq.); it would seem to be wrapped up in the feeling of the essential “one-ness” of the group (including its deity), and involves the belief that such corporate bodies never die (cf. even the Roman conception of the family, Maine, op. cit. 197 sqq.).
- W. W. Fowler, Roman Festivals, 103-105; Harrison, Journ. Hell. Stud. xix. 221. For the use of milk, cf. Frazer, Adonis, 74 (with the suggestion that it is because milk is the food of babes), Crooke ii. 130, and F. Fawcett, Madras Gov. Bull. (1900), iii. 1, 58 (a South-Indian festival on the fifth of Srāvana, when the serpent-deity is bathed in milk).
- Here the transition from mother-right to paternity should probably be taken into consideration. For the view that the serpent as a genius or daemon may be replaced by the human (and female) victim, who thus becomes in time the guardian (cf. § 10), see J. C. Lawson, op. cit. pp. 271 sqq.
- One may note the Indian local saint Gūga, who punishes by snake-bite and can cure his worshippers (similarly the Egyptian Mert-seger, the serpent-patroness of the Theban necropolis and the serpent, the saviour-god of the Phrygian Hierapolis); he is represented on horseback descending to the infernal regions; over him two snakes meet, one being coiled round the long staff which he holds in his hands (Crooke i. 212 seq.). But how many different factors may not have influenced the representation!