Myths and Legends of the Snake

The snake is an animal which, because of its characteristics, hit and stimulated the imagination of human beings, often as a legendary creature in the folklore and mythology of various cultures. The figure of the serpent is part of the mythological accounts of a large number of ancestral cultures.

The so-called sea serpents have been described since antiquity. Usually, sea snakes are described as eels. In many other cases the serpent appears under the figure of the dragon, a mythological being that is also present in a number of cultures.

The snake is one of the oldest and most common mythological symbols, being present in the majority of cultures with similar meanings. The characteristics of the snake that humans have stimulated its association with supernatural themes are numerous. Sometimes the serpent and dragon have similar symbolic value as snake venom has similar characteristics to those of the fire launched by a dragon.

For example, the Ladon of ancient Greece and the Norse Nidhoggr are sometimes described as snakes and sometimes as dragons. In China, the snake Indian nāga is often confused with the Chinese Dragon (lóng). The serpent god Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs and Toltecs also has wings, like its equivalent in Mayan mythology.

There is an infinity of ancestral stories and representations of all kinds such as engraving, carving, paintings, handicrafts, fabrics on the Serpent. We can find it in the Torah, in Sumer myths, in ancient Egypt, in the ancient cultures of India, in China and also in the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Maya and Mexican cultures among many others.

How is it possible that the figure of the serpent and its symbology is present in such distant cultures, which supposedly never had contact with each other? It is understandable in the case of related cultures, or those influenced by conquests or migrations, but how could this myth reach all corners of the planet?

In Norse myths the image of the ouroborus appears again in the form of text, represented as Jörmungandr or also called Snake of Midgard, son of Loki and Angrboda. In some African religions snakes are sacred animals. Indications or references to ouroborus have also been found in the Phoenician people, in India, in some African religions and traditions influenced by them.

In Japan dragons (Nihon no ryū) are legendary creatures widely spread in local mythology and folklore. The myths of Japanese dragons amalgamate native legends with stories imported about dragons from China, Korea and India. In Mapuche mythology Trentren Vilu and Caicai Vilu are powerful snake-like beings. In the aboriginal mythology of Australia the Rainbow Serpent is a creative deity, bringing life to an empty space.

In the tradition of the Native American Hopi people, they had a figure called káto'ya, which was a big-headed snake. In the representations of the vedic gods, we can find them in many cases accompanied by serpents. Such is the case of Varuna, the vedic god of storms, who is considered the king of the nagas. In the legends of India and all of Southeast Asia, the nâgas are inhabitants of the underworld where they jealously guard the treasures of the earth.

In Khmer iconography, the male naga has an odd number of heads, while the females have an even number. In Buddhist mythology, Muchilinda is the king of the nagas who protected the Buddha from the great rain that fell after his spiritual enlightenment.

In the Mexica mythology Cipactli/Tlaltecuhtli is a sea monster that lived in the ocean after the fourth deluge. Sumerian mythology has among its more ancient deities Lahmu and Lahamu, two giant brothers who used to be represented with a serpent. For its part, Mexican mythology brings its version of the myth of Tiamat merged with that of Lahmu and Lahamu, with astonishing resemblance.

All this evidence would point to a coincidence with a nonexistent probability or the possibility of a common origin, a source that has been able to impregnate its knowledge and myths to other civilizations, of a Mother Culture that has bequeathed its culture to its successors.

According to some scholars, the frequency of the serpentine figure in the traditions and human symbolism is rooted in something real that happened at the dawn of human evolution. Among some researchers there was some confusion when considering the extremely tight time space in which the human species evolved.

It is as if all these mythical stories were different versions deformed with the passage of time and generations, of a single event.

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