Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Nag Panchami: The Festival of Snakes

Nag Panchami is a snake festival that is held in numerous places in India. It is celebrated in the month of July or August. Snakes are offered milk and even silver jewelry. In addition, fasting is usually done that day. In this festival, married women and girls, get up very early in the morning. After a bath, they arrange the offerings and go to places filled with snakes. If there are no snakes nearby, offerings are given to temple statues.

Fairytales, legends, myths, and fables often revolve around animals. These are then used as symbols. They are related to human behavior or are intended to express the concerns or virtues of the animals. Everyone sees, for example, a symbol for a ruler in the lion, the fox as smart and cunning, the bear as good-natured. The Eagle is a symbol of heaven. The serpent among others is a symbol of the earth, underworld, or for wisdom.

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.

For no animal, there are as many and as contradictory interpretations as for the snake. In natural religions, the snake is the bearer of the souls of the dead. When skinning, she puts her old skin off, symbolizing renewal, eternal life, and rebirth.

Among Hindus and Buddhists, the serpent is the guardian of wisdom. Egyptians, Greeks, and Tibetans treat them as Ouroboros, as the serpent biting into the tail. It is a symbol of eternity. In Mithraism, the snake curling around the tree symbolized the course of time. This list of snake symbols can be continued almost any time.

Ancient people certainly did not consider snakes for strikingly wise animals, which were distinguished by wisdom. However, in humans of all continents snakes gained extraordinary mythological meaning, which is explained by a snake-fear that is anchored in our subconscious minds. At the sight of snakes, we usually react very emotionally. They not only frighten us but also excite and captivate us that we tell stories about them.

Such emotions, triggered by snakes, were presumably the origin of snake myths and snake veneration as they occur in various forms on all continents. Many snake cultures have survived to the present day, and even Christianity, who treat is a satanic symbol could not prevent the penetration of pagan snake cultures into Christian rituals. There is such a Christian snake cult even today in Central Europe.

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.

A snake festival takes place every year around May. Findings of snake sculptures give rise to the assumption that there were processions here long before the Christianization. The snakes were carried around the fields. This is a typical magical ritual in honor of the fertility goddess for good harvests.

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 ouroboros 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 Ouroboros 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 Mexican 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 by a serpent. For its part, Mexican mythology brings its version of the myth of Tiamat merged with that of Lahmu and Lahamu, with the 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 have 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.